Every once in a while you come across one of those products that really change the game. For me the latest one is Ross Video’s new Ultrix router. I recently put one in on a project of mine and the whole time I was freaking out (in a nerd type of way), and I am happy to say that it has lived up to my expectations! Using new technology in a project is always mixed emotions, it is usually exciting but it can also be scary.
As an integrator I have found routers invaluable, such a great use of money when properly implemented. Before routers came down in price I had a hard time justifying them as an expense and would spend hours carefully designing every detail of a system, but for a while now routers have been inexpensive making them totally worth it and selfishly making my and many other’s lives easier.
I have been keeping my eye on hybrid video/ audio routing for some now. Looking at the big router manufactures such as Miranda (GV), Imagine communications, evertz and Utah who all have hybrid solutions, I have been waiting for the day when such technology would be affordable for the average church/ small system. Ultrix has completely crossed this line in a big way.
Whenever you have new products on the market that incorporates multiple solutions into one it can sometimes be hard to see beyond the surface. People see a video router, and a price tag and either ignore the functionality or don’t understand it. But when you do a full apple to apples comparison the picture really starts to make sense.
When I was approached with my latest project, there were a few stipulations. The biggest one for me was the idea that audio and video needed to always be tied together and extremely simple for an end user. I could have built a multi-level routing system to handle all of this, but this includes a lot of wiring, conversion, and outboard pieces of gear. The other option was to fully embed the system through a single level router, but that too requires lots of embedders, dis-embedders, and DA’s. I had done a few systems like that before and functionally they work great and are easy to use, but it is never as flexible as one would hope.
The next big thing for me was that the size of system required additional monitoring, and I wanted to make sure that whatever multi-viewer I had in the system was reliable and robust. The hard thing with Multi-viewers is that they take a ton of router outputs (if you need that functionality) and tally is usually a nightmare (unless you have an external Tally interface).
I started to do some price comparisons between video routing, audio embed/ dis-embed, Multi-view, labor and expandability. Now because I am a bit of a bias Ross fan boy I kept as much gear in the Ross family as possible (NK & Opengear) with the exception of the multi viewer, since they don’t make an external one. What I found was the pricing wasn’t very far apart at all to the Ultrix, enough to when presented to the client they didn’t think twice and went with the Ultrix. By going with the Ultrix though, allowed us way more flexibility then we would ever have had with any other system.
I put in a 64×64 router, I made half the router fully enabled with audio processing with full MADI support. We put in 2 MADI SFP modules and tied 2 separate audio consoles to include 56 mono sends and receives per console! Any device with audio was easily able to tie to both audio consoles. I was also able to embed up to 16 channels of audio on any output on my audio processing cards, from any SDI or MADI source. There is so much audio flexibility on this system. I basically have 32 SDI embedders and 32 dis-embedders that each do 16 channels each with a crazy amount of audio sources to choose from. And then without any external gear I can incorporate MADI to any source and send any source to MADI (we even sent MADI to MADI because we could). At first glance the audio processing looks expensive on the Ultrix, but the benefits easily outweigh the cost. And with so many consoles using the MADI standard (or using MADI conversion) it is so easy to integrate!! I could go on for days!!! So much flexibility, so easy to incorporate, so much Power! (neither console we tied in were native MADI).
Now you may think you don’t need that much flexibility, but think about being able to ISO 16 channels of audio per record device, sending out 56 Audio channels to your audio consoles, being able to easily route different audio feeds to different places. You will be surprised how much you utilize this feature and not know how you ever lived without it!
The Multiviewers are extremely economical and you can monitor any of the 64 inputs and any of the 64 outputs with only taking up a single output. It is easy to setup and change. I found the output monitoring incredibly useful as the UMD’s display the destination and the source going to it, with proper audio metering. Tally is seamless from the carbonite switcher making the whole thing streamlined. It is one of those things where the MV’s just make sense, look great and are powerful.
The last thing I will say about the Ultrix is the SFP modules. The SFP modules can be swapped out for a number of different standards. I mentioned that I used a couple of SFP modules for MADI audio but I also added some SDI I/O, as well as some Fiber I/O all right within my router without going to a conversion frame.
If you can’t tell, I’m pretty excited about this product. But the best part is, just like Carbonite was built with a software upgradeable mindset that brought us tons of features throughout the years, Ultrix is built the same way. Ultrix is already pretty great! But who knows what features are to come. I have only hit a few of the amazing feature-sets. I just hate to see a product this great go un-noticed. For the HOW community I really don’t think there is any better product to put in your facility.
If you are thinking about an upgrade or a new Video router of any sorts, you have to consider the Ultrix! But with all these features wrapped in one (most that are software unlockable at any point), be sure you don’t just wing it, create a careful design and work with the kind folks at Ross video to make sure everything is setup correctly going in. Ross has done it again with the Ultrix, and it has me excited!