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Cabling for your stage television

Cabling for your stage television

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On today’s Tech, No Babel: Cabling for your stage television

There are three main types of cabling that most people think of when it comes to getting an image from a computer onto a display. Each has its plusses and minuses. Which you should use, depends on your situation.

VGA.

This is an analog video standard that was very robust. While the 15-pin connectors could be a little delicate, if it was permanently installed, you’d be able to send a signal 50 feet with no problems at all.

When the cable run did get a little long, the image would subtly degrade, so some people wouldn’t even notice it.

Unfortunately, VGA is going the way of the dodo, so I can’t advise you to build a new system today, based on it. If you already have it, feel free to use it on a temporary basis, but know that when one piece dies, you’ll probably have to replace the whole chain, so plan for that.

DVI.

DVI is a hybrid interface. It’s both analog, like VGA (and with a simple adapter, you can often get VGA from it, depending on if it’s the right kind of DVI) and digital (and adapt it to HDMI easily, too). Cable run lengths are similar to VGA at about 48 or 49 feet. It’s not encumbered by HDCP, so you won’t run into the problems that that causes.

HDMI.

Now, you’re most likely to find TVs with HDMI connections and neither of the other two. HDMI had great potential, but because of the fears of the movie industry, it’s encumbered by HDCP, making it hard to deal with (in my experience) in a production environment. Sure, if your cable run is 3-6 feet, it’s fine, but if you need to run it from the back of your sanctuary to the front, you’re going to run into an issue.

According to HDMI.org, the maximum cable run length is about 33 feet. That’s not very long at all. To get around this, you can either use a balun which sends the signal over network cable (cat5, cat5e, cat6) or convert it to and from SDI and run it over RG-6 coax cable.

In my experience, the latter is more robust and while the cabling itself is about the same cost, converters tend to be pricier.

Additionally, make sure that the network cable converters are true baluns and not IP based, if you go that route. IP based adapters will introduce additional delay that you don’t want.

So, which should you use? It depends on your situation, how long you have to run the cable, etc. I’d generally recommend HDMI to SDI to HDMI for long runs and HDMI (with a back up cable, in case of failure, for short runs.

What’s your experience? Leave it in the comments below.

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