Choosing the Right Network Switch for AV Projects

So, you’re putting together your next AV project and the need for a network switch comes up. This could be due to many factors, most commonly for Audio-Visual over Internet Protocol (AVoIP) applications, control, monitoring, or Internet connectivity.  But if you’re not an experienced IT person, or you’re not very knowledgeable about this, what’s the best way to choose the right switch for your project?

Many current and future AV systems will involve some aspect of networking; this is the future of our industry. The main component within these systems is the network switch (or Ethernet switch), which connects devices to a Local Area Network (LAN) and allows the devices to communicate with each other.  All of those audio-visual packets of information traverse the network and go to their destinations through the switch.

network switches for AV projects

The difficulty arises when we realize that switches come in many different flavors for many different applications. Managed, or unmanaged? PoE (Power over Ethernet), or PoE+, or PoE++? How many ports, and what speeds per port (1 Gbps, 2.5 Gbps, 5 Gbps, 10 Gbps, etc.)?  Will the switch be front or rear-facing in the rack? This can get very confusing, especially if you don’t do it every day.

Let’s break it down so that it is more digestible in a series of questions that I use to help specify the correct network switch. Take a look below:

Does the information being sent across this network require a managed, or unmanaged switch? Layer 2 (MAC addresses), or 3 (IP addresses)? If your application involves controlling network traffic, you will need the features of a layer 3 managed switch. The following examples require a managed switch, like having concurrent bandwidth-intensive applications running, prioritizing important data in your LAN, improving the performance of a network, and implementing other advanced services.

What type of AV equipment will be connected to the network? Audio (i.e., Dante, AVB, AES67)? Video (i.e., H.264, JPEG2000, IPMX, NDI, SDVoE)? Control? Or all of them? If you’re multicasting audio & video, you will need a managed layer 3 switch – there’s no way around it. If you are implementing IP-based control in a system, you can use an unmanaged Gigabit switch, as there are few network protocols required to allow control commands to work, unless you need Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN). Then, you will have to dive right back into the managed switch realm.

But which network protocols does the managed switch have to be capable of? Multicast? Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMP)? VLANs? Multicasting, IGMP, and VLANs are all necessary features that are only available on managed switches. If these terms are not familiar and you plan on putting an AV over IP (AVoIP) system together, you should consider purpose-built gear. Some manufacturers are even offering preconfigured switches that have all of these network protocols enabled by default to work right away…without having to be an IT professional and spending tons of time programming and testing.

How many ports are needed? Count the total number of devices that require a LAN connection…and then add a few more. Leave room for expansion and for devices that are often forgotten. If you think you’ll add more devices in the future, choose a switch that will give your network room to grow. Will this AV system have any future add-ons or requirements to consider? If so, we should be thinking about a switch that is stackable, or has the ability to trunk ports and seamlessly add more switches through uplinks.

What speed per port is needed (Gigabit, 2.5 Gbps, 5 Gbps, 10 Gbps, etc.)? Every network device will have its LAN port speed listed. These speeds will typically range from 100 Mbps, Gigabit (1,000 Mbps) and 10 Gigabit (10 Gbps). Equipment that has gigabit specifications definitely necessitates the use of a gigabit switch. Remember that devices with lower port speeds (ex. Gigabit = 1,000 Mbps) will always be able to utilize switch ports with higher ports speeds (ex. 10 Gbps). Most compressed video codecs (i.e. H.264, H.265, JPEG2000, VC2) will work just fine on a managed 1 Gbps network switch. But be aware that any SDVoE (Software Defined Video over Ethernet) gear will require 10 Gbps on every port, usually accompanied by 40 Gbps or 100 Gbps uplinks to support the total bandwidth of utilized ports.

