NAB 2010: Grass Valley Unveils New Ignite Automation Product

NAB 2010: Complete Coverage from B&C

Las Vegas -- 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, with 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, it has been sold as a complete system 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-definition models.

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

The Konnect product should appeal to stations who are looking to automate their newscasts but plan to stay in the standard-definition realm for now, says Grass Valley senior vice president Jeff Rosica.

"They're not going to buy a whole new kit to do SD," said Rosica.

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

The latest Media General stations making the switch to Ignite are: WKRG, the CBS affiliate in Mobile, Ala. (which is replacing a standard-def ParkerVision system); WSAV, the NBC affiliate in Savannah, Ga, and WJHL, the CBS affiliate in Johnson City, Tenn. Once installed later this year, a single operator at all three stations will produce the station's daily newscasts in HD using a 2 M/E, semi-redundant Ignite HD system with Grass Valley HDC robotic HD cameras.

After the installation is completed, 13 of 18 Media General stations will be on the Ignite platform.

Grass Valley also addressed the current rage over 3D production. CTO Ray Baldock described how the company's LDK cameras are being used in 3D rigs from specialty vendors like 3ality Digital Systems, and also detailed how a number of Grass Valley products, including switchers, encoders and servers, can support stereoscopic 3D production today.

For example, the new ChannelFlex option for Grass Valley's K2 Summit and K2 Solo servers allows them to be expanded from handling four SD/HD video streams to up to eight streams, making them suitable for 3D recording. The left eye/right eye inputs are recorded on a single channel for 3D production, turning any Grass Valley K2 Summit/Solo server into a 3D server and 3D replay system, and the two video streams are stored as one asset for easy management and playback. ChannelFlex, which sells for $20,000, also provides Solo/Summit servers with super-slo-mo and video-plus-key capability.

Grass Valley's newest ViBE MPEG-4 encoder, the EM3000, is also configured to encode the "side-by-side" frame-compatible 3D format that is being adopted by early 3D broadcasters like DirecTV. Grass Valley has licensed algorithms from 3D compression specialist Sensio Technologies which it is using in the EM3000.

Elsewhere on the transmission front, Grass Valley announced that WGXA, the Fox affiliate in Macon, Ga., will be using the ViBE EM3000 encoder to broadcast both Fox and ABC network programming in 720p high-definition within one 19.4 Mbps ATSC channel.

Grass Valley's encoder products are now aligned in a new "Headends and Transmission" division, while cameras, switchers and servers are part of the "Broadcast and Professional" division." That is part of a reorganization announced last month by parent company Technicolor, which has been trying to sell Grass Valley since early 2009.

Technicolor said the moves are being made to adapt Grass Valley to "a strongly deteriorated business climate" that saw its revenues fall 31% between 2008 and 2009 and losses total $109.5 million. In an effort to bring the business back to the break-even point, Technicolor will eliminate 25% of Grass Valley's workforce, totaling 625 jobs worldwide.

Rosica didn't provide any updates on Grass Valley's possible divestiture, which he indicated was imminent last September at the IBC show. He only said that "discussions are still ongoing with interested buyers."