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TWI Buys 3rd Snell & Wilcox Alchemist Converter for Sports Programming

Seeking to future-proof its investment in standards conversion gear, sports TV producer and distributor TWI has purchased its third Snell & Wilcox Alchemist Ph.C standards converter, selecting an HD-capable Platinum model that the sports TV giant is using in broadcasts of such events as Premier League soccer, Wimbledon, and The Open Championship at St. Andrews.

The new Alchemist Platinum was supplied to TWI, the world's largest independent producer and distributor of televised sports, by Broadcast & Production Services UK Ltd (BPS), the Surrey-based distributor. Installed in the VTR department at Mediahouse, TWI's London production facility, the Alchemist Platinum Ph.C will be used to convert European productions shot in PAL to NTSC and 60-Hz HDTV formats for broadcast to U.S. and Japanese audiences.

Typically two steps are needed to convert 625-line SD PAL sources to a 1080/60 or 720/60 HD NTSC output. First the video is converted from 625 lines to 525 lines, then it is upconverted to HDTV—and 100 lines of vertical resolution get lost in the process. With the HD-capable Alchemist Platinum Ph.C, however, both the standard and format conversions are done in a single step. Alchemist Platinum Ph.C thereby preserves an extra 100 lines of vertical resolution that would otherwise be lost, resulting in clearer, sharper HDTV pictures for broadcast.

"High-quality conversion is critical for footage with a lot of fast-moving action, and that's why we've expanded our facilities with another Alchemist system from Snell & Wilcox," said David Shield, senior vice president and head of engineering and operations at TWI. "In sports such as tennis or golf, poor conversion can lead to multiple instances of the ball, or no ball at all. This is even more critical for HDTV where the viewer has higher expectations of quality. We've been using Snell & Wilcox standards converters since 1997, and with the quality they provide, we wouldn't think of changing."

In a typical application, TWI brings a PAL signal from a production site such as the Wimbledon tennis championships to its post production department at Mediahouse in London. There the company converts the signal with Alchemist Platinum Ph.C to NTSC and sends the converted product back to the BT Tower and on to a satellite uplink for distribution in the United States and Japan.

"Our experience with Snell & Wilcox has given us great confidence in the company's technology, and we've also found their products extremely user-friendly," said John O'Reilly, managing director of BPS. "It's very hard to find any other standards converter with anything near the power and capabilities of the Alchemist Platinum Ph.C. For TWI in particular, it was also important to have a future-proof, HD-capable solution, for which the Alchemist Platinum uniquely fit the bill."