A Closer Look At The Crestron Videobar 70

by David Danto

A Giant In The Collaboration Space From A Giant In the AV Space

Next up on the TalkingPointz Tech Bench is the new Crestron Videobar 70.

The Videobar 70 comes in a box that is about 48” long.  I assumed it was mostly due to some sort of packing insulation, but that was wrong.  The bar itself is a shade under 40” wide, and has a lot of things packed into that length.  Just for starters, the camera is actually four cameras – four different sensors, each with its own independent lens.  The backplane is also stuffed full, with ‘two HDMI inputs (Input 2 reserved for future use); three HDMI outputs (output 3 reserved for future use); a 3.5 mm line-in / line-out jack;  one audio-in, one audio-out (reserved for future use); two 8-pin RJ-45 connectors for network; two USB 3.0 Type A connectors (reserved for future use); two USB 3.1 type C connectors (reserved for future use.)’  If you’re picking up a ‘growth for the future’ pattern there, you’re correct.

The Videobar 70 can’t yet do everything that Crestron wants it to. Crestron was eager to get this device onto the market and get people using it for several reasons.  I believe not having a videobar device available represented an uncomfortable hole in their portfolio, but it’s likely more than that. Crestron took a bit of a hit with product availability during the pandemic, and prioritizing and showcasing their ability to create and ship a product rapidly is an admirable step to show they’re back at peak efficiency. One key aspect of that expediency is that the Videobar 70 is only able to be used for Zoom Rooms today. All the controls and capabilities must be leveraged via the Zoom interfaces. There is no separate admin page outside of that firmware…yet. There is no doubt they’ll get there, but users need to be aware that this represents the version one release of the device.

Form Factor In Detail

Crestron Videobar 70 Specifications:

Form Factor:

  • Dimensions (HxWxD): 110 mm (4.33″) x 980 mm (38.58″) x 96 mm (3.77″)
  • Weight: 13.2 lb (6 kg)

Camera:

  • Quad camera setup: Main camera 20 Megapixels, 1 in. sensor
  • Camera field of view: Main camera: 84.3º horizontal, 53.8º vertical; Left, center, and right sub cameras: 41º horizontal, 23º vertical
  • Camera resolution: Main Camera: 5472 x 3078 pixels; Left, center, and right sub camera: 3840 x 2160 pixels
  • Autozoom: 7.5x digital zoom
  • Camera shutter: Mechanical, electronically controlled

Audio:

  • Speakers: Dual 10-watt speakers
  • Microphone: 24-mic linear array with adaptive beamforming technology
  • Audio DSP: Acoustic echo cancellation, dereverberation, automatic gain control, dynamic noise suppression, speaker volume control, speaker EQ and limiting (fixed)

Operating System:

  • Android OS running on the QCS8250 chipset

Connectivity:

  • Ethernet: 100/1000 Mbps Ethernet connectivity
  • Wi-Fi: Dual Band Simultaneous Wi-Fi 6 2×2 80 MHz
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth 5.2 (for future use)
  • USB: (2) USB 3.0 Type A connectors (reserved for future use); (2) USB 3.1 Type-C connectors (reserved for future use)
  • HDMI: (2) HDMI In (Input 2 reserved for future use), (3) HDMI Out (Output 3 reserved for future use)
  • Audio: (1) 3.5 mm Line in, (1) 3.5 mm Line out (reserved for future use)
  • LAN: (2) 8-pin RJ-45 connectors

Video:

  • Display output: Up to two displays supported
  • Display output resolution: (2) 4K
  • Video input signal types: HDMI, 1080p 30
  • Video output signal types: HDMI, 4K30
  • Video content protection: HDCP 1.4 and HDCP 2.2

Power and Environmental:

  • Input power: 19VDC via external 100-240VAC, 50/60 Hz power pack (included)
  • Temperature: 32° to 104°F (0° to 40°C)

Mounting:

  • Integrated mounting bracket for wall mount; optional desktop stand and display bracket accessories

LED Indicators:

  • Green indicates microphones are unmuted
  • Red indicates microphones are muted

