Video Monitors > Baluns
A video balun (pronounced bal-un) is a type of transformer that converts various types of video signals into that which can be sent long distances over simple network cable. This applies to just about every form of video signal from basic composite, all the way up to HDMI. It's true value for church video lies closer to the higher end of the video spectrum, offering a VGA converter, a DVI converter, and an HDMI converter. For many, the most simple of questions, "so what?", exists as the first reaction to this news; however, the answer to that question carries a few great implications for church video.
The first and simplest implication is that most video projection systems utilize long installed runs of thick and bulky VGA cables. The installation of such wires can be extremely time-consuming and labour intensive in most churches, as their architecture simply does not lend many favors to the installer for wiring routes. When you add that to the size of the connectors on the ends of a VGA cable (which typically come molded on), it's not a pleasant scenario. By using a balun to convert the VGA signal at the computer end, it allows you to run a single CAT5 or higher network wire all the way to the projector, making a tricky installation quite a bit easier. Once at the projector end, another balun is used to turn the network cable signal back into a true VGA signal to connect into the projector.
Another great implication is that this method opens up the opportunity to employ full HD capability for your video system. Until recently, one would have to run HDMI or DVI-D cables with repeaters to boost the signal every handful of feet - an expensive and messy task. Now one simply needs to utilize the appropriate HDMI or DVI-D baluns, and run two CAT5e or higher network cables between the computer/blu-ray player/HD device and the projector. It should be noted however that most affordable large venue projectors only support up to 1080i. Although this is considered HD, it is not the full HD. It isn't too far away though where all projectors will be in the full HD category, so it's always recommended to run two higher class network cables upon installation, allowing you to upgrade easily in the future.
The third and final great implication is for video systems that want to employ multiple projectors, and/or multiple video monitors at the platform, as a handful of network cables and splitting equipment are far easier to work with than a handful of VGA cables and their splitting equipment.
CAT 5, 5e, or 6... What's the Difference?
Not all network cables are created equal. CAT5 is perhaps the most recognizable name when it comes to network cable, almost synonymous to the lay person as the brand "Kleenex" is to tissue paper. CAT5 is however only one of many types of network cables, one which is fast becoming extinct as the capabilities of newer cables carrying greater amounts of information faster, and further, are becoming more and more common. The one benefit of CAT5 is that it is cheap compared to it's brothers, and is suitable for almost all basic video runs up to 400 feet with an active balun, and 150 feet with a passive balun. Anything in excess requires an upgrade to CAT5e or CAT6 - the difference being that they are engineered to handle greater signal capacity over greater distances.
The CAT6 cable really comes into it's own with the HDMI baluns, which require two runs of the CAT6 in order to deliver 1080p signal up to 100 feet. Beyond that distance they typically do not support the 1080p, but would accommodate 1080i up to 200 feet. As cables advance in their engineering, there are even newer types that will be able to deliver that full HD signal even farther.
Active Baluns vs. Passive Baluns
Another term that you may find yourself coming across is the concept of an active or passive version of the balun. The difference is that a passive balun does not require any electrical to allow it to work, while an active balun does require a low voltage. Active baluns allow for almost all computer and HD resolutions, while the passive balun typically supports only as high as a 1024 x 768 computer resolution - which by today's standards is a bit low. Also, the passive balun almost always requires a shielded network cable, which is a tougher cable to work with. Due to these issues with the passive balun, we strongly recommend the active balun instead. The other incredible benefit of the active balun is that it completely eliminates any ground loops that might occur between the projector and the computer, which can cause a loud buzz through the sound system when the computer is patched into it.
Muxlab Active VGA Balun II Kit
The Muxlab Active VGA Balun II Kit allows VGA video to be transmitted via cost-efficient unshielded copper twisted cable in a point-to point configuration. Each kit includes one transmitter and one receiver. The product supports up to 1920 x 1440 pixels for applications that require superior performance and features manual gain adjustment and local monitor output for added versatility.
Muxlab Econo Plus Active HDMI Balun Kit
The Muxlab VideoEase HDMI Econo Plus Extender Kit allows HDMI equipment to be connected up to 90 ft via one Cat5E/6 unshielded twisted pair cable in a point-to-point configuration at 1080i resolution. The kit come with one transmitter, one receiver and one power supply.