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BAXALL ZMX+CT16M4 COLOUR MULTIPLEXER

 

STANDFIRST

Sixteen into one does go Baxall can prove it, with the advanced ZMX+CT16M4 colour vision multiplexer. We take a close look at what this formidable box of tricks can do

 

COPY

If you get a sense of deja-vu after seeing the ZMX+CT16 for the first time you needn't worry, the front panel bears more than a passing resemblance to the Vista NPX16e colour multiplexer from Norbain, reviewed in the XX issue of PSI. However, that's about as far as the exterior similarities go. Baxall has taken an altogether more conventional approach to case design, housing the unit in a sturdy looking slate grey steel box, measuring 443 x 90 x 346 mm.  (The NPX16e, you may recall, was built inside a smart plastic case, that could almost pass for a piece of up-market hi-fi equipment).

 

The core specification also sounds quite familiar; this model can handle up to 16 camera inputs, like its cousin from Norbain it features 'Triplex' processing, which allows simultaneous encoding, playback and live monitoring. Each input has an associated alarm trigger, additionally each camera has an individually configurable motion detector; it has multiple monitor outputs, including analogue live, spot and multi-screen (full screen, 4 x 4, 3 x 3, 2 x 2, 2 + 8, 3 + 4, 1 + picture in picture). The latter also includes freeze frame and manoeuvrable 2X electronic zoom. Other functions include full coaxial telemetry control of a wide range of motorised pan/tilt heads and domes, and it will decode and display multiplexed tapes recorded by a number of other systems. Various sequential actions can be programmed using a macro function.

 

At this point the two product ranges start to diverge. The ZMX+CT16 has a number of additional facilities, either not seen before, or exclusive to this model range. At the top of the list is matrix operation, in fact this is the first multiplexer to have this facility built-in. It enables the CT16 to double its capacity, up to 32 cameras, by connecting it to an expansion unit (ZMX+EXP32). The multiplexer can control a suitably equipped VCR directly, via an RS-232 serial link, with a functional link to the multiplexer's own control system. The unit is compatible with other Baxall products using the Bax-net protocol, this allows for full system integration, with other devices and peripherals.

 

The front panel looks a bit haphazard (a criticism we also had with the Norbain unit); it breaks down into four basic areas. Along the top is a row of 16 camera selector buttons, it would have been helpful if they had indicator lights, as it is you have to rely on a small on-screen indicator to tell which camera output is being displayed (more about that later). On the far left there's a group of buttons responsible for mode selection (sequence, live, record and play) plus alarm cancel, macro function programming and an alt/shift key.  

 

Next to that is a bank of camera controls for selecting preset position, operating the focus, iris, zoom (motorised and electronic) functions and enabling camera a telemetry. The circular blue button or 'joypad' in the middle and the two blue keys next to it have a number of functions, including VCR control and selecting items from the menu-driven on-screen displays. Finally, on the far right is a collection of buttons for ancillary camera functions (camera power, wash, auto-pan, lamps and wipe), plus display options for picture freeze, monitor output and multi-screen display.  The layout is a little muddled and it's by no means intuitive so it pays to keep the operating manual close to hand.

 

In contrast the back panel is a model of clarity and should ensure a quick and easy installation. Two rows of BNC sockets handle the video inputs and output loop-through for each camera. Two RS-485 sockets and a 9-pin D-Sub socket carry two way serial data for connection to external devices, networking and PC control. The VCR video inputs and outputs are carried on BNC and S-Video sockets. Five BNCs and an S-Video mini DIN socket are used for the monitor connections, alarm connections are accessed via a 25-pin D-Sub and the expansion unit has its own 32-pin socket. Power is supplied by an external universal (100 - 240VAC) mains adaptor. For the record the ZMX+CT16M4 uses a Dallas 1202 clock chip and is year 2000 compliant. Inside the case there are just four PCBs, two are concerned with the front and rear panels. All of the processing and control electronics are contained on two densely populated boards mounted on the underside of the top panel. A cooling fan mounted on the side of the case ensures reliable operation under a wide range of environmental conditions.

