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Digital Forecast are a South Korean manufacturer of high-definition video distribution, conversion, switching, and processing equipment. Their heritage comes from broadcast, but they also supply customers in government, education, and corporate install for video distribution. I hadn’t come across the brand before, and was introduced to them by Australia and New Zealand distributor AV Group Technologies, who I’ve had a longstanding working relationship with.
I was looking for a video signal testing unit that would give me some information on how good an incoming SDI signal was, as opposed to just using a monitor to check if it was coming through at all. I wanted some measurement of signal strength and jitter, and some warning if the signal was close to falling over. I found that the X_TS mini does all of this and more.
First up, jitter measurement. SDI (Serial Digital Interface) is video in binary 1s and 0s travelling down a cable referenced to a standard clock frequency. Over distance and time, that signal can get degraded; that’s jitter. The more jitter you have, the more ‘confused’ a receiving device gets as to if it’s receiving a 1 or a 0, and what order (or time) it’s receiving them. Confusion leads to signal interruption, artefacts, noise, and more.
That actual numbers the X_TS mini displays in its measurement of jitter don’t mean that much to me practically on the ground. Honestly, I looked at the guide in the manual as to what range is ‘good’ signal, which range is ‘normal’ and which range is ‘bad’, and printed a label for my X_TS mini accordingly. That way both myself and anyone I hand the unit to know immediately what’s going on with a signal.
The X_TS mini can also generate a variety of test patterns. On gigs, we use this feature all the time to test cables, running the test pattern into one end of the cable and the other end back into the X_TS mini. You get an instant confirmation if the cable is high-quality, a bit attenuated, or damaged. The test pattern generator is also useful to check the integrity of any piece of gear on a gig or install; connect a cable, and you have a source. Considering the X_TS mini is tiny (just 138.5 x 87.9 x 22.0 mm and 325g) and can be battery powered, that’s incredibly useful.
Obviously, the reverse is also true; if you’ve run a feed from something, simply connect the X_TS mini to the end of the cable, and the monitor and meters will verify both the signal and its quality. The X_TS mini both generates and receives a wide variety of standard resolutions of both HDMI and SDI. The 5” monitor can display full screen video, or a PiP of the incoming signal plus data and metering.
Measurement, test pattern generation, and a screen, mean this unit already replaces what I used to use two or three items for, but it can also do HDMI/SDI cross-conversion, and monitor and display metering for up to eight channels of audio. There’s a larger version, (just ‘X_TS’) that does even more.
The X_TS mini is the same size as the unit that I used to use for test pattern generation only, but does so much more. With the provided battery you can take it anywhere. I’ve got a small Pelican case for it, and I just pack it in there with its battery and take it to gigs. It can also be fitted to a camera hotshoe with a quick- release plate.
The Digital Forecast X_TS mini is a small, handy thing to have that is well worth the money. It’s a real AV Swiss Army Knife, with screen, testing, plus diagnostics.
There are more expensive options out there that cost four to five times more, and if you’re an average user who isn’t trying to qualify equipment, just test it in the field, it’s worth having in your toolkit.
Product Info: dfcast.co.kr
Distributor Australia & New Zealand: avgroup.com.au
Trouble Shooter X_TS Mini
SDI/HDMI Cross Converter & Measurement
- • SDI to HDMI, HDMI to SDI cross- conversion
- • SDI In/Output : SD/HD/3G – all standard formats supported
- • HDMI In/Output : SD/HD/Full HD – all standard formats supported
- • Test pattern generation and measurement at the same time
- • Eye pattern diagram for SDI signal (720p, 1080i, 1080p)
- • Test Pattern Generator : 8 types provided
- – Static/Pathological/Moving Box, etc.
- • SDI signal integrity check (Loss, TSR, CRC, Line number)
- • HDMI signal integrity check (Loss, Resolution, HDCP)
- • Audio level monitoring (up to 8 channels)
- • Audio monitoring headphone output
- • 5” Touch Screen LCD (800 x 480)
- • (option) Battery Plate provided: compatible with Sony NP-F/Cannon LP-E6
- Supports HDMI v1.3
- • Supports VGA, Comp
- • Supports multi-rate SDI formats
- – SMPTE 125M: NTSC (480i 59.94), PAL (576i 50)
- – SMPTE 296M: 720p (60/59.94/50)
- – SMPTE-274M: 1080i (60/59.94/50)
- – SMPTE-292M: 1080p (30/29.97/25/24/23.98)
- – SMPTE-424M: 1080p (60/59.94/50) 3G
Melbourne’s Alex Hasker is the Managing Director of Lex Audio Visual. With Alex coming from a background in electronics and live sound, Lex was a PA company prior to 2000, trading under the name of Melbourne PA Hire. Alex then pivoted the company to be an AV specialist that’s heavily involved in broadcast, and now provides audio visual equipment and crew for hybrid events, broadcast and webcast production, conferences, and more, while also providing pre- production planning and technical consultation.
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