Brand Focus on Gefen with Jason Fitzgerald
Gefen, mostly known among commercial integrators for its robust AV distribution solutions, was acquired by Core Brands last summer—a seemingly strange marriage that left many custom integration pros wondering how the popular brand would adapt and function in the residential integration arena.
Jason Fitzgerald—an AV enthusiast who joined Gefen in 2007, and under the tutelage of Gefen’s founder, Hagai Gefen, expanded his role in the company to product manager—talks with HiddenWires about Gefen’s role within Core Brands’ cooperative brand ecosystem and how it plans to satisfy the needs of CI pros on both sides of the fence.
Gefen recently joined the Core Brands umbrella of companies. As a primarily commercial brand, how does Gefen align with some of Core Brands' residential projects, such as those that use ELAN?
Core Brands’ solutions encompass much of the A/V experience, from control and automation, to power management and of course high-quality audio. Now, with Gefen added to the mix, Core Brands includes signal processing and management as well. There will be tangible benefits for commercial and residential integrators alike.
One immediate benefit of the integration is aligning Gefen signal management with ELAN control and automation. In the past, Gefen has primarily remained agnostic to the control methods applied to its products. As Gefen and ELAN move forward with coordinated product development and integration, new avenues of interaction between our products will arise for residential and commercial integrators. We will be able to provide completely seamless integration and management/monitoring capabilities that will only be accessible by the synergy of Gefen and ELAN. The first integration initiatives are well underway, and both teams are excited about the many opportunities ahead.
At ISE, Gefen introduced the 4K Ultra HD 8x9 matrix switcher. Why is it a game changer?
Clear emerging technologies in our industry include the migration to 4K Ultra HD in its various formats, the ubiquitous application of HDBaseT for extension, and the ever-present requirement for stricter content copy protection with HDCP 2.2.
The Gefen 4K Ultra HD 8x9 Matrix Switcher brings all of these technologies together in a single package. What makes this product truly stand out is the integration of the newest generation of HDBaseT extension technology. Customers can be confident that they are using one of the best methods of sending 4K Ultra HD signal to a remote locations, along with all of the benefits available in this new revision of HDBaseT. The 8x9 Matrix is able to process and handle the latest iteration of HDCP, which is a strict requirement for all premium 4K content.
This matrix also offers the ability to send any one of a multitude of sources to one or more destinations simultaneously. A simple concept, to be sure, but it can be technically challenging to build and apply—especially when the newest technologies are involved. Add to that one of the most basic needs of the industry—the transportation of data from one location to another—and you have a potential recipe for a disaster if you are not using a product developed to overcome these challenges as is the Ultra HD 8x9 Matrix Switcher. Gefen has a history of applying cutting-edge technology in innovative ways to solve signal processing and video distribution challenges, and we are proud of the great response the 8x9 Matrix is getting.
What kind of projects can Gefen, with its robust AV distribution cache of products, tackle on the residential integration side?
Despite its primarily commercial focus, Gefen has a lot to offer residential integrators. Video over IP, for example, solves a prevalent problem in residential AV video distribution: scalability. With an existing or new network infrastructure, video over IP products give integrators the power to add inputs or displays to the network as their customers’ needs grow. There are a number of devices that Gefen makes that help integrators, such as the Gefen Digital to Analog Audio converter and items in the Gefen ToolBox sub-brand, which provides compact, basic requirements to split, switch, and extend AV.
How can current ELAN dealers utilize Gefen's products?
With Gefen now in the Core Brands line up, ELAN has made it a priority to focus on the interoperability and control of Gefen’s switching products. ELAN dealers look to Gefen for AV signal distribution, extension, and conversion, allowing them to create custom AV systems that go beyond the out-of-the-box experiences typical to most consumer living rooms. The most common use case among ELAN dealers is video switching and extension. ELAN allows seamless control of multiple video zones though its easy-to-use interface that makes even the most intricate home entertainment system accessible to all using a single, inviting interface from a variety of dedicated touch panels, remotes, or mobile devices.
The Gefen product line was designed to accommodate even the most complex commercial applications, allowing integrations that push beyond the limits of today’s digital AV formats like HDMI. Nearly half of ELAN dealers are doing some commercial work, where the Gefen integration makes obvious sense. And dealers are applying this commercial experience to support their residential system’s headend with a Gefen matrix switch and extenders to their video zone end points.
What is the most asked question integrators have posed to you about using Gefen’s products in their projects?
The most asked question I have received involves the control of Gefen equipment while using third-party control solutions. While Gefen offers a number of interfaces that are commonly used, specific driver creation and implementation has always been left to integrators. Now that Gefen is in the Core Brands family, we have an award-winning control partner in ELAN. Customers who incorporate both ELAN and Gefen products into their projects will be able to benefit from this integration and co-development.
What can we expect from Gefen in the coming year? What trends are influencing these near-future developments?
4K has been making a big impact in both the residential and commercial markets. Gefen began releasing products to manage 4K signals nearly two years ago. This is a commitment we plan on continuing, especially with full bandwidth HDMI 2.0, or 4K Ultra HD at 600MHz, at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
Displays that are capable of accepting HDMI 2.0 are already in the market, and being able manage these signals will be crucial as we move into 2016. At ISE, we previewed a full line of switchers, splitters and matrix products that support the full bandwidth of HDMI 2.0.
Additionally, we are dedicated to advancing our software tool, Gefen Syner-G, to incorporate more products and features that help integrators set up and manage Gefen products. As we progress further into network driven environments, efficiency and time-saving measures can be realized through the application of software that interfaces with our hardware.