Grass Valley Sees Green in HD

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Long a powerhouse in
the broadcast and high-end production markets,
GrassValley is also looking to expand its offering of lower-cost products for high-definition
upgrades. At the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas, HD Update contributor George Winslow talked
with Grass Valley senior marketing manager Mark Chiolis about some of the
company's new products, which the vendor hopes will help "democratize" the
potential of high-definition production by making it more affordable.

MCN: In terms of new products, what has been
your strategy for providing equipment for HD upgrades?

Mark Chiolis: As
you know, we were one of the pioneers with the whole transition to HD a number
of years ago. But now that the high end of the transition in North
America is mainly complete, the goal now is to try to democratize
it and move it down so high school sports, college sports, and the rest of the
world is able to afford HD.

Mark Chiolis

So we have a new camera, the LDK 3000, at a more affordable
price range using our CMOS sensor. We also have
a new server that is at a more affordable price point and a new replay and
super slow-mo controller. In the past, it was usually [productions for the top
sports] that were able to afford to super slo-mo; our goal is now is to bring
that down market so almost everyone can.

MCN: So you are also paying more attention to
the educational, the religious market, government market and smaller stations?

MC: Exactly.
Obviously, we are not abandoning the high end, because we introduced a Kayenne
[switcher] and we have a new LDK 8000 Elite Series camera. The high end isn't at
all going away, but we believe that everyone should be able to do HD and this
is one of our top focus points this year.

The other one has been integrating our products together.
All of our products -- our cameras, routers, switchers, servers, etc. -- all
work very well independently, but our goal over last 12 months has been to make
them work together in a much tighter, more complete group. What you will see is
that our Kayenne production switcher will be able to control the cameras. In
controlling the K2 Summit Server, you can see thumbnails on the switcher menus
and you have full control of everything there, as well on the switcher. Same
thing with the router, you are able to do full control of the router from the Kayenne
panel.

We want to make certain one plus one equals three. If you
put two of our products together you are going to get some bonus operations using
them together.

MCN: You are using a CMOS imager for the new LDK 3000 camera. How do
you see that technology developing?

MC: CMOS
sensors came from the consumer world and there had been some issues with
rolling shutter and other effects that weren't something you'd want to see in a
[professional video production.]

Our camera factory in the Netherlands, which is where the
sensors that are in all of our high-end cameras were developed, spent a lot of
time looking at CMOS when we began working
on our next-generation sensors. We've probably spent six or seven years tweaking
that and the version that was released in the LDK 3000 has a lot of
improvements, both in artifact and noise cancelation. The image is very, very
nice. It is not quite to the level of the high end CCD, but we think in the
next generation, maybe in the next two or three years, it might make that leap.
However, we are still making improvements in CCD technologies so they may
continue to track higher.

So it is an affordable imager that can create a very, very
nice image. There is no reason that a CMOS
images out of the LDK 3000 can not be used in a high end production today.

MCN: What are you doing to prepare for 3D?

MC: Our
production switchers, servers, routers and other equipment have been in a
number of live 3D productions of events because that is what they had in the
truck. They would bring in the 3D camera rigs and run them through our
equipment.

So we have been involved in tests going back to 2007 and
2008, real events like the [Bowl Championship Series college-football title
game] at [the Consumer Electronics Show] two years ago. Our equipment was used
for the [New York Rangers-New
York Islanders] hockey game from Madison
Square Garden
[just before NAB].

So there is a laundry list of 3D productions that have used
our equipment. It works with 3D today. There is nothing that anyone has to do to
our equipment to equip a van or a studio or whatever for 3D. They can bring in
a Pace or a 3ality Digital 3D rig and the rest of the process will work, even
if you are doing 4:2:2 dual-stream left eye, right eye. It will all track
through our equipment.

Here at NAB, we're showing our cameras, the production
switcher, the servers, it is all tied together doing 3D.

MCN: What kind of demand for 3D are you
seeing. Are people coming to you and saying they actually want to start doing
3D now or is a lot of the interest coming from people who just want to make
sure they equipment might be able to do 3D if the technology takes off in the
future?

MC: I think a lot
of it is about wanting to be prepared. They don't want to go out and spend
money on things today that will mean they'll have to buy something new later.
And that is our message. Whatever happens with 3D, our equipment works.

There is a lot of testing that has to go on. We know the
model for theatrical works. The model for Blu-ray delivered to the home using
theatrical works. The model for concerts to theatrical, that works. What still
has to go through all the testing is live to the home sports and entertainment.
Are people going to sit in front of their TV with their glasses on and watch it?

MCN: Last year, with the poor economy, there
was a slowdown in upgrades to HD. Are you once again seeing more interest in
upgrading to HD?

MC: Actually we
are seeing a pickup by those that haven't converted or haven't fully converted.

Because we are a worldwide company, there were areas of the
world that actually stayed pretty -- I don't want to say hot -- but they were still
buying all through 2009. So that helped us out. Even though a lot of North
America had kind of quieted down, there were areas in Latin
America and Eastern Europe that helped
offset that a little.

And I still believe that there is a lot of Europe
that does need to convert to HD. Initially, because Europe was
already 16 by 9 and was already getting a better image, there was a lot of talk
that it didn't need to convert. But I think with the larger screens, they are
now starting to convert.

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