Tabletop Touch Screen (TS-1070-B-S-Z-A) Specifications:

Touch Screen:

  • 10 in. (254 mm) diagonal capacitive multi-touch TFT active matrix color LCD, 1920 x 1200 pixels

Ethernet:

  • 100/1000 Mbps, auto switching, auto negotiating, auto discovery, full/half duplex, TCP/IP, UDP/IP, CIP, DHCP, SSL, TLS, SSH, SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol), IEEE 802.1X, SNMP, IPv4 or IPv6, Active Directory® service authentication, HTTPS web browser setup, XiO Cloud® client, IEEE 802.3at compliant

Power over Ethernet:

  • IEEE 802.3at Type 2 compliant PoE+ PD (Powered Device)

Dimensions:

  • Height: 5.29 in. (134 mm)
  • Width: 9.63 in. (245 mm)
  • Depth: 4.67 in. (119 mm)

Weight:

  • 2.44 lb (1105 g)

First Impressions

The Crestron Videobar 70 is not a USB video device, but rather an ‘all-in-one’ unit with an Android codec built-in.  It requires the accompanying touch panel to be connected (via a wired network connection) to operate.  The big box comes with everything needed – components, cables, mounting bracket, and power supplies.  The touch panel is powered via PoE, but Crestron provides a PoE injector in case one is needed.  They include everything.

The first thing I realized is that, unlike most of the other videobars I’ve used, this device isn’t really intended for the user to self-install.  Don’t get me wrong, a competent technician could easily install it as I did, but there are none of the traditional notes or quick-start guides included in the package.  The more typical use case for this device is when a professional installer such as an AV or IT integrator assembles and commissions it.  It is meant to become the central hub of a permanent meeting room installation.

The initial firmware on the touch panel struggles a bit with things like automatically achieving the correct brightness to see the controls and responsiveness. I’m under the impression that they’re working on improving those.  It was only a minor inconvenience – but it could build unnecessary frustration.

 

The Videobar 70 is also unique in several aspects.  The first one you see is the lens cover – which you can’t open or remove.  Crestron engineers designed the lens section to open its electronic doors when it’s in a call and close them again when the call ends.

This feature is both very elegant and interesting.  There will never be a circumstance where the Videobar 70 will show the contents of the room when it is not in a call – which will likely be very reassuring to meeting participants who are sensitive to privacy.  It could also be frustrating for installers and support technicians because there is currently no way to manually open the lens if one wants to do so without initiating a call.  It is also arguably limiting, in that the device will not be able to function as a room occupancy sensor (which some always-open cameras now do.)  Of course, Crestron manufactures other room sensors, so one can’t blame them.  (I suspect that a button to open the shutter will eventually appear on the touch panel.)

The Camera Cluster

Camera Detail Provided By Crestron
Camera Detail Provided By Crestron

As if channeling an old Saturday Night Live joke commercial about adding more blades to a man’s razor, Crestron has jumped to the top of the list of cameras in video devices with four full cameras in their cluster.  (The most I’ve ever heard of before had three, so we have a new leader.)  Clearly, a lot of thinking went into the design and operation of this camera cluster.

Having an always-available central camera able to show an establishing shot is something that Crestron takes full advantage of in its framing choices.  When group framing is used, the Videobar 70 performs similarly to all other video cameras.  But when speaker tracking is engaged, some unique things happen.

Crestron has programmed in a Conversation Mode (selected on by default) that shows the last two people speaking in the room.  It also uses a PiP (picture in picture) square to show the far-end connected participants a small image of the entire room, so participants can always know who is in the room even if they are not speaking.  Here, that central camera provides valuable context to those on the call.

The User Experience

Setting up the bar was (as I mentioned) more complex than some other, smaller devices on the market, but not really very difficult.  The Videobar 70 required power, an HDMI display, and an ethernet connection.  (I didn’t have an ethernet connection in the room I used when I ran test calls, so I used a $35 WiFi to ethernet adaptor I bought on Amazon and it worked just fine.)  The touch panel requires a PoE ethernet connection, or you can connect it to the bar’s second ethernet port and use the supplied PoE injector to power it.  Once the two devices boot up you need to pair them by entering the code that shows up on the display into the provided boxes on the touch panel, and then you’re ready to go.

