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NAB 2004 product look
by Greg O'Brien

Articles in related categories
Equipment manufacturers/distributors/dealers
LAS VEGAS - There were over 1,400 exhibitors at the National Association of Broadcasters convention this year, an increase of almost 100 over 2003.

There were four days. It's just not possible to see everyone and everything, so here are some of the highlights of some of the booths I visited, with a bit of an emphasis on some Canuck suppliers, of course. Wish I could highlight all of the good stuff at NAB - because there was a ton of it. This is not a scientific list, nor am I endorsing any of this stuff, it's just an emptying of my notebook (augmented by some press materials), including things we thought were interesting.

Thomson Grass Valley
Thomson says it has found the missing link - in HD, anyway - with the first HD super slow motion camera system. To be deployed at this summer's Athens Olympics and the Euro 2004 Soccer Championships, the Grass Valley BDK 6200 HD Super SloMo is "the world's first digital camera system capable of providing replays and super slow motion effects in native HD formats," says the company.

Belgium's leading mobile production company Alfacam announced it has ordered 16 of the cameras.

Also pushed at NAB by Thomson was its "TV station in a kit" packages, aimed at digital broadcasting affordability. The kits are "pre-configured, highly affordable packages for mobile, studio, and news production," says the company. The discounted kits contain all required items such as cameras, switchers, servers, routers, etc., "all together at great price points," Grass Valley's v-p, products business units Jean-Marc Hoffer told me.www.thomsongrassvalley.com.

While Toronto's Walter Klassen FX wasn't exhibiting here, the company's got a ready disciple in steadicam operator Dan Kneece, who was working the show demonstrating a number of Thomson cameras. When Kneece found out I was Canadian, he forgot about showing the cameras and insisted on instead showing off his own made-in-Canada carbon-fibre steadicam vest - "the most comfortable one I've ever had," Kneece said as he spun his Thomson camera around.

True to the HD focus of this event, Chyron, Melville, N.Y., unveiled a number of HD-focused products, including its all-new real-time HyperX multi-format character generator platform, which can be configured as an SD- or HD-only CG, or may output both SD and HD simultaneously. A typical configuration might include two SD channels, an HD channel, as well as an SD clip player. This would enable a station to be HD compliant with a native HD output, while still using real-time multi-channel with clips technology for SD operation.

As well, Chyron debuted Clyps HD, its new high definition clip server, designed for graphics environments of all sizes. Clyps HD features a built in keyer and up to 1.3 TB of storage, enabling the unit to store up to 180 minutes of lower third animations or 60 minutes of full frame video.

Also new for the company at NAB was its C-Mix HD graphics mixer, a multi-layer video mixer designed for use in graphics production and master control. Up to four video and key input pairs, plus a background layer, can be combined in any order within the mixer, allowing layers to be both composited and blended. In addition, C-Mix has an SD output and a post-mix upconverted HD output. The mixer can be controlled from Lyric, Chyron's content creation and playout software, or from an XML stand-alone application.www.chyron.com.

Network management and marketing control automator ILC, Atlanta, took the wrapper off a transmitter graphical interface that scales to multi-site remote control and allows comprehensive broadcast facilities management. With its newest MaxView for Broadcasters solution, radio or television broadcasters can integrate as much equipment into one management system as they need, from simple analog and digital transmitters, to the whole transmitter site, or farther still to include other separate segments of the broadcast chain.

"MaxView eliminates the time-consuming practice of consulting separate management systems, allowing broadcasters to summarize transmitter activity at-a-glance," said ILC senior vice-president Mark Krikorian.

The age, type, protocol, interfaces, nearly anything can be incorporated by MaxView. "You might be running a 1950 DeSoto, but it looks to the user like a brand new car," Krikorian added, referring to the type of gear which may be found in use at transmitter sites but need remote translation of how they're performing. This can enable creative approaches to how, when and where operations staff work.

ILC recently signed a deal with PBS for the deployment of the technology for its 349 member stations.www.ilc.com.

Snell & Wilcox
The transition to Internet-based delivery of broadcasting is just beginning, says Snell & Wilcox's strategic marketing veep, Joe Zaller. In fact, he told me he bets that next year's NAB theme will be on that very topic. "the transition is just starting," he said. But, if that's true, how will all that embedded gear be able talk to one another?

