Apples and Oranges

Oh, what the heck. Everyone else has commented on the Extron “smoke and mirrors” press release from El Presidente, Andrew Edwards. My friend from the EdTech podcast, Scott Tiner, wrote a post about it, Leonard Suskin chimed in on the issue, and Mr. Kayye began the whole back and forth by noticing and writing about the videos in the first place.

If you are unfamiliar with the situation, here are the cliff notes version. Crestron posted two videos on January 2013 where they compare their products with comparable ones from AMX and Extron. Gary Kayye, from rAVe Publications, wrote a piece questioning why Crestron would do this, because marketing 101 says not to mention your competition, and asked if this was Crestron’s “Mac vs. PC” moment. Andrew Edwards, president of Extron, wrote a piece criticizing the original videos and posted his own comparison.

There, now we can move on. As I said on AVWeek Ep. 86, what really strikes me are the differences in both setups. Here are two companies I have a tremendous amount of respect for and whose products I still use. For control and HD over category cable, I do tend to side with Crestron. However, for flat-out scaling and other processing, it is Extron. These companies know what they are doing when it comes to video. So, why the inconsistencies? In the Crestron videos the first setup there are pure HDMI switchers and later on in the video they add a “Crestron HD Scaler”. In the Extron video, the only comparison is with an Extron scaler in place. Both company’s presenters remark that the scaler improves the switching. However, we are not shown the side-by-side without a scaler from the Extron side. Why?

The other difference is the fact that Extron’s video is uncut and Crestron’s has been edited. There are several dissolves and fades (to black and from). Why is this? It could be that the gentlemen making the Crestron video is an engineer and not a broadcast professional. I can see where he would want to make certain to get the script correct so several takes were necessary. It would have been better for Crestron had it been a one camera shoot with no edits so there could be no questions.

My friend, Scott Tiner, asks “does this really matter?” A valid question, and one I asked myself. In the grand scheme of things a second or half second difference in switching time will not make a difference big enough for me to change my entire design. I work in the world of education, just like Scott, and one second will not make or break a system. The 8-30 seconds they were showing us as “acceptable” five years ago would.

Finally, Mr. Kayye’s question about whether this is Crestron’s Mac vs. PC moment. Yes. But not for the company who responded. The “I’m a Mac” ads were aimed at getting the cool factor back into the Mac brand after the “bubble gum” inspired Apple Computers of the late 90’s. They humorously pointed out the differences between a Mac and a Windows-based PC. This is Crestron’s Mac vs. PC moment for them… and AMX. Extron should be included in the conversation only as far as pure HDMI switchers are concerned. With the industry dealing with HDCP (which stands for High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) there is a place for those. However, as we all move to something a little more 2013, we have to make comparisons between companies who can deliver HD video over category cable or fiber. Extron simply is not there yet. Note that the Crestron/AMX video did compare their respective “Cat5e cabling” options. The most logical reason for not comparing Extron’s Cat5e option is simply because it is not ready for prime-time.

A couple of parting thoughts. To Crestron, if you are going to make comparison videos, do not edit. Period. It leaves open to interpretation and speculation what was cut out. In addition, why would you make a video comparing HDMI switchers? If you truly wanted to compare something people can sink their teeth into, how about comparing the length you can send HD video, or ease of termination between an HDMI connector and DM? To Extron, if you are going to compare and claim “smoke and mirrors” do the same exact test, don’t just pick and choose which one because, like Creston’s edits, it leaves open to interpretation why you wouldn’t.

The bottom line is this, regardless of who switches faster, the image is key to the client. If it isn’t there, or looks like junk, it doesn’t matter how fast you switch.

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