IBC2015 Q&A: Cobalt Digital’s Bob McAlpine
Conversion/terminal/throwdown/multiviewer-equipment provider Cobalt arrived in Amsterdam this year with several new products and enhancements, headlined by a partnership to incorporate Embrionix SFP modules (known as “emSFPs”) into certain openGear cards in Cobalt’s 9991 Series. The cards will host Embrionix SDI-to-IP and IP-to-SDI emSFPs, enabling customers to use Cobalt equipment to send SMPTE 2022-6 SDI signals over IP and Ethernet networks, among other signal-I/O options.
Cobalt is also exhibiting its new +TTS text-to-speech software, which is compatible with many openGear cards and BBG-1000 standalone units. The system is already set to be used by Nexstar Broadcasting Group to serve the needs of vision-deficient people in communities throughout the U.S. and comply with FCC requirements and the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (21CCVA).
Also on display are the 9980-CSC-3G 3G/HD/SD-SDI RGB color-space corrector, 9922-2FS 3G/HD/SD-SDI dual-channel frame sync, and Blue Box Group fiber-to-HDMI mini-converter.
SVG sat down with Cobalt Digital EVP of Sales and Marketing Bob McAlpine to discuss the company’s new releases at IBC, its role in the sports-production industry, and how Cobalt is preparing for the potential “rise of IP.”
What would you say is Cobalt’s biggest news at IBC this year?
We have partnered with Embryonic, which makes SFPs [small form-factor pluggable modules]. This one is a SMPTE 2022-6, uncompressed IP output, so it’s SDI-to-IP or IP-to-SDI. We take their technology and insert it on one of our existing OpenGear cards, and that gives us that new uncompressed standard. So we are moving into the IP world right now.
How does this partnership reflect the rise of IP, which has been a theme at IBC this year, and how is Cobalt adapting?
We are a convergence company, so this is a good first step to incorporate this into our module line. If we’re going out with IP, we encapsulate, or we decapsulate on the other end; you can go through a router. We’ll see where the applications come in.
We’ve been working with Embryonic, and it’s about how you package [the product]. We had an available openGear card that has a standard video SFP in it. So we could adapt their SFP to our card, and it’s an embedder/de-embedder. We’re embedding audio ahead of it or de-embedding on the output as well. Embryonic is well-known; they partner with probably 50 other companies. But I think, for openGear and for uncompressed, this is a first. This establishes us with Embryonic, and I think, as time goes on, you’ll see not only technology partnerships that we have but also strategic relationships. As a singular provider of convergence terminal products, we are always looking to expand the range of what we do. But we can’t be all things to all people; we want to be good at the unique solutions we make.
Does Cobalt have any other major new products here?
We also have a new product that is more for the United States called +TTS, which stands for software-option text-to-speech. Text-to-speech is an FCC 21st-century mandate that becomes effective Dec. 1. Our first big [customer] is one of the larger broadcast groups, Nexstar. Essentially, the station looks at watch folders and pulls out data for emergencies for the visually impaired. If a [closed-captioning] crawl comes over as emergency, you dump the primary audio [and] pick up the SAP channel. We selected a chip from Acapela Group that does voice synthesis, so it reads the text that’s coming over the [crawl], and the visually impaired can hear it. This is great because it’s a downloadable software program for either openGear or the standalone BBG 1000.
Nextstar has committed to it, and we’re already shipping with some nice orders upfront. And now we’re looking at another major broadcaster who will hopefully come onboard. The text-to-speech has got a window right now that we’re working very hard on. That’s got a lot of value.
Cobalt has been a big proponent and supporter of OpenGear. How has the platform evolved, and why do you see it as a positive for the industry?
We embraced the platform for openGear from the start. We have probably more solutions in openGear than any of the other partners. Most of our business is an openGear offering. As the platform expands, we have our own frame for it. We’re the only supplier within the consortium that has two control panels or any control panels and support for the color corrector.
Any big news or customer wins recently in sports production?
We work with so many big players in the sports market since it’s where the dollars are right now. [Most recently,] VER just placed another order, and we worked with them on the Pan Am Games, the [FIFA] Women’s World Cup in Vancouver, the French Open. They have a multiviewer station with our gear. And they just bought more gear, so they are flying high in sports. We can be versatile for them, and we deliver when they need it. That’s a critical piece because, if you overpromise and underperform, you hurt their schedule. So we need to deliver.