NAB DAY FOUR: Inside Sony’s MVP and Canon’s AF tech

Sony’s MVP trailer, a small remote production facility designed for smaller TV sports and other productions, topped the list as most interesting sports concept. A joint project between Sony and Venue Services Group, it brings three versions of low-cost remote production vehicles to the market. Matt Bjorge, Sony senior systems engineer/systems solutions manager, gave SVG a tour of the vehicle that includes four Sony cameras, a small production switcher, a graphics area (Sony will offer systems from different manufacturers), and an audio area. The first configuration costs roughly $1 million and future models will offer higher-end cameras and larger production switchers and audio consoles.

Samsung showed its riff on the TV-broadcast-to-handheld-device standard Called A-VSB, we saw it in a tour-bus demo around the Strip. A-VSB is similar to Harris’ MPH mobile TV standard, as it carves out two extra channels, a ½-bit rate feed for laptops and a ¼-bit rate feed for small phones and portable devices. The bandwidth hit is on par with Harris’s system: 5.5 Mb/s out of 19.3 Mb/s allotted for digital transmission. Image quality was very good in the demo. But it was a prototype and there were secondary antennas used, so real-world performance is unclear. But keep in mind that Korea is light years ahead of the United States in most mobile technologies. So don’t be against Samsung.

Canon’s Gordon Tubbs gave SVG an inside look at the company’s new auto-focus technology. It’s an option that can be built into the DigiSuper 86AF and 100AF lenses and uses a proprietary based phase detection system that basically splits the incoming light into two images and compares them to see if they are in focus. If not the system immediately matches the two together. It also has the flexibility camera operators are looking for in terms of being able to override the system and quickly switch from manual to autofocus mode.

The long-awaited Infinity camera system is expected to be shipping by late summer and Grass Valley is giving potential customers a chance to see it in action with 11 Infinity camcorders on the stand being used to shoot programming. Other new products at the Grass Valley booth include the ability to pre-purpose HD productions on the Kalypso production switcher so shots can more easily port over to cellphones and a new flavor of the Edius NLE system that is a free upgrade for 4.0 version users and has a user-defined GUI.

EVS Broadcast Equipment unveiled its restyled website (www.evs.tv) featuring a more comprehensive platform along with MyEVS, an online resource that offers various EVS tools and information services to subscribers. MyEVS subscribers will receive the latest industry news, technology developments, product launches, training programmes, software updates and much more. It also features a link to the official searchable, online database of EVS Operators. In addition, users who register with MyEVS from April 16-27 will have the opportunity to win exciting prizes.

Pathfire inked a deal with Collegiate Images to provide college sports content to broadcast news stations for special collegiate events via Pathfire’s Digital Media Gateway and Pathfire on Demand technology. The offering will make sports footage of college players and teams available for television station news coverage. Footage will be provided on a subscription basis and will be focused initially on college sports’ “Main Events.”

NVision continues to push the 3Gbps limits with routers that offer up to 576×576 inputs and outputs in a 12-inch dual-frame (a single frame version is 288×576. The company’s routers can also be seen in the Corplex truck in the outside broadcast area.

Wohler is entering new territory by expanding past its tried-and-true audio monitoring and into visual displays with its new HD Mon LCD Series. For NAB 2007, the company showed two preproduction models, the HD Mon 170, a 17” 1920×1200 resolution color LCD and the HD Mon 90, an 8.4” with 1040×768 resolution. Rather than follow the “thin is in” fashion of most flat panel manufacturers, the Wohler products aim to serve as drop-in for already installed CRTs in OB trucks and vans. These match their form factor with lightweight aluminum mounts/cases that also serve as effective heatsinks and, according to the company, toughen up the LCDs compared to what is typically being used. In addition to being drop-in rack mount replacements, they are also easy to drop onto the tabletop and come with an integrated handle for easy carrying. Both include S-video, DVI, PC, and HD/SD-SDI video inputs with buffered loop-through.

