JAMES R. BAIRD /
06.21.2002 12:00 PM
Format conversion

Format conversion

By James R. Baird

Most stations with large news operations deal with multiple formats now. Today, stations are lucky to deal with only two formats, one for news acquisition and news production, and another for air operations. With the new mantra of modern content creation “produce once — publish many times,” this will put pressure on engineering budgets to come up with format conversion tools that are seamless and easily operated. Stations are mainly converting analog to SDI, SMPTE 259 to SMPTE 292, tape to disk, and performing some simple file conversions for graphics. Tomorrow, with multi-broadcast opportunities becoming a reality, there will be a need for increased efficiency in conversion.

Format conversion will begin to touch many station systems. Some of these, such as news production, studio production, nonlinear editing and single-channel transmission, we are familiar with as traditional broadcast engineers. Multichannel transmission, streaming media encoding and Internet broadcasting will stress today's content production tools, archive, routing and distribution systems. With the right format conversions we will be able to repurpose the content that we use in the control room for streaming media revenue streams.

No matter what format you produce your content in, at NAB2002 there was a conversion box that would fit your needs. Omneon's Networked Content Server System is a scalable system that allows stations to make infrastructure changes from analog to digital, tape to disk, and single channel to multichannel.

The Omneon system supports a variety of formats, including DV, DVCPRO, DVCPRO50, MPEG-2, 601 (uncompressed), SDTI and AES/EBU, AC-3, and Dolby E. All supported file types reside together in the storage system as data. When the media is called for, the data is sent across the network and the actual conversation takes place in the Media Ports at the edge of the network.

Leitch highlighted its Neo line of modular interfaces, featuring modules for frame synchronization. Neo updates technical parameters for each module and works with command control system applications to provide remote control, diagnostics, inventory and monitoring.

Axon Digital Design also had its conversion products on display, in particular the Synapse, which features embedded audio as an integrated part of the system and allows all parameters to be monitored carefully. The system can be remote-controlled and upgraded to be compatible with SNMP.

The Ensemble Designs' booth this year featured the Avenue signal integration system for video and audio conversion. The system's 3RU mounting tray accommodates up to 10 modules and includes provisions for the networkable remote control system, while the 1RU mounting tray accommodates up to three modules.

Visual Matrix demonstrated its upconverter, the MiniXBox. The MiniXBox features image processing with motion adaptive analysis and includes frame-based conversion for maximum vertical resolution. It has real-time zoom, pan and scan, and complete aspect ratio controls. All 18 HDTV formats are supported, as well as NTSC, PAL and PAL O/S.

Teranex offered its Xantus-one to provide broadcasters with a cost-effective upgrade path to HDTV in a 3RU unit. The Xantus-one features colorspace conversion, 3:2 telecine, detail enhancement, scene change detection and aspect ratio conversion.

Cobalt Digital featured its conversion system, Model 4035, which converts 4:2:2 serial digital input to analog component, composite, S-video and two SDI outputs. The system also features auto NTSC/PAL detection and configuration, external configuration switches and a built-in color bar generator. As facilities plan modifications to the operating infrastructures to move from analog to digital, it becomes apparent that stations' subsystems will have some commonalities. Media will move from local environments to shared systems. Various media formats can be stored as shared files to develop end products efficiently and to increase the facility's productivity. Systems can be configured for production, transmission, archiving, networking and streaming media applications and will be able to benefit from “create once, publish many times” economies.


James R. Baird is an engineering manager for WEWS-TV.


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