Ross SoftMetal Serves Up The Weather Channel

The Weather Channel is a 24/7 weather and news operation. We are staffed and structured like a news organization. And on a daily basis, we produce 18 live hours of programming, four hours are taped programming and two hours are replay hours. The Weather Channel is viewed all across the United States, reaching more than 60 million homes each month.

Like a lot of the industry, we have been concerned about limited high-definition space for program carriage on cable systems and felt it was time to prepare ourselves by upgrading our facility and all equipment for high-definition operations. We are using the Ross SoftMetal Video Server (SMS) as a graphics server to add production value to our programming. The clips that play out of the SMS are animated keyable transitions, keyable bugs, monitor loops, and similar production elements.

Steve Fahey The SMS is very flexible as regards our production needs. We chose to allocate one pair of channels for video and keying that are controlled via VDCP (video disk control protocol) from our Snell & Wilcox Kahuna production switcher. The other two server channels are manually controlled by our graphics operator. We've all been very happy with SoftMetal's performance on a day to day basis. The SoftMetal server system absolutely has improved the look of our productions.


We currently have a total of five 4-channel SMS systems: one for each of our three control rooms and two (main and backup) in master control. Each of the control rooms communicate to the servers via VDCP protocol. We have two Kahuna production switchers and also a Ross Synergy 3 MD-X Multi-Definition production switcher. The master control servers are controlled manually.

We purchased our SoftMetal servers based on a review of competitive products with similar features from a number of venders. In addition to feature set and functionality, competitive pricing was also a driving factor in the decision making process.


The SoftMetal's features that make it especially suited for its application include a file based workflow, support for MXF and QuickTime, fast cueing times, the ability to gang video and alpha channels, the system's media management, its ability to perform on-the-fly scaling, its software-based codecs, transcoding capability, and a serviceable chassis configuration.

Our decision to go with Ross was also based on workflow efficiencies, price/performance ratio, overall value, company support and service, and was topped off by our previous good experience with Ross products. Once the servers were delivered, installation and training went very quickly and easily, and we're very pleased with the results.

I'm the manager for the control room and studio staff, as well as in charge of all studio resources for The Weather Channel, and feel very good about the technical support that we've received from Ross Video; especially that from our sales representative. The company's demonstrated knowledge about how we could use their products to improve our production value has made quite and impression and made me very comfortable investing in SMS. Overall, I'm very pleased with SMS. We have a long term relationship with Ross Video and know that we will continue to work together in future.

Steve Fahey is Manager, Production Control at The Weather Channel in Atlanta, and has more than 10 years experience working with that organization. He may be contacted at

For additional information, contact Ross Video Ltd. at 613-652-4886 or visit