AV over IP: The Fundamentals You Need to Know

Internet equipment on a shelf

Advances in audio-visual technology happen every day, but some changes take place much faster or slower than others. One place in which changes are particularly slow to happen is in infrastructure. AV infrastructure is relatively slow to change because any change often requires the consensus of the whole industry to be adopted. 

That is why it is remarkable to see a change as dramatic as the shift to AV over IP. In 2017 alone, AV over IP products were up over 130%. With the shift that the system is undergoing to move toward AV over IP, the benefits it provides must be seriously worthwhile. 

So, what is AV over IP? What benefits does it provide? Keep reading to learn more about this audio-visual advance.  

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What Exactly Is AV over IP?

AV over IP is shorthand for audio-visual over internet protocol. This involves transmitting audio-visual information over the internet or through internet equipment instead of through traditional methods. 

This gives AV over IP a wide range of use and allows it to cover a wide range of video streaming. Simply streaming a video or song online, whether live or on-demand, is technically a type of AV over IP. So, watching YouTube or streaming Netflix falls under this umbrella. 

However, this isn’t what most people are usually referencing when they talk about AV over IP. Instead, people are usually referencing the idea of replacing traditional audio-visual structures with ones run through IP equipment. This has vast repercussions on the way modern AV systems are created. 

Traditional AV vs. AV over IP: Similarities

Traditional AV systems and AV over IP systems are very similar at their core. Both setups involve taking audio and visual inputs and transmitting them to a device to play them. 

Both systems start with the same source, which can be anything from the signal from a digital antenna to an input line from a computer. This then passes through a system that alters the signal in various ways. For traditional setups, AV transmitters, AV receivers, and AV switchers are used. In AV over IP setups, encoders, decoders, and IP switches are used instead. The signal passes through these systems to end up at the same final destination. 

Traditional AV vs. AV over IP: Differences

While the structures of many traditional AV systems are similar to AV over IP systems, they still have many differences. Most of these differences come from the advantages AV over IP systems hold over their traditional counterparts. These are similar to many of the general advances made in AV. 

Modern video surveillance camera

More Scalable Switching

A video matrix switch in a traditional AV system is relatively simple and straightforward. This device takes in inputs from multiple AV sources on one end and delivers outputs to multiple places on the other. This makes it possible for multiple video feeds to come together from around a building into the monitors in the building’s security office. It also makes it possible for a single video feed to be transmitted to multiple TV screens, like what happens when a bar streams a baseball game across all of its screens. In any case, the switcher connects AV sources and destinations in unique ways. 

However, traditional switchers are limited. They only have so many ports, and finding switchers with many ports can be expensive. This makes scalability a problem

IP switches help solve this problem. When all ports on an IP switch are filled, another IP switch can be connected to the system to increase the number of ports available. So, more and more switches can simply be added as more and more ports are needed. 

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Accommodates Further Distances

With traditional AV structures, the distance between things is limited. Wires are usually pretty short and, thus, don’t allow for long distances. Most wires can often only carry a signal for so long before they start requiring additional technologies and extensions to make the connection possible. 

This presents a serious problem in many cases. Some buildings or large venues require vast AV systems that stretch across the area. Building something like this ends up driving up the price of the system as a whole. 

Meanwhile, the cables used for AV over IP systems are often longer and more effective. Cables like CAT5e and CAT6 are relatively cheap and can transmit a signal for up to 100 meters. They also do this at incredible speeds, with both supporting gigabit connections. In this case, the switch from traditional systems to AV over IP systems provides plenty of benefits with little to no downside. 

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Streamlines Systems

With most traditional AV structures, the ports, wires, and connections being made are ports, wires, and connections exclusive to the AV industry. So, all of these need to be worked into their own exclusive network. 

Meanwhile, in AV over IP systems, the ports, wires, and connections are all similar to or the same as those already being used for network systems. So, instead of creating an entirely new system, an AV over IP approach simply integrates into an already existing system. This helps reduce the number of complications in the system as a whole. 

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Security Concerns Surrounding AV over IP

Security in traditional AV systems and AV over IP systems is one category that doesn’t have an obvious winner. AV over IP systems have some inherent vulnerabilities that can negatively expose the system. This raises some concerns, especially when it comes to cybersecurity in the workplace. However, the extent to which AV over IP systems can be compromised is often overblown and is almost entirely preventable. 

This is because new encryption technologies are available for AV over IP systems that provide them with plenty of safety. These systems can help prevent hacking entirely in many cases. Even on the off chance that the system is compromised somehow, some security systems will encrypt the steam in a way that prevents it from being seen even if another party gets ahold of it. So, by taking the proper steps, AV over IP systems can be entirely safe. 

Man working on a laptop with a secure connection via vpn

AV over IP Fundamentals

AV over IP effectively represents an evolution of the audio-visual landscape. It provides more scalability, transmits information over larger distances, and generally improves most AV systems. Pay close attention as these systems evolve, as you will likely see more and more of them in the coming years. 

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Last Updated on May 12, 2023 by Josh Mahan

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