Broadcasters are making the final push towards
converting to digital, and now that prices have fallen to reasonable levels, they
are installing high-definition studios at their stations.
Networks are getting up and running in high definition, or upgrading studios and
control rooms to make them even more efficient. Executives want to be able to easily
swap components in and out of their systems, to automate as many processes as possible
and do it all without breaking the bank.
Vendors understand those needs, so this year’s NAB Show offerings included lots
of automated editors, switchers and workflow systems; top notch, reasonably priced
cameras and monitors; and feature rich products with plenty of options.
Here’s an overview of what several of the top vendors brought to market.
Interoperability is the name of the game for Harris Corp. at this year’s NAB
For years, Harris has been pushing the industry to create standards so that all
newsroom hardware and software can work together. In February, Harris announced
the creation of a $2.5 million, 43-rack interoperability lab based in Toronto as
part of its One initiative. There, Harris will work to ensure products from other
vendors work seamlessly with their own.
“We’re really serious about this interoperability between products,” said Stan Moote,
vice president of corporate development at Harris Broadcast Communications in Mason,
Ohio. “We have the ability to do this because we’re the only vendor who provides
such a wide variety of products.”
Part of that initiative includes upgrading Harris products--such as routers, switchers
and servers--to 3 Gbps capacity to handle the emerging 1080p high-definition format.
Many Harris products that now run at 1.5 Gbps can be upgraded to 3 Gbps with a software
“That allows the broadcaster who is moving toward the next generation of equipment
to future-proof toward the next standard,” Moote said.
Harris also is working on a standard that will support mobile television applications,
something broadcasters want done quickly. The company is running a live test of
a commercial mobile TV exciter based on the MPH standard it’s developing with LG,
which is demonstrating mobile TV devices at NAB.
“Assuming our standard gets adopted, we will be able to quickly bring to market
an exciter solution and get broadcasters up on and running for mobile and handheld
devices as soon as possible,” said Dave Glidden, vice president of marketing operations.
Inside the newsroom, Harris is rolling out the NewsForce HD/SD end-to-end workflow
The system runs on top of the Harris open-standards-based Nexio storage area network
and incorporates several kinds of MOS-enabled editors, including the NewsForce editing
line. The NewsForce newsroom system integrates with AP’s ENPS, Avid’s iNews and
other systems, as well as with Apple Final Cut Pro. It also features a file-based
quality control server called “QUIC,” which automatically checks and corrects audio
and video levels on incoming content, a process many broadcasters have said they
would like to be able to automate.
“The big news here is really the way things work together,” says Peter Douglas,
director of news and sports solutions, strategic marketing and technology for Harris.
NEW XDCAM ADDITIONS
This year, Sony’s focus is on its XDCAM PDW-700 2/3-inch CCD camcorder integrated
with the PDW-HD1500 recording deck; and the smaller, more nimble XDCAM PMW-EX1.
The PDW-HD1500 can record approximately 95 minutes at 50 Mbps, 150 minutes at 35
Mbps, and 200 minutes at 25 Mbps HD. The PDW-700 camcorder allows for up to 50 GB
of storage at 50 Mbps, and can record in both 1080i and 720p at a maximum
resolution of 1920x1080 pixels. Sony is demonstrating the camera’s capability to
record on optical disc as well as its newly developed flash memory system, SxS Pro.
“That gives the customer versatility with optical being the primary acquisition
piece,” said Bob Ott, Sony Electronics vice president of optical and professional
The PDW-700 retails around $30,000, while the PDW-HD1500 lists around $21,000.
The Sony XDCAM PMW-EX1 is a high-definition camcorder, released in November, which
lists for $7,790 but is available online for as little as $5,515.
The EX1 uses SxS Pro to record video at a rate of 800 Mbps. Equipped with two memory
card slots, the EX1 can record up to 100 minutes of HD footage at 35 Mbps or 140
minutes at 25 Mbps using two 16 GB SxS cards.
