Grass Valley Bullish on HD News

Grass Valley is heading to NAB with high expectations that 2007 will be a banner year for hi-def news.

“We think it’s going to be a watershed year for HD news,” said Jeff Rosica, vice president, marketing and technology for Grass Valley. “From what we can tell on the number of project proposals that we have and the number of orders that we have, I believe the numbers are going to move very very fast.”

By its own estimates, Grass Valley holds an 80 percent market share worldwide in professional gear for hi-def news, and product highlights at the Grass Valley booth at NAB2007 will reflect the company’s commitment to this expanding market.

For example, visitors to the company’s new location as one of the anchors in the expanded North Hall will be able to see demonstrations of the Grass Valley Ignite HD system, the newest version of its automated news system, completely overhauled from its Parkervision legacy.

Once a staple of small market stations, Ignite is getting some traction in mid- and upper-market broadcast facilities as well, according to Alex Holtz, manager of integrated product solutions for Grass Valley. And many of those stations are implementing the Ignite system to launch new channels.

“We’ve already started to sell Ignite systems into facilities doing multicasting,” Holz said. “That’s key to the success of Ignite.”

In marketing the system to broadcasters, Grass Valley is giving them the tools to analyze the financial as well as the technical benefits of Ignite.

“We are typically getting an ROI with a tremendous rate of return within one year in the Top 20 markets and on average, in mid-markets, we’re getting that same level of return in three years, and in the smaller markets, about five years, which is still pretty good,” Holz said.

INIFINITY ARRIVES

One of the key motivators for stations moving to HD news is the increased implementation of file-based workflows and the adoption of tapeless formats, according to Rosica.

“Last year we reached a milestone,” Rosica said. “For the first time, it was cheaper to store material in a non-tape format.”

A key component in the company’s IT philosophy is the Infinity tapeless product line. Rosica said the cameras will be ready for delivery to customers by the end of Q2.

Promoted as an “IT-immersive” system, the Grass Valley Infinity product line includes a camcorder and field recorder. Users can record and store on Iomega’s REV PRO media, CompactFlash cards or USB media.

Infinity’s market introduction has been delayed several times, frustrating Rosica.

But he insisted that “these kinds of projects take time and we’re going to take the time to get it right. We’re not going to bring the product out before it’s ready.”

Currently more than 100 cameras are being beta tested with what Rosica described as “major news organizations,” and the company—which has built a special factory for the Infinity line—should have a better idea of the specific delivery date by NAB.

XENSIUM CMOS CHIP

When customers finally get their hands on the new Infinity cameras, among the enhancements they’ll notice is a new CMOS imager, the first CMOS technology that the company has developed for its cameras.

The 2/3-inch “Xensium” CMOS chip features a new native high-definition sensor with an array of 2.4 million pixels. Xensium offers wider dynamic range, lower power consumption and reduced signal to noise ratio when compared to other CCD or CMOS imagers on the market today, according to Rosica. It supports all HD formats natively—both progressive and interlaced—as well as raw 4:4:4 image capture.

Also on the docket for launching at NAB is the LCP400 local control panel, a software application that allows users to wirelessly control Grass Valley Infinity cameras. Installed on a PDA or smart phone running Windows Mobile 5, the software communicates with the Infinity camera via Bluetooth using a USB dongle in the camera, as well as over WiFi networks. It replicates the side control panel on the camcorder, giving access to all the menus and settings and allowing changes even during shooting.

Grass Valley also is partnering with Fast Forward Video, an Irvine, Calif.-based developer of video recording technology, to market a new dockable recording system for existing analog cameras that incorporates the REV PRO digital media drive used on the Infinity. Specifically, FFV will market an A/D converter using a built-in REV PRO drive that mounts onto the back of an existing analog camera and converts the signal from analog to digital, so that it can be recorded on REV PRO media, turning an analog camera into a file-based digital recorder.

Other new Grass Valley products to be launched at NAB2007 include a new lightweight, compact, single format version of the LDK 4000 camera for customers working in fixed 1080i or 720p formats, and Spirit HD, a new lower-cost version of the Spirit Telecine product line, targeting the growing demand for HD film transfers.

NEW LEADERSHIP

In addition to new products, Grass Valley is heading to NAB with new leadership as well. Jacques Dunogué, who currently serves as senior executive vice president in charge of Thomson’s Systems division has been appointed to lead Grass Valley, replacing Marc Valentin. Dunogué, a former Alcatel executive, will lead a company that has now been divided into three business units—Broadcast & Professional Solutions, Integration and Transmission Solutions and Video Network Solutions. Each division will have its own focus and leadership team.

Rosica will lead the Broadcast & Professional business unit, reporting directly to Dunogué. Rosica will continue to lead the North American sales activities for the company. Patrick Montliaud will continue to head up the Integration and Transmission Solutions business unit, in addition to his position as the leader of the European/Rest of World activities. This unit will be responsible for Grass Valley application software, turnkey systems and transmission products.

Christophe Delahousse will continue to lead the Video Network Solutions business unit, which will be responsible for Grass Valley compression, digital mobility, IPTV, networking and signal-management products. Hiro Yamada, founder of Canopus, a Japanese developer of professional NLE technology which Grass Valley bought in 2005, will work with Grass Valley management to help drive overall architecture and technology strategies. Yamada will continue to oversee the editing, server and storage product lines within the Broadcast and Professional Solutions business unit as well as oversee commercial activities in Japan.


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