Thursday, April 10, 2008

Minicom - Video over CAT5

I've mentioned these babys before but I had occasion to play with them again this week and I was so pleased with the results that I thought they were worth mentioning again.

The Minicom AVDS system broadcasts audio and video over CAT5 twisted pair wire. They're a Godsend if you have a need to pump audio and video feeds around your business and you don't want to clutter your data network or run coax everywhere. They have a VGA input, 8 RJ45 outputs, a mini audio out and a VGA out for a local monitor. You can also cascade them, like you would with a switch or a hub.

I feed them from a PC with a tuner card and use the existing voice and data infrastructure to plumb the signal to anywhere I've got a voice or data jack (which is pretty much everywhere). On the receiving end, I use a standard Ethernet office cable plugged into a receiver unit, which in turn gets plugged in to a monitor via the VGA and mini out. Voila, TV feeds at the drop of a hat.

The specs on these units calls for CAT5 shielded wire, but I'm a risk taker, so I tried pumping them into my standard CAT5e unshielded wiring, and they worked fine. I'm pushing all eight outputs on one unit varying distances up to 300' and the picture is good enough to show on a 50" plasma. When the company slide show is running the clarity of the picture is unbelievable, and the results when I pump CNN to them is almost as good.

There's a more detailed writeup on how they can be integrated into existing building infrastructure on my website Go to the Tech Tips page and look for the Video over CAT5 article.

I also use a variation of this at home to send video from my Media Center PC to various TVs. There's a nice hi def version, the DS Vision, that delivers hi def video and stereo audio in the same manner. The biggest plus for me with this method of delivery is that I'm not clogging up my data pipes by streaming video through the switches. I don't care how good your network is, if you can segment out the video without going to great expense, that's huge. Check 'em out.

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