Grass Valley Takes on Automated Playout Market With PubliTronic Acquisition

Grass Valley continues in acquisition mode. Since acquiring Australia-based Evolution and its touchscreen-switcher technology at IBC, the company has added PubliTronic, a privately held, global provider of multichannel, integrated, automated playout systems. Grass Valley CTO Ray Baldock says it gives the company the stronger position in playout it has been pondering for some time.

“We could have developed this internally, but the tricky part is the graphics, and the PubliTronic system far and away is the richest approach to graphics for channel branding,” he explains.

He notes that the system ties template graphics together with video clips on the server, schedule information, and more to build graphics on the fly in real time. “That limits the amount of preproduction work required in the graphics or promotions departments.”

PubliTronic has an installed base of more than 800 on-air channels, including some of the largest service providers and broadcasters in Europe and elsewhere.

“This acquisition also validates that (current Grass Valley investor) Francisco Partners want to see us grow and succeed,” adds Baldock. PubliTronic employees will remain at PubliTronic’s current facility in the Netherlands about an hour east of Amsterdam.

“The whole team is on board, and they are all now employees,” says Baldock. “They’re happy to be part of a bigger company that can help them grow internationally.”

Not that they need too much help. Countries represented among the 800 channels include Turkey, Italy, Greece, France, Spain, the UK, and, of course, the Netherlands.

A major technical addition to the Grass Valley product family is the PubliTronic Nexus server, which has been rebranded K2 Edge. Housed in a compact, 1RU chassis, K2 Edge is a Linux-based system with a purpose-built, high-availability architecture for mission-critical 24/7 playout applications.

“It’s Linux based, and there is still a segment of the market that is sensitive to Windows in playout,” says Baldock. “The Nexus server is a nice adjunct to what we have been doing, and its graphics rendering and a lot of the work they have done in asset management to tie in metadata, capturing, and aspect-ratio conversion are managed very neatly.”

The K2 Edge range is available in three levels of capability: K2 Edge Express, for entry-level channels with minimal graphics needs; K2 Edge Pro, for main-line channels with more-sophisticated graphics, such as picture-in-picture; and K2 Edge Elite systems, which offer switching for up to four HD sources and multichannel 2D and 3D graphics complete with DVE moves, including credit squeeze.

Each K2 Edge system provides two features originally developed by PubliTronic: the Grass Valley K2 TX/MAM asset-management system, with a central database, and Grass Valley Cobalt playout-automation software. The K2 TX/MAM server uses a Web-based GUI to control all assets, including video clips, audio clips, captioning, metadata, and graphic elements. The Cobalt playout-automation system manages all on-air events and, for increased reliability, runs completely independently of the database.

Grass Valley Channel Composer is also available as a software option. It manages the import and animation of 2D and 3D graphics, creates animations, and links graphics templates to data sources for real-time on-air presentation. A powerful, fully integrated channel graphics-composition and -management tool, Channel Composer runs on Windows and Mac platforms and is integrated with the K2 TX/MAM server, where templated graphics and a data stream can be defined and then referenced together as “live” elements in the on-air playlist.

K2 Edge integrated playout offers a wide range of options, including full redundancy, with a fully integrated channel starting at $25,000; delivery is expected to begin in November.

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