4K: How to Meet the Single Link Challenge?

One of the greatest challenges presented by the arrival of 4K video is in the ability of this signal to be carried by a single copper coaxial cable, commonly called “single link”.

Proposed Change in Distance Calculations

It is most important for a broadcaster to know how far he can transmit a signal over a single coax cable. In recent years Belden has proven that the recommended SMPTE distance calculation for HD signals can be outperformed. The original distance formula, -20 dB at ½ clock, was a reasonable “safe” value for 1990 and the technology then available. However, we believe that more than 20 years of improvements in chip design and active equipment has enabled us to surpass this calculation. Therefore, we think that a new formula, -40 dB at ½ clock, is an appropriate “safe” distance. And in the ‘real world’, Belden can go considerably further than that.


Let’s have a look at the green squares in the chart: Belden’s 1694A for example can run a minimum 113 meter with HD. With 2K signals 1694A runs a minimum of 78 meters, or 35 meters less when compared to HD. In general, all these lengths can be improved on by using our HD coaxial cables and BNC connectors. See for example the 140 meter at HD with 1694A.

If you remember that the bandwidth of 4K is 8 times HD and 4 times 2K, everyone would expect the minimum distance of a 4K signal to be less than HD or 2K. But look at the red squares. The chart clearly shows how Belden’s 1694A runs 106 meter with QuadFull-HD on a single-link! In other words: 28 meters further than 2K.

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Free Cable

They did some studies a while back about the cost (in dollars and in labor) for various parts of a data network install.


First they found that the cost of the wire and cable amounted to only 3% of the cost of an install. On the other hand, the wire and cable accounted for 70% of the labor. Now this begs the question, can you buy cable that takes less time to install? You know the answer! You’ve put in that OTHER cable. The stuff that was super-cheap and looked OK, or maybe it’s all you had available on the shop floor. And when the install time started to stretch out to days or weeks more than you had allocated, you know what you did wrong. Funny thing is your boss patted you on the back for all that money you saved him when you bought the cable. Bet you didn’t mention how much it cost him to install it. And what if the cable doesn’t work? Then you’re pulling it out and reinstalling it. Now how much money did you save?

Of course, if someone came to you and said, this cable is twice as fast to install, but costs twice as much, you will probably shake the salesman’s hand and send him on his way. But, wait a minute, twice as expensive means 6% of the install. And half the labor is 35% savings. This would be a huge WIN for everyone. If they actually looked at the big picture cost of the install, they would erect a gold statue to you in the parking lot.

And this is one of the secrets about Belden. We’re not cheap. Oh, we do sometimes try and compete in the marketplace. But many designers, installers or system integrators know that cheap cable only gets you a headache. I’m not saying ignore the price of the cable. I’m saying put it in perspective. Look at the big picture. And if you’re in new territory, doing something you’ve never done before, then ask for a sample. We give away samples all the time. We have a Sample Room for Belden in Richmond, Indiana which stocks thousands of different part numbers. Now it doesn’t have every part number. (We make over 6000 different kinds of wire and cable.) But we do typically have the most popular codes.

If you call Belden Customer Service, they will send you three feet of anything we have in the Sample Room. If you want a longer piece, to do some testing for instance, then you would need to move up the food chain. If it’s audio or video cable (or networking or broadband), you might end up with me. My email address is below. We have Product Line Managers for everything we make. We have Engineers who design them, and Specialists in the field (and in the factory) that you could talk to. All we need is a good reason.

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Wire is Worst


Maybe you read one of my recent blogs about how wire and cable are never mentioned in magazine articles or reviews of touring groups. In permanent installs, 70% of the install time, and the labor cost, revolves around wire, cable and connectors. I’ll bet it’s close to that for those non-permanent installs such as touring companies or mobile trucks (OB Vans, as my European friends like to call them).

At least in data networks, wire, cable and connectors are also the #1 source of network failure. This is one reason why Belden has resisted those constant requests to allow you (the installer or end user) to put on your own RJ-45 data connectors. Unfortunately, it’s a little too late to say that to our audio, video and broadcast friends. You’ve been putting on BNC and XLR connectors since they were invented. So how old are you? Do you remember the Canon P connector?

It looked like a giant XLR. Those pins would easily handle 20 amps. If you were wiring up an RCA 44 or 77, you could use a 100-watt soldering iron and do a great job. Times have changed. In the data cable world, we have moved from Category 5e (100 MHz) to Category 6 (250 MHz) and now Category 6a (500 MHz). Have you put an RJ-45 on any of these? Did it work?

I have a friend, Kurt Denke of Blue Jeans Cable, whom recently bought a Fluke DTX-1800. This tests data cables up to 10GbaseT (10 gigabits) or Category 6a. Just for fun, he went shopping and picked up patch cables from your standard vendors (office supply stores, electronic parts stores, etc.) He then tested them on his Fluke meter. Not a single one passed! Worse than that, some of the Category 6 cables didn’t even pass 5e! So just because it says “Category 6” (or anything else) on the bag, well, I would take that with a grain of salt.

Kurt also wired up his home with Belden 1700A, our top-of-the-line Category 5e. His wife wanted to watch a program that was only available in Europe so they were streaming it. The freeze-frames and pixilation made it hard to watch. But now he had his trusty tester! He tested the Belden cable. It was well beyond the Cat 5e spec. (There are some places that do their own testing, such as Los Angeles County, where they call this cable Category 6.) So then he tested the two patch cords at each end. Fail! Just like the others he had bought. He replaced them with patch cords that his company is now making (and testing every one with his Fluke tester) and bingo, perfect streaming, no frozen frames, no pixilation. So, if you’ve said to yourself “These cables are too short to have any real effect. As long as the right wire goes into the right hole, they’ll work just fine,” well, think again.