Omneon’s MediaDeck typifies the kind of storage solution smaller sports networks and even teams and leagues could use. The $36,000 unit includes four terabytes of storage and can support up to six simultaneous video channels. It also has redundant power supplies and the same core technologies found in higher-priced Omneon systems. The company also introduced a nifty Proxchange transcoder software feature for MediaGrid that allows for internal conversion from one video format to another. Geoff Stedman, Omneon VP of worldwide marketing, says the goal was to simplify operations and reduce the need to bounce content to an external device.

“Ear fatigue” from uncomfortable headphones is reduced thanks to the Riedel AIR series ultra lightweight headset. The AIR headset allows the user to communicate with their immediate environment and simultaneously listen & speak via the headset. The specially engineered DuPont Coolmax material used for the exchangeable ear cushions provide great breathability and comfort for long hours. The 270º rotation of the microphone boom allows the microphone to be worn on either left or right side, and a noise compensating electret or dynamic microphone guarantees a high quality response. Also Riedel’s new MADI Client Card underscores the company’s strategy to advance communications to a higher degree of integration in the broadcast studio environment. The new card provides a MADI interface that allows the tight integration of the Artist intercom platform with digital audio router systems. Since all Artist intercom control panels are connected to the matrix via standard AES3 signals, it is now also possible to connect intercom panels to the audio router using the audio routers infrastructure for panel distribution instead of laying additional cables. The MADI card also furnishes a convenient solution for connecting multi-channel audio between the audio router and the intercom system saving a significant amount of cabling and interfacing costs. The MADI-108 G2 client card is cascadable, with each card adding 8 audio channels to the MADI signal up to a maximum of 64 channels. The MADI connection from the client card to the audio router is realized via COAX or fiber cabelling.

A sure sign of a pick-hit at NAB is when a soon-to-be-released product draws massive advanced orders based on the prototype demoed at the show. For NAB 2007, Clear-Com’s Tempest already has a long list of those eagerly awaiting the first production models as they become available by Summer. According to company officials, ESPN is at the front of the line of those who will first be putting them through their paces. The Tempest is a ruggedized intercom pack designed to hold up under the rigors of field work and will be available in both 900mHz and 2.4 Ghz versions. Using both bands allows massive scalability – up to 15 base stations running as many as 75 beltpacks simultaneously. Those tapped in on one base station can move seamlessly from one area to another covered by another base station so that a wide area can be connected for “intelligent roaming”.

Those on the hunt for a sports video logging application will want to visit Omnibus. The company designed a new logging system for Belgium’s NOS news and sports network that allows for one touch logging of sports highlights. A to
uch-screen system with on-screen buttons like “corner kick” and “goal” can each have different parameters for metadata and also length of clip so that when a corner kick occurs and the button is pushed the system automatically records a 20-second or other time variable clip that can be called up later.

Camera control company Vaddio showed what’s possible with small remote-controlled mounted cameras. Its WallVIEW HD1 is built around the Sony EVI-HD1 2-megapixel high-resolution CMOS PTZ Camera. And it produced nice images from a small, controllable mount. The unit is perfect for “set it and forget it” camera positions, such as a monster long shot or close-up remote position.

Snell & Wilcox has signed a deal with NBC Olympics where they’ll supply all of the frame rate converters for coverage of the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. The company is also gaining momentum with its Kahuna switcher (expect a number of them to also make the trip to China) and local TV stations here in the U.S. are also getting behind the SD/HD capable switcher.

In the “it may be simple, but … ” category, Ensemble Designs showed a cute little Brighteye 90 series HD converter. The unit fits in the palm of your hand, and up-, down-, and cross-converts between all the usual-suspect video standards. Essentially it lets you turn that stinky old SD cam into a nice HD unit with little fuss. Very nice little system at first glance.

