Echolab's Overture MD Switchers Go 3-Gig

Echolab has upgraded its Overture MD line of production switchers so they now support the 3-Gbps 1080p at 60 frames per second in addition to the wide range of other standard-definition and high-definition formats they can handle.

While widespread use of the 1080p 60 format is unlikely in the near future, Echolab's president and CEO Nigel Spratling noted that they felt that it was important to offer the capability so their clients could easily upgrade their HD production to accommodate whatever formats the industry embraces in the future.

"When the MD product was designed it was created with 3-Gig in mind," Spratling said. "We don't see a huge amount of people rushing to do 3-Gig production in the world outside Hollywood. But we wanted to build something that can handle all available formats. People who buy production switchers tend to keep them for a very long time. We know 3-Gig is out there and that is going to become part of the normal signals at some point in the future."

Currently, very little production is done in anything higher than 1080p at 24 or 30 frames per second. While growing amount of content is available on Blu-ray, which uses 1080p 24, multichannel providers are distributing very little 1080p content to consumers and broadcasters are still using either the 720p or 1080i formats.

Spratling noted, however, that some large programmers, notably ESPN and the BBC, are beginning to build 3-Gig infrastructures. "We know the new larger installations in the U.S. and Europe are now being built pretty much for 3-Gig capability even though there isn't much in the way of capture," he said.

The higher frame rate for 1080p 60 will ultimately be very attractive for high-action content like sports and adoption of 1080p 60 would eliminate the complexity of multiple HD formats. "If you produce everything in 1080p 60 you will have no trouble going to other standards," Spratling said.

Going into the NAB, he believes a tough economy is slowing HD upgrades. In contrast, the market for HD equipment for the religious market and smaller facilities remains strong. "Their numbers are holding up," he said.

To capitalize on that market, Spratling said they will be introducing at NAB a new switcher "that includes all the technologies in the larger switcher but is targeted to the lower end of the market where price sensitivity is higher."