A trio of releases from the company explains how broadcasters can get there. Besides its new 17 SD and HD modules, S&W;, Coronado, Calif., also launched Comet Open Standards Ingest and the MediaX PCI-based development platform to help facilitate open standards broadcasting. It also released a series of free MXF development tools and MXF player/wrapper as a way to accelerate multi-vendor interoperability.

The MXF tools, says Zaller, "normally would take a couple of years to complete," but was done very rapidly instead. "We want MXF to be successful," he adds, of the file format. The Material Exchange Format (MXF) is optimized for the interchange of material for the content creation industries. An MXF File contains enough information (could be pictures, sound, data or some combination) to allow two applications to interchange. The MXF metadata allows applications to know the duration of the file, what essence codecs are required, what timeline complexity is involved and other key points to allow interchange.www.snellwilcox.com .

Markham-based chip maker ATI continues its push into the TV world. Still best known for its graphics chips found in video games, it has made strides in recent years in the TV market, where its products can be found embedded in digital set top boxes.

The company's Xilleon and NXT 2004 chips, it was recently announced is inside USDTV's new set top box. USDTV, which was much-talked about on the show floor, is a terrestrial over-the-air digital television distribution system which distributes the digital signals of local broadcasters as well as the most-watched American cable channels (it launched in Las Vegas the week before NAB).

The ATI NXT2004 enables the digital reception of the broadcast signal while Xilleon delivers the digital image to the TV screen. Xilleon integrates into a single chip all processor, graphics, video, audio, and input/output capabilities needed in a set-top box or digital TV.www.ati.com.

Tandberg, Southampton, U.K., launched ICE at NAB. In its instance, ICE stands for: Intelligent Compression Engine, which the company says is a powerful and sophisticated video and audio compression platform that provides a solution for implementations of Windows Media 9 Series Advanced Profile and MPEG-4 part 10 (H.264/AVC) technologies.

The ICE card is included in the new Tandberg EN5930 encoder for MPEG-4 part 10 AVC.

Also shown was the company's recently launched TT1221, an integrated receiver/decoder targeted for MPEG-2 standard definition systems. Replacing the company's current TT1220 IRD, the new decoder adds both standard and optional specifications that greatly surpass the former model's performance, while retaining its cost efficiency. A nifty feature on this device is a global positioning system security module which logs a receiver's location into the receiver database so if at any time the receiver is moved more than a predetermined distance from the original location, it will be de-authorized until the operator can ascertain its continued legitimate use.www.tandbergtv.com.

Much of the focus in the Evertz booth was on its MVP multi-video display processor, a flexible, intuitive approach to video wall display and signal monitoring. Any input, any output, any size, and any time, SD, HD, the MVP is intended for broadcasters to future-proof their multi-display needs.

And, in line with many suppliers who are capitalizing on the American hyper-fascination on keeping naughty words and naughty bits of flesh off the airwaves, Burlington, Ont.-based Evertz was also pushing its new HD/SD profanity protection system which builds in programmable delay options for any U.S. producer looking to keep the FCC off her back.www.evertz.com.

Montreal's Miranda showcased a whopping 15 new HD products at NAB, so that its HD line spans acquisition, post-production, interfacing and distribution, routing, master control and channel branding, plus monitoring.

For example, the company announced its new MDC-900/920 downconverter and the SER 900 HD serializer. Both are lower-cost, reduced functionality versions of Miranda's DVC-800 downconversion and DV encoding interface for Panasonic and Sony HD cameras.www.miranda.com.

Ross Video
Ross Video launched its OverDrive production control system v1.0 at NAB 2004. OverDrive is a production control system that enables touch screen control over the devices used in a control room. It integrates with Ross's Synergy SD and MDX series of production switchers. OverDrive also offers a newsroom interface that ties into a variety of newsroom systems such as Associated Press' ENPS system via MOS protocol. This enables a shows elements to be built in pre-production in ENPS as well as providing a live link from the news room system line up to the OverDrive production run down during a news cast.

