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Small Package, Big Productions

Newtek’s Tricaster was put through its paces at Summer X Games XV in 2009.
IT technologies have powered integrated production systems from quirky kitchen appliance namesakes into mainstream control rooms. With production automation, built-in peripherals and third party device drivers, they boost quality and consistency, while pleasing “do more with less” management.

All aim for similar vertical markets—broadcast, live events, mobile/satellite, municipalities, etc. Newsrooms, however, still belong to Grass and Ross; the others use “bang for the buck” and “good things come in small package” appeals.


“Sales have grown throughout the recession,” said Ken Swanton, president of Broadcast Pix in Billerica, Mass. The company’s signature Slate production systems “are in 70+ countries... they cost a third less to buy and operate and use staff more efficiently.” Swanton attributes success to Slate’s Fluent workflow software. “Recently announced Version 7.3, a free upgrade, adds single button Macro recall of complex switcher moves, including specific clip/graphic files, plus robotic camera, audio mixer and server controls; also, enhanced multiview, file-based clip, and graphic library management,” Swanton said.

Community access TV station Melrose Massachusetts Television is a Slate customer. “The integration impressed me most; it’s not just a switcher, but a monitor wall, disk recorder, DVE, stillstore, and graphics system,” said Chip Potito, production engineer. “We replaced 4-5 equipment pieces and 10 CRTs, saving electricity, air conditioning and maintenance.” Since new public access equipment walks a fine line between scaring members away and technical sophistication, “it was important that everyone understand it,” Potito continued. “We had many ‘aha!’ moments discovering how much could be done.” Fluent macros “made effects unbelievably easy—I rebuilt the old system’s effects in just hours—a major time saver.”

When Billerica neighbor Echolab introduced its new Atem integrated production system at the 2009 NAB Show, the company touted the product’s quick to market launch and affordable price, as well as its versatility.

Atem’s forte is mixing input formats, according to senior product manager Ankit Patel. “For example, from a DVD player or laptop via HDMI plus SD/HD feeds—and simultaneously output multiple SD/HD flavors. Atem has a 10 input multiviewer with source labeling and two-channel media player for animated transitions and looping backgrounds.”

Patel emphasizes the importance of native processing, “which should equal or exceed the primary input to ensure the highest signal quality and least delay.” Atem is 3G [gigabit] in 720p and 1080i; a firmware update will soon enable 1080p/60.


According to Andrew Alexander, vice president of For-A, Canada, the company’s HVS-300HS is “probably the hottest small switcher on the market.” The highly engineered, format agile system has a configurable 16 channel multiviewer, picture-in-picture and 2D/3D DVEs, plus frame synchronization with up-conversion and aspect ratio correction on all inputs, “and it doesn’t rely on embedded computer technology,” he said.

For Lawrence Partington, partner and executive producer at Toronto teleport and satellite services company, TV2GO, “For-A was the obvious choice... auto sensing lets it accept any camera/video source. Our typical clients are broadcasters with their own ENG cameras; our truck has to support whatever the ‘client-du-jour’ supplies. Plus, the switcher’s very small footprint and self-generated monitor display saves rack space—one 46-inch LCD can be configured as a camera/switching display, uplink/downlink/off-air confidence monitor, or full ‘home theater’ mode via the switcher.”

John Benson, Grass Valley product manager for integrated production solutions, promotes the company’s Ignite HD system for news and live studio production. “It scales to all market sizes and handles complex scripted or non-scripted scenarios.” The MediaFUSE option streamlines multimedia distribution with preproduction mark-up for over-the-air, Web and mobile platforms. Ignite auto-parses “content into on-demand segments with all associated metadata—video clips, story text, stills, thumbnails, and predefined syndication points—into multiple formats,” Benson said.

For NAB and beyond, the company plans to announce integration with GV’s Kalypso and Kayenne switchers, according to Benson. “Adding an Ignite automation layer makes live production more cost-effective.” Also, interfaces to Calrec audio consoles and Cambotics camera pedestals; plus, segment or show time based event triggers. “It greatly simplifies on-air for directors, yet has manual override when needed,” he said.

James Lowery, chief engineer for WJXT, a Post-Newsweek-owned independent station in Jacksonville, Fla. considers their Ignite HD system “among our best capital purchases in a decade... it improved [eight hours of] daily newscasts and the viewer experience with consistently paced, accurate shows. Ignite is the heart of our facility and we rely on it greatly.”


IPS pioneer NewTek in San Antonio, Texas, squeezes a powerful mix of high-end functionality into its small TriCaster package. “Anyone can simultaneously produce, live stream, broadcast and project net-quality HD or SD productions,” said Philip Nelson, NewTek’s senior vice president, strategic development. “A single operator can switch between three cameras, five virtual inputs and live virtual sets, while automatically inserting clips, titles and motion graphics with multi-channel effects.” Recent additions include an end-to-end 1080i pipeline, including effects, keying and virtual sets; mixed HD/SD in/outputs, and zoom, pan or position within virtual HD sets without camera operators.

Victoria, Texas city council uses Rushworks to broadcast its meetings. “Durability” is another apt adjective, according to Kate Nelligan, ESPN programming producer, Global X Events & Development. “We used TriCaster for three key elements of our live coverage: Capture, playback and manage pre-produced content; live switching of competition feeds and on-camera interviews; and to create and overlay text and graphics. TriCaster ran continuously over a five-day period, without crashing, outdoors in a high temperature, high humidity environment.”

OverDrive from Ross Video of Iroquois, Ontario, is in “nine top 10, and many smaller U.S. markets,” according to company product manager Brad Rochon. “Customers want to improve workflow efficiency and on-air quality; one OverDrive operator can manage complex, fast-paced rundowns,” Rochon said. “We’ve achieved workflows that wouldn’t be possible using traditional methods. Outside news, we can automate server/CG management via ‘DirectControl.’ GUI and interface enhancements are ongoing as users explore new workflows.”

Version 9.0 of OverDrive will be unveiled at NAB, sporting “a redesigned GUI with resizable/movable modules for operators to customize their environment, plus a Rundown view to display grouped or discrete device channels for dynamic on-air management,” Rochon said.

Brooklyn’s Trans Video Communications is a committed advocate, using OverDrive to produce “Currents,” a live, daily faith-based news program for New Evangelization Television’s cable channels in New York City. “Two Ross-trained ‘super users’ provide all the manpower we need to produce a dynamic magazine show with four robotic cameras, three floor sets, graphics and more,” said Juan Morales, director of engineering.

Rushworks Media in Flower Mound, Texas, “developed REMO for multicamera field production with controls for six manned or remote pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) cameras, audio mixing, and VGA/DVI to source a computer into the mix,” according to founder and president Rush Beesley; it’s a good match for short-staffed content creators,” says founder and president Rush Beasley. “We’ll debut REMO-HD at NAB, with touchscreen support and new graphics preparation options.”

Victoria, Texas-based Agama Advertising offers video production and presentation services for clients throughout the country. Their REMO “has proven stable and trustworthy for the Victoria City Council meetings we contracted to cover,” said Ben Price, production services manager. “We put it through the wringer—tried making it do things Rushworks didn’t intend—it’s never frozen during a show, so I’m genuinely pleased. REMO eliminated days of tedious post-production by city staff; effectively doing it all live, on-the-fly.” Four permanently installed PTZ cameras in the city’s meeting room speed setup.