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Grass Valley Turns to HD Signage

Grass Valley’s acquisition of Canopus is already paying HD dividends with the introduction last week of an HD-capable MediaEdge3 video server that can be used by content distributors and enterprise operations that desire to deliver HD images to “digital signage” applications in public places.

The opportunity is huge. Public places like airports and bus stations could give visitors and commuters information that is more relevant than simple billboard advertisements. Over-the-air broadcasters, networks and cable operators are increasingly looking for ways to tap into the digital signage market because they often have high-quality material well suited for distribution. Hiro Yamada, founder and CEO of Canopus, says the server gives those broadcasters and retailers a flexible and efficient way to deliver their messages.

Digital signage applications typically involve a network of displays with client storage devices tied into a central server. One advantage of MediaEdge3, says Yamada, is that it only requires updates of the MediaEdge-SVS3 server to be updated. The clients are then automatically updated without manual intervention. Brooksby says one Canopus client, for example, has a system with 250 different plasmas tied into one server. “They have eight different zones with eight different channels of content,” he says.

“Digital signage today means a lot of different things but this product is aimed at the part of the market that distributes video,” says Ray Brooksby, COO, Canopus USA. “It can do text and video but the sweetspot is video.”

The system relies on Canopus technology to help deliver HD content in MPEG2 or SD material in MPEG1, MPEG2 or MPEG4 to multiple PCs and set-top box clients.

The software also has several applications responsible for overall content management and server configuration, as well as utilities for controlling and updating MediaEdge-STB3 set-top boxes or client PCs running the MediaEdge-SWT3 software client. The system also can be controlled remotely via a Web browser.

As for the set-top box, the MediaEdge-STB3 connects to standard Ethernet networks and gives SD and HD component video output to displays. A remote control provides volume, pause, search back, and search forward functions and the boxes can also be controlled remotely from the server.

MediaEdge can distribute content at 1080i resolution in the HDV format (with compression rates around 25 Mbps). To date, two companies, Scala and CoolSign, have found success in the signage market with graphics and animations. “Video will be more compelling than Flash graphics,” says Brooksby. “And as the infrastructure for creating HD continues to grow, HD will become more prevalent.”