Ross Expands Headquarters, Product Line

IROQUOIS, ONTARIO–Ross Video's growing bottom line is forcing it to expand its headquarters here.

Ross Video is introducing its new Carbonite Switcher at NAB. The manufacturer, which calls the small Ontario town of Iroquois its home, has grown significantly over the past several years and will consolidate several satellite spaces and more than double its main factory space from 20,000 to 54,000 square feet. "We expect to break ground sometime in May," said Jeff Moore, Ross Video executive vice president, adding that total square footage when all is done will total 57.5K.

Iroquois is a community of 1,500 on the St. Lawrence River and an hour and a half south of Ottawa. John Ross, a former tech executive with Central Dynamics, established the company in Iroquois after launching Ross Video with the sale of his first switcher for $3,500 in 1974.

Nearly four decades later, his son, David leads the company, which has seen a significant product expansion in recent years. Although it made its name selling broadcast production switchers, Ross Video has been quietly acquiring the technology to develop products throughout the broadcast production chain, from switching to storage, signal processing and graphics.

Making its home base in the Ottawa area is no accident. Frequently referred to as "Canada's Silicon Valley," the area is home to more than 3,000 hi tech companies, with an emphasis on telecommunications, (Nortel and JDS started there). Nearby educational institutions, such as Carleton University and the University of Waterloo "have allowed us to tap into some very good skill sets," said Moore.

According to David Ross, the privately owned company has grown an average of 15-20 percent annually over the past two decades and by the end of 2011, expects to boast more than 350 employees worldwide.

Ross attributes a large part of the company's growth to word of mouth as well as brand awareness. In the early years, "we were viewed as very cost effective but probably not as good as the brand names that were out there," he said. "It's just within the past few years that we've been able to break through. People are recognizing Ross as being a premium brand."

Within the past decade, the company has added the essential elements that surround the switcher production environment, including automation (OverDrive), storage (SoftMetal), graphics (XPression), signal processing (openGear) and this year, routers.

Ross Video will more than double the size of its Iriquois manufacturing plant this year. The expanded product line "gives us more opportunity to talk to customers," Ross said. "Our salespeople now have a reason to call on a regular basis because our customers always need something that we sell. And having that critical mass of product is partly what is causing this [current] growth spurt."

That growth spurt can also be partly attributed to the acquisitions the company has made over the past several years. In 2010, it acquired Norpak, which manufactures Nielsen encoders and Closed Captioning Inserters as well as VBI, VANC and transport stream data insertion products. Ottawa-based Norpak has been an openGear partner for the past four years and offers a range of openGear-compliant data insertion products.

The acquisition, according to Ross, "means every channel, satellite, cable and broadcaster in North America is an automatic existing Ross Video customer." Also last year, the company acquired a router product line from Melbourne, Australia-based Codan Broadcast Products Pty Ltd., a subsidiary of Codan Ltd. The purchase also allowed Ross to open its second international office in less than a year.

Two years ago it acquired Media Refinery, a Netherlands-based developer of XPression, a high-end, feature rich, 2D/3D high definition character generator and motion graphics system. The acquisition allowed the company to establish its European office near Amsterdam. "The company was less than two years old when we bought them," Ross said. "Since then it's exploded and we've won a lot of major business including a major deal with France Television last year." XPression was also used to create graphics for this year's SAG, Grammy and Academy Award shows.

At NAB, Ross will introduce XPression Prime, a new lower-cost version of XPression Studio as well as a virtual set edition, XPression VS. New workflow tools for facilities and enterprise level installations will also debut.

For its switcher line, Ross is launching Carbonite, a compact 1 and 2 MLE switcher targeted to mid-range installations, including government, church and institutions. Carbonite 1 is a robust MLE panel with 16 direct access source buttons, full panel mnenomics and Ross "PanelGlow" RGB buttons, while Carbonite 2 features 24 direct access buttons. At a base price of $39,995, Ross says Carbonite is "a new category of switcher in a lot of ways. It fills the needs of 80 percent of our customers, and does it extremely cost-effectively."

David Ross Ross will mark the U.S. debut of its internal multiviewer feature for its Vision switcher, which Ross says "has been very quick on the uptake." Also new is CrossOver Solo, a 1 MLE production switcher. Based on the Ross CrossOver 12, Solo has the same features and specs but the main electronics and signal I/O are combined with the panel as a single unit. New v.4.0 software, which adds animated graphic transitions among its new features, will also be introduced.

Ross's new NK Series Routing Systems, which it acquired from Codan, range from fixed sizes of 16x4 1RU routers to 320x320 19RU utility routers and offer flexible control panels. Tying the products together is the Phoenix Control Surface, an enhanced GUI solution for locating, configuring and controlling all NK Series routers, control panels and devices.

Version 10 software for OverDrive adds automated content preparation for the Web along with enhanced CG timing controls and GlobalView personality settings.

Ross will be showing new software for its SoftMetal 3000 series play-out servers at the show. Version 4.4 adds VDCP control protocol over Ethernet and AMP automation control support.

For openGear, the company will announce new partner companies as well as new products. V.4.0 of the openGear Dashboard now offers a new plug-in, enabling User Rights and Management configurable users and groups, with read-write access down to the individual card parameter level. A new range of data/metadata solutions, closed caption monitoring and transport stream conversion and monitoring products will also debut at the company's booth, as well as the Ross UDC-8625 Up/Down/Cross Converter for 3G/HD/SD. And the Ross Fiber line will showcase a new DWDM system.

Many of the new products introduced at this year's show represent a new paradigm in accelerated product development. Carbonite, for example, took less than a year from concept to reality and Ross characterizes the new switcher as the company's first product that represents "Moore's Law" for switchers.

"If you want to be a 'Moore's Law' company, that's the pace you need to work on," Ross said. "It's just part of the changes going on in this industry."

Tom Butts

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (, the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.