“The camera was not targeted toward broadcasters,” Ott said, “but they have purchased
it and they like it. We have one broadcaster that’s purchased more than 50.”
Thomson Grass Valley is demonstrating two system upgrades meant to automate
and integrate broadcasters’ high-definition newsrooms while improving workflow.
TGV’s new Ignite IQ software, which will be available at the end of the year, adds
more automation to the original Ignite system.
Thomson Grass Valley Ignite
For example, IQ can preprogram every news segment and let it run automatically to
air, or a producer can change segment order on the fly. It automatically switches
newsroom cameras and auto-corrects shots to keep the anchor or reporter properly
framed at all times. And it can control audio and video mixers, graphics systems
and video servers while integrating with existing newsroom control systems.
“It covers all of the necessary third-party peripheral products that a manually
controlled environment usually operates,” said Alex Holtz, director for the Integrated
Production Solutions product line at Thomson Grass Valley.
For customers already using TGV’s Kayak video switcher, an overlay version of Ignite
called Ignite Lite will be available. By the third quarter, TGV will roll out a
stripped-down version of Ignite that integrates the Yamaha LS9 16- and 32-channel
audio mixers used widely across smaller markets.
Ignite IQ’s and Lite’s pricing varies depending on the system, but costs can run
anywhere from $150,000 to $2 million, depending on scalability and redundancy requirements..***image10***
Thomson Grass Valley also is releasing its Aurora Craft editing system, a spin-off
of the company’s richly featured Aurora nonlinear editing system, said Ed Cassica,
TGV’s director of product marketing for servers and digital news production.
Aurora Craft integrates Thomson Grass Valley’s Edius editor, which it acquired two
years ago. Edius is a collaborative server-based system that allows several people
to use the same files simultaneously. Aurora Craft will be available in the second
quarter, with pricing dependent on system configuration.
BUILDING ON AVC-INTRA
Heading into the NAB Show, Panasonic introduced several products using its
AVC-Intra compression scheme, including studio and field cameras, recorders, monitors
and a multiformat HD/SD switcher. It’s also rolling out 64 GB P2 cards, which will
expand the storage capacity of many of its cameras and field recorders.
The company brought a range of cameras to Las Vegas, from prosumer to high-end studio
In February, Panasonic started shipping the AK-HC3500, which is one of the cameras
NBC will use to shoot the Beijing Olympics. Panasonic introduced the camera at last
year’s NAB Show, at a list price of $56,000. The AK-HC3500 incorporates three 2/3-inch
CCDs, a newly developed 38-bit signal processor and a 14-bit A/D converter, delivering
images in 1080/59.94i and 1080/50i.***image11***
“It also has the ability to manipulate the image to the environment,” said Bob Harris,
Panasonic’s vice president of marketing.
Panasonic announced the AV-HS400 video switcher in early March. The new switcher
mixes HD and SD video sources, with optional boards to upconvert standard definition
to high definition. The AV-HS400 includes a multiviewer that allows users to output
four, six or 10 feeds from different sources to a single high-res display, incorporating
a 10-bit frame synchronizer.
The base model includes four each HD/SD-SDI inputs and outputs, but it can be expanded
to up to eight I/Os--for $1,150 with a dual-HD analog component board; or $2,390
with a DVI/component one.
Panasonic is also demonstrating the BT-LH1760, its new 17-inch widescreen high-definition
LCD production monitor, which it claims provides the same motion handling and latency
advantages formerly only available with CRT monitors. The monitor uses an in-plane
switching panel with 1280x768 resolution, and it features a 120 Hz refresh rate,
double that of standard LCD monitors, allowing it to handle fast motion.
The LH1760 will ship in April for a list price under $5,000.
WIRELESS HD ENG
Hitachi is entering the high-end studio camera market at this year’s NAB
Show by adding several features to its SK-HD1000 camera--an array of 2/3-inch CCDs;
tapeless recording; an optional cross-converter to shoot and transmit in 1080i or
720p; a digital triaxial and a wireless HD transmission system. Some of the features
are ready now; others are coming later this year.
