Broadcast Pix, who redefined the production switcher to include graphics, clips and monitoring, now becomes the first switcher to include aspect ratio management. New AutoAspect lets 16:9 and 4:3 inputs, clips and graphics be used interchangeably and mixed together in the same production, while maintaining the aspect ratio of each, and can be extended to simultaneously output both sizes. The company also announced a new HD-SD I/O board, which will enable all Slate switchers to add HD-SDI cameras and produce a high definition show. The new HD-SD board will turn Slate into an affordable HD-SD control room. AutoAspect is available now as a free software upgrade, and the new HD-SD I/O board is expected to be available in late 2007 for $4,900.
According to Broadcast Pix President, Ken Swanton, “Broadcast Pix is all about providing tools for solo operators and small teams to create great-looking live video that once required a large control room and staff. Today’s announcements add innovative tools for widescreen and HD production. Only AutoAspect solves the many challenges of mixing 4:3 and 16:9 content in the same production. Adding HD to Slate creates such an inexpensive HD-SD control room compared to assembling and staffing a conventional one, that it and emerging HD-SDI cameras will accelerate the democratization of HD live production.”
AutoAspect addresses the many challenges of dealing with wide-screen production and content. It enables traditional (4:3) and widescreen (16:9) cameras, clips and graphics to be used in the same production, while preserving the aspect ratio of each.
Each input on the Slate switcher can be set for one of four AutoAspect treatments: box, crop, 14:9 or anamorphic (stretched). Conventional switchers provide only the anamorphic, which stretches images when crossing formats, resulting in people shot with 4:3 cameras looking too wide in a widescreen show, and people shot with widescreen cameras looking too thin in a 4:3 production. Instead, AutoAspect’s box, crop and 14:9 settings all maintain the original aspect ratio of the camera. The box setting adds bars in any color selected. Crop expands the image until the bars are gone, and crops off the extra video. 14:9 is a great in-between setting, with two thin bars, and just a little cropping. When a wide screen production is done right after a full screen one, AutoAspect automatically sets the right sources now pass through untreated, and treats the others.
AutoAspect also works on clips and animations within Slate’s built-in, four-hour uncompressed digital clip store, as well as the graphics in Slate’s five stores of titles, stills and logos. Each clip or graphic can be individually set to one of the four aspect settings, enabling 4:3 and 16:9 clips to be used interchangeably in all productions. There is no need for separate stores for each aspect ratio. AutoAspect also manages each DVE box, so clips and graphics can be dropped into a picture-in-picture box without worrying about their aspect ratio. A clip or graphic’s aspect setting can even be instantly changed on the fly in the middle of a show.
As an option, AutoAspect can be extended to outputs to simultaneously create 16:9 and 4:3 productions, such as for wide and full screen TV, or Internet and digital TV, or a projector and cable TV. Unlike conventional aspect ratio output converters that simply crop off the ends of a widescreen production to create a 4:3 one, AutoAspect can automatically handle the best placement of graphics, such as placing the logos in the corners of each production.
No other production switcher includes aspect ratio management as standard equipment, and only one offers some of the features as an expensive option.
HD-SD I/O Board
The new HD-SD I/O board is the third I/O board for the Slate switcher, joining an SD-SDI digital board and an analog board. The new board supports HD-SDI in 1080i or 720p, as well as SD-SDI. It provides 4 inputs and 1 output, each of which can be HD or SD. Up to two boards can be added to a Slate workstation, for up to 8 HD live inputs which are then combined with Slate’s many internal clip and graphic inputs.
The new HD board takes advantage of Broadcast Pix’s unique EDTV architecture to create an HD production with very good picture quality. The HDTV standard defines EDTV as enhanced digital television, which has twice the data rate of DTV, because EDTV is progressive 480p (576p in PAL). So, unlike external HD converters added to a conventional standard definition SDI switcher that must compress the HD signal all the way to DTV, the new Broadcast Pix HD board needs to only convert to EDTV, where all switcher motion processing then occurs with 10-bit precision. Progressive is well suited to switching video because of its ability to provide better smooth motion effects. And progressive integrates well with the contemporary workstation environment that hosts the Slate switcher and its digital clip stores, graphics system and CG.
All new Slate switchers are HD-ready, as the new HD-SD I/O board can be added to any model. The new HD board can also be added to all existing Slate switchers installed worldwide, including those in broadcast and sports applications, mobile production, corporate, education, religious and government productions.