has come out with a one-two punch of new tools that enable live video broadcasters to do more for less. First came Mica
, the company's new live video production system. Now, a few weeks later, Broadcast Pix has unveiled Voice-Automated Video Production
(VOX), which eliminates the need for an operator during live productions.
Mica is powered by Broadcast Pix Granite's native HD technology and its Fluent software that tightly integrates video and file-based content. Launched at IBC 2011
, Mica began shipping in October and has already been purchased by Tualatin Valley Community TV
, which manages the PEG (public, educational and governmental) access channels that serve 14 communities near Beaverton, Oregon. TVCTV, which produces more than 400 programs a year, is transitioning to HD production and the new Mica systems will outfit both control rooms in its new facility.
Broadcast Pix Director of Marketing Paul Lara
"The reaction to Mica has been tremendous," says Broadcast Pix Director of Marketing Paul Lara. "Broadcast Pix started with live video production many years ago with Slate. Then we launched Granite, which uses the same workflow but is HD and can have up to 22 inputs. We realized that there was a need for a Granite HD workflow but in a more cost effective package, so we spent four years developing and creating Mica. Granite has a switcher frame and separate server, and we consolidated all of that into a single system with Mica."
Housed in a single 4 RU case, Mica includes a multi-definition switcher that can mix eight HD/SD-SDI inputs with seven channels of internal clips, animations and graphics. Mica also offers support for up to six keyers and DVEs, six HD/SD-SDI outputs and two DVI outputs. It also includes a 30-hour clip store and a Harris
(or optional Chyron
) character generator.
"The benefit of integrating all of this means that, when you need to, one person can create compelling live video," says Lara. "One person can do an astounding show, because everything you need is right there on the switcher panel. You can call up presets and we have Fluid Watch Folders, which means someone down the hall can create graphics and save those files on the network. The Watch folders then alert directors that the file is ready to go."
For users that want to involve more people in a production, Mica is extensible. "A school teacher, for example, wants to involve the whole class in the production," notes Lara. "Mica allows additional operators, so you can have a second keyboard, mouse and monitor with Mica and have a CG operator to do graphics during the show." Soft panels emulate the switcher interface and run in Flash, enabling others to queue up clips on the tablet. "We also have an iPad app called iPix Panel
, which gives an operator wireless access to the switcher panel from anywhere on the network," Lara adds. "That person can call up titles, queue up clips, or the director can switch the show directly from the iPad."
The iPixPanel will be able to control every aspect of a video production, including switching cameras, adding graphics and clips, controlling robotic cameras, and creating special effects like an interview with dual picture-in-picture.
Four Mica models are available: Mica Desktop is controlled through a touch screen or mouse interface; Mica 500 includes a control surface with a patented device control section; Mica 1000 and Mica 2000 offers larger, more powerful control panels and patented PixButtons that dynamically display sources and devices in the button. Pricing starts at $16,900 for Mica Desktop. Mica 500 is priced at $19,900; Mica 1000 and Mica 2000 both cost "less than $30,000 in the Americas."
PixButtons tell you the device, channel, and even the file name you are about to select. They change dynamically as you produce.
If the ability to operate a live video production with one operator wasn't enough, Broadcast Pix most recently unveiled VOX, which enables a limited amount of live video production without any operator at all. VOX is voice-activated; it detects which microphone is being used and then uses software to switch to an interesting camera position and add the appropriate graphics. VOX is being targeted at such uses as government and corporate meetings, interviews, video coverage of radio programs and other productions with multiple microphones. Broadcast Pix President Ken Swanton emphasizes that VOX can be used for television broadcasts, Internet streaming and in-house projection.
In addition to simple camera switching, VOX integrates with Broadcast Pix's built-in Fluent Macros to create automatic camera presets, rolls clips and animations, add or remove titles or even create six picture-in-pictures for interviews. Multiple Macros can be assigned to each microphone, creating automated productions with a more nuanced look than simple switching.
According to Swanton, VOX is already in use at Q-music
, a radio network in Belgium and the Netherlands that broadcasts live concerts and other events and streamed video programming on the Internet. Its Q-Beach House venue was rigged with 12 cameras including four in the on-site radio station, all of which were controlled through VOX. Q-music created several macros for each microphone. The system then randomly selected numerous directing commands to create a higher production value than simple switching.
VOX is already in use at Q-music, a radio network in Belgium and the Netherlands.
VOX is housed in a 1 RU chassis with eight microphone inputs and includes camera control software for Panasonic and Sony robotic camera systems. It also connects to any Broadcast Pix system via an RS-232 serial cable. Multiple VOX boxes can be cascaded to support up to 104 microphones. VOX will ship in December, and is priced at $5,900.
Broadcast Pix will doubtless enjoy tremendous success with products aimed at the growing market of corporations, schools, houses of worship and others who want to take advantage of the democratized toolsets. Although it's easy to think of ways that a production without an operator could go awry, I have no doubt that VOX will have plenty of takers. We're rapidly approaching the day when every meeting, every interview, every event is videotaped, and Broadcast Pix's Mica and VOX are just the kind of tools that are bringing that reality to bear.
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