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Grass Valley swallows Vibrint

In an effort to jump-start broadcast newsrooms' conversions from analog to digital technology, Grass Valley Group is acquiring Vibrint Technologies, Bedford, Mass., a manufacturer of low-cost digital editing and recording devices.

Terms of the deal between the two privately held companies were not disclosed. Grass Valley executives say the Vibrint acquisition, which is expected to close this month, will allow them to offer stations more competitively priced disk-based news editing and recording systems to replace analog tape-based gear.

"There is an enormous need for the solutions offered by the Vibrint platform of product," says Grass Valley Chairman Dr. Terence Gooding.

Vibrint was founded in 1995 and has sold about 100 units overall, with news installations at eight stations in the U.S., according to Vibrint President Peter Tarca. It offers several PC-based software applications, including FeedClip, an interactive feed recording system; NewsEdit, a nonlinear workstation aimed at hard news editing; and NewsQ, a low-cost news playback product.

NewsEdit in particular targets today's two-machine, cuts-only edit bays, a market Grass Valley has previously approached with the combination of its Profile video server and Avid' s NewsCutter nonlinear editor. But Grass Valley has had limited success, primarily because of the high cost of the combined Profile/NewsCutter system.

Now the Nevada City, Calif.-based company says it will go after the hard-news market with Vibrint' s servers, which use standard off-the-shelf storage and networking. Although the Vi-brint systems will interface with Grass Valley's flagship Profile XP server, Vi-brint' s software applications won' t be ported to the Profile. Instead, say Grass Valley executives, the Vibrint server-based systems will be sold as a separate product line, at a price up to 50% cheaper than the Profile/NewsCutter.

Under Grass Valley, Vibrint will also market a low-resolution MPEG-1 browsing tool for journalists' desktops, one that would seem to be in direct competition with MediaBrowse, the low-res browser developed by newsroom computer supplier Avstar, which is owned 50/50 by Grass Valley and Avid.

Grass Valley Director of Product Strategy Mike Cronk says his firm will continue to integrate with NewsCutter and will continue to work with Avid as a partner in Avstar. But he adds that Grass Valley is no longer "planning on offering a hard-news editing application that runs directly on Profile." Instead, Grass Valley will focus on selling Profiles for feed recording and news playout. Vibrint' s beta site, NBC affiliate WHDH-TV Boston, is now using the Profile and Vibrint system together in such a configuration.

"For news editing, the Vibrint solution hits the price point people are looking for," says Cronk. "Just look at how the cost of record decks has come down. One of the reasons Vibrint has hit that mark is that they haven't relied on proprietary hardware. To change that and put it on a more expensive platform would be suicide."