The author used this setup to test the Roland converters.
For as long as I’ve been in the broadcast engineering business, there have been small “brick” pieces of gear. Some of these were merely pin-out test devices, some were isolators, and some even functioned as test/sync generators. Until fairly recent though, these were just about the only items that you could fit in your coat pocket, feature wise. Fast-forward to 2014: Manufacturers such as Roland Systems have been packing more and more features into smaller packages. Prime examples of these new technologies Roland’s VC-1-SC up/down/cross scan converter and VC-1-DL bi-directional converter with delay and frame sync. It’s rare that I review two products in one article; however, the simplicity and straight-forward design on these little boxes makes sense in this case.
Both units are housed in similar small aluminum cases and are powered via a PSB 1U 9-Volt adapter. The chassis has a slick power cord retaining clip to keep the plug secure, and although the adaptors are rated at 18 Watts, I found no power consumption figures. (The power adapters and converters do run cool to the touch.) While the two units share many connectivity traits such as USB, DIP switches, ref in, power connector and status LEDs, there are differences in connector types, IE: HDMI, RCA, BNC, and VGA. The VC-1 products feature on-board reclocking and support for both level A and B 3G SDI. The units are very well labeled in terms of hookup, block diagrams and DIP switch programming.
The VC-1-SC provides up, down, cross, frame rate, I/P and aspect ratio conversion. In addition, it offers 3G I/O, HDMI I/O, RGB/component inputs, composite video input, and support for HDCP. The VC-1-SC also includes a built-in frame synchronizer, scaler, audio embedder and de-embedder. Control functions are accomplished with the VC-1 RCS PC/MAC control application.
The VC-1-DL is a bidirectional SDI/HDMI converter, with delay and frame sync functionalities. It features lossless image conversion, 3G capabilities, HDCP support, separate audio and video delays of up to nine fields, audio embedding/de-embedding and channel selection. The VC-1-DL also uses the Roland’s VC-1 RCS PC/MAC control application.
I was shipped both a VC-1-DL and VC-1-SC for evaluation. I tried out the VC-1-SC converter first, as it seems I’m always drawn to transcoders! I connected the power supply, and hooked up the HD/SD SDI output to a Black Magic Design eight-inch dual monitor. For an input source I attached my six-year-old Gateway laptop computer to the converter via a VGA connection. At this point, I guess I expected a picture to just appear. However, I wasn’t so lucky. My first reaction was to start pressing the “input” select switch. While I could see the monitor screen flash a bit, there was still no picture. Next I made sure that the “second screen” feature was activated on my computer and I was pretty sure that I had that one right. Next, I changed the resolution on the PC away from 1280 x 768 to 1024 x 768. Viola! I had a very clear display of my PC screen on the picture monitor. I played a bit with the DIP switches, along with the input select and scaling type buttons. I went back to the 1280 x 768 setting to see if anything had changed; it hadn’t and after returning to the 1024 x 768 resolution I made a note to check with Roland about this.
Next, it was time to try the USB connectivity and control via my PC. I downloaded the VC-1 RCS software and installed the application. The process proved to be simple and straightforward. After installing this app, I connected the USB cable between my PC and the VC-1-SC, and when I clicked on the desktop icon, the application launched and I had a full screen of options for the VC-1 SC all at the control of my mouse. These included DIP switch settings, inputs, scaling, analog input parameters such as phase, color gain, as well as brightness and contrast. Also displayed were audio level and level alarm adjustments, HDCP, H/V positioning and more.
To test the VC-1-DL, I ran a 1080i direct feed from my NBC program stream to the input of one of the dual eight-inch monitors. I fed the looped output of that monitor to the input of the VC-1-DL, and connected the output of the VC-1-DL to the other monitor in the dual configuration.
When I connected the power adapter I was able to see the NBC incoming feed on both monitors without any discernable delay between them. As a test of audio monitoring/de-embedding capabilities, I took the audio out from the VC-1-DL via the RCA connectors and connected the feed to an American Audio rackmount LED meter set that we use. I immediately saw audio registering on the meter. By using the RCS software, I was able to connect to the VC-1-DL and dial in varying amount of video or audio delay—up to 4.5 frames, in 0.5 frame increments. (For fine delay, you can also select lines of delay as well.) And while this can be accomplished with on-chassis controls, I wanted to try out the GUI which I found to work very nicely.
MORE INFO MODEL: Roland VC-1-DL and VC-1-SC converters
After dialing in some video delay, I could easily detect that delay between my two video monitors. Connecting a set of headphones (in place of the metering) allowed me to confirm that I was indeed affecting the lip sync. Dialing the same delay into the audio delay fields kept the lip sync dead on. Other adjustments on the GUI included audio embedding options such as channels and groups, input embedding selection, audio level controls, metering thresholds (for alerting LEDs), DC warning thresholds and HDCP encrypt and mask. (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection).
I left both units up and operational for about a month. Occasionally, I’d disconnect them and reconnect. Never once did I have to restart them, or perform any reset operations. I spoke with tech support at Roland about the 1280 x 768 resolution issue and they said that no one else had reported this, but they would check into it. They got back to me later that they were indeed able to confirm the problem in their lab and would be addressing it in a software updates—I may have been the only user who tried using a 1280 x 768 resolution setting. I did check about a dozen other resolutions and they all worked perfectly.
In summation, I found the Roland “bricks” to be well worth the money. Video quality was more than acceptable, they were easy to operate and they proved to be very reliable.
Joey Gill is chief engineer at WPSD-TV in Paducah, Ky. and has been with the station for 30 years. He has worked in television since 1977. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.