Manufacturers of video servers like Omneon (at left) are coming to this year’s annual NAB Show in Las Vegas hoping to tempt a wider range of buyers by offering new units that do more for less.
Manufacturers of video servers get it.
Understanding that broadcasters need to do more with less, they are offering servers that not only improve workflows, offer more features and increase storage, but also fit within tightening budgets.
“Speed, quality, consistency and reliability,” says Jim Frantzreb, Avid Technology senior segment manager for broadcast, summing up his pitch for the vendor’s AirSpeed Multi Stream server.
“AirSpeed was conceived from the start as a workflow-enabling extension to a shared-storage-media network or system,” says Frantzreb. Sporting a small, 1.5RU profile, he says, the server is “positioned for sports, news and live production.”
AirSpeed Multi Stream accommodates up to four simultaneous XDCam HD channels in its HD/SD model, he points out. “Customers are looking to invest wisely,” says Frantzreb. “Even when budgets are down, what many [customers] do is to take a look at the total value equation.”
Paul Eisner, vice president, server and editing, Harris, echoes those sentiments: “Customers are expecting more functionality and newer technology at lower prices. That means not just pricing of products, but their ease of use, lowering operating costs and making
At the same time, introduction of new formats and codecs ultimately leads to more capabilities and, by extension, better workflow economies. “A lot of people are just focused on features,” he says. “Customers are looking for significant cost reductions, not just capital efficiencies.”
Harris’s server offerings are based on its NEXIO line, which Eisner calls “a nice combination of forward and backward compatibility.” Supporting older formats allows users to easily access content, he says.
He sees strength in Harris’s integration of its servers with its Velocity editing application, as well as with other editors, such as Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere.
Harris will have news at NAB, though Eisner is keeping things close to his vest. “We are introducing features that lower the cost per channel and lower the entry cost to get into a baseline server platform,” he says.
“Look for improved channel density,” he says. “We’ll see improvements there, which will lower the costs for customers.”
One new entry announced in January is the NEXIO Browse suite, which Eisner describes as a “low-res and proxy environment for both browsing and editing, providing the utility to get at content easier and outside of the typical high-res environment.”
360 Systems is coming to NAB with its first offerings in HD servers. The MAXX-2400HD, priced at $32,000 features two record channels, while the single channel MAXX-1200HD carries a $15,995 price tag.
“We’ve managed to stay under the radar of the ‘big’ server [companies],” says Director of Broadcast Sales Jim Peacher. “Consequently, we own a very nice niche in mid-market stations.” 360’s first SD servers were introduced five years ago, after a long history of providing audio servers to radio and television stations such as Instant Replay and Digicart.
The MAXX-HD line is the company’s first foray into HD. Based on initial sales, Peacher sees great potential for their products in virtually all aspects of broadcast and production. “In this economy, with ad revenues falling, everybody’s looking for ways to stretch out the budgets and make the equipment pay for itself,” he says. “We recognize that the top 10 markets are not going to use a low-cost HD server in master control. However, there are dozens of other applications where this is the perfect low-cost solution. With ‘budget-saving’ servers, it’s all application driven.”
Peacher points to 360 System’s servers integration with 27 different automation vendors along with the MAXX-HD servers’ built-in playlists. He admits that “our standard-def didn’t lend itself into a production environment, but the HD does. The HD does slow-mo and has faster turnaround from recording to play. It’s got some features we think the truck guys are going to like very much,” he says.
In fact, an early truck customer, Total RF, recently purchased two MAXX-HD servers. “They spent $60K, but got eight channels of HD with slow mo,” Peacher says. That vehicle will be on exhibit at NAB.
At Omneon, Senior VP for Products and Markets Geoff Stedman sees an increasing demand for repurposing content on multiple platforms. Omneon systems meet that demand by allowing “multiple people to access files as they’re growing, making their decisions and quickly posting them.”
To that end, Omneon servers also feature low-res proxies, which make video “available almost instantly for many people for logging purposes and to make early decisions around how they want to put their packages together.”
At NAB, Omneon will unveil the MediaDeck GX. “It basically adds a full branding and some master-control capabilities into the [MediaDeck] platform,” says Stedman. “So, within a single, 2RU device, you can have multiple channels of either ingest or playout, and those playout channels can be fully branded.”
The MediaDeck GX will be capable of “things like tickers, scroll bars, on-screen logos, doing some graphic overlays, and key and fill operations,” he adds.
Grass Valley is also responding to the pressure to reduce production costs.
“Fortunately, technology has a way of taking care of that,” says Ed Casaccia, director of product marketing, Grass Valley. “Moore’s Law does it for us.”
At NAB, says Casaccia, Grass Valley is “returning to the ground we created in the first place” with the introduction of the K2 Dyno replay controller.
Designed to work with the K2 Summit production server, the K2 Dyno is a compact unit featuring a touchscreen interface, external VGA screen, high-speed gigabit Ethernet connection and USB connectors. A familiar T-bar and switcher buttons promise easy operations.
“It has characteristics that make it exceptionally well-suited for the sports replay environment,” says Casaccia, noting that it goes from record to play in less than half a second. “It has an enormous amount of processing power devoted to each channel.
Casaccia says the K2 Dyno/Summit package is available at a price that makes it “appropriate for smaller, regional operations. They can get the same functionality that in the past they would have paid twice as much for.”
K2 Summit is the top end of its K2 server line. The K2 Summit HD Production Client was introduced at IBC last September, supporting streamlined live event news production in SD or HD, and live-to-tape/live-to-disk applications.
For news applications, the company points to the new server’s support of four bi-directional channels of DVCPRO HD, DVCPRO 50 and DVCPRO 25 making it the ideal for users of the Panasonic P2 acquisition format.
Abekas, meanwhile, is also touting lower-cost solutions as it enters the server market with its Mira production server. “When you use the latest technology to design things,” says Junaid Sheikh, Abekas co-founder, president and CEO, “you can really bring the cost down.”
Mira, he adds, does not replace the higher-end, more ubiquitous servers. Instead, Abekas is aiming at what he refers to as tier-two and tier-three users involved in regional and local operations.
Mira is available in three sizes: 15 hours (priced at $32,000), 30 hours ($35,000) and 60 hours ($40,000). Each has four channels, with eight audio channels per video channel.
“There is nothing close to our kind of pricing,” Sheikh says. “I have talked to people who are using tape. They look at this machine, and their eyes pop out.”
Both Abekas and Grass Valley are eyeing a segment of the market that they believe is hungry for an alternative to higher-priced servers.
EVS Group, another server vendor, is looking to expand beyond sports into markets like broadcasting with its new XS system, says General Manager Greg Macchia.
“It’s based on the same hardware as the XT LMS, but we’ve limited it to four channels to be more cost-effective,” he says.
The XS has SD/HD configurations and includes native support of Avid DNxHD, Apple ProRes and Panasonic DVCPRO100. EVS will also show Insio, ingest software for multicamera studio production, as the company looks to broaden its markets beyond the sports environment.
“From our perspective, we are as hungry as we’ve always been,” says Macchia. “We are constantly improving, constantly looking to be better.”