Grass Valley’s Baldock: Broadening Investment in a Time of Budget Constraints

Everything old is new again at Grass Valley: Tim Thorsteinson once again is at the helm as president and CEO; the company continues to redefine itself, introducing new products at NAB 2013 with, as always, a focus squarely on the needs of broadcasters. VP, Strategic Alliances, Ray Baldock discusses what’s new for Grass Valley at the show and much more in this exclusive interview.

Is there a theme to this year’s Grass Valley NAB presence?
I don’t think we have a theme, but we are cementing our commitment to three market segments: news, live production, and playout. But one of the themes for the entire industry is how to deal with budgetary constraints while broadening out investments. And that is why we are introducing things like a new e-licensing program for products like Stratus and a new camera, the LDK Flex.

LDK Flex is the first member of a four-camera family that is all built on the same platform but has [electronic] licensing that allows the user to add options to make the camera our most sophisticated Worldcam model. And they can do that at their leisure, making a more modest investment in the beginning and then add format flexibility as demands change.

And they can even do that on a weekly basis, so, for example, in the remote-production environment, the features can be rented for a week. That gives the customer more choice when it comes to managing operation expenses vs. capital expenses.

There are two other industry themes at the show: cloud-based systems and 4K. How do you look at those two areas?
With cloud, you are really dealing with file-based workflows, and Stratus itself is an application that can allow for content to be accessed anywhere: within a facility, at another site, or in the cloud itself.

But the issue with the cloud is connectivity and scalability, and there are business decisions that need to be made based on what the customer is trying to achieve. One realization that has come to pass is, a file-based workflow should replicate tape-based workflows because that is a recipe that not only costs money but also does not exploit the advantages of working with files.

And workflows are also more complex because [content owners] are dealing with workflows for over-the-top delivery and second-screen delivery. How do you do that efficiently and make your organization properly equipped to do those [types of services]? And then how does the live environment get synched with multistream delivery?

As for 4K, there is interest there, but everyone is still learning what 4K means to them. And our focus on live production and not digital cinema means we are sensitive to issues like the size of lenses and the need for zoom lenses working with full-frame imaging sensors. So we see opportunities for 4K technologies, but, right now, it is more of a niche opportunity where broadcasters are extracting HD from 4K images. So right now, our focus with 4K is on building an infrastructure that is more capable.

And, while 4K in the film world is a sea-change type of event, in the world of sports and live production right now, it is like ultra slow motion: a specialty application.

Another big product roll out here for you is GV Director.
GV Director, for us, is one of those sea-change and revolutionary shifts in the way a production is managed. In a small compact frame, you have the functionality of a production switcher, video server, and graphics systems as well as inputs for live data sources. So, for a college or small-scale production, you can efficiently have a single solution instead of different tools. And an intuitive interface is the real breakthrough, as it has a touchscreen, T-bar, and two rows of buttons that are fully programmable so the user can set it up as they wish.

One of our assumptions with the GV Director is that the operator will do a lot of work like building graphics and elements offline. So they can do that, import them, and then marry them to the video at the push of a button. And you can stream data and marry it to the graphics for sophisticated effects.

It is really going to redefine how a production can be done as it will appeal to those who are intimidated by a full production switcher and even high-end users that see it as a powerful tool or for second-screen needs.

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