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Breaking Story: HD Gear Without Sticker Shock

NAB show features plenty of equipment that takes the sting out of digital conversion 3/27/2005 07:00:00 PM Eastern

When it comes to newsroom technologies, NAB 2005 may well be remembered as the year when the wish list of HD products was finally fulfilled. And products will be available with an extra feature: A price tag that doesn't make station accountants faint.

“HD is clearly coming on everywhere and, while not everyone will be there in 2005, we'll definitely see HD planning and, in some cases, deployments,” says Mike Cronk, of Grass Valley. “One of the key issues for broadcasters is finding the smartest way to leverage their capital budgets.”

Maintain workflow

That issue will see nearly all vendors continue to embrace the idea of building standard-definition products that require only an upgrade step or are already capable of both SD and HD. And the days of having to change a workflow system to complete an HD project also seem to be ending.

“We're extremely focused on delivering a similar, if not the same, workflow experience to users in HD as they get when working in SD,” says Dave Schleifer, Avid VP, broadcast and workgroups. Avid has made an investment in codecs designed to be networked and used with shared storage like DNxHD. “We've already seen how working with uncompressed video forces users to work both online and offline, and that will not be acceptable over the long term,” he adds. “By rolling out HD support across shared storage and asset management, as well as editing, we can deliver a complete collaborative HD workflow.”

JVC is putting a special emphasis on HD for news this year. Dave Walton, national marketing communications director, says the centerpiece of the company's booth will be an ENG van outfitted with the company's new ProHD format as well as a new HD ENG transmission system.

“One of the big obstacles in HD news has been microwave transmission—how to get video back from the live remote,” says Walton. The JVC display at the NAB show will feature existing microwave equipment and a JVC encoder and decoder that together will transmit HD at 25 Mbps. That should also cure one of the issues with HD live transmission: latency that results from the videos being compressed for transmission and then uncompressed for broadcast and editing.

Walton says the system cuts that problem down to only one second. “If it was three seconds, it would be an issue,” he says, “but a second is fine.” Depending on the encoding, that latency could fall to 6 frames or about a third of a second. Also expect to see video shot on Sony's HDCAM placed into the encoder and transmitted as well. “We'll show that even HDCAM is very much microwaveable using existing equipment.”

Besides the HD push, newsroom management of assets and simplified workflows is a continuing trend. “Asset management allows broadcasters to take content into a multitasking environment and also deploy it over multiple platforms simultaneously without having to spend too much time worrying,” says Grass Valley's Cronk. He believes that high costs typically associated with asset-management systems should also become less of a worry.

“We see more and more desire to create integrated workflows that are highly automated,” says Matt Danilowicz, VP, broadcast business, Pinnacle Systems. “The goal is to reduce the number of times you have to look at a file, copy it or transport it.” He points to Pinnacle's DekoCast lineup as a tech tool that meets those demands and also helps stations move into HD.

The main action in newsroom technologies, in fact, will be in response to what Bill Burke, Associated Press product manager for ENPS, describes as the creation of pools of content within a newsroom. With news organizations having more ways to distribute their content (TV, broadband, mobile devices and even VOD), that content needs to be readily accessible and easily configurable for those distribution methods.

In turn, journalists and producers need to be able to easily format stories and material for distribution. “A station like WRAL in Raleigh [N.C], which brings in content and sends it out for TV newscasts, mobile phones and an online presence they've had for years, is the type of network environment I see developing,” Burke says. “Journalists will be creating documents that have many layers [that each get published to a different medium].”

Burke is quick to point out that he doesn't think the journalist will be doing everything. “I still think there will be specialization,” he says. “But they'll be using technologies like our MOS pointers to drag and drop things and more easily associate media with a specific point in the text.”

Making the jump into digital isn't easy. Burke says the key for any news facility is to figure out what it wants its editorial structure to be and then go out and find a technology that serves that workflow at an appropriate price point. “Getting intrigued with technology and trying to make it fit without changing the editorial process or thinking it through,” he says, “isn't a good idea.”

Options beyond the newsroom include products that offer big bang in small packages. For example, Sony's Anycast AWS-G500 live-content-producer system includes a switcher, six-channel stereo mixer, device controllers, and even multiple-camera recording and nonlinear editing, all stuffed into a container about the size of a suitcase.

Integrated production

And Grass Valley's booth will display Ignite, the first-generation fruit of its Parkervision acquisition last year. Ignite is a new line of integrated production systems that let one operator handle the playout of the newscast. The technologies at its core include a KayakDD digital video-production switcher, Concerto routing switcher and Ignite automation application software. The Ignite package, with one mix effect, costs $121,000, but Grass Valley promises it will do a lot of work for the price. The package should be available in June.

As for workflow enhancements, Schleifer says attendees should expect to see integrated systems that make it easier for newsroom staffers to avoid using the wrong tool to get the job done. “It's important that vendors provide systems that don't require users to compromise,” he says. “I fully expect to see vendors at the show respond to that.”

 

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