NAB Tech Sampling: Part II

A further look at the latest gear for broadcast, satellite and cable companies

As usual, the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas was overflowing with technology news. B&C offers another peek at the latest gear.

Quantel Expands Broadcast Line

U.K.-based editing and effects specialist Quantel introduced two new broadcast editors for its Enterprise sQ and Newsbox HD integrated production systems, as part of the new Quattro software it is rolling out across all of its editing products.

The new SD- and HD-capable editors, with the decidedly low-tech names Jo and Ed, are designed for fast-turnaround news applications and are being positioned as a more cost-effective replacement for Quantel's previous range of six editors.

Jo is “a simple-to-use, desktop editor for journalists,” says Quantel marketing chief Steve Owen, and is suitable for viewing, shot selection, rough-cutting or complete desktop packaging. Jo is adapted to work inside newsroom computer systems to provide editing, scripting and control from a single interface.

Ed is a more fully featured craft editor. It includes Quantel's new multi-layer timeline, which allows SD and HD material to be edited on the same or different layers without restriction or rendering, and the complete Quantel production toolset. It is available as a software-only model for the PC platform or bundled with proprietary Quantel hardware for extra performance. Owen says that pricing for the software-only version of Ed will be competitive with Apple's Final Cut Pro, which sells for around $1,300.

Quantel's existing Newsbox HD and Enterprise sQ systems can be upgraded with the new Quattro software, which offers new support for Panasonic's P2 and AVC-Intra acquisition formats and compatibility with Dino, Quantel's new networking tool for sharing news and sports content between remote locations.

Tandberg Offers DTV Solution

Transmission and compression supplier Tandberg Television introduced an integrated receiver/decoder that is designed to maintain the status quo for cable and satellite operators that currently receive and retransmit local stations' analog broadcast signals, but will have to deal with digital-only signals come Feb. 18, 2009, when high-power analog broadcasts cease.

The RX8320 ATSC Broadcast Receiver with 8-VSB input allows any high-definition digital TV service to be downconverted for analog standard-definition delivery. It is specifically targeted at cable operators that by FCC rule will not only have to receive and retransmit high-definition ATSC broadcast signals for customers with HDTV sets, but also take those signals and provide a downconverted version of them to serve analog subscribers.

“It makes it seem like you still have NTSC baseband [analog TV],” says Matthew Goldman, Tandberg VP of technology.

The RX8320, which lists for $2,195, provides both 8-VSB and ASI inputs to enable the reception of broadcast services over terrestrial or fiber links, and offers automatic redundant switchover between the inputs.

A transport stream output provides a pass-through capability, so that operators can carry the digital signals all the way to a subscriber's home for viewers with HDTV sets and/or set-top boxes. More important, to support analog TV delivery the RX8320 provides MPEG-2 video decode and Dolby Digital audio decode capabilities, which include 5.1 multi-channel to stereo down-mixing for an easy interface into the existing infrastructure.

The device will also automatically convert the picture's aspect ratio based on any active format descriptor (AFD) data and bar data present on the incoming digital TV service. It also helps cable operators fulfill other regulatory requirements for DTV carriage by extracting, translating and inserting closed captioning, Nielsen data, TV Guide data, and V-chip program rating information into the analog video outputs.

With the Feb. 17, 2009, analog turnoff looming, cable operators have shown great interest in the RX8320, Goldman says, and visited Tandberg's booth to specifically check out that one product.

Chyron Touts Web Graphics

Chyron once enjoyed a dominant position in broadcast graphics with hardware-based systems like its ubiquitous Infinit! character generator, but has lost market share in recent years to software-based systems that run on generic hardware such as Vizrt. It was preaching a new direction at NAB.

The Melville, N.Y.-based company has made a strategic shift to providing graphics through the Internet after acquiring Web-based graphics firm Axis Graphics for $3 million in January.

Axis, which already had 150 television station customers, is now called Chyron Online but its products, which include typical news graphics such as over-the-shoulders, charts, maps, quotes and weather graphics, are still marketed under the Axis brand.

Axis is a subscription service that allows users to create template-based graphics at their desktop through a Web-based interface, then renders the graphic on its own servers and delivers the finished product as a file transfer via the Internet.

The graphic can be played to air off Chyron's hardware systems, which Chyron has fully integrated with Axis, or off third-party hardware.

With the cost savings of the Web-based model, Chyron is seeking to grow its base of television customers but also target newspaper companies and others that are increasingly looking to put high-quality graphics on their Websites. Chyron CEO Michael Wellesley-Wesley sees a big upside in Axis for Chyron, whose annual revenues have hovered in the $20 million range for years but which posted $32.3 million in 2007 revenues based on strong international growth. Axis should expand Chyron's customer base. Indeed he announced that Gannett has adopted Axis across its station group and that Yahoo was its first pure-play Internet customer.

Wellesley-Wesley predicts that 900 to 1,200 television customers will use one or more of the Axis services.

Chyron also announced a partnership with The Associated Press in which its AxisNews product will be able to access the images stored in AP's GraphicsBank database, already used in thousands of newsrooms. The agreement builds on previous integration work between the two companies to interface AP's ENPS newsroom computer systems with Chyron's hardware using the Media Object Server (MOS) protocol, and calls for future joint R&D and cooperative marketing.

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