It’s important to have all your questions answered when deciding on a modulator for your AV integration. Modulation in its most basic definition is the mixing of two sinusoidal signals. The RF modulator takes an input signal and outputs a modulated signal. Which RF modulator supports all your needs? What functionality do you require? What’s your intended use for the modulator? The questions go on and on. Contemporary Research (CR) has a list of critical questions you should ask before choosing the modulator for your AV integration.
AV and IT professionals need the right modulator to efficiently translate media formats. Contemporary Research shares seven questions to ask when considering various modulators.
Do you require multiple programs from one unit? Many modulators are able to accept up to four inputs in a 1RU rack space. Input choices could include HDMI, HD-SDI, 3G-SDI, Component, VGA and composite video.
Is the ability to have simultaneous RF channels and IP streams necessary? Modulators that include a digital encoder are already creating an MPEG video stream that can be used for IPTV. The unit should be able to distribute IPTV, RF, or both. If at some point, you plan on changing to IPTV or RF, you should not have to buy new equipment.
What encoding formats are available? MPEG2 is the standard for most high-definition RF applications, usually with one channel carrying two video programs; and a growing number of TVs can now accept H.264/ MPEG 4 video. IPTV streaming primarily employs H.264, with each stream carrying one program – and supports unicast, multicast, UDP and RTP streaming.
Can the modulator scale the video? This feature has a variety of uses. First, scaling can reformat video to a resolution that can be more suitable for HDTV. Second, the video can be re-shaped to fit TV screens edge-to-edge. Third, the resolution and bitrate can be reduced to output a smaller stream. The scaling should be done via hardware, not software.
How easy is the unit to install and update? Some modulators have an ethernet port for onboard Web pages and firmware updates. However, if modulators are not connected to a network, setup and updates should be available from front-panel controls and USB.
Do software updates add new capabilities? Suppliers should have a history of quickly fixing bugs as they occur – but can new features be added with updates as well?
Where is the modulator made and supported? U.S.-made units typically provide full support and repair capabilities. Many offshore-made products are distributed nationally, but do not have support and repair facilities in the country.