It is a new year, and change is upon us. It is change we can all believe in, but I am not talking about the transient shift in the political wind. I am talking about a change in the way that we sound people build video systems. That's right. A change in the “V” of our “AV,” and it is a change we can all believe in. No more will there be racks filled with VDAs and a spaghetti mess of RG-59s and video baluns. No longer will we be gripped in a chokehold by the insanity of video distribution. It is the end of the silly-season, because now we have the SDS887 from Energy Transformation Systems, Inc. (ETS).

What It Does

The SDS887 is a product that I have been seeking for years. It is a simple-looking box. It is 1RU tall and half a rack space wide. It has one RJ-45 input and eight RJ-45 outputs. The SDS887 takes four cameras' shots from the input and amplifies each shot to each output, resulting in eight RJ-45 outputs with four amplified camera shots on each RJ-45. An example of a use for this unit is to send the front-of-house color camera, black-and-white camera, conductor camera, and overhead camera into the unit and then send those four camera shots to eight locations via a single Neutrik EtherCon cable. The camera shots can be split out at the destination using an ETS PV845. By using the SDS887, you eliminate the need for four VDAs, eight PV845s, and 32 short RG-59s. The rack goes from being a mess to being simple and clean.

And troubleshooting also becomes incredibly easy. “The SDS887 is a variation of our AV608, which sends audio and video down one Cat5,” says Tony Kayne, vice president of sales for ETS. “We modified the AV608 to send four video signals. The SDS887 also contains video amplification.” ETS manufactures more than the SDS887. The company also makes other balun products, such as the PV845 and the JSA888. “Our products are for sending audio and video over increased distances using low-cost Cat5 cable,” adds Kayne. “The PV845 is a quad video balun that allows you to use all four pairs to send four video signals over one Cat5. The JSA888 is a single video signal plus power down one Cat5. We have tested shielded Cat5 to carry up to 48V without interference.” These baluns can also be used to send camera control over a Cat5.

How It Came To Be

Working a great deal in production, I actually had a lot to do with the development of this unit. I had been searching for years for such a system, and after calling several companies and having no luck finding what I was looking for, I encountered ETS and found a company willing to make the dream a reality. It is not often you find a company willing to custom build a box for you.

“ETS was established 41 years ago,” says Kayne. “We started doing data baluns and then moved into baluns used in telecom. Around 2000, we started going heavily into security and audio/video. We are a small company, and we still manufacture our products in the US. We have some employees that have been with us for as long as 25 years, and we manufacture everything in-house, which is why we were able to easily make the SDS887.” Kayne stayed in touch with me throughout my first tech to make sure the unit worked the way I wanted it to, and it did.

What's Next

The next product ETS is planning to ship is an upgraded version of the AV827 for home theatres. “It is a composite video balun plus an analog or digital audio signal,” says Kayne. The SDS887 is a completed product, and there is not much that could be changed. I asked about the possibility of having four BNC inputs instead of one RJ-45, but that would require a redesign of the circuit board and casing, which would not be cost-effective. Kayne is also working with me on another similar box but for audio. It would be four lines of audio in with an active splitter sending those four lines out over each of the eight RJ-45s. Used in conjunction with the ETS Insta-Snake, which converts four lines of audio into a single Cat5, some audio distribution could also be simplified.

What End Users Have To Say

I am, obviously, the first end user of the product, and I have nothing but praise for ETS. They built and delivered a very solid product. I currently have SDS887s out on the national tours of Sweeney Todd, Oliver, The Drowsy Chaperone, and Wizard of Oz. These units have worked perfectly and have eliminated so many hassles in the video system. I am also using several JSA888s and PV845s. These are the best video baluns I have ever used, and they are built like tanks.

Jacob Smith, sound engineer for the national tour of Sweeney Todd, adds, “The SDS887 is really elegant in its simplicity. It is very easy to use, produces a very clear picture, and holds up very well to travel.”

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