There are great bits of kit, which perform their allotted task amazingly, are designed and built well and offer good value for money. Then there are indispensable bits of kit, which meet all of the aforementioned criteria, but that also fall into the ‘never leave home without it’ category. Decimator design’s MD-Cross V2 is most definitely one of the latter. At around £350, the Decimator Design MD-Cross V2 isn’t, on face value, cheap; however, its sheer usefulness not only makes it good value in real terms, but it could also get you out of a few tight spots.
The MD-Cross V2 facilitates: scaling between a wide range of frame resolutions (both progressive and interlaced), frame rate conversion, and also conversion from HDMI to SDI or vice versa. It also provides loop through when using either HDMI or SDI inputs. The multiple SDI outputs facilitate both loop through and conversion from the same SDI source, along with a distribution amplifier to enable SDI splitting to feed two devices from each SDI output channel (maybe a switcher and a monitor, for example). It also supplies video test patterns and audio test tones, along with a facility for text overlays, all of which can be extremely useful for line testing. I’ve almost certainly missed something out, so a full list of modes is available on the Decimator Design website. So, if you got that lot, you’ll understand by now that we’re talking about the Star Trek Universal Translator or maybe the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’s Babel Fish, brought into the realm of video engineering
In the real world I’ve use this regularly for converting the HDMI out from a presenter’s laptop to SDI, while enabling loop through to the house projection system; converting HDMI out to SDI from remote cameras for multi camera live streaming, overcoming cable length restrictions inherent with HDMI; matching scale and frame rates for input to my BMD ATEM switcher; getting the HDMI out from my Fujifilm X-T2 to play nicely with my BMD ATEM switcher; and so on. The only time that the Decimator MD-Cross V2 failed me was when I tried to take a 720p HDMI output from the receiver of an older wireless projection system, which simply never played ball no matter what I tried.
Incidentally, on this one occasion when I did have problems, the support from Decimator Design was excellent! Alas, we were unable to reconcile the issue, but the speed and quality of response from DD was about as good as it gets.
The device itself is a 79.5 x 123 x 29.5mm (3.1 x 4.8 x 1.2”) steel box, with recessed connectors at each end, a slightly recessed control panel and display on the front and a large ventilation grille on the rear. For its size its heavy. You get some idea of the gauge of steel used when you look at it end on. This device is definitely built to last, the only downside being that you really don’t want to drop it on your foot! The user interface consists of four sturdy white rubber buttons and a small, 4 row, backlit LCD display. Connection is via HDMI in, HDMI out, 3G/HD/SD SDI input and two 3G/HD/SD output channels – each with twin SDI ports. Power is provided either by a dedicated locking 5-32V DC supply or via a mini USB port. The mini USB port also provides an interface for firmware upgrades and for setting up the device from a laptop if desired. It’s all very red, even the supplied PSU and HDMI cables are red!
This can be done either via USB and a laptop interface or with the on-device buttons and screen. TBH, on-device setup isn’t that difficult once you grasp the basic workflow, and I really wouldn’t want to spend the time connecting a laptop to change settings. A comprehensive user manual is provided, but again, I was able to put this aside within a few minutes of unboxing the device as, so far at least, everything I’ve need to know can be worked out quite easily. The images below show the MD-Cross V2 being used to perform a simple conversion between the 1080p/25 HDMI input from a PC laptop, to 720p/30 SDI output for switching and eventual streaming.
The MD-Cross V2 stores its settings when powered down, so if you were using this as part of an AV setup on a touring presentation/performance, for example, the device could be ready to go on power up.
So far (around 5 months) performance has been completely flawless and the build quality of this device, along with its upgradeable firmware, leads me to believe that it will serve me well for a number of years. I’ll almost certainly be getting at least one more of these as they’re just so unbelievably useful.
Although the funky red case and accessories for the MD-Cross V2 show a brilliant sense of brand personality and are instantly recognisable, in some settings I’d definitely have preferred a nice unobtrusive black box. An onboard rechargeable battery, or perhaps a battery bay would also be a bonus, as having to power from an external power bank, when mains isn’t available, can be a bit of a pain and results in one more bit of kit to carry. I understand that the latter would involve adding both considerable size and weight to the device, but I feel it would be worth it.
By way of wishful thinking: for much of the work I’m involved in, VGA input/output options would be beneficial for circumstances where older projection systems and presenter laptops are involved. However, this would really bump up the size and inevitably price of the unit, as not only inputs, but also A-D and D-A converters would be required. At the end of the day a simple VGA splitter and a VGA-HDMI converter plugged into the front end of the MD-Cross V2 solves this issue. I guess I just like things neat!
If you’re involved in any aspect of video engineering, from on-location live streaming to venue AV installations, the Decimator Design MD-Cross V2 is one of those devices that you’ll almost certainly come across or at least come across the need for at some point. It’s easy to only ever consider the more exciting, obvious and gear-lust worthy items on our kit lists, such as cameras, switchers and monitors, but sometimes, to quote Spike Milligan, ‘It’s the little things that count!”.
I am not connected in any way with Decimator Design and I have not received any form of remuneration or other consideration from them for this review.