Issue 26

Anatomy of an AV-Over-IP System

Macquarie Uni’s trailblazing lab upgrade


15 January 2019

The Macquarie Uni Surgical Skills Lab upgrade, with its use of AV over IP is remarkable because it’s a trailblazing project; it’s ongoing (demonstrating the promised flexibility and scalability of AV over IP); and it’s depended on a uni AV department that’s thoroughly assessed the options and hoed their own row, so to speak.

So although this isn’t the newest story in town, it’s one of the best.

The lab is used by the medical community to explore human anatomy. Effectively it’s a room with a number of identical operating theatres (or medical stations): one for the lecturer and six more for students. Each is equipped with a camera displays, speakers, and a central LCD display and projector.


Until the AV over IP work was done, the sharing of images was really one way. The lecturer could share what he was looking at to the other stations. But only after an assistant individually switched the source on the students stations.

Iain Brew, Clinical AV & IT Coordinator at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Macquarie University, decided he would do something about the lack of collaboration, without throwing out all the existing kit and starting again.

Brew designed a new Gefen video over IP-based system that allows the entire lab to function with one cohesive matrix, thus enabling any video source to be routed to any video destination in full HD quality.

The new system also allows any user to control video content sharing with an Apple iPad Pro tablet. “If a student makes an interesting discovery, their images can instantly be displayed on the room’s main projector,” Brew explained. “And the instructor can also send his or her camera feed to all displays in the lab during a demonstration, or with a push of a button, return all the displays back to the individual pendant inputs. The system makes research sharing so much easier.”


Brew installed one Gefen EXT-CU-LAN Matrix Controller to serve as the basis of the new video over IP infrastructure to guarantee seamless video sharing amongst the lab’s 10 Stryker VisionElect 26-inch medical displays. Brew also installed 16 Gefen HDMI Senders, 15 Gefen HDMI Receivers, two Gefen KVM Senders, one Gefen KVM Receiver, three Gefen Scalers, two Gefen HDMI scalers, 10 Gefen SDI-HDMI Converters, and one Gefen Audio Converter.


Here’s an excerpt from an interesting interview with Iain Brew, who spoke to Bennett Liles of Sound & Video Contractor. Iain starts by describing the tech upgrade journey, which began with looking into how to better control the video routing and how that led to video over IP:

Iain Brew: I think our highest priority was to improve the control of what we had. However, as we went deeper into the project we realised that we really needed to start thinking about the quality of our audio and video as well, so we did it as a coherent project. In order to do so we needed a new matrix — we have so many inputs and outputs in the space that it was going to get very expensive very quickly.

I also wanted something that was going to be scalable for other upgrades we might be doing in our building — the ability to link everything with a common system. Video over IP was the logical step for us. I looked at a few different products. The thing that stood out for me with the Gefen solution was its matrix controller. It’s a piece of hardware that sits on the network that can receive simple routing commands and then that figures out all the complicated multicasting and network configuration for you. So it’s very, very easy to program, compared to other products where you have to actually talk to the switch itself by logging into its console and reaching its V-LAN.

The Gefen product seemed to be the logical solution, and the other thing I like about it is it’s highly scalable — anything up to 65,000 devices I believe. I hope we never reach that number! That would be quite a mess of work to look after. But the other great thing is their new ultra-high definition products are backwards compatible with the high definition products we’ve bought — when we do something in another part of the building, we don’t have to rip everything out and start again. They will talk to each other. I think that’s fantastic that our investment is protected and future-proofed.


“All routing enabled by Gefen is controlled from a wall-mounted iPad Pro running iRidium Mobile software, which allowed us to program our control system in-house. Users can make preset selections on the home page, or delve deeper and route individual video sources to destinations on the ‘Video’ page,” Brew said. “As added peace of mind, lab operators can also make routes and recall presets from the EXT-CU-LAN front panel or web GUI too, providing plenty of control redundancy and backup.”


The system is also equipped with video conferencing and recording technology, including a Panasonic AW-HE40 PTZ roof-mounted camera and an AJA RovoCam 4K block camera used for high resolution display and recording. An Extron SMP111 recorder coupled with a Synology RackStation NAS allows students to record video of their findings so that content can be easily uploaded to the learning management system (LMS) or passed on to clients for review and assessment.

Iain Brew and the Surgical Skills team worked on a strict budget within a six-week time frame. With great customer service and easy installation software, he accomplished the Faculty’s goals without issue. “Gefen’s Syner-G and its auto-discovery tools make it easy to quickly set up the video aspect of the installation,” he commented. “We also really appreciated the great technical support from the team at Gefen, as well as from Jackie Roos at JAMWare for iRidium Mobile.”

As mentioned, Brew reused most of the existing speakers, projectors, cabling and more. Additionally, the uni used the new Gefen system to enable potential future add-ons. “We bought only what we needed now,” Brew explained. “It is easy for us to upgrade and expand with our Gefen system. We can grow it organically by adding inexpensive network switches and Tx/Rx units as required rather than having to replace entire and expensive matrix frames with dedicated cabling should we exceed capacity.”


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