Office Automation

What are Audio/Video Matrix Switchers?

This article gives an introduction to Matrix Switchers with respect to the Audio/Video industry. We see what are matrix switchers, why they are required and what inputs/outputs they support. We also see how the matrix switchers are controlled and the virtual configurations supported by certain large matrix switchers.

What are Matrix Switchers?

Matrix Switchers are components which accept multiple inputs (Audio/Video) and send out multiple outputs (Audio/Video) but you get to decide which input source goes to which output source.

Consider an application like a conference room or an auditorium where there are multiple input sources (Computers, DVD Players, Document Cameras, Video Conferencing etc) which need to be shown in multiple screens (or) there is one screen and all these inputs need to be shown one by one. So, instead of removing the cables and re-arranging them each time, a Matrix switcher can be used. Matrix Switchers are especially useful when there are a large number of input and output sources. Some of them support wide-band video bandwidth (Like 430 Mhz) and some of them support lower resolution video bandwidth (like 150 Mhz) based on the vendor and the model.

That large number for example, can go up to 128 unique input and output sources! And most of these support modular expansion. The smaller models start from 4 inputs x 4 outputs, 8 inputs x 4 outputs etc.
The matrix switchers support formats like RGB, RGBS, S-Video, DVI, HDTV etc.

Controlling the Matrix Switchers:

Well, most of the matrix switchers support RS-232/RS-422 based remote controlling or they could be just controlled by the buttons/LCD display in the front panel. The matrix switchers can also be controlled through third party control systems which integrate and automate the control of audio/video components in a board room etc. The matrix switchers can also be controlled by a remote PC or over the LAN via a web browser. Some of them even send out emails/ alerts when there are any faults etc.

Some matrix switchers support GUI based applications that allows to form a visual representation of all the input and output sources and allows the users to connect any input to any output sources through pictorial representation like lines etc. They help to form a visual matrix which are easier and simpler to create. The configuration thus created (In a PC through the application supplied by the matrix switcher vendor) can be stored and loaded in to the switches. Or, the whole process can be carried out through individual commands in the front panel itself.

Multiple such configurations can be stored in a preset mode in the matrix switchers and they can be selected whenever a any of them are required. They also allow creation of sequences – A particular configuration can be run for a particular period of time on a particular date etc. and these sequences can be stored in the form of a program.

Virtual Configurations:

Some matrix switchers are so big and have so many inputs and outputs that they need to be subdivided in to many virtual parts. Each part consists of certain number of inputs and outputs and accept a separate configuration and sequencing. They behave like independent switchers while being a part of a bigger switcher. This makes managing and configuring them easier. Bigger switchers generally come with BNC connectors. They may also have redundant power supplies and fan units etc.

Source Separation:

This feature of matrix switchers is often under utilized but can be quite useful in certain situations. If there are multiple sources of video to be displayed but audio needs to be the same for all the sources (or) there is a single audio that is played in a loud speaker, then the matrix switchers allow the user to separate audio and video sources from the inputs and utilize the audio or video sources separately. In this case, an audio stream from a particular input would be utilized for the output and all the other audio streams (which come with the other video streams) could be muted.

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