Thorsteinson Accepts Challenge of Combining Quantel and Snell With One Roadmap for Future
Well-known industry figure Tim Thorsteinson took the reins as CEO of Quantel and Snell in March. At NAB he unveiled his initial reaction of the entities he has inherited: “two proud businesses with great technologies – that need to be combined, so that in the future ‘one plus one will equal three’. We’ll get into IBC as one company, with one name, one brand and one product roadmap,” he said. “There’s a lot of work ahead of us in the coming months to get that done. We’re still pretty much two separate organisations on the surface.
“Both businesses are owned by Lloyds Development Capital,” Thorsteinson observed. “This is kind of a different investor group in that they’re owned by a bank – with perhaps a different timeline than other investor groups. We have a lot of assets: my job is to transition the business into an industry leader in three to five years. That’s my horizon.
“The previous management did a great job on cost reduction so I don’t have to do that – which is great,” Thorsteinson remarked. “When I talked to Lloyds about how we add value to the business I said it’s about technology. We have to solve problems for our customers,” he said, “and one thing we’re trying to do is move [our technology] downmarket so that more people can access it. We need a more standard platform, and to change our pricing structure.”
Addressing the future roadmap for the company Robert Rowe, Snell Managing Director, Live TV, said “the move to IP routing in the broadcast production chain is a once in a generation change that will require IP and SDI to run side by side for some time to come,” as the company unveiled several key product developments for its IP-migration strategy. “We have a strong vision for how IP should be embraced, and at NAB we are showing IP production workflows between real-world broadcast equipment that demonstrates how broadcasters can today make IP part of their overall workflow.
“We are convinced that the use of standard IT switches and hardware is the right choice for our industry, enabling us all to take advantage of the huge R&D investment of the IT industry, while we apply our broadcast expertise to making it work for our customers simply and cost-effectively,” he said.
“Critically, we’re not asking customers to suffer the massive expense and disruption of replacing their existing systems or learn new skills and workflows. Our strategy involves IP-enabling existing systems alongside their SDI capabilities, using familiar control interfaces to provide hybrid SDI/IP operation without requiring any new knowledge or skills from the operator,” said Rowe.
At NAB Quantel and Snell are announcing their support for Sony’s IP Live Production System. This new AV over IP interface delivers low latency and noise-free switching of HD and 4K video, audio, and metadata, as part of IP-based networking. The Sony Live Production System supports direct connection of numerous types of production devices onto the IP network via an existing Layer-3 IP switch infrastructure – in accordance with the Quantel and Snell IP philosophy.
Snell is also demonstrating interoperability between the Artel DigiLink DLC450 HD-SDI video over IP Gateway and Snell’s IP routing solution, showing SMPTE2022-6 interoperability – something many broadcasters regard as critical to the success of IP routing in a multi-vendor world.
A Kahuna 6400 production switcher is being demonstrated on the booth delivering a 10 gigabit IP stream programme output encoded within the mainframe from SDI sources. Also announced is the development of 40 gigabit ‘fins’ that can handle multiple IP inputs and outputs that simply slot into the Kahuna mainframe in place of conventional SDI fins. First deployments are expected by May 2015 for proof of concept with selected Kahuna customers prior to general release later this year.
Sports replay and production highlights
Quantel’s LiveTouch sports highlighting system is making its NAB debut, following initial announcement at IBC2014. LiveTouch is a new range of studio sports highlighting systems that feature a robust live control panel and bi-directional editor integration.
With soft cut transitions, playlists can be played out from the LiveTouch panel with user-configurable transitions between events, giving more creative on-air choices. Program and Preview modes; LiveTouch outputs can be configured for alternative workflows where two independent outputs are required.
Inter-server streaming allows multiple LiveTouch servers to be used as one large, virtual server, giving operators instant access to any clip irrespective of where it is being recorded. This simplifies operations and saves costs as just one operator can be selecting highlights from feeds into multiple servers – for example when a live TV programme is covering multiple games simultaneously.
LiveTouch Highlights is the entry level, standalone system, comprising a single LiveTouch server and one or two LiveTouch control panels and integrated editing. LiveTouch Highlights offers a low entry cost and is easily deployed in any studio environment.
LiveTouch Production is a highlighting system for sophisticated studio applications. LiveTouch Production is powerful enough to support multiple studios and demanding productions, yet is simple to configure and use. LiveTouch Production includes integrated editing as standard, allowing fast editing of highlights and playout of finished pieces.
LiveTouch Enterprise adds sports highlighting to Quantel Enterprise sQ fast turnaround production systems. The result is a unified system covering every aspect of sports highlighting and programme production that delivers a complete, efficient workflow that eliminates much of the complexity and media duplication that often exist today.
“We have trialled LiveTouch with a number of major sports broadcasters around the world since we first showed it in prototype form last fall,” said Neil Maycock, Quantel and Snell VP, Marketing. “It has been overwhelmingly welcomed, and we have also been able to incorporate their feedback into the ongoing development of the system – hence the new features on show at NAB. The first installations will be happening over the next few weeks, and development will continue apace to ensure that LiveTouch keeps growing well beyond the capabilities of other highlights systems.”
At NAB Quantel is also announcing that typical system prices for its Enterprise sQ News and Sports production systems have been reduced by at least 40% — up to 60% on some configurations. The new pricing is the result of the launch of Quantel’s new sQ 1000 series servers and the simplification of the range of editing clients, and brings Quantel’s speed from ingest to editing and playout within the range of a wider market.
The new sQ servers offer three times the storage capacity in two thirds of the space, and of course boast Quantel’s unique FrameMagic agile multi-user, realtime operation for guaranteed fastest-to-air, web and mobile performance.
“Quantel has a reputation for being expensive,” said Maycock. “The launch of the new sQ servers has given us the opportunity to relook at every aspect of our pricing, and the new price points are now highly competitive with any other system in the market – with better performance guaranteed.
“This new pricing represents a major commitment from the company to the broadcast production market. It will allow us to revisit business where we’ve been excluded on price, and it will enable us to prospect with customers who previously couldn’t afford Quantel – or thought they couldn’t. We will once and for all shift the market’s perception of Quantel with this initiative,” Maycock concluded.
At the show Snell is unveiling a format-independent, integrated multiviewer for its Kahuna switcher range and three new ‘Mav’ modules for its Maverik configurable switcher control panel. The new Kahuna multi-format multiviewer is fully integrated into the switcher mainframe and will be a standard feature on all Kahuna 4800, 6400 and 9600 production switchers.
The Kahuna multiviewer combines multiple formats into a single 1920 x 1080 multiviewer output head. Up to six output heads are supported, delivering up to 24 on-screen windows (or tiles).
The Kahuna multiviewer is suited to handling the needs of more compact productions, and will play a complementary role in larger productions – for example, handling in-production switching needs (backgrounds etc), so reducing the complexity and cost of the overall Multiviewer strategy. The Kahuna multi-format multiviewer will be released in mid-2015.
The modular architecture of the Kahuna Maverik configurable control panel allows flexibility in design and enables the panel to be reconfigured on a production by production basis. At NAB Snell is also introducing three new ‘Mav’ modules to extend this versatility even further – audio Mav, automation Mav and auxiliary Mav.
The audio and automation Mavs are both aimed at delivering single person operation. The automation Mav enables one-button call-up of pre-built scenarios; for example, switching in field-side reporters inset into the main studio background. The new audio Mav gives the switcher operator instant audio level control – for example, to cut out crowd sounds or passing traffic. The auxiliary Mav enables comprehensive local auxiliary control – external DVEs, switching in specific locations or in-programme set-ups.