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Grass Valley Says IT's Where It's At

G rass Valley sang the praises of information technology (IT), and its impact on the broadcast market, at NAB last week. The ability to harness cheap power and the rise of inexpensive storage on either hard disk or flash memory are driving broadcast technology, said Willy Shih, executive VP of Grass Valley parent Thomson: “Everything you see this year at NAB will be increasingly reliant on the IT world.”

A supplier of broadcast infrastructure and production gear, Grass Valley's highlight last week was the long-awaited Infinity tapeless camcorder, which is designed to store media on hard disk or flash memory and support a variety of digital compression formats. Grass Valley announced the Infinity at the IBC show last September, and broadcasters have been eagerly waiting to see the actual product. They got their chance at NAB, as Grass Valley brought out 10 of the camcorders for a demonstration.

Calling the Infinity an “IT-immersed product,” Grass Valley VP Jeff Rosica declared that it represents an “end to closed solutions,” referring obliquely to competitors Sony and Panasonic and their respective tapeless formats, XDCAM and P2, each of which has its own unique compression scheme and storage media.

The Infinity camcorder, which ships in July and will list for $26,000, will support the DV, MPEG-2 and JPEG 2000 compression schemes and can record media on REV Pro disks from Iomega and 8-gigabyte (GB) flash memory cards from SanDisk Corp. The REV Pro disks sell for $67 each, and the drives they play in cost $500, according to Infinity Program Director John Naylor. The SanDisk CompactFlash cards go for around $450. Grass Valley is also developing a portable field recorder that will play the new disks; available in September, it will sell for $15,000.

Grass Valley announced that REV Pro drives are now standard in its NewsEdit XT and Canopus Edius nonlinear editors. And in a nod to openness, the company announced that it is working with Avid Technology to develop interoperability between Infinity products and Avid's nonlinear editing systems. Apple has already agreed to support Infinity with its Final Cut editing software, and various vendors—including transcoding supplier Telestream, workstation giant HP and editing firm Cineform—also will provide interfaces for the Infinity system.

Grass Valley announced, too, that it has developed a next-generation silicon chip, the Advanced Compression Processor, aimed at using MPEG-4 compression to encode high-definition video. According to Grass Valley, the chip can deliver premium-quality HD MPEG-4 at bit rates as low as 4 megabits per second (Mbps).

The chip will be used in a variety of Grass Valley products, including encoders, signal processors and servers; manufacturing quantities will be available come September. The first implementation will be in Grass Valley's ViBE MPEG-4 encoder, which is being used by satellite operator DirecTV and by Spanish telecom Telefonica for its IPTV service.

According to Grass Valley, the new chip represents less a product to sell than a technology that can be leveraged across the company's entire product line. Says Grass Valley President Marc Valentin, “It's a fundamental shift in HD encoding.”