NAB 2010: Brighter Days Ahead

The crowd was still far smaller than in the industry’s boom years, but the overall mood at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas last week seemed sunnier than the 2009 show. While broadcasters are consumed with a battle to retain their spectrum in the face of the FCC’s broadband plan, they are also starting to buy new equipment again, say vendors, as advertising revenues slowly recover. ¶ That trend was reflected by the NAB’s preliminary attendance figures, which showed a slight increase from last year’s convention as the broadcast business and larger professional video equipment market appear to have stabilized. NAB claimed 88,044 attendees, a 6.5% increase from the 2009 NAB Show final attendance of 82,650, based on pre-show and on-site registration. ¶ Moreover, there was plenty of new technology on the show floor. On the station front, there was new gear to enable mobile DTV broadcasting, in the form of station infrastructure and consumer receivers. And the buzz over stereoscopic 3D at the Consumer Electronics Show in January certainly carried over to NAB, as countless vendors showed modifications to their production and transmission systems, and in some cases brand-new products, to support 3D pay-TV channels launching later this year. ¶ “There’s a good vibe here,” said Rich Wolf, senior VP of telecommunications and distribution for ABC Broadcast Operations & Engineering. “I think a lot of the vendors have stopped playing defense.”

JVC Snags Hearst Deal

JVC announced that station group Hearst Television is buying its handheld GY-HM100 ProHD camcorders for its take on the backpack- journalism concept, which Hearst calls the “Next Generation Newsroom Project.”

Hearst piloted the Next Generation project in three stations last year, and has launched it this year at WPBF West Palm Beach and KETV Omaha. Six more stations are now using the GYHM100 camcorders, which record natively in the “.mov” format on SDHC media cards and list for $3,495. They are KMBC Kansas City, Mo.; WLWT Cincinnati; WISN Milwaukee; WGAL Lancaster, Pa.; KOCO Oklahoma City; and KCCI Des Moines.

The JVC cameras are being used in conjunction with Dell laptops loaded with Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 nonlinear editing software, which Hearst is implementing across the group for various applications. News packages are recorded and edited in highdefinition, then downconverted to standard-def and sent via FTP transport back to the station for inclusion in local newscasts.

Hearst outlets WMUR Manchester, N.H., and WESH Orlando are slated to deploy the new cameras this month. Hearst plans to purchase additional GY-HM100s for at least six more stations this year.

Snell: Switcher Upgrade

Snell introduced a new version of its Kahuna production switcher, which has found traction with local stations, networks and sports trucks for its multi-format capabilities.

The new Kahuna 360 can support up to 16 simultaneous broadcast productions in a single mainframe; Snell says this is an industry first. It uses the company’s proprietary Format Fusion3 technology to support any combination of SD and HD inputs and outputs, including 3 gigabit-persecond, 1080-line progressive HD. This eliminates the need for external conversion equipment, which Snell says reduces initial costs and saves valuable setup time in mobile production applications.

The new switcher also integrates Snell’s patent-pending EPP (Enhanced Progressive Processing), which the company says provides superior quality in video processing, particularly for 1080p signals. Existing Kahuna customers can upgrade to the 360 platform by switching out the backend processing equipment for the switcher, at an estimated cost of 35%-40% of the initial purchase price.

U.K.-based Snell, formed last year by the merger of video processing specialist Snell & Wilcox and routing and automation supplier Pro-Bel, also emphasized its support for stereoscopic 3D production across a range of products including switching, standards conversion, monitoring and playout.

In speaking with customers about 3D, said Snell Chief Marketing Offi cer Neil Maycock, “We hear everything from ‘It’s all hype’ to ‘It’s happening, it’s inevitably our business.’ But it’s clear that it’s not a question of ‘if’ anymore, it’s a question of how much, how soon.”

Omneon Touts Workflows

Server and storage vendor Omneon, best known for supplying master-control playout servers for local stations and cable networks, highlighted its new capabilities in production workflows.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company introduced new modules and software for its Spectrum servers and MediaGrid storage that deliver more bandwidth and support more users for collaborative editing applications. It also demonstrated a new content management system, ProXplore, designed to organize metadata about media files and track them throughout the production workflow, from ingest through editing to playout.

Production represented less than 10% of Omneon’s customer base in 2006, according to Senior VP of Marketing and Business Development Geoff Stedman, but counts for 30% of sales today, including news production, sports highlights and content-repurposing applications. Major U.S. customers include NY1 News, which is using Omneon MediaGrid storage in a complete news workfl ow with a Dalet newsroom computer system, Chyron graphics and Apple Final Cut Pro editors; and NBC Universal, which used Omneon servers in combination with EVS replay and editing systems during its coverage of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

A key driver for Omneon’s production growth has been its integration with third-party editors, servers and cameras. At NAB, it introduced new support for Sony’s RDD9 MXF wrapper format, which is used in the XDCAM HD optical-disc cameras favored by large customers such as CNN. Omneon servers used to be able to read XDCAM files, but couldn’t encode a file and send it to an XDCAM disc. Now they can go both ways.

GV Unveils New Ignite Software

Grass Valley is seeking to extend the reach of its Ignite production automation system, which has found favor with station groups like ABC and Media General for its ability to produce newscasts with fewer people. The company introduced a new, more flexible version called Ignite Konnect.

To date, Ignite systems have generally been purchased by stations that need to buy a new HD production switcher to upgrade to HD news. As such, the systems have been sold as a complete package including switcher, software and related peripherals, like robotic camera heads, at a total cost running several hundred thousand dollars. In contrast, Ignite Konnect is designed as an add-on software product that provides automation control of existing Grass Valley Kalypso and Kayenne switchers in the field, including standard-defi nition models.

Ignite Konnect allows customers to automate as much or as little of their workfl ow as they need, and requires little or no change to existing switcher effects. Konnect will be available in June; the base system will range in cost from $34,995 to $139,995.

The Konnect product should appeal to stations that are looking to automate their newscasts but plan to stay in the SD realm for now, according to Grass Valley Senior VP Jeff Rosica. “They’re not going to buy a whole new kit to do SD,” he said.

Rosica also announced more business from Media General for the Ignite system, with three more stations upgrading to HD news with Ignite.

Dolby Launches Imaging Product

Dolby Laboratories, best known for its range of professional audio products and broadly licensed digital audio technology, introduced a 42- inch, professional LCD video reference monitor designed to deliver the same color accuracy as the obsolete CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors long favored by post-production veterans.

While Dolby has a large footprint in imaging in the digital cinema space and has shipped more than 3,200 3D display systems worldwide, the PRM-4200 monitor represents its first professional imaging product and is the culmination of a long development effort.

Roland Vlaicu, director of technical marketing for Dolby’s broadcast segment, said that the “biggest headache” for Tier 1 post-production clients is that they no longer can get high-end CRT monitors, which have been phased out in favor of LCD and plasma monitors over the past decade as part of an overall shift from CRT to flat-panel technology in both the consumer and Bto- B markets. They revere the color accuracy of the old CRTs, Vlaicu said, in particular their ability to depict “true black levels.”

Dolby is aiming to solve that problem with the PRM- 4200, which should ship later this year and sell for between $40,000 and $50,000. Dolby says the monitor accurately reveals true and deep black levels with higher contrast across the entire color spectrum, and provides an unprecedented luminance range and level. It uses a backlight comprised of red, green and blue LEDs that are modulated individually on a frame-by-frame basis. The LCD panel is also modulated in real time as part of the dualmodulation process.

In addition to high-end post-production houses, the PRM-4200 should also have applications for television networks in their quality-control and transmission-monitoring facilities.