What type of PoE switch is needed? Determine which devices can be powered or require PoE (Power over Ethernet). There are different standards of PoE, so they are not all the same, and making sure that enough power is delivered to the enabled device is important. Does the PoE switch apply power on all ports, or just select ports? Always check the receiving device’s PoE class/requirement (PoE = 15.4 Watts, PoE+ = 30 Watts, PoE++ = 60 or 90 Watts depending on Type 3 or 4, respectively), and plan for a cumulative total power budget that will support all devices. When you see a switch that is rated for 300 Watts, you can connect up to ~20 PoE devices, or 10 PoE+ devices, or 3 PoE++ devices. Dividing the switch’s total power budget by the cumulative device power consumption will help figure out what you need – and always remember to leave a little room for overhead.

Last but not least, let’s not forget about the aesthetics of the amazing audio-visual system that was just built. Within the equipment rack, tidy cabling and carefully stacked black boxes of hardware are neatly aligned for a clean and organized look. Having the ports on the front side or rear-facing side of the switch is a big deal, and your cabling and rack fabrication technicians will thank you for selecting those AV switches with customizable port locations.

There are many things to consider when deciding on a specific switch from a manufacturer. It’s not just about the features, it’s about support with dedicated resources. So, don’t overlook one of the most important components of a networked AV system, because it could be the difference between a successful deployment and a problem-ridden project.

**For ALMO add-on for Manufacturer/Product specific**

NETGEAR has also taken out much of the complexity with setting up an Ethernet switch with the various protocols required for video and audio to ride over the network. Preconfiguring protocols like IGMP, Multicast and VLANs make the network switch a plug-n-play device right out of the box, saving time, money, and resources usually dedicated to this task. NETGEAR’s IGMP Plus™ is a fantastic and unique feature simplifying the deployment of multicast solutions, which especially helps people who are uncomfortable with some of the more complicated IT configurations such as Layer 3 Protocol Independent Multicast or PIM routing.

If you are still unsure of what to do or how to specify a network switch for your project, you’ll be happy to know there are resources out there to assist. In fact, NETGEAR has a dedicated ProAV design and engineering team specifically for our industry, with purpose-built products that are engineered for any AV over IP project. Give them a shout when you need some engineering assistance at [email protected]. This is a fantastic resource available to all integrators for free.

Now Is the Right Time for AV-over-IP

AV-over-IP continues to pick up traction among integrators in the ProAV industry, but there are still quite a few that find themselves questioning if they should start implementing this technology.  In fact, 45% of respondents in a 2019 industry survey revealed that they either do not embrace, or are on the fence with adopting AV-over-IP as a viable AV distribution solution – nearly half.  So why all the hesitation, and furthermore, why is now the right time for using AV-over-IP?

Let’s start with asking what is AV-over-IP?  It stands for Audio-Visual over Internet Protocol, which might sound a little challenging to some AV integrators who don’t know anything about networking. 

AV-over-IP (also known as AVoIP) refers to the use of standard network equipment to transmit and switch video and audio.  At its foundation the basic AV-over-IP system is quite simple.  Sources are being encoded, connecting through a network switch to decoders that are then connected to displays (see image below).

Image courtesy of Atlona

What about more complex AV-over-IP applications in ProAV?  Just take a look at the sample below where you see converged usage of Digital Signage, IP Surveillance, Content Servers, Blu-Ray players, Set Top Boxes, and Personal Computers…. all on the same network.

When looking at these examples it may cause some AV dealers to avoid taking on AVoIP due to apprehensions about the technology, networking skills, cost, interoperability, flexibility and scalability.  Let’s address some of these concerns head on.

There are numerous products available for AVoIP, which can cause difficulty deciding which technology, networking hardware or brands to use.  In contrast with past attempts at accelerating AV over IP, it’s not just one or two obscure vendors that are stepping into this change.  The largest and most influential AV vendors in the industry are leading the change.  For example, the Software Defined Video over Ethernet (SDVoE) Alliance is an eco-system of companies in and around the AV-over-IP space, working together to create a fantastic platform for the next generation of audiovisual applications.  Not only do all SDVoE products and solutions work together, network hardware manufacturers, like NETGEAR, are making it easier than ever to deploy them.  SDVoE partners provide the audio-video products while NETGEAR, one of the founding members, provides the backbone network products that make it all possible, with interoperability being key.

