Why Crestron Takes 4K UHD Certification Upon Itself

DigitalMedia switching and distribution product maker doesn’t want to relive with 4K the rough early days of HDMI.

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“So our approach has been to over-engineer and over validate everything we have so we know our stuff is going to be solid but, No. 2, to start this certification program for the third-party gear out there, for the sources, for the displays themselves.

“We’re actually bringing all this gear in house, doing all this testing on it with the goal being to be able to publish a list for our customers to say here’s the stuff we’ve tested, here’s the stuff that works, if you stick to this list of sources, of displays and a DigitalMedia system, you’re not going to have these incompatibility issues. You’re not going to have these surprise ‘it doesn’t quite work’ issues and things are going to be good.

“On the back side, if we have a manufacturer that sends something in here that doesn’t work we’re not going to go out to the industry and say [their] stuff doesn’t’ work. We’re going to go to them—and we’ve already been doing that with a few of them—and say, ‘Look guys, we see this problem,” and help them correct it so we can put them on the ‘this works’ list.”

Crestron wants to learn from and wants the industry to benefit from the well-chronicled frustrations related to HDMI. The goal, Kennington adds, is “to get to a place where 4K works really nicely and easily for everybody because that’s better for all of us. And it doesn’t hurt that it established us as the leader, the guys who’ve established this investment.”

Commercial Market Relevance of 4K UHD Certification

The DigitalMedia lab was extra busy on the day of my tour. “We’re in the process of getting our own 4K certified product out the door [slated for April 1],” Kennington says. “Our first preview order is going out today to some yacht in Germany.”

Demand for 4K among yacht owners is easy to imagine. What’s been difficult for many integration professionals is how exactly demand for 4K UHD will play out in various commercial applications.

We’ve written about the important roles 4K UHD will play in medical imaging, manufacturing and mission-critical control room applications, but perhaps we’re over-thinking it.

Candidates for 4K aren’t limited to clients that require extreme video quality; there are also the “tweeners,” said Tom Barnett, Crestron’s director of residential marketing. “That’s our internal term for them.”

The in-between group which could be a corporate client, he explained, wants something higher than 150 MHz, higher than 1080p or 2K, but not quite 4K. Still, for what those clients want, “you can’t switch that with a high definition video switcher because you’re above the 150 MHz point,” he said.

The demand in the “tweener” group stems from the same thing that pretty much every video presentation solution does.

“The boss comes into the conference room and puts his computer down. If he plugs it in and weird things happen on his computer and the resolution changes and all his icons get smaller and reshuffled around, he’s [not going to] like that,” Barnett said.

“Then [it becomes somebody’s job] to make it not do that anymore, which is at least getting the bandwidth up to the display and probably getting the display to match it. Any Apple product you buy now is going to be that way, 2560 by 1440, so when you plug in you either have to set up the complicated second desktop that’s 1080p and people get confused by that or your main display is going to get resized and round on you.”

From frustration comes demand.

“That’s where you get the big traction [for 4K] in the enterprises,” Barnett said. They realize that “everybody is starting to use those types of machines and we have had people complain about that.”

For integrators, he said, having a conversation about that challenge is more effective than saying, “Hey, you should have 4K in your conference room.”

Another source of demand for 4K among corporate clients is in applications in which more than one display is used. “Often there are two displays in a conference room or board room because you want to see your spreadsheets and your video window or the pie chart that goes with the spreadsheet—whatever it is—all at the same time,” Barnett said.

Splitting up the signal can lead to the numbers being too hard to read even on a 65-inch 1080p display. In those cases, he said, “it becomes very practical to use a big 4K display to show all of that content at the same time.”

Tom Barnett, Crestron’s director of residential marketing, talks 4K at 2014 ISE: