Thomson endorses solid-state memory

In one of the most significant technology announcements thus far at this week’s International Broadcasting Convention 2003, Thomson has taken the bold step of endorsing the solid-state SD memory initiative announced by Matsushita Electric Industrial (parent to Panasonic Broadcast & Television Systems Company) earlier this year.

The Panasonic P2 card will be integrated into several Thomson Grass Valley products, including the M-Series iVDR devices.

Though Mark Valentin, president of Thomson Broadcast and Media Solutions, said that his company would also “support” Sony’s new professional optical media format—now called XDCAM—for the benefit of customers that might request it, it was clear that Thomson was putting its resources squarely behind SD Ram storage technology.

It was announced that, as part of the multi-level joint agreement, Thomson will initially integrate the Panasonic P2 card, solid-state SD memory technology into its current-generation Grass Valley digital news production products (NewsEdit) and M-Series iVDR devices. Eventually it will be used across Thomson’s Profile server and LDK camera lines as well.

Thomson’s decision could prove to be the deciding factor in the success of solid-state memory-based storage devices--that feature no moving mechanical parts for easy operation and maintenance--over other competing products that rely on optical media discs.

The move comes as Thomson Broadcast & Media Solutions continues to dedicate substantial resources to facilitate high-speed digital news production tools and reduced maintenance costs in order to meet the ever-increasing demand for IT-based networked and PC compatible solutions.

During a press conference at the historic Corn Exchange in Amsterdam, the company outlined plans to accelerate delivery of products and end-to-end systems that leverage solid-state memory through a joint development effort. Solid-state, or FLASH, memory technology has become the world’s leading standard for compact, portable, high-capacity storage, and is now being adapted for broadcast and professional video applications.

At the press conference, it was announced that several major network and station groups in the United States have expressed support for the solid-state memory technology. They include: Bob Ross, senior vice president of East Coast Operations and Engineering for CBS; Dave Folsom, vice president of Technology for Raycom Media (an independent owner/operator of 40 television stations in the U.S.); and Andrew Setos, president of engineering for News Corp.'s Fox Entertainment Group.

Unlike video tape, or other newer digital disk-based media, the solid-state SD memory card technology from Panasonic offers immediate access to data, compatibility with the DV standard on which many of today’s digital news equipment is based, virtually eliminates maintenance costs – and offers scalable future migration to HD, Thomson said.

Ultimately, both companies said, these next-generation products and system designs will make digital news acquisition and production as easy as removing a Panasonic P2 card from a camera/recorder, inserting it into an iVDR for storage and playout – or immediately into the Grass Valley NewsEdit nonlinear editing system for faster-than-real-time digital news production.

Valentin told reporters that in announcing support for Panasonic’s technology, Thomson recognizes the overwhelming advantages that the P2 card provides over other digital media solutions, both in terms of equipment design and performance.

He said that equipment supporting the Panasonic P2 card, including the Grass Valley iVDR, will be shown at the NAB2004 convention next April in Las Vegas, Nev.

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