What about the networking skill sets and support required for these systems?  NETGEAR, for example, not only will provide design engineers (with ProAV experience) to help specify products, but will actually provide an optimal network topology design for you.  Their Pro AV Engineering Services team are trained AV and IT professionals to help you both before and after the sale as well as during installation, all for free.  This takes a huge load off of the AV system designer and often leads to the best outcome for the project. 

NETGEAR has also taken out much of the complexity with setting up an Ethernet switch with the various protocols required for video and audio to ride over the network.  Preconfiguring protocols like IGMP, Multicast and VLANs make the network switch a plug-n-play device right out of the box, saving time, money and resources usually dedicated to this task.  NETGEAR’s IGMP Plus™ is a fantastic and unique feature simplifying the deployment of multicast solutions, which especially helps people who are uncomfortable with some of the more complicated IT configurations such as Layer 3 Protocol Independent Multicast or PIM routing.

AVoIP also solves the distance limitations with traditional AV cables (by utilizing copper Ethernet & fiber cables instead), is more scalable and flexible than traditional circuit-based AV products (by adding more ports & stacking the switches), and equipment costs are decreasing.  All of these factors will contribute to more adoption and it will only get better as time goes on.  IP convergence has already happened with telephony (POTS vs. VoIP), surveillance (analog vs. IP cameras), audio (ex. Dante, AVB) and other industries, and at some point, everything else will move to the network.  AV-over-IP is happening right now and the ProAV industry will continue its way down this inevitable path, so don’t get left behind.

Don’t you think it’s time to invest in AV-over-IP to advance the future of your business?  Please drop me a line and share your experience, or let me know if you would like some help getting started.

My Visit to LG’s Business Innovation Center

Recently, I was fortunate enough to visit the LG Business Innovation Center (BIC) outside of Chicago at LG’s corporate headquarters. It was quite an experience where all of LG’s newest innovations and product verticals are on display to see and feel.  You really get a chance to experience everything that LG has on their commercial display product roadmap, and it’s there specifically for customers and end users to absorb and engage in the future of their technologies.


For every vertical market there was an LG display suited perfectly for it. Whatever the application, the LG BIC has the full array of products for Hospitality, Healthcare, QSR (Quick Serve Restaurants), Transportation scheduling, Museums/Art Galleries, Indoor/Outdoor Digital Signage, Video Walls, Open-frame OLED technology, LED lighting…it’s all here for the taking.  They’ve even created a new market for “digital décor” which stems from their uniquely designed 86-inch Ultra-Stretch 4K model that is ideal for art galleries, museums and the high-end digital signage projects.




Most notable was the new OLED display technology that LG recently unveiled. They showcase a cutting-edge 55-inch OLED 4K UHD Wallpaper display that is absolutely unreal! (see Front View) Everyone at the meeting was completely blown away.  No one could believe their eyes when they saw how thin this unit actually is.  This amazing display is literally thinner than a credit card (see side view).  And, not only was it a gorgeous image, but at less than 4 pounds, this stunning display was installed using Velcro (you can also use magnets)!

LG’s 55-inch OLED 4K UHD Wallpaper Display (Front View):


Yes, I said Velcro! That was not a typo.

You also may notice a black plastic frame behind the actual display (see side view image), but this is not part of the actual OLED display portion and is required for structural stability due to the extremely thin, flexible OLED layer in front of it. This model is truly going to be a game-changer for the industry.  Get ready for a groundbreaking 2016 with LG’s sights set on the future of OLED technology, and the technical developments and advancements that result from those efforts.

LG’s 55-inch OLED 4K UHD Display (side view):


So next time you are in the Chicago (or Atlanta) area and looking to see the latest and greatest that LG Electronics offers, make the trip to their Business Innovation Center. It will be well worth it, I promise!

For more information on LG’s latest products, please do not hesitate to contact me, Eric Olson, via phone at (888) 420-2566 ext. 4082 or via email at [email protected].

