The HD-1 took engineers six weeks to design and a month to build. The system enables the use of multiple formats using one processing frame.
LMG, a national provider of video, audio, lighting, staging and presentation support headquartered in Orlando, FL, took on the challenge to design a multiformat, high-definition truck-in-a-box — designated the HD-1. This would greatly increase show capabilities and enable manipulation of multiple formats using- only one processing mainframe — a technique that doesn't compromise image quality.
The concept behind the project was intermixing HD and SD sources within the same switching system. This gives clients flexibility by enabling them to use HD and SD sources simultaneously, without internal or external signal conversion equipment, and output the information to multiple destinations.
In the past, two different switchers were used, and sources were upconverted or downconverted to achieve the same appearance, which altered aspect ratios and ultimately sacrificed quality. Upconverting video signals to match high-resolution graphic images made the video images appear soft and out of focus. Alternatively, downconverting computer graphics to match video sources resulted in a loss of resolution. The HD-1 eliminated these issues.
Of course, new technology comes with new obstacles and challenges. The major hurdle with the HD-1 system was designing a one-unit processing system that could convert both HD and SD internally. The fewer steps involved in processing, the less chance that the equipment could manipulate the output quality.
Snell & Wilcox’s 1-ME Kahuna sidecar enables operators to do a separate line cut.
LMG ordered all components, including cameras, harnesses and terminal gear, from outside vendors. To combat compatibility issues, the company worked closely with many manufacturers, including Evertz, Snell & Wilcox and Grass Valley, to ensure that all of the designs would conform to the requirements.
There were several systems that were new to LMG, such as the Snell & Wilcox Kahuna switcher, which was one of the first delivered to the United States, and the Grass Valley LDK 6000 Worldcam cameras.
The installation procedure
The design of the system required an intensive, six-week process in which a core group of four engineers worked 12- to 14-hour days, seven days a week. Building the entire system took close to a month.
Getting all the equipment mounted into five short racks required careful planning. The equipment above includes a Snell & Wilcox Kahuna 3 ME switcher, Grass Valley Worldcam and Concerto multiformat router and Evertz signal conversion frames.
Taking all of these individual pieces and configuring them into a five-tiered enclosed system was a daunting task. The goal was to place multiple pieces of equipment within close proximity without overheating them. At the same time, the rack layouts were designed for ease of use for operators and serviceability for the maintenance team.
Issues surfaced when LMG needed to reconfigure the design on the spot to accommodate the varying sizes of the equipment when it arrived. The individual units were awkward shapes and sizes — sometimes larger than the rack unit specified sizes.
In particular, one of the electronic mainframe units was larger than expected. LMG then had to reconfigure the entire rack to accommodate the unit. This resulted in a three- to four-day redesign of the system.
Otherwise, the rest of the procedure took place as planned with no additional delays. All equipment and cable placements went smoothly. The company cut pre-determined lengths of cable and terminated one end with either video or audio connectors so that engineers could lace that end and cut it to its actual desired length, aiding the installation process.
Effect on the industry
Benefits of this technology are far-reaching for the industry. The HD-1 system pushes the boundary by offering a single, internal multiformat switching system. With this equipment, users can switch, route, wire and record multiple formats simultaneously. For example, users can present a 1080i format on screen with either a 720p or a 480i and have a standard-definition record on display at the same time.
The Snell & Wilcox Kahuna 4 ME HD/SD switcher features FormatFusion, which allows users to integrate any SD material seamlessly into HD productions.
From the client's perspective, the HD-1 gives designers more creative room to enhance the presentation because SD and HD are within the same frame, providing greater flexibility. Typically, clients bring sources of all different formats to a show. It was LMG's responsibility to standardize the signal output. The HD-1 streamlines the switching procedure into a one-step internalized process. The system itself is also flexible, as its configuration can be customized to meet individual show specifications.
As it often does, this new technology could take some time to become an industry standard. Until then, LMG will provide knowledgeable staff engineers assigned to the HD-1 when it is delivered to a show site. These experts handle routing issues and combat technical challenges that may occur in the field. And the same team of engineers who helped design the system will be available to troubleshoot.
LMG factored convenience into the design of the HD-1 system by installing a managed switch. This switch is the control device that allows communication with a central computer wired to every device in the package — from cameras to routers, to the switcher to terminal monitoring gear. Users can configure all of these pieces wirelessly from one laptop in a remote location.
Those who have embraced the new multiformat, HD truck-in-a-box are working to incorporate it into more shows and events, in hopes that this technology will become the new industry standard. Companies who make investing in this new technology an integral part of their business plans are poised to become invaluable industry leaders, providing their clients with the latest equipment and an edge in the presentation business.
A new standard
Kevin McCabe is chief engineer at LMG.
Kevin McCabe, chief engineer
Adam Hunley, engineering supervisor
Robert Murdock, video services manager
Tim Wiley, vice president of show services
Installation by LMG staff
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Concerto 128×128 multiformat router
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Snell & Wilcox
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