Hitachi HD HD1000
“We’ve always been a studio camera manufacturer and this is our play to get into
high definition,” says Sean Moran, Hitachi’s national sales manager for broadcast
and professional products. “It’s our first low-cost HD offering.”
Hitachi designed the SKD-HD1000 in two parts for added flexibility. Clients can
use optical fiber, digital triaxial cable, high-definition wireless or even coaxial
cable to transmit images from the camera.
The company expects to release its HDTV digital triax transmission system by the
end of the year.
The HD wireless system will “afford newscasters the ability to go out into the field
and be able to broadcast live HD video back to the studio,” Moran said. He recognizes
there are “still some hiccups in that process,” due to the Sprint Nextel 2 GHz BAS
Hitachi is also rolling out a dockable tapeless recorder that can run on the back
of the SK-HD1000, although that system may end up being more appropriate for a lower-cost,
field-focused camera that Hitachi plans to introduce at NAB 2009.
The SK-HD100 retails for $53,000 without lenses.
HD FIELD TRANSMITTERS
RF Central’s new RFX-CMT-II camera-mounted transmitters are designed to help
broadcasters prepare for the day when they are ready to wirelessly transmit high
definition pictures back to the studio.
“These transmitters provide a clear path for stations to migrate from SD to HD,”
said Keith Blaisdell, the company’s director of engineering and production. “A customer
can buy a CMT-II now in standard definition and then pay for an upgrade when he’s
ready to go to high definition.”
RF Central’s CMT-II transmitters “work with virtually every type of camera on the
market,” Blaisdell said. “They can handle a variety of different inputs coming from
a variety of different cameras.”
RF Central is offering two models of the CMT-II--one for the licensed 2 GHz band
most commonly used for ENG, and, another for the unlicensed 5.8 GHz band, used for
transmitting HD images within a sports arena, for example.
The CMT-II 2 GHz costs $30,000 for the SD model, and another $6,000 for the HD upgrade.
The 5.8 GHz SD version is a bit more expensive at $32,950, with the HD upgrade remaining
the same price.
RF Central also is introducing the PRX-II COFDM handheld monitor and receiver at
NAB that will be available both for the 2 GHz and 5.8 GHz bands. The PRX-II, which
currently is available only in standard definition, features a 5.6-inch LCD screen.
Camera crews and producers in the field can use the monitor to wirelessly receive,
view and record video. The PRX-II will list for about $2,500.
CONTROL ROOM IN A BOX
Billerica, Mass.-based Broadcast Pix is adding high definition capability
to its Slate line of file-based switchers, which include character generators, clip
stores, still-image stores and monitoring, all of which can be networked with content
from edit bays.
“This product is quite different,” said Ken Swanton, president of Broadcast Pix.
“It really has all the stuff in it that you would find in a control room. It creates
a live HD studio. All you have to do is add cameras.”
Thus far, Slate switchers are largely used in smaller applications, such as auxiliary
studios or backup systems, although some producers have found the Slate is more
robust than they expected.
“We sold a system to an NBC station where they did a digital weather channel that
took up their whole control room for five hours every day. They bought our product
and now they are able to do the channel with one person sitting in the corner, and
they don’t have to tie up their control room,” says Swanton.
Capitol Broadcasting’s WRAL Raleigh, N.C., was the first high-definition station
in the country to buy the Slate, which the station uses to run its ancillary digital
Broadcast Pix is offering three versions of the Slate switcher. The smallest, the
Slate 100 HD, is priced at $14,400 and is intended for smaller applications. The
Slate 1000 HD adds a professional switcher control panel and runs $22,400 The Slate
3000 HD, which adds a Harris HD router and thus several more I/O channels, runs
Broadcast Pix introduced a larger, more robust Slate switcher intended for larger
broadcast operations prior to the 2008 NAB Show.