Super Stretch Your Digital Signage with LG

It’s no secret we’ve been moving away from the classic form of advertisement for quite some time. Static advertisement strategies to merely attract customers are a thing of the past. With the onslaught of information, creating an engaging experience around the customer is today’s minimum requirement.

Digital signage is an exploding market with ever expanding applications and innovative products that help draw attention to the message. But have you ever wanted to exhibit your latest signage project on a display that truly stands apart from the rest? Well, LG has introduced an amazing new 86” Ultra Stretch monitor for these types of cutting edge digital signage applications – the 86BH5C-B. It’s the world’s first 58:9 format featuring 4K Ultra HD resolution.

UltraHDResolution(3840x600)This distinctive display size is ideal for some very unique visual applications. The 3840 x 600 resolution provides a one-of-a-kind canvas to display lots of content with amazing color and imagery. Having an extended wide format display can provide a lot of information on a broad canvas without sacrificing image quality. For example, mounting it sideways in landscape format is a fantastic way for retail stores to display them on top of shelves and demonstrate the latest products.

lg_stretch1The portrait format mount is equally valuable and really shows the versatility of this type of monitor where it can be utilized in spaces previously unused for signage. You can mount them vertically on building columns to show the latest information and schedules at transportation hubs (i.e. airports, train stations, bus depots, etc.) and businesses (hotels, banks, art galleries, etc.). Plus, the Picture-by-Picture (PBP) feature allows you to divide the screen into four parts in landscape or portrait installations. You can use one portion of the monitor to show video (live TV) and the remaining 3 portions of still images (date/time, weather, flight schedules, etc.).

Debuted as a new digital signage format, the 86-inch LG Ultra Stretch Signage display can even double as “digital décor” (art galleries and museums come to mind). Its stunning image quality and capability of being used in diverse scenarios make this a revolutionary breakthrough in signage.

The only challenge may be in getting the exact content you desire to be custom created for this unique format. However, with the LG SuperSign media editor, you can easily edit images or video clips of original content without any additional editing programs. If you ever need help obtaining the content needed to ride on that display, Almo Content Creation services is also a fantastic option!

For more information on LG’s Ultra stretch display or any of their products please reach out to me at [email protected] / 888-420-2566 X4082

Barco ClickShare 2.0… Reboot

barco1Being a pioneer in the meeting room/conference room collaboration and presentation product development is a tremendous feat. But how do you top yourself when you already have an award winning product with tremendous sales growth? How did Barco outdo itself again?

Well, Barco is introducing the new CS-100 and CSE-200 models that will transition and compliment their existing offerings. They are tapping into new customers and markets at an aggressive price point while continuing to give them the ease of sharing and collaboration during presentations.

feature2The CSM-1, also known as the ClickShare mini has now transitioned into a new model – CSE-200. In addition to the simplicity of Barco’s one-click-wonder, they have completely redesigned the unit with brand new look with all the simplicity of its predecessor. The CSE-200 is taking on the new role of the ClickShare mini and making it even more secure. With updated security embedded into the ClickShare buttons, it becomes even more secure while sharing participant content on the big presentation screen.

feature1Barco also added a new cost-effective model, the CS-100, which is a lower cost unit that has most of the features of the CSE-200. The CS-100 model is priced low to allow any potential end-user to invest in a great platform to share content in their meeting room spaces. This model looks a little different than the CSE-200, with no external antennas and only one USB button to share. But, even with only one button end-users can still use the Barco mobile APP (Android & iOS) that will allow mobile device users to still contribute to the main display.

feature3These two new additions to the Barco family will be sure to complement its big brother, the CSC-1, which is still available for the larger conference rooms that have more participants.

But, the CSC-1 has some fresh news of its own. With a new firmware upgrade, existing CSC-1 ClickShare Classic units can be upgraded to support 4K UHD resolution (with the use of an active DisplayPort to HDMI adapter) and Airplay for iOS 9 devices.

Barco continues to elevate itself in the products they continue to develop for the collaboration and presentation.

For more information on Barco’s ClickShare or to schedule a demo, contact Eric Olson at [email protected] or 888.420.2566 x4082.

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