Also new at the show from Ross, Iroquois, Ont., was the Talia NK series routing system, a compact, flexible series of routing systems designed for use in broadcast, educational, corporate, and government facilities. Available in digital video, analog video, digital audio, analog audio and data routing formats, NK can be used in a wide variety of applications.www.rossvideo.com.

Path 1
Did you know the Super Bowl's HD stream was delivered from Reliant Stadium in Houston to the CBS studios in New York via the Internet? Path 1, San Diego, together with Vyvx HD VenueNet, enabled the live broadcast backhaul of the 38th Super Bowl via video over IP, with 270 Mbps transport � more than three times the bandwidth available on satellite.

Path 1, however, used NAB to showcase its new product, the Chameleon vidXwan, a multi-port, bi-directional real-time IP video router for live broadcast applications. The Chameleon vidXwan enables broadcasters to distribute live, real-time broadcast-quality MPEG-2 video in both SD and HD to remote locations over fibre networks. Utilizing standards-based encapsulation and forward error correction (FEC) techniques, the Chameleon vidXwan also supports the Pro-MPEG code of practice for live broadcast applicationswww.path1.com.

Matrox Video Products Group, Dorval, Que., previewed Matrox HD, a family of HD editing products based on a new realtime 10-bit multi-stream architecture designed for broadcasters, post-production facilities, and developers of NLE, CG, clip store and video server systems. It was demonstrated, in conjunction with Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5, at NAB 2004 in the Matrox booth.

The new Matrox HD family of products is scheduled for introduction later in 2004 www.matrox.com.

SES Americom
Two-way interactive satellite TV is (almost) here. Satellite company SES Americom, Princeton, N.J., unveiled SatMode, a new technology that will support real time voting, chatting messaging, commerce, video on demand and other iTV applications by using a remote control or wireless keyboard.

I sent a message using the live technology at the show from a digital set top box to a PDA in the booth. The signal travelled the 13,000 miles in about five seconds. "It might very well win over American Idol fans as much as a perfect performance by their favorite aspiring pop star: the thought of never getting a busy signal when placing their all important weekly votes," says the company's press release.

Developed in France, the technology is scheduled to be made available to broadcasters and DTH/DBS companies in 2005 and will be affordable, insists SES. "Easily integrated into an existing or new, basic or DVR-powered, satellite TV set-top box, SATMODE is designed to enable broadcasters to deliver truly personalized, interactive and on-demand services directly to individual subscribers. Whether it's in the hands of millions of voting American Idol fans, chatting friends and family members worldwide, or movie buffs ordering the latest release on-demand, the scalability of SATMODE would allow the transactions to be completed without delay," adds the release.www.ses-americom.com.

As already profiled in the pages of Broadcaster, Panasonic's focus was trained on its P2 solid state technology. A completely tape-free system, I tagged along with Panasonic's David Craig as he sold the merits of the system to David Storey, a CHCH alum who applied last year to the CRTC for a commercial TV license for the Niagara peninsula (and has yet to hear back).

The lack of moving parts in the camera is certainly a selling feature as repair and maintenance time would be dramatically cut and the purchase of tapes would no longer be required. Uploading the video images is also far easier since the P2 cards are simply removed from the camera and plugged into a laptop, drive or deck. What made Storey wince, though, was the cost of the individual P2 cards: $2,000. Since each camera takes five cards, Craig also mentioned Panasonic may also offer a bar code tracking device to keep tabs on those cards, where a broadcaster would be far more concerned about losing than a tape or DVD.www.panasonic.ca.

As I said to Sony of Canada's Brian Young as we stood at the entrance to Sony's massive 25,000 sq. ft. presence which shows off literally everything the company has to offer to the broadcast universe: "there's gotta be a bigger word here than booth."

A theatre featuring a loop of film and TV actor Joe Mantegna talking about the roots of HDTV and how Sony has had a leading hand in it every step of the way was the centrepiece and surrounding it was Sony's end-to-end broadcast gear. Really neat was its Anycast Station, basically a TV station in a briefcase.

The 15-lb case The Anycast Station Producer is designed for applications such as live event programming and staging, presentations and conferencing, on-site product promotions or display advertising, distance learning and house-of-worship production. To accomplish this, it provides a comprehensive set of AV and IT inputs. These include analog composite, S-Video, DV input and balanced analog audio as well as computer RGB input. It's quite literally an all-in-one tool - audio mixer, video switcher, character generator, large LCD display, streaming encoder and server and camera controller.

