Integration Now!

Leitch offers workflow gains with tighter systems

Expanded commitment to HDTV production and distribution and a push toward "integrated content environment" will be center stage in the Leitch booth at NAB in April.

The show will highlight more than just new products: It will be the first trade event for President and CEO Tim Thorsteinson, who joined the company last November. Thorsteinson says he is currently looking at ways to reduce Leitch's cost structure because its current infrastructure is for a much larger business. He promises that research-and-development funding won't be affected, a mantra he brings from his days at Grass Valley.

"It took a lot of work for us to get the Grass Valley business model profitable, and I'm hopeful it doesn't take that long at Leitch," he says. "The Leitch product portfolio today is in much better shape than Grass Valley's was in 1997, when it began its turnaround."

Because Leitch has historically been a "box maker," Thorsteinson believes that selling products more integrated with the company's own product lines as well as with external product lines will be an important step toward profitability. The broadening of its HD product line is also expected to help.

"HD business will be very strong in 2004," he predicts. "I see it going from below 5% of revenue to a meaningful portion of revenue."

One of the products that will help in that effort will be VelocityHD, a nonlinear editing system that has the same software interface as the SD version.

"The premiums you used to see for HD gear are disappearing, so there might be a small increment," Thorsteinson explains. "But the suppliers are enabling more-complete HD productions more cost effectively."

Leitch's most important HD step is on the server side with the introduction of the NXMTS Nexio transmission server. It is the first Leitch server to support HD play-to-air (it also supports SD) and can be integrated with the shared storage system or used as an edge server in remote applications.

"Leitch hasn't participated fully in the HD-server market, and, in most of the world's markets, that's a tremendous disadvantage," Thorsteinson says. "By the second half of next year, a pretty good portion of our revenue will come from HD servers."

Another HD (and SD) server will be the Nexio server system. It features a multi-tiered storage hierarchy and integrated applications platforms for editing, browsing and media management. It can also be integrated with networked added storage and with DVD- and tape-based archives.

"Nexio goes to our theme of offering more-integrated products, where we provide more of the value ourselves," says Thorsteinson. "We have some intellectual property around our shared-storage technology that allows us to do more on the software side with a lot less hardware."

It's the NewsNet end-to-end newsroom system, however, where the integration message will be fully demonstrated. NAB attendees will be able to see a system that provides ingest, browse, edit and rundown capabilities and also integrates with newsroom computer systems like Avid iNews or AP's ENPS.