USB cable extensions and repeaters

Hello again!

For some applications I’ve been using standard webcams that come with a very short usb cable. So my questions are:

1-How do you deal with short cables on really big interactive installations?
2-Are usb cable extensions useful for usb webcams?
3-How about usb repeaters and signal boosters?
4-Are repeaters and signal boosters both the same?
5-Do these types of cables add a “latency” to the video signal?
6-Are Ethernet Network Camera better?
7-Do usb and/or ethernet cameras have error correction and how could I verify this?

Also, in a big interactive installation with ten cameras would you rather have each camera connected to one computer having the computers exchange information using ethernet or rather have all the usb or ethernet cameras with long cables and extensions all running from one computer?

Thanks! :smiley:


Active USB Extensions can work pretty well.
It might take a bit of trial and error to find ones that you can daisy chain.
You can usually get away with having 2-4 active extension cables.

You can definitely have issues though ( ie the camera is not seen, or it is seen but it won’t deliver frames etc ).

USB extensions don’t add latency as far as I know.

Another solution is USB 2.0 over Cat5, but they are not cheap.
Not sure about signal boosters.

Ethernet cameras might be good if you are going long distances, though I hear they have a bigger latency.

You’ll run into issues with many devices on one computer. If the device is high bandwidth you will only be able to have one per hub ( internal usb hub ), so you will be limited not by the number of usb ports but the number of actual usb 2.0 hubs that your computer has.

Hope that helps!

Perfect! Thank you very much for the information Theo! =D

Concerning the number of USB hubs, I’m running"">one of these babies in my hackintosh right now. It’s one PCI x1 card (but x1 also works if you put it in a x8 or x16 port) and has a maximum bandwidth of 2.5Gbps. This acts as if it’s 4 busses and I’m currently running 4 kinects at the same time in one of these cards.

When we used a PS3 webcam for a play, we needed around a 15 meters extension. Surprisingly our active usb extension didn’t work. The image came out distorted. So we ended up using around 3 five meter non active extensions. There was a slight drop in framerate (to around 22 instead of 25). Sometimes the camera had to be replugged but at the end it worked. But as Theo says, using active ones and figuring out which works, will probably be more stable. We were actually really surprised the cam still worked after we added cable after cable :slight_smile:

BlackBox USB 2.0 active over CAT5 extenders are extremely good in my experience of using them for a 100 m extension for a kinect at a theatre.

Other ones I tested were passive 40 m ones from monoprice. Monoprice claims they are USB 2.0 compliant, but with kinect, they were not reliable when used with highpower usb hubs on the GIGABYTE motherboard, and did not work at all with “low power” hubs on Macbook pro.


I’ve read your replies many times so thank you all and I will keep my mind on a permanent state of “trial and error” when it comes to usb hubs.
I do have a few questions:

theo: Is there any way of determining correct comunication between webcam and computer using USB extensions? Maybe like a “ping IP” command used to test ethernet cables?

daanvanhasselt: I’ve also installed a hackintosh on another partition on this computer. I read some usb cameras don’t play nice with OSX and I’m guessing they works less with usb extensions. Have you tried running standard webcams and not kinect devices? With what drivers are you installing your kinects on OSX?

underdoeg: What type of distortion did you get? Just so I can except a certain type of distortion.

eight: Do you have any noticeable latency issues using the Blackbox? 100 m extension opens up a world of possibilities for me!

I haven’t noticed any latency, however, the low latency was not important for the project. If you do get BlackBox extenders, make sure you pick USB 2.0, not USB 1.0. About the latency: ask their support – they are very prompt and friendly.


I have several of these USB active extensions and I’ve hooked them together to get about 20 meters. This have worked perfectly well with the kinect and PS3eye. No latency or image distortion.
(las compre en imaco, en estado casi con la alameda, cuestan como 9 lucas cada extension de 5 metros, fijate en que sean usb2.0. las mias creo que son marca manhattan. yo hago todo en Osx asique si teni problemas o necesitas ayuda llamame nomas)

Genial! Gracias Roy! hace años que no escuchaba de imaco! Voy a pasar por allá :stuck_out_tongue:

I bought a powered usb hub yesterday and I collected all the sets of cables you guys have mentioned so I’ll spend a few days testing stuff.

I just received this 15m / 49ft active usb extension cable and it works great with the external powered kinect straight into my macbook pro.

For kinect this cable works great and it can be daisy chained ( it extends power too )

For USB I like the 39 ft

what is the max distance that i can get with an active usb extension? my computer might be at 30m/100 ft from the kinect. Thats to far?


Hi, Its far but it might work. You’ll have to test it. I’ve used a 20m usb extension with the kinect with no problems. In fact those were 4 5m active extensions one after the other.


Thanks, for the reply, i will test it and hopefully 30 m its not too far hahaha.


I hadn’t seen these replies, thanks Theo and Roy!

i also used the black box usb extenders IC253A.
i am using two on a mac mini. i am connecting two kinect 360 to the computer.
all works well. but the one things that is lost is IDing the kinect correctly.
i am not able to reliably tell which kinect is which and which has to go on the left or right.

For USB 2.0 or 3.0 extender, I use the solution from
They also have optical fiber extender: that can do extension up to 1000 feet.