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Going the Distance with Optical Cables

Giving production professionals all the space they need — in the studio or on location.

Priorities have shifted for those in the video production and post-production industries. On one hand, frame resolution and data loads are increasing, while on the other hand, facilities are striving for simpler, easier-to-manage infrastructures.

Two emerging standards have become productive solutions for small workgroups and facilities—USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt/Thunderbolt 2. These two technologies allow facility designers to construct installations that are easier to connect and maintain without the myriad of interconnection standards of the past. The downside of both protocols is that, until recently, users have been faced with copper cable connections between devices, which limits the distance to 3 meters. This means that hard drives and other peripherals must be right next to the user’s computer.

A few years ago, optical cables hit the market. These thinner, longer, adaptable, and more durable optical connection devices enabled professionals to move the equipment to its own secure location, adequately remove noise from client areas, and meet high water marks for frame resolution and data workflow.

Creating a Noise-Free Workplace

Karl Slavik is a broadcast consultant, trainer, and audio professional based in Vienna, Austria. Through his company Artecast, Slavik supports facility design and new technology training. He discovered the advantage of optical cable about a year ago after being asked to test USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt cables for a local trade publication. After that, he was hooked.

“In an audio studio, you always want to move the loud parts of the equipment away,” Slavik said. “I think video professionals are often a little more tolerant of computer and hard drive noise in the edit bays, but recording studio engineers hate even the smallest, unnecessary sound.”

In Slavik’s case, he found the USB 3.0 optical cables to be the answer he was looking for. One of the two biggest appeals? The longer lengths and the robustness, both of which are important in a larger facility. The installation at Artecast is pretty straightforward. Slavik uses a large hard drive array, which was moved out of the studio about 15 meters away thanks to the USB 3.0 optical cable.

Corning cables have broken the three meter barrier while still providing high data rate protocols and strong throughput.

“For a long time fiber optics were really out of reach for the small user, which is what makes [these] products an ingenious solution,” he said. “It’s really down to earth and even the smallest facility can afford them. Both audio and video professionals can take advantage of the benefits because each is better served when the noise is out of the room.”

Optical cables make those realities possible. “Technologies like USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt really make it a pleasure to work these days,” he said. “After all, the individual user just wants to plug his laptop into his drives and work. The [optical cable] solution makes that easy without having to think about it.”

Taking the Long Run

Longer cable runs for Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 are giving facility designers exciting new planning options. In the past, if you wanted to move the computer to a central machine room, it required expensive and touchy KVM adapters. Now, a single optical Thunderbolt cable between the computer and the display can achieve the same results with less cost and an easier installation.

Even if several cables are involved, today’s modern optical cables are thinner, meaning several cables will potentially fit into the same space as the copper alternative. Being able to remove the equipment to its own location means edit suites, control rooms, and audio studios can become more pleasant than in the past, thanks to reduced ambient noise.

Corning Optical Cables Offer a Flexible Solution

Few optical solutions have been met with as much praise as those USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt optical cables from Corning. If you compare the Corning optical cables to another popular brand of copper cable, the difference is clear. The Corning cables are not only significantly thinner, but also lighter than the other brand. For example, Corning’s 5.5-meter optical Thunderbolt cable (complete with connectors) weighs in at only 2.2 oz. compared with 2.9 oz. for the shorter, two meter copper cable. Corning’s 10-meter optical USB 3.0 cable is only 4.3 oz. Current available Thunderbolt cable lengths from Corning range from 5.5–60 meters. USB 3.0 cable lengths range from 10–50 meters.

For more information on optical cables by Corning see here.

See also: Knot Me, Twist Me, Tie Me Up: Today’s optical cables are ensuring durability even under stress

Oliver Peters is an experienced film and video professional who has worked in radio, television and post-production since 1970. During that time he has worked in a variety of managerial and hands-on positions in broadcast and post facilities. In addition to currently working as an in-demand editor and colorist, he has also been a regular contributor to various web and print publications, including Videography, Digital Video, TV Technology and the Creative Planet Network website.