Come On And Zoom

With a nod to Boston’s public television history (points if anyone knows the reference), the next step is Zoom.  The Videobar 70 (today) is only capable of operating as a Zoom room.  Do you want to know how to operate it and set it up?  Check out Zoom’s instructions.  Do you want to change the password?  Go to your Zoom portal.  Do you not have a Zoom Room account?  Well then, today, this bar is not for you. It’s Zoom or go home…today.  I have no doubt that Crestron will shortly release updates for the device that will enable other platforms, BYOD pass-through meetings, and other features.

Device Management

The Crestron Videobar 70 can be efficiently managed using Crestron’s XiO Cloud service (at an additional cost.) XiO is an IoT cloud-based platform designed for easy provisioning, management, and monitoring of devices. It enables IT managers and installers to deploy, manage, and monitor thousands of devices remotely, streamlining the setup and maintenance processes. The service supports system alerts, network management, and provisioning, ensuring that devices are always up-to-date and operating optimally.

XiO Cloud Image Provided By Crestron
XiO Cloud Image Provided By Crestron

With XiO Cloud, the Videobar 70’s performance can be enhanced through remote updates and configurations, reducing the need for on-site technical support. This service allows for seamless integration with existing IT infrastructure, providing enterprise-grade security and reliability. Additionally, it simplifies the user experience by offering a unified platform to control and monitor the Videobar 70 along with other Crestron devices, enhancing the overall efficiency of conference         room management​

In-Meeting Experience

The video and audio performance of the Videobar 70 in calls was nothing short of outstanding.  Far-end participants sounded like they were in the room.  The various cameras did a great job of picking up the action in all lighting conditions.

You can see me here in a speaker tracking shot.  It is easy to see how the colorimetry of my skin tone is accurate, regardless of the blend of the 3200-degree (tungsten) lighting in the room and the 5200-degree (daylight) lighting coming in from the window and reflecting in the picture frame behind me.  I was very impressed.   I was the only person in the room at the time, so the PiP of the overall group frame happens to be the same framing from a different camera element.)

The Pluses and Minuses

As opposed to many other bars I’ve reviewed so far, the Crestron Videobar 70 is an all-in-one – meaning the codec and all necessary components are included.  I generally prefer this modality of meeting room equipment, as opposed to BYOD/BYOM, because everything needed is always in the space and (at least in theory) always being monitored by a central entity.  If a plug is kicked out or a chip gets fried then someone is alerted and can address the issue before the user finds out.  There is no right or wrong answer with such choices.

The positive aspects of the Videobar 70 are many.  The best place to start is the image and sound quality of course, which were outstanding.  The design and performance showed a significant desire to solve problems and be innovative.  The camera cover and camera cluster are firsts for our industry, and the always-available establishing shot makes great use of the extra camera sensors.

For facilities that already make extensive use of Crestron components, eliminating vendors that are not core will be a huge benefit.  The Videobar 70 will be an excellent addition to their installed base of equipment.

The greatest downside to the Videobar 70 is related to how new it is.  It needs more platform access, more use-case support, and firmware updates to tweak some of the issues.  I have no doubt it will eventually grow and improve, but the question you need to ask yourself is how long should you wait before buying it.  Since it is only a Zoom device today, no one using any other platform will likely be an early adopter.

The Pros And Cons

Crestron Videobar 70 Pros and Cons
Crestron Videobar 70 Pros and Cons

The Bottom Line

The Crestron Videobar 70 is a powerful and innovative device in the early stages of release.  Once the firmware is tweaked a bit and more platforms and/or use cases (like pass-through for BYOD and Microsoft Teams) are supported I have no doubt that it will take its place as a valuable asset to a Crestron-based facility that wants high-quality video meetings.  If you can’t use a Zoom-only device today, feel free to indicate that your appreciation for the Crestron Videobar 70 is, as they have in their specs, “Reserved for future use.”

A full walkthrough of the Crestron Videobar 70 including video of it in operation can be found here.