Broadcast Pix showed its nifty little desktop control room systems. The company had some nice upgrades to its Version 6 software for its line of Slate switchers. These systems certainly fail the “big iron” sniff test that the top-end sports world demands, but it would be foolish to ignore the power of these tools. The Slate products offer customizable multi-view support for compressed clips, audio-follow-video with MIDI, three more keyers and other features. Not bad for unit that can run off a personal computer.

We had a chance to head over to suite 1350 in the Hilton Central Tower and check out Chilin’s latest broadcast-specific LCD flat panel displays. Available through the Linden Group here in the U.S. the robust full 1080p monitor lineup offer a tremendously wide viewing angle of 176 degrees and a response time of only 6.5 milliseconds grey to grey. And a 56-inch quad full HD panel with a maximum resolution of 3840×2160 offers stunning clarity that makes one hungry to see NHK’s UltraHD system eventually hit the market.

Telecast’s new Viper II SW6031 HD camera switch is looking to reduce the need to re-patch at an outside access I/O panel. The module allows operators inside the studio or truck to switch between SMPTE Hybrid camera cables, triaxial adapters, and fiber media. And the G2 CopperHead camera-mounted transceiver now runs in viewer wavelengths and also has swappable “sleds” to quickly be reconfigured for different connectors.

Archiving and storage continues to be front and center at sports networks and leagues and Front Porch Digital’s DIVArchive 6.0 is a new option. Among its top features are the ability to frame-accurately restore only the portion of content required and easy migration between near-line and data-tape storage.

MAT Technologies showed its robust Tower Cam. This remote camera tower system can reach heights of at least 45 feet, and higher if properly configured. And it places any professional-grade portable video camera at the top. The camera is controlled by a standard remote system, but is very robust.

Vizrt continues to impress with next-generation tools designed to make it easier to port a high-end graphics look to broadband and mobile devices. By placing a small rendering engine on the device incoming graphics from Vizrt customers can have all of the flash and sizzle HDTV viewers get. The company also has a really table-based touch screen panel that is being used in Germany for game analysis as it allows multiple hosts to stand around it and simultaneously use it as a telestrator system.

NewTek’s demo of the Tricaster Studio detailed the features of the 16-pound production device. Tricaster has an ability to live, edit and capture media the device has 500 transitions that include choosing and pre- assigning effects from 3D to real digital video effects. Tricaster replaces the lack of expensive equipment and sets up in a matter of minutes. Tricaster is file friendly (jpeg, avi) and can overlay 200 text effects. Streaming to the Internet is simple and with additional USB ports you can record up to 20 hours of your output. Inputting effects from Photoshop is applicable as is picture in a picture capability. Dual effects include real time virtual backgrounds, shadows, and transitional clips. Output to Projector and Video is done also quite easily. Using six camera inputs and two virtual VTR’s Tricaster has a retail value of $9995.

Aja Video unveiled their FS1 universal HD/SD audio/video frame synchronizer and converter. It contains eight channels and the 10 bit system accommodates Dolby 5.1.

Michael Sgrosso of Middle Atlantic Productions Inc. showed their improvements on their racks. The GRK rack costs $800 where the VRK rack is a $1000 and has a 3,500 weight capacity. Racks are these kind help in protecting cabling and thermal management.

Sound Ideas has numerous CD’s of sound effects. Their Sports Series 11000 costs $425 and has sounds from badminton to basketball.

XYTECH Systems unveiled their new workflow media asset management software. The Xytech Enterprise now in its 10th version has expanded to digital file support. Building 4 Media is showing off their Post Production System.

The Fork Production Suite has a short (one frame) time delay before playout and ingests numerous editing tools such as Apple Final Cut Pro. The versatile system is applicable on Windows and a Mac system.

And finally, in the “Technologies for Worship” section. Off in the far corner of the North Hall is the technology used in the higher-tech churches and synagogues. That includes traditional live production tools targeted to the mostly volunteer production force. Marcus Singleton, digital media coordinator of the Breath of Life Christian Church in Memphis said he was looking for cranes this year. “Nothing too complex,” he said. “But the pastor would like to get up about 50 feet.”

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