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Cable Substitution

One of my favorite jokes is about Belden 1800F. This cable is our top-of-the-line for microphone cable. The reason is simple. With analog cable, the key parameter is capacitance. The lower, the better. And Belden 1800F is 13 picofarads per foot (pF/ft.). That’s even lower than Category 5e or 6 or 6a (15 pF/ft.).

However, Belden 1800F is also 110 ohms impedance for use with digital audio. In fact, this cable started life as digital audio patch cable. It was a high quality cable that is very flexible, and came in many pretty colors.  It says right on the cable, “digital audio”. If your customer says, “I can’t use this on my analog mics because it says ‘digital audio’,” there’s no problem. I will personally send you a bottle of rubbing alcohol. With that you can rub off the word “digital” and the cable works PERFECTLY after that.

It’s not what it says on the cable, it’s what is required to run that signal. The table below shows various parameters for different kinds of signals.


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See Belden at IBC 2013 – and be amazed by our scope


Preparations are well underway for our booth at IBC 2013.  I have always enjoyed being at the show, focusing on Belden’s cable and connectivity products (“the most trusted brand for Broadcast cables”).

This year, however, we have so much more to offer. Since Belden’s acquisition of Miranda Technologies, we are now also able to provide hardware and software solutions for television broadcast, cable, satellite and IPTV.

Our booth will reflect our expanded capability to deliver world-class solutions for immediate and uninterrupted transmission, flawless HD, 3G and 4K audio and video streams. We will also be introducing some new products.

To highlight just two of them, our new Duobond® Plus HD Digital Video Cables with bonded foil over the dielectric will make the termination of Belden’s 1-Piece HD BNC very easy and much faster than traditional methods with 3-Piece BNCs. It is the absolute reliable combination to deliver the needed performance!

Moreover we will be launching our extremely rugged and flexible Belden CatSnake® Tactical Heavy Duty Category 6A shielded data cables, which are designed for use in high traffic areas in a broadcast studio or for use out of doors, in broadcast truck applications, and for portable, professional audio/video use.

And if that is not enough, visitors to our booth have the opportunity to meet Steve Lampen, Belden’s Manager for Multimedia Technology and Product Line – Entertainment Products. Steve is a prolific blogger, public speaker and writer, and was named “Educator of the Year” by the Society of Broadcast Engineers in 2011.

So if you are looking for maximum reliability and performance in your broadcasts, be sure to visit our booth and see for yourself what Belden has to offer.  My team and I will be delighted to see you at the show.

Steve Lampen Talks About New Cable Products at Recent NAB

At NAB our Corporate Communications Director, Eric Ehlers, shot a little video of me discussing some of our latest cable innovations. We posted it on LinkedIn but I thought I’d like to share it with you all in my blog as well. Let me know if you have any questions or ideas for new products you’d like to see by dropping a note in the comment box below.

Steve Lampen and Belden’s Popular Cables at NAB 2013

POV cameras take outside broadcasts to the next level

Editor’s Note: This is the last part of a three part series.

In previous articles, I have covered the cabling infrastructure of HD broadcast studio and portable cameras. Another very exciting camera design is POV (point-of-view). With its standardization on HD, usage of 3G, and its pioneering of 3D, there is nowadays serious competition in sports broadcasting between different kinds of sports. TV viewers like to see thrilling moments, and TV networks need high ratings to grow their advertising revenues. POV cameras are able to help sports events become an even more spectacular viewing experience than ever. 

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Broadcast Camera in venues – TAC Fiber

Editor’s Note: This is part two of a three part series.

TAC fiber drumAs said in my previous blog broadcast cameras operate on either hybrid fiber (SMPTE311) or triax cables. The professional broadcast market has started to standardize on HD for studio production and on 3G for sports events. 3D is pioneered in some movies and international sports events (e.g. Olympics and Football Worldcup) and will create another era of broadcasting. Keep that in mind camera teams have the need to deliver all formats with no downtime – easy to handle and highest quality products are needed. On the other side the new fiber cabling infrastructure will add cost compared to the traditional use of triax cabling infrastructure.  To solve this problem, Belden has especially designed products which help to lower total cost of ownership and reduce service and maintenance costs.

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Triax or hybrid cable for HD digital TV signals?

HD Camera Editor’s Note: This is part one of a three part series.

There are basically two ways to transmit an HD signal from the camera head to the base station: triax or SMPTE311 hybrid fiber cable. A triax cable carries multiple signals over a solid or stranded conductor surrounded by an inner shield and an outer shield. It was first used publicly at the Dorado Open Golf Tournament in Miami in 1975, and was the de facto camera standard by the time ABC covered the 1976 Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria.

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Facts on HD

The first European high definition TV test transmissions were made at the IBC exhibition ten years ago. It has taken a while, but nowadays every organization involved in the broadcast industry is renewing or updating its equipment to HD.

So what exactly is HD? Its full name is actually HD-SDI, and it is a sub-set of the SDI (Serial Digital Interface) family of video interfaces standardized by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE). SDI, which is covered by the SMPTE standard 259M, comes in many versions, the most common being  4×3 image, 270 Mbps (135 MHz clock), 480p (progressive).

HD-SDI itself is covered by SMPTE 292M, and comes in two versions, 1080i (interlaced) or 720p, both with a 16×9 image. But the next step is already on its way:1080p/60 (1080p/50 in Europe), which is covered in SMPTE 424M.


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