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Pixel Power Clarity Pleases Astral Media

by Chris Bell
Vice President of Technology
Astral Media

Astral Media, a leading broadcaster of English- and French-language pay and specialty TV, recently undertook a program to add dynamic branding to its selection of HD channels.

We had been using Clarity 500 systems from Pixel Power on our SD channels and were pleased with both their operation and the support from the company. Astral has a number of high-definition channels on air, but our graphics capability on those channels had been limited to pre-built elements.


Chris Bell We selected the Clarity 3000 system from Pixel Power to provide dynamic branding for our HD channels. Physically, the Clarity 3000 system is a compact 3 RU-sized unit. This HD/SD switchable graphics system can be configured either as a single channel with preview output, or as two independent channels. It offers a complete mix of character generation, still store, DVE and 3D tools, along with optional video clip and audio capability. We planned to take advantage of Clarity 3000's ability to display multiple clip player video squeeze windows onscreen simultaneously, giving us the flexibility to create more complex looks for our branding.

Pixel Power's Clarity 3D option gives us access to inline, real-time 3D graphics that can be built right on the timeline. It has a number of useful features including the ability to respond automatically to real-time data sources and automation triggers.

The Clarity 3000 and Clarity 3D systems incorporate a very useful timeline editor. Anyone who has used an NLE or After Effects immediately takes to this intuitive style of working. In today's on-air graphics, where there is often a lot of information presented on the screen simultaneously, this timeline-based interface dramatically cuts design time for the creation of complex graphics sequences.

One of the key strengths—in fact, a critical factor for us—was the advanced audio handling capabilities of the system, in particular its built-in support for AC-3 and Dolby-E. Until now, handling Dolby-E has required a lot of extra equipment, both downstream and upstream of the CG's, to allow us to handle multichannel audio. The Clarity 3000 puts the entire process in one box, providing a seamless mix of video/audio elements with the main program feed. This, combined with the internal clip players, takes care of all our dynamic branding requirements within a single CG device.


We were pleased with Pixel Power's response to a new requirement to handle insertion of real-time audio watermarking for Personal People Meter's (PPM's) that came up in mid-project. As these watermarking devices only work with baseband audio, we needed an audio "effects loop" out of the CG—a feed taken before the fully mixed audio is passed to the onboard AC-3 encoder. Pixel Power was able to provide a configuration that met our requirement, once again, simplifying our downstream equipment configuration.

We're very happy with our decision in selecting Clarity to provide Astral with a common graphics platform across our SD and HD channels. This choice has dramatically simplified operations and made it easier for our staff to work efficiently.

Chris Bell has more than 25 years of broadcast engineering experience and is vice president of technology at Astral Media, one of Canada's largest television and radio broadcast corporations. He may be contacted at

For additional information, contact Pixel Power at 818-276-4515 or visit