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From Multi-Monitor Workplace To Adaptable Solution

This article from G&D looks at how combining KVM with multiviewer, push-get, and smart switching technologies creates ergonomically efficient ‘multiviewing console’ workspaces.

Especially in Master Control Rooms, the working environment often needs to be extremely well organized. Employees must be able to work efficiently despite having to deal with many different systems, monitors, streams, or keyboards. At the same time, they should also remain flexible in order to react quickly and spontaneously to events during a live broadcast, for example. However, separate monitors for each application or process can quickly become confusing, especially as more technologies generate more data.

Although more data can support employees in their decision-making in critical situations, its sheer mass can also quickly lead to confusion and stress. Therefore, the key to handling big data is usability. To benefit from this much data, it is important to be able to access the right systems at the right time. Here, KVM can help to create a clear workflow and significantly improve ergonomics at the workplace by moving computers out of the way.

The Basics Of KVM

Being deeply rooted in broadcasting for many years, KVM systems provide an ideal basis for flexible, distributed switching of computer signals. They are successfully applied in a wide range of applications such as OB vans, studios, post-production, and broadcast control rooms as well as in processes from ingest to playout. For years, broadcast and IT applications have been merging more and more. KVM systems offer an excellent basis for operating various heterogeneous systems on a homogeneous user platform and thus have gradually become the backbone of the entire IT infrastructure.

KVM As Backbone Of The IT Infrastructure

Basically, KVM systems help you remove powerful broadcast computers from the production environment. For this purpose, computers are usually moved out of studios, editing rooms, and control centers and housed in access-protected and air-conditioned areas. From the equipment room, fiber optics, CAT cables or IP structures extend the computer signals back to the workplaces. KVM is the ideal option for separating humans and machines. Despite this physical separation, the entire production team still has access to the remotely stored equipment – in real time and at full performance.

When it comes to KVM systems, we generally differentiate between classic KVM and KVM-over-IP. The most important difference between both lies in the type of connection technology. Classical KVM uses dedicated cabling meaning that a dedicated network is usually set up for these systems. This way, the available bandwidth can be optimally utilized without other network-capable devices taking up bandwidth for themselves. Producers benefit from optimum performance combined with best possible image quality and a perfect user experience.

KVM-over-IP, on the other hand, is established on standard IP-based networks and offers ideal solutions for working in network structures. While the network infrastructure takes over the transport of KVM-over-IP™ using network switches and routers, the ControlCenter-IP contributes the logic. Transmission takes place compressed via CAT cabling or optical fibers via standard IP-based networks on layer 3 – even beyond sub networks.

The Evolution Of Control Rooms

In addition to the developments in transmission technology, the operation of the systems has also constantly evolved. The more data and processes a user or team has to keep track of, the greater the challenge of not losing the overview.

For the best possible working conditions, G&D's KVM systems come with smart features that simplify their use and enable intuitive operation. Scenario switching, for example, lets you store the switching condition of one or multiple workplaces or even of the entire system. The selected switching states are saved in a script in the matrix system and can be accessed and executed via the OSD of workplaces assigned with the required rights.

Push-get Function For Optimized Team Work

The software feature for moving/getting own or external screen contents optimizes collaboration in the control room and allows users to “push” the image on their monitor to the display of another workstation or a large-screen projection or to “get” it from there. This solution also improves communication, flexibility, and speed within a team, as employees can now perform tasks together.

CrossDisplay-Switching On Multi-monitor Workplaces

The mouse acts as if on a “virtual desktop” and can be moved seamlessly across the connected displays. When moving the cursor from the active to an inactive display, the keyboard-mouse focus automatically switches to the connected computer. This feature lets you create multi-monitor workplaces, where users do not have to deal with the actual infrastructure. They simply perform their tasks while operating the system intuitively.

Keeping An Overview

Especially in control rooms, working at multi-monitor workstations has become customary. But if each process would require a separate monitor, employees would have a hard time keeping an overview, and the working environment would become extremely cluttered. But how is it possible to ensure that the team working in a control room are able to keep an eye on all processes? Here, the trend towards multiviewing comes into play. Multiple video signals can be displayed on a larger monitor or multiple displays while users can arrange the sources as required, giving them the option of individually configuring their workspace with different computer sources. Modified arrangements of operating processes also significantly improve workplace ergonomics.

The Best Of Multiviewing And KVM

However, it is often not enough just to have all processes in sight – the computer sources also need to be operated from the master control room, the editing suite or the control room. To avoid having to resort to multiple monitors or even a mouse and keyboard per monitor in this scenario, KVM comes into play in addition to a multiviewer. Apart from getting a clearly arranged overview of different sources on just one monitor, users have simultaneous integrated and flexible access to all data. With the PersonalWorkplace-Controller, G&D unites the best of multiviewing and KVM in one device. Due to the fully integrated KVM functionality, the multiviewing tool also makes it possible to operate the connected computer sources – with only one device. In addition, the high image quality and unlimited flexibility in arranging sources provide great added value. This allows active work areas and monitoring areas to be ergonomically set up on larger screens. 

Countless Application Options

In its different variants, the PersonalWorkplace-Controller offers not one but two technologies: The local operation of multiple sources on one monitor or managing a video wall. For local operation at a workplace, users have the advantages of being able to display multiple sources on one monitor, while also being able to operate them conveniently. Especially when working in confined spaces, the PersonalWorkplace-Controller comes in handy. Users can set up their workstation dynamically and adapt it to changing conditions. On top of this, they are also able to save and recall the respective switching states including the layout. This facilitates the workflow, especially in shift work or when a workstation is used for different purposes or by several users.

The range of modern, high-resolution workstation monitors supporting the multiviewing trend has increased enormously in recent years. Curved monitors with a resolution of 5120 x 1440 pixels, for example, have become quite popular and are also suitable for the use in control rooms. Of course, they can also be used in combination with the PersonalWorkplace-Controller. In “dynamic mode”, it is possible to operate up to four of these workstations. 

Used as a multi-display manager, the PersonalWorkplace-Controller can display, flexibly arrange and scale the connected computer sources on multiple screens instead of one larger monitor. Operating all computer sources requires only one mouse and one keyboard.

With a maximum resolution of two times 3840 x 2160 pixels, it is also easily possible to display content on a video wall. Using the variant that is purely a video wall controller, up to 26 physical video input interfaces can be displayed on one large or even several monitors. Here, too, the content can be flexibly arranged and scaled. 

Virtual Sources Via Streaming Protocol

In addition to displaying physical sources, the PersonalWorkplace-Controller can also be utilized for showing virtual content in hybrid structures. In this case, images, texts or videos are fed in via streaming protocols. Apart from physical outputs, it is also possible to stream content. Any content from video walls or personal workspaces can be now accessed on different output devices, such as a laptop, smartphone or tablet.

Less Is More

It is safe to assume working in master control rooms, studios, OB vans or post-production will continue to be challenging in the future. As the number of processes and thus the amount of data increases, it is essential for employees to be able to rely on efficient workflows in order to prevent excessive demands or even mental illness. The multiviewer tool can be used to reduce the number of monitors and thus improve workplace ergonomics. Besides, it is possible to significantly save space in confined areas. The ability to individually arrange and also operate multiple sources on a larger monitor optimizes workflows and also provides users with a much needed flexibility. Working together as a team is made possible by mirroring the output on a video wall thus taking collaboration to a new level. Therefore, future requirements in the broadcast sector will also be met in an optimal way.