IBC 2009: Filling Hi-Def's Holes

While high-definition television production has become commonplace for U.S. broadcasters and cable programmers, it is still a relatively new phenomenon in much of the world. And although high-definition technology is now mature, vendors are still working to provide better interoperability between their products to enable content creators to take full advantage of file-based workflows.

Both truths were evident at the IBC show in Amsterdam last week, as much of the news from major vendors focused on large sales tied to hi-def upgrades as well as incremental improvements to their products to handle the various file formats used in HD production.

Grass Valley announced a bevy of HD system sales. These included a contract to build a new multichannel HD playout center based on its servers, storage and routing products that will jointly serve the Australian Broadcasting Corp. and that country's WIN Corp.; a deal to supply HD cameras and other gear to Vision HD in Caracas for Venezuela's first HD production truck; a sale of HD servers and 3-gigabit-per-second routers to HBO Latin America for an upgrade of its playout facilities; and a sale of HD cameras, switchers and routers to Belgium's VRT for use in two new HD production trucks.

Harris Broadcast also announced big HD sales in the mobile production market. German channel ZDF tapped Harris for an HD upgrade of its mobile production department, ZDF Mobile Produktions Einheit (MPE); the broadcaster bought signal processing equipment, routers, multi-viewers, distribution amplifiers and optical-fiber test tools. The new gear was used for ZDF MPE's broadcast of the 12th IAAF track-and-field world championships in Berlin last month.

Harris also integrated a new hi-def OB (outside broadcast) van for Italy's L'Opera Broadcast Video Service; the van was on display in IBC's outside broadcast area. The gear in L'Opera's new OB 5 HD vehicle includes a 256x256 Harris Platinum 3-gig-capable router, Centrio multiviewer, Videotek VTM-4100 advanced audio/HD video test tool, and two X75 all-in-one processors for up/down/cross conversion.

Editing and storage suppliers Avid and Quantel both introduced broader support for high-definition acquisition formats and detailed how their storage systems now work with Apple's popular Final Cut Pro editing software. The new versions of Avid's NewsCutter, Media Composer and Symphony editors all have native support for Ikegami's GFCAM 100 megabit-per-second (Mbps) camcorder format. This allows customers to directly access GFCAM media, including full metadata, and begin working without transcoding, copying or re-wrapping the material. They also include better support for Panasonic's AVC-Intra (AVC-I) format. Avid editors had previously allowed AVC-I video to be ingested and edited, but the new editors include AVC-I encoding support, which allows customers to deliver final masters in AVC-I without having to transcode to Avid's DNxHD format.

Avid's latest version of its Interplay production asset management system also offers support for Final Cut Pro (FCP), which Avid first integrated with its Unity ISIS storage products at NAB. Interplay now allows the check-in and check-out of FCP media with project links, as well as media and metadata conversion of FCP-to-Avid and Avid-to-FCP projects.

Quantel's new sQ Load application for its sQ server-based news and sports production systems provides fast, central ingest of Sony XDCAM HD, Panasonic P2 HD and other file-based acquisition formats, allowing operators to choose anything from a complete disk to a single shot for ingest. It provides renaming facilities so that metadata, which is often missing when video is rushed in from the field, can be added at the ingest stage. sQ Load also generates low-bitrate, browse-quality video as the high-bitrate file is being imported, providing access to the new material on sQ desktop and craft-editing workstations even as it is being ingested.

Quantel also demonstrated at IBC new integration of Final Cut Pro into the sQ server environment through the Quantel Final Cut Pro Gateway, which is shipping now. The new product allows FCP to be integrated into the sQ workflow in the same way as Quantel's own editing systems. It offers “expanding clips” capability, which allows the editing of clips that are still being recording; instant publishing of finished edits; and the ability to start an edit on a journalist's desktop using Quantel's low-bitrate editors and then finish the project in FCP.

“It's the same workflow Quantel editors have,” says Steve Owen, Quantel's director of marketing. “So everything you can do with our editors, you can do with Final Cut Pro.”