Grass Valley Focuses on Integrated Play-out Solutions
COW Library : Broadcasting : Debra Kaufman : Grass Valley Focuses on Integrated Play-out Solutions
Grass Valley is making good on its promise to reach out to mid-market customers with products that still offer its signature quality solutions. Recent news from the company--the acquisition of PubliTronic and the release of K2 Edge--reveals that the first area Grass Valley is targeting is integrated play-out.
The move to capture the integrated play-out market is also emblematic of Grass Valley's stated goal to move from hardware to software-based solutions. "The traditional model for play-out is a host of individual components in the broadcast environment," explains Harold Vermeulen, Grass Valley's new VP of Media Play Solutions and Founder/former Managing Director of PubliTronic. "You have an automation vendor automating play-out, a server actually playing out video, a graphics system generating graphics and additional systems such as closed captioning or SD-to-HD conversion connected to that. A single channel could be built of five different systems from five different vendors, and they all needed to work together in a high-end way."
Integrated play-out--as the name implies--merges all those tasks into a single box, a solution that is less expensive and easier to construct and maintain. "Our vision at PubliTronic and the vision of Grass Valley is that in a few years time, play-out to deliver multi-channels will all be done on software-based solutions and IT-based systems."
Two additional factors play into the increasing adoption of integrated play-out systems. Cable, satellite and telco sectors as well as broadcasters are adding secondary digital channels and providing content to multiple platforms. Second, the economy has forced stations and other content providers to do more with fewer resources.
PubliTronic, based in the Netherlands and founded in 1997, developed some of the first integrated play-out solutions and focused on the European market. According to Vermeulen, at the time of its acquisition by Grass Valley, the company had an installed base of more than 800 on-air channels in the U.K., continental Europe, Australia, Singapore and Atlanta, Georgia in the U.S. "Our product had good momentum," he says. "It had matured and differentiated itself from existing competitors. We weren't looking to be acquired, but Grass Valley turned out to be a good fit."
From PubliTronic's point of view, its existing customer base--which includes close to 100 Viacom channels throughout Europe and Singapore and Compass Media--will get better customer service and support. "Our sales and support organization was small, and many of our customers are international," says Vermeulen. "Grass Valley is filling a massive void for us in global coverage and experience in the global market. And we're filling a hole where Grass Valley didn't have the product offering."
Grass Valley just rolled out PubliTronic's integrated play-out technology with the new K2 Edge. "When we decided to expand our play-out offerings to include an integrated approach, we had the choice of doing it on our own or investing through an acquisition," says Andreoli, who notes that Francisco Partners, which acquired Grass Valley earlier this year, saw "a large opportunity in this emerging segment."
"Rolling out K2 Edge is a very important milestone in our quest to become the trusted experts of our customers in transforming broadcast-specific solutions to IT solutions," Andreoli adds. "We believe Grass Valley is the ideal partner for broadcast customers that have to leave their comfort zone and deal with the multiplication of channels."
The K2 Edge, housed in a 1 RU chassis, is the centerpiece of Grass Valley's overall integrated play-out solution. The Linux-based system is available in three levels of capability: K2 Edge Express for entry level channels with minimal graphics needs; K2 Edge Pro, for mainline 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 multi-channel 2D and 3D graphics complete with DVE moves including credit squeeze.
Customers who buy at one level can migrate, via a software license, to any other level within the K2 Edge range. Core to the K2 Edge system are two features originally developed by PubliTronic: the Grass Valley K2 TV/MAM asset management system with a central database and Grass Valley Cobalt play-out automation software. The K2 TV/MAM server uses a web-based GUI to control all assets including video clips, audio clips, captioning, metadata and graphic elements. The Cobalt play-out automation system manages all on-air events and runs completely independently from the database.
Available as a software option, Grass Valley Channel Composer--which runs on Windows and Mac platforms--handles the import and animation of 2D and 3D graphics, creates animations and links graphics templates to data sources for real-time on-air presentation. Composer 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.
With both of these moves--the acquisition of PubliTronic and the quick turn-around release of its first integrated playout system, Grass Valley is putting everyone on notice that it has a plan of action to capture the mid-level market. And Vermeulen mentioned, the product continues to evolve. In other words, we ain't seen nothin' yet.