Snell Shifts Focus to File-Based Production

READING, U.K.: Snell has always had a reputation for high-quality image processing and video distribution technology, from its line of conversion products to its well regarded range of switchers. But like many veteran broadcast manufacturers, the U.K.-based company is adapting its technology to thrive in the brave new world of IT-based workflows. In short, the company is counting on a future where software plays a more important role.

"In the last year and a half, we've strengthened our R&D side and put more emphasis on our software systems," said Rob Rowe, Snell CTO. "As time goes on, we'll see a move more to IT-centric platform delivery. We're changing the company over the next few years to address the more file-based workflow processing that we see a need for."

Snell will introduce the Vega routing product line at the NAB Show. Neil Maycock, Snell's chief architect and head of business development, echoes Rowe's comments, noting that while Snell has a legacy of developing highly advanced processing algorithms, many of these processes never saw the light of day because of the expense in developing dedicated hardware for specific functions. But with the increasing use of open, flexible architectures and generic processing, "we can take all these algorithms we've developed over the years and deploy them."


Visitors to Snell's NAB booth will begin to see many of those changes in the new products and technology the company will be showing. For example, while the term "channel in a box" seems to be the latest buzz phrase to catch on in our industry, Maycock notes that many solutions offered today fall short of the true definition of the term. "We see a lot of video servers with some graphics branding and a lot of graphics devices with a bit of video storage in them, but that's not a CiAB from our perspective," he said. "When looking at a channel, we're really trying to look more holistically at the requirements of the channel. It's not only the breadth of features you put in a box, you need flexibility to replace a traditional master control operation."

The changes, Snell believes, are being driven by broadcasters' needs to deliver multiple formats to a variety of devices and are part of the company's "TV Everywhere" initiative. To that end, the company is touting new features for its ICE and Morpheus automation platforms.

At the NAB Show, Snell will show enhancements to its ICE channel in a box and Morpheus automation systems that extend their functionality. ICE 3.0 sports more powerful, integrated 3D graphics, CG functionality with timeline control and the ability to populate fields from the playout schedule, as well as external data sources. To manage the variety of formats and file sources, a new content validation feature analyzes source material as soon as it is available to prevent invalid formats or impaired content from reaching the on-air output. ICE 3.0 also now features an optional SAN storage for high-performance shared storage.

Morpheus now includes second screen capabilities, such as enhanced e-commerce functionality with comprehensive user transaction and purchase models. It also now boasts full virtual machine support that facilitates lower space and power requirements while improving system resilience.


In the routing space, Snell will showcase new, advanced hybrid processing (AHP) technology built into the company's Sirius 800 series of large-scale, multiformat expandable hybrid routers. New modules for the 800 allow for flexible routing of SD, HD, ASI and 3Gbps signals.

Maycock describes the introduction of AHP as "the big story" for Snell at NAB. The company's next generation of routers featuring the technology will do processing on all inputs and outputs, which means "you don't have to make tradeoffs between how many ports you're going to lose and how much processing you need," he said.

Vega, a new member to the company's routing product line, will make its U.S. debut at the show. The platform allows users to configure any signal port independently for fiber or coax (copper), easing a mixed connectivity environment and helping broadcasters migrate simply and cost effectively.

Snell will also introduce Signal Sentri to monitor content in an automated playout environment. Under the hood, Sentri's monitoring technology is based on the company's sophisticated Hyperion platform, packaged in a compact 19-inch 1RU form factor.

For conversion, Snell will launch its KudosPro signal processing platform targeting the mid-market range. The line performs 3Gbps HD and SD standards conversion as well as up-, down-, and cross conversion. It also sports a newly designed user interface, according to Maycock. "We spent an enormous amount of time on the user interface to make it much easier to use," he said.

Alchemist Ph.C-HD, Snell's motion-compensated standards converter, features a new file I/O option that simplifies integration of the HD standards converter into file-based workflows, as well as additional processing modes that yield even better performance for file-rate conversions. The file I/O option incorporates Snell's new FileFlow technology that allows real-time Alchemist quality file-based conversion for the first time.

A compact, lower-cost version of the Kahuna360 will also debut, featuring the functionality of its bigger brother, including 7 keyers per M/E, resource sharing with Make M/E technology and FormatFusion3, which allows any format in and any format out. The compact, 6RU chassis targets trucks, studio-based productions and houses of worship.

Snell will be Booth N1820 in the North Hall.

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.