The Anycast integrates video, audio and a variety of PC input sources for live seamless switching between sources, and features multi-camera recording for use as a nonlinear editing source.

And, of course, XDCam pro disc camcorder and its accessories, as evidenced by the many ball caps with that logo perched on heads walking around the convention floor was a large focus of the Sony booth.

Some operations folks from B.C.'s Knowledge Network swung through the booth on Wednesday for an in-depth look at Sony's small MFS2000 switcher. Intended for use in small-scale vehicles, production studios, and editing suites, its multi-format capability allows it to operate in any current SD or HD format.

Three types of control panel are available, each built to provide a high level of operational performance. In addition, a 2-channel DME function with various preset effect patterns, a powerful frame memory system, and a RGB color corrector function are all available as options. The MFS-2000 also offers many operational benefits such as an easy-to-operate color touch-screen LCD panel and a FlexiPad with color LCD buttons.www.sonycanada.com.

Across the south upper hall aisle from Sony at Leitch, new company CEO Tim Thorsteinson was re-introducing himself to those in the industry who will remember him from his days at Grass Valley, for example. The Toronto-based company used the show to assure its customers that despite a number of recent executive changes and other company restructuring, that it's well positioned for the long run.

It also officially announced that when Global Television rebuilt its master control in Calgary this year, it installed a 24-channel Nexio server system with 146 GB hard drives monitored by Nexio Pilot software and an array of Neo modular interface products, all controlled and monitored by Leitch's Command Control System.

And, as reported last week by www.broadcastermagazine.com, it announced during the show it has agreed to acquire video equipment company Videotek of Pottstown, Pa., for US$18 million.www.leitch.com.

Digital Interactive Streams Inc., DiStream, which is distributed in Canada by BSE Inc., Toronto, showed DiTran to convention delegates. DiTran is "the lowest bit rate, real-time video transcoder," says the company. "Until now, low bandwidth links were unsuitable for broadcast-quality media distribution. DiTran uses advanced error correction algorithms to enable broadcasters to efficiently transport high quality video with MPEG-4 compression, without any loss of QoS."

By compressing video with MPEG-4, DiTran offers cost-savings for news acquisition and other applications which must transport broadcast video to many locations. The error correction means it can provide MPEG-4 compression without any additional required bandwidth, says the company. So, broadcasters can transport more channels using existing lines without sacrificing picture quality. The product is currently being tested by CHUM in Toronto. www.distream.com, www.bse.on.ca.

At NAB, Inscriber, Waterloo, Ont., had a coup of its own by announcing that CBC/Radio Canada has chosen Inscriber's Inca Studio as its new national standard for character generators.

"We were committed to upgrading our existing character generators, a decision we did not take lightly," said CBC's v-p and CTO Ray Carnovale in the Inscriber release. "The flexible, open platform can be readily upgraded, allowing us to easily and successfully adapt to emerging broadcast trends." Deliveries to CBC/SRC began this month.

Among the company's other show releases was Inca titleOne, a cheaper entry level character generator which is heavy on ease-of-use, for smaller broadcasters and even churches (a big broadcast market, stateside), stadiums, local governments and other such users.www.inscriber.com.

Richmond Hill's Masstech was showing off its, er, mass of product from its MassStore system, an end-to-end "nearline," archive and asset management solution which provides from 1,000 to 100,000+ hours of non-linear audio/video storage with full content management and tracking to Mass Media Box, an integrated set of solutions in a single hardware and software environment which allows digital content workflow from ingest and delivery through preparation, quality control, format conversion to seamless synchronization with play to air automation systems.

MassChannel is a complete playout and sequencing solution designed for use in broadcast, cable origination and substitution, corporate, educational/instructional, in-store TV, and specialty channel markets. Introduced at NAB 2004 was a model that allows for automatic unattended replication of on air facilities at a remote location. With the increased risk of natural and man made disaster there is a significant degree of interest in business continuity services in assessing and meeting these new compliance requirements, says the company.www.masstechgroup.com.
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