Broadcast Pix, in Billerica, Mass., continues to change its perception (and that of the industry at large) of what a switcher can (and should) do to meet the demands of current video production. In 2002 its founders broke away from a traditional switcher company called Echolab, with the vision to leverage IT technology and partner with third-party suppliers in order to offer a cost-effective system that met the new requirements for a less costly way to set up a control room and have it perform like professionals were used to.
So, the new company shipped its first system, Studio 1000, in 2003. Customers were challenged with having use a keyboard and mouse instead of a dedicated control panel.
Of course, some technical directors liked (and still do) their tactile panels, so Broadcast Pix’s new “Live Integrated Production System (LIPS)” offered the choice to operate it with a hard control panel or a computer keyboard. It combined a video switcher, character generator, clip store, still store, monitoring and format conversion. The innovation (for the time) with the original Broadcast Pix system—and every one since—was that all of these devices could be controlled and operated by a single operator, who could run an entire newscast by himself or herself. In a conventional control room, each of these was installed and operated as a separate box, with one staff member dedicated to each task.
Fast forward a few years, as the U.S. economy begins its downturn and broadcasters suffer a drought of advertising support, and the concept of one person replacing production teams of three or four people starts to resonate. Other companies, such as Grass Valley (Ignite), NewTek (TriCaster) and Ross Video (OverDrive) also developed automated production systems that have found success as well.
At this year’s NAB 2012 Show, Broadcast Pix will introduce the latest version of its control software (v3.0) that includes the ability to switch an entire newscast with a touch screen monitor (two models are available). They’ve also now changed the name of their production systems to “Video Control Centers,” to better reflect what they actually do.
Users still have the option of a hard control panel or a keyboard, but with the price of display screens dropping and a younger generation of users raised on new IT technology, Broadcast Pix CEO Ken Swanton thinks the time is right for a new type of interactive control.
“Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against a traditional hard control panel, but times have changed and our users are asking for new ways to do things,” Swanton said. ““Not every TD prefers a traditional control panel. For many, our new touch-screen controls are a more intuitive way to switch.”
Broadcast Pix also offers the ability to control its Granite, Mica and Slate systems from an IPad, iPhone and even with your voice. That’s right, unmanned, voice-activated video production is here.
The company has added support for a voice-activated video production option called VOX that eliminates the need for an operator. Using Broadcast Pix’s built-in Fluent Macros, VOX’s video-follow-audio capabilities lets users select camera presets, roll clips and animations, add or remove graphics, and execute PiP compositions by determining who in the room is speaking and switching to a camera focused on that person. The software includes timing controls that can be managed with a host override panel if desired. VOX is now being successfully used to televise a popular radio station's broadcasts in The Netherlands and can work for broadcasting meetings of all kinds on television, the Internet or projected in a conference room.
The new 3.0 software also features virtual set technology and automated, dual-channel graphics that can be tightly integrated with any Daktronics scoreboard. The later allows a production to use a Daktronics controller to retrieve data and stills from a scoreboard and have it automatically updated on screen as the score changes via the system’s Rapid CG templates.
The touch-screen includes a virtual joystick and knobs that control robotic cameras and picture-in-picture (PiP) box sizing, while new layering controls simplify placing content into key layers and moving them front to back. There is also new switcher transition controls and enhanced controls for selecting the built-in clip store, animation stores, and other elements stored on a Harris or Chyron graphics system.
The virtual set software enables up to eight cameras to have virtual backgrounds plus three key layers on top—for PiP, titles, and animated logos. Up to 3 PiP boxes on an animated background can each contain a virtual set and any can be zoomed out to full screen. An “eyedropper tool” is used for chromakey setup. Broadcast Pix provides several backgrounds within the software, but any photo can be used. Plus, the built-in image editor can crop and blur an image to simulate depth of field.
Also new for Video Control Center 3.0 is support for Fluent Rapid CG‚ the second generation of Broadcast Pix’s optional software that automatically integrates databases, RSS feeds, and custom action buttons into templates to streamline CG graphics workflows. Available as a free upgrade for current Rapid CG customers, Fluent Rapid CG 2 delivers faster updates; including clocks by-the-second, dual-channel capabilities to update two different on-air graphics at once, and support for EZNews graphics.
Other Video Control Center 3.0 standard features include: an integrated timer, which creates a countdown (or count up) of a show, so it is easy to keep track of how much time is left in a production; enhanced Sony camera control to support 12 cameras and 16 presets each; faster clip selection on AJA KiPro recorders; fade-to-black controls; multiple digital clocks; faster redraw time for customizing the Fluent-View. Control for a ViewCast streaming appliance is also included.
The new Video Control Center 3.0 software is available for free to existing Granite, Mica and Slate customers, and a Beta version is available for download. The company will ship the new software in March, and will demonstrate its features at the 2012 NAB Show (Booth SL6424) in April.
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