NAB in Review: Evertz Dreamcatcher Shines in March to Ultra-Slo-Mo, 4K Replay

Industry discussion around Evertz’s Dreamcatcher replay system last year repeatedly suggested that the ultra-slow-motion solution had the potential to be a sports-broadcast game-changer (pun intended). But, at NAB 2013, Dreamcatcher formally became a workflow reality with news of an inaugural system sale.

Some observers are confident that the Dreamcatcher system — the first to use multitouch interfaces to simplify preparation of instant replays and highlights packages — will herald increased competition between Evertz and replay stalwart EVS. It would be foolish to attempt any conclusions at this early stage, but confirmation of the sale of a 48-channel Dreamcatcher to Denver-based Mobile TV Group (MTVG) hardly undermines the current sense of momentum.

Evertz also continues to place the system effectively in the context of the gathering 4K storm, using the NAB Show to highlight the system’s deployment in 4K production workflows by the likes of CBS Sports and showcasing such features as its super-zoom capability, which allows broadcasters to zoom in on key plays and extract an image from the larger 4K frame.

But a simple “NAB 2013 replay = Dreamcatcher” equation would be misleading. Abekas, NewTek, and Tightrope Media Systems all announced significant new developments although Evertz’s closest rival for column inches was undoubtedly EVS, which demonstrated a prototype of its 4K live slow-motion–replay system.

Taking place in private, the “world-first” demo saw an EVS XT3 live production server ingest four 3G-SDI feeds while playing back another four 3G-SDI feeds to provide instant replay of live 4K video — the equivalent of 16 live HD channels to guarantee live support of 8 million pixels at 50 or 59.94 frames per second. The XT3 server was deployed in a one-channel–in/one-channel–out configuration, with control via EVS’s LSM panel.

EVS also revealed that it is currently working on supporting 4K live replays using a two-channel–in/one-channel–out configuration, allowing a single XT3 server to continuously record two 4K cameras while providing 4K instant replays and highlights.

“4K recording and instant-replay capabilities are a natural extension to the EVS XT3 server,” says Luc Doneux, EVP, EVS Sports. “We’ve been working on the first step with a two-channel 4K server, and, thanks to the tremendous bandwidth of the XT3 server, we’re currently working on a multichannel 4K server. We’ve been collaborating closely with both customers and key partners to test the solution in real live operating conditions to ensure it can cope with tomorrow’s live 4K requirements. These latest developments are part of our ongoing commitment to providing pragmatic and reliable solutions to our customers, as their needs evolve.”

Elsewhere on the show floor, several other manufacturers were poised to deliver beneficial boosts to replay functionality. Abekas was among them, outlining details of a new version of software for its Mira instant-replay server and associated Mira Control Surface, which enables dual-user operation. Achieved via the connection of two control surfaces to one Mira server, the dual-user function allows a single “event project” to be opened and actively shared by two operators.

NewTek, meanwhile, opted for a “price-performance” emphasis when trumpeting the arrival of its 3Play 4800 multicamera replay server. Redundant capture of up to four live video sources, 3D-warped visual transition effects, live replay switching, slow-motion playback with standard HD or SD cameras, and straightforward distribution of content to multiple social-media sites lead the feature set of a system available for a shade below $40,000.

“With 3Play 4800, producers can now deliver the electrifying highlights that drive greater fan loyalty — and have a direct impact on the revenue and profitability of their business,” says Dr. Andrew Cross, chief technology officer, NewTek.

The ability to have replays ready to air in seven frames was the chief message surrounding the launch of Tightrope Media Systems’ ZEPLAY 2.1 instant-replay solution. Other features include added codec support, 16 audio channels (input/output) with Scrubbing, In-Game Editing Tools, and other “extras” designed for the replay operator, including an enhanced controller.

With the long-term implications of 4K yet to reveal themselves, there was an inevitable sense of transition about the replay segment at this year’s NAB Show. Expect the overall situation — not to mention the respective market positions of EVS and Evertz — to become a good deal clearer by the time broadcasters descend on Las Vegas next April.

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