If you need to keep your machine in another location from the actual monitor and keyboard, Gefen’s new “Video over IP” KVM products are a great way to provide realtime IP-based remote control of your machines.
Gefen has always been a leader in video scaling and management. Their latest offering, “Video over IP” is much more than its simple moniker implies. Via their talented teams, Gefen can offer users of all types a way to move their powerful desktops away from their local monitor and keyboards while maintaining a near realtime control of their machines.
Here today, I’m testing the DVI KVM with Local Output. This unit allows you to add any DVI source up to 1080p or 1920×1200 and send it over gigabit networks to a remote location with realtime performance. The unit also supports extending USB2, RS232, and stereo audio from the host to the receivers. This particular model with local output allows you to attach a monitor to the transmitter to continue to use the machine locally as normal.
As for the receivers themselves, they can support four USB 2 ports for communications to and from the host machine as well as an headphone audio output. Thanks to Video over IP’s support for multicasting, you can even setup a whole array of receivers that can accept signals from a single transmitter. For example, you could setup a number of receivers and monitors at a large venue and feed them all a single source from a single computer.
One of the things we wanted to try here at Geek Beat was to see if these devices could be used to move our production computers away from where they would be used. In our first example, I set it up to allow a remote person to control the TriCaster without having to be within physical proximity of it. In our case, we have the TriCaster in our main control room, but since it does make a fair amount of noise, it wouldn’t really be possible to film the operator at the same time if he were doing a solo show. With the Gefen, I’m able to setup a remote control station anywhere in the building I can run a network cable to, including on the actual set itself. This way, the host himself can control the TriCaster without worrying about all the background noise it makes.
I was worried about the lag that would occur with encoding a full desktop and sending it to another device, but in a side by side comparison with the local monitor, I couldn’t see any lag at all. It was highly impressive how efficient their encoding processes are. I don’t have any qualms about using this setup to edit video either, as the responsiveness is great, though it might not be completely perfect for editing that requires an extreme frame by frame level of precision.
Another situation I wanted to try was to see if you could setup a USB audio interface or microphone on the remote receiver and do an audio session with the actual computer in another room. Here I took a MacBook Air (though I could have taken a quiet, but not silent, MacPro) and attached it to a transmitter. On the other end, I have the receiver attached to an USB pre-amp with a microphone. While a bit susceptible to lag from the USB interface itself, the recording quality and responsiveness was excellent and worked without issue. While I would be hesitant to attempt this with audio that requires a high level of synchronized precision, such as music, for voice-over work and podcasting, it’s an excellent setup.
The biggest issue I’ve found was that the USB extension may have some problems with more exotic devices. In our case, I wasn’t able to get the system to consistently work with our TriCaster control surface which kept losing its connection. But with a keyboard and mouse, the setup was very responsive and stable.
Overall the Gefen “Video over IP” works very well and is thankfully extremely easy to setup. The box pairs are preconfigured with a private IP address and will automatically find each other when attached to a network or directly connected. You can use a web interface to further configure the settings such as providing static IP address or DHCP, as well as setup how the multicasting works. As these devices do push out an extreme amount of data, it is strongly recommend to put them on their own separate network segment, either via managed switch VLANs or on its own physically separate network.
The specific model tested was the DVI KVM with Local Output, model EXT-DVIKVM-LAN-L, available at Amazon and other various retailers or Gefen.com for $899. You can see their entire line of Video over IP solutions at their website.