Graphics and effects systems

Learn about all the latest graphics and effects gear shown at the 2003 NAB show.
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This year's convention brought back the single-venue concept of yesteryear. Unfortunately, there was still just too much great technology to see such a short period of time. That said, I did make an effort to spend time with the leading graphics-and-effects systems and software vendors, with the goal of understanding the latest information on their products and the state of the industry.

Chyron, the longtime big kid on the graphics block, has a newfound vision that was received well by attendees. Chyron showed SOLO, its new laptop-based portable graphics system with full ITU-R 601/SDI input and output. The system works well in fast-paced sports and entertainment environments where flexibility is key. Alone or working with other Chyron applications, SOLO offers functionality and ease of operation in a laptop portable graphics system. SOLO won a Pick Hit award, and is also my pick of the show for graphics systems.

Also introduced was Chyron Asset Management and InterOperability (CAMIO), a graphics content-management and distribution system. It's a “hub-and-spoke” software system that is Web-enabled, MOS-compliant and open standards-based. CAMIO allows graphics operators at a “hub” location to create and manage graphic elements for local and remote “spoke” stations. It provides local station operators full access to the hub-created graphics templates, with the ability to either simply schedule graphics as is, or to easily modify them according to local needs. This allows stations to maintain corporate branding while assuring that the local graphics look and feel is not compromised.

SGI debuted its next-generation Onyx 350 computer system with InfiniteReality 4 graphics. Designed with a PCI-X architecture, it is the follow-up to the class of system used for real-time virtual set and graphics generation at facilities around the world. Also seen on SGI's Fuel desktop graphics system was WSI's Weather Central Super Genesis live system, a full-featured weather graphics system.

VizRT demonstrated its latest Content Pilot solution interoperating with and controlling broadcast servers and an included template-graphics system. The Content Pilot is the heart of the graphics-insertion automation as well as distribution- and playback-automation system. Although it is a complex system, it is simple to use. Expect more focused and complete systems from this Norwegian-based developer in the automation and management of live and real-time graphics.

The team at Pinnacle Systems released several updates to existing packages. These updates are focused on expanding upon their comprehensive solutions for the broadcast market with a specific focus on complete workflows. The company announced additions to all of its Deko platform systems and introduced Deko 1000, a low-cost, on-air graphics system built on the same technologies as their FX Deko II. Deko 1000 has all of the key features of the Deko line, whose members are now available at lower price points and targeted at entry-level customers. Deko 1000 offers users with smaller remote operations the opportunity to unify their graphics platform. The company also introduced DekoObjex, which is an option for FX Deko II, Deko 2200 and Deko 1000 that enables DVE-style object control. It enables users to define and play back independent DVE actions for individual elements or groups of elements on the screen. It can display complex compositions of up to two external video sources, two internal clips with key (alpha), text with effects, a lower-fifth crawl, and show elements such as a bug or clock — all from a single system.

Inscriber unveiled its new Inca line of products. The Inca Studio CG is designed with flexibility in mind. Instead of tying up several switcher rails with multiple CGs, DDRs, logo generators and other equipment, Inca Studio lets users perform many operations, such as create and display clocks and bugs, without using a separate box or channel. It can also dissolve between clips that can reside on any surface of composited graphics. Its ability to input both key and fill for capture, as well as for video pass-through, enables users to utilize it to be used as part of their compositing stream. The system also provides real-time transitions using images as mattes.

While it is typically not thought of as a player in the production-graphics market, Apple's recent acquisitions of high-caliber effects technologies are starting to pay dividends. Apple showed Shake 3, a compositing and effects solution for film and HD that supports Apple's OS X operating system. New features for this version are unlimited network rendering on the Mac OS X platform and further support for third-party plug-ins. While it might be overkill for many facilities, it's a system for many facilities doing creative production work to consider seriously.

While not a pure graphics or effects package, Apple's Final Cut Express has limited graphics functionality and supports DV and DVCPRO out of the box. It would be ideal for news operations.

Both Evertz and GVS won Pick Hit awards for products in the graphics and effects realm — Evertz for its HD9625LG logo inserter, and GVS for its GVS9000 Power Mac G4/Power PC graphics platform.

The single standout feature of the show was a trend toward integration and interoperability. While this is something that most vendors have worked for recently, it was not at the top of their priority list. But that has changed, as evidenced by the product releases as well as booth demos at the show. Rather than the latest whiz-bang feature that someone thought was a great idea, customers are demanding (and vendors are delivering) complete functionality that interoperates and coexists. In addition to smoothing workflow and cutting time to completion, this approach is extending Facilities' return on capitol investment. As a popular television celebrity once uttered, “I heartily endorse this game.”

C. Jason Mancebo is president and chief technologist at Korsade Technologies, a broadcast and digital media consulting firm.

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