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SMPTE attendance slumps

Attendance at this year's Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers (SMPTE) conference in New York was well below past years, with roughly 250 pre-registered and a total of 1,500 (including those exhibiting new technology) walking the exhibit floor, according to Fred Motts, executive director of SMPTE.

Last year, the SMPTE show, in Pasadena, Calif., drew about twice the number. Market conditions, reduced staff and a tightening of travel budgets were some of the reasons given for the poor showing.

As a result, broadcast technology is becoming smaller, less featured and less expensive in the hopes of attracting business. Companies exhibiting at the show said they are working hard to keep costs down because equipment budgets at both the network and station level have been reduced substantially.

"Bringing in reduced revenue is better than no revenue at all," said Nigel Sprattling, vice president at ADC's Nvision division, which makes analog and digital routing switchers. "By reducing the cost of our products, we're enabling more people to have access to this technology. We know broadcasters need this stuff, they just don't have any money to spend."

Sprattling's division showed a scaled-down version of its Envoy family of wideband digital routers that can switch both high definition and standard definition signals from the same rack. Incorporating a number of patented technologies (and some that have patents pending) the Envoy-TS features an active standby matrix that can be put into operation with the touch of a button to protect against system failure. The system uses smaller parts and goes for half the cost of its predecessor, Sprattling said, without getting more specific.

Avid Technology showed a smaller version of its Unity shared storage system called LANshare. The device allows multiple users to share the same local area network (LAN) at a price of $35,000. A full-blown Unity system usually runs about $70,000.

As of January, up to 10 of Avid's NewsCutter XP laptop edit systems can be operated on a single LANshare system, providing file sharing in the field and remote access to a station's programming and graphics elements. It includes nine 80 GB drives for several hours worth of digital video storage.

Chyron exhibited a number of its character generation and stillstore products along with interactive TV tools based on its Lyric software. Among these was a new software version of the company's Aprisa digital disk recorder/stillstore product that includes networking capability.

In the past few years, Chyron's strategy for developing new products has been the continued use off-the-shelf hardware to keep the price down, said Bill Hendler, vice president of the company's interactive division.

However, it also limits profit margins for the company; which is a trade-off many manufacturers appear to be making.
- Michael Grotticelli