Brentwood, Tenn., Dispatcher Laurie Morgan monitors communications from the city's police and fire departments.
A “multiviewer” is exactly what the name suggests: a device that allows operators to display multiple video feeds on a single monitor, either sequentially or as a series of individual video windows on one screen. In the past, this signal selection had to be done through a large video switcher. But thanks to digital technology, companies such as Apantac, Evertz, Harris, Matrox, Miranda and SierraView have created small multiviewer units that video producers and operators can use at standalone editing stations and desktops.
MULTIVIEWER CASE STUDY: BRENTWOOD 911 DISPATCH
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, there are 37,060 people living in Brentwood, Tenn., a prosperous suburb of Nashville. Working to keep the city safe is the Brentwood 911 Dispatch Center. Its four on-duty dispatchers direct the city’s police and fire services on a 24/7 basis.
“Our people have access to video feeds from traffic cameras, weather and news broadcasts, and local CCTV surveillance,” said John Allman, technology director for the City of Brentwood. “They can also call up computer feeds such as active 911 call logs and Google Maps.”
Originally, each Brentwood 911 dispatcher had to work with a bank of eight dedicated monitors. When things got crazy, the dispatcher would have to keep scanning all eight screens, with no ability to prioritize the feed that was most important at the time.
As well, having so many monitors at each work station made life crowded.
Apantac Tahoma LE-4CV multiviewer
“There’s only so much space to go around, and the dedicated monitors were really cutting into it,” Allman said.
To bring some control, order and elbow room to its dispatchers’ desktops, Brentwood decided to install two Apantac Tahoma LE-4CV multiviewers, each one capable of handling four discrete inputs. Collectively, the two LE-4CVs can handle eight video feeds, and can be configured such that each of the four dispatcher work stations could select from the feeds at their own desktops. Brentwood chose Apantac based on the company’s reputation, and the competitive pricing of its products.
“Moving to a multiviewer model allowed us to cut our monitor load in half, from eight to four,” said Allman. “It also made it possible for us to let dispatchers prioritize video feeds, by assigning the most important one to a main 50-inch monitor, and less important feeds to the three 27-inch monitors mounted underneath it.”
Evertz VIP multiviewer
Today, the Brentwood 911 Dispatch Center offers a cleaner, more flexible and easier-to-manage video environment to its dispatchers. By moving to this modern technology, “Our people’s working lives have become a bit less stressful,” Allman said, “because they don’t have to dart their eyes around eight monitors to keep on top of things.”
WHAT MULTIVIEWERS OFFER
We already know that multiviewers eliminate that need for dedicated monitors, allowing operators to literally do more video viewing with less equipment. But multiviewers do more than this: They replace traditional monitor walls in total, including under monitor displays (UMDs) and tally lights, because these functions are integrated into the multiviewer’s video outputs.
With fewer pieces of equipment to house, multiviewers free up space in production rooms. Meanwhile, the move to flat panels in place of CRTs “uses less power and requires less HVAC support,” said Martin Jolicoeur. He is product manager for Miranda Technologies’ line of Kaleido multiviewers. “This makes the production area quieter, and thus more pleasant to work in.”
Harris HView SX Pro multiviewer
In fact, “the multiviewer processor can be installed in the equipment room where the rest of the equipment is located,” said Thomas Tang, president of Apantac. “Yet instead of a large number of BNC and data cables having to be run between the equipment room and the production area, a few extenders with CATx cables is all that is needed to connect the multiviewers with their screens; making deployment much simpler than before.”
Add the ability to display multiple video windows on a single monitor, and to size each window according to the operator’s desires, and the multiviewer adds an extra degree of flexibility and control to any video production space.
There are number of multiviewer manufacturers serving the government video production industry. They include Apantac, who makes multiviewers to cover analog, SD, HD, 4K and IP video feeds, such as the Tahoma products currently being used by the City of Brentwood. Evertz also makes a range of multiviewers, and is currently spotlighting its VIP Advance multiviewer, which the company describes as being “the most advanced compact multi-image display processor technology available.”
Miranda Kaleido MX multiviewer
Harris Broadcast’s Platinum family of multiviewers covers the waterfront, with products such as the company’s Platinum QS quad split space-saving card, to its Platinum SX Hybrid scalable multiviewer with IP decode capability. Matrox’s MicroQuad multiviewer can display up to four feeds on a single monitor. Miranda is known for its Kaleido line of multiviewers, which are available as modular units or standalone, and can be purchased for broadcast and IP applications. Finally, Sierra Video’s SierraView SVG multiviewer uses a modular architecture, which allows inputs to be arranged into groups as small as four or as large as 20 apiece.
When it comes to selecting multiviewers, there are a number of factors that should be considered.
For instance, the number of feeds to be switched will determine how much multiviewer capability will need to be purchased. The rule of thumb: The more feeds a multiviewer has to handle, the more multiviewer capability will have to paid for.
The monitor’s size will dictate how many video windows are practical. “More sources per display results in smaller images,” Jolicoeur explained. If an agency wants to pack more windows into a single display, larger monitors may be required.
When choosing a multiviewer, think to the future. “It is important that the multiviewer does not depend on off-the-shelf operating systems and proprietary technology that can quickly become outdated,” Tang warned.Leave some headspace: Just because a production facility only needs to manage eight feeds today doesn’t mean that this capacity will be sufficient five years from now. If possible, have a few spare inputs available on your multiviewer, for allow for expansion later on.
“In most cases, multiviewers will be installed in the equipment room so it will be necessary to know the distance between the multiviewer and the display for the interconnection method,” Jolicoeur said. “For long distance, the traditional approach is to use HDMI/DVI extenders or SDI converters at the display. Kaleido-MX has introduced a new way to bridge this gap by separating the input stage and the output stage of the multiviewer by standard 1855A coax cable. This can be used to save on the number of devices in the video path to the display.”
Finally, before making any purchasing decision, a government agency should thoroughly analyze and map its video signal distribution needs, and then ensure that its purchasing decisions meet those needs. “You must know what you have to support, and what equipment you have to integrate with,” John Allman said. “You should also keep ease of operation in mind, for the sake of your operators and your organization.”
A USEFUL SOLUTION
Properly selected and installed, multiviewers can improve operational and production workflows. Certainly this has been the case for the City of Brentwood 911 Dispatch Center.
“I can’t cite any hard numbers, but I do know that our multiviewer-based video display system is easier for our dispatchers to work with, compared to what they had before,” said Allman. “This is one instance where modern broadcast technology has made working life easier.”
For More Info:
Harris Broadcast: www.harrisbroadcast.com
Sierra Video: www.sierravideo.com