 

SET-UP AND OPERATION

We cannot foresee any difficulties for installers in the vast majority of applications; the manuals supplied with the multiplexer are very detailed and contain all the information installers and end-users are likely to want or need. All of the many and various set-up routines are contained within a comprehensive on-screen display system. This has two levels of access, using PIN coded security control. The Operator or Quickinstall menus cover time and date display (plus summer/winter time change), camera sequencing and title editing, VCR housekeeping and the alarm history or log.

 

The installer menu requires a second PIN code; this also covers basic time and date set-up as well as more detailed alarm and camera functions. They include sequence dwell times, video loss and camera groupings, alarm input configuration and actions, macro recording (it can store 16 macros consisting of up 32 keystrokes), and the activity detector.

 

The activity detector is unusually flexible and one of the units key features. It analyses each camera input for changes in luminance level; the level of activity can be controlled to ignore random or anticipated movement and set to distinguish between activity and intrusion. Activity is defined as changes in scene brightness; intrusion involves actual movement of a subject or object within the scene area.

 

During set-up the monitor display is divided into a 16 x 16 grid of sensitised 'zones'. Each zone can be alternately enabled or disabled and the alarm threshold or sensitivity can be set to one of ten levels. A simple graph or 'activity bar' superimposed on the side of the display shows the relative amount of movement in the picture, it is calibrated with three zones (red -- alarm activation levels 1 to 10; grey -- activity but no alarm, and black -- no activity), to assist in the set-up.     

 

The camera set-up also contains a multitude of options, they are signal gain or AGC for each input, field or frame input, and covert camera selection for specifying which cameras may be viewed on the monitor. The outputs from nominated cameras will still be recorded and can be enabled for activity detection and alarm activation however. The installer menu also contains options for changing passwords; the operator password can also be changed from the Quickinstall menu.

 

Alarms can be triggered by either an external contact, video loss or motion detection. Possible alarm responses are: exclusive or interleaved recording of associated cameras, change in VCR recording speed, sounding an internal buzzer, flashing front panel lamp and an on-screen indicator. Alarm events are recorded and indicated during tape playback and two internal relays (max 30 volt AC/DC) are activated. Alarms can be cleared manually, automatically (1 to 250 seconds) or by contact closure on a keyboard or external switch.  

 

The alarm history display details the alarm number and the time and date of the event; a log of the 100 most recent activation's are stored in a non-volatile memory. A lithium battery powered backup system retains all set-up data; this normally lasts for between 3 to 5 years before it needs to be replaced.

 

PERFORMANCE

Operator training is crucial; the control layout is not especially user-friendly and it is quite easy to get the device into an unwanted configuration, without any obvious means of getting it back to normal operation. Camera titles are quite small and tucked into the corner of the screen, it would have been useful to have some means of changing the display's position and characteristics; the text is black, which can be obscured by dark picture detail.                                                                          

 

Although the camera inputs are subject to digital processing there is no significant loss of detail, increase in noise levels or reduction in colour accuracy of the image, as it appears on the video output. The quality of the recorded image will therefore depend on the performance of the recording device used, to this end both composite and Y/C (S-Video) outputs are provided to suit a wide range of peripheral equipment.

 

SUMMARY

The CT16M4 has a number of points in its favour, not least the fact that it is a tried and tested design with a familiar line-up of facilities. The range of functions is very impressive, providing almost unequalled flexibility and options on a multiplexer of this type. Video performance is outstanding too, ensuring that what goes in comes out, placing the onus for picture quality on the input and peripheral components, such as cameras recording devices and monitors. The unit is solidly built and despite some misgivings about the control ergonomics, day to day operation is reasonably straightforward.  

 

PRODUCT SPECIFICATION

Power supply              12 VDC (AC mains adaptor supplied)

Weight                        6.5kg

Dimensions                 443 x 90 x 346mm

 

PSI RATINGS

 

Product                      

Product design 9

Build quality               9

Ruggedness                9

 

Operation                  

General functions            9

CCTV functions            9         

Ease of use                 7

Instructions                7

Manuf. support            ?                     

 

Performance

Video quality              9

Switching                    9

Audio                          n/a

---end---

R. Maybury 1998 1210

 

 


 

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