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Greener Grass Valley

Three words show just how far Thomson and Grass Valley have come in their merger: Grass Valley cameras. The Grass Valley brand was introduced last September, but it's the decision to market former Thomson cameras under the Grass Valley name that best demonstrates the company's commitment to not only retaining the Grass Valley name but giving it a larger role.

"I was extremely surprised [at the decision to brand the cameras with the Grass Valley name], and I think it's the right decision," says Tim Thorsteinson, vice president, products, Thomson Broadcast & Media Solutions. "The brand equity in broadcast is Grass Valley, a name that has represented innovation and R&D, something that I think will expand to the other brands."

Among the first of the camera offerings are enhancements to Grass Valley HD cameras. A viewfinder crawler now assists focusing by slowing down when it sees proper edging of a subject, and a viewfinder zoom adjusts the viewfinder, not the lens. There is also a new low-cost 5-inch viewfinder for the HDTV camera systems.

Also new is a bi-directional wireless transmission system. According to Jeff Rosica, Grass Valley vice president of strategic marketing & technology, the system uses a DVB-T COFDM transmission system that has a more gentle rolloff than MPEG-based systems. In open-field situations, the camera can transmit up to 150 meters, and antennas can pass the signal from one to the next for longer-range demands.

Also debuting at NAB will be offerings in the company's more traditional lines: production switchers, modular products and routing switchers. The much anticipated Kalypso 15RU HD production switcher offers two mixers in each mix effect and is available in two-, three- or four-mix-effect systems. It also has a six-channel internal DVE and 90 inputs and 48 outputs.

The Kalypso switcher and the Kayak 1 ME switcher (B&C, 1/27, p. 6) are examples of Thomson's new strategy of expanding its product lines both up and down market.

Thorsteinson says the company will also be getting into new businesses. "Grass Valley once had a strong video-transmission business, moving video over networks, things like that," he says, noting one area of possible expansion.

Operationally, the company is moving toward a vertical business structure, which, Thorsteinson says, will remove the burden of separate infrastructure costs for the individual businesses and open up spending on research and development. "The big difficulty is, it's an interdependent model," he explains. "So it requires a lot of trust and familiarity and flexibility because there's a lot of spillover and gray areas."

The two areas in the company's product line that benefit most from the previous work done by Thomson and Grass Valley Group are routing switchers and production switchers. New in the routing area is the Apex digital audio router, a 256x256 router in a frame that is 11RU tall and 11 inches deep. It can also scale up to 1280x1280 in five 11RU units, with the units networked.

The router also can handle both synchronous and asynchronous signals on the same TDM (time-division multiplexing) stream. If there is a problem with the synchronous stream, it will immediately be switched to asynchronous mode. Other features include redundant Matrix TDM cards and front, hot-swappable components. A fully configured 256x256 system starts at $145,000.