Graphics-equipment palette gets broader

May 13, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Local broadcasters should have more choices when it comes to graphics packages this year, thanks to a broad range of lower-priced options geared to local television stations and regional cable networks. Several graphics companies have recently introduced a number of new or updated products for graphics, character generation and graphics automation; many of those offerings are designed to be easier to use and to enable production in both standard and high definition.
The last 18 months have put even more pressure on broadcasters to maximize every dollar they spend, said Steve Owen, business manager for workstations for Quantel in Newbury, England. That’s why Quantel announced in June the availability of a PC-based version of its well-known Paintbox product for graphics creation. The desktop-based offering, called QPaintbox, will start at $12,000 for a one-off license. The newest version of the traditional Paintbox, a hardware and software system, starts at $140,000. The software is designed to be easy to use for journalists who want to create their own graphics. The system comes with templates and more formulaic graphics, so a journalist can help select the look and feel of a graphic, while a designer can massage that into a finished product.
On the flip side, a designer can create a template that a journalist can just drop a photo into. “The journalists are the people who understand the story best, and we are giving them the tools to express the story to the fullest. Some journalists like the increase in editorial control, and some just want to write,” Mr. Owen said.
Orad, which is perhaps best known for providing virtual studio technology, launched at the National Association of Broadcasters convention last month its first graphics product that works in conjunction with its virtual studio system. The product is also being marketed as a stand-alone graphics system. Called Cyber Graphics, the software runs on top of Orad’s DVG platform, which renders the graphics. The system is a three-dimensional-character generator that produces graphics in real-time, whereas most character generators today operate only in two dimensions, said Noah Meiri, president of the New York-based company. “There was a gap in the marketplace between 2D character generators, with some pre-rendering capabilities and [higher-end machines that do 3D] that are $200,000, $300,000 a hit,” he said.
Orad saw an opportunity to offer a package priced below $100,000 that can handle the majority of the capabilities of the higher-priced machines, he said. The system costs $80,000 and can do all but the most complex graphics, said Mr. Meiri. It can also create images in standard-definition and high-definition simultaneously. “I want to bring to the mid-range market real-time rendering capabilities,” he said.
VertigoXmedia, which operates in a different space under the graphics umbrella, introduced a product geared specifically for local broadcasters. Traditionally, the Montreal-based company has provided higher-end solutions that manage the automation of graphics for networks such as CNBC with its Producer Xmedia. However, VertigoXmedia recently launched Product X, an all-in-one graphics control and automation solution targeted for local TV stations and regional cable networks that costs $10,000.
Producer Xmedia allows multiple users, while Product X is designed for only a single user. It includes certain elements of Producer Xmedia, such as the basic control panel, the gallery of layouts and the transformation of a data feed into a graphical output. However, those functions aren’t configured as separate applications for different users as they usually are at a network installation, said David Wilkins, president and CEO of VertigoXmedia.
“Typically at a local station, they don’t have a lot of resources. So all those functions are integrated into one application,” he said. One of the first customers is YES, the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network, which will be using the system for the automation of its ticker with scores and game schedules.
Pixel Power recently released Clarity2, a hardware platform for broadcast graphics that can output standard-definition and high-definition pictures at the same time, said James Gilbert, CEO of the Cambridge, England-based company. The new system, which ranges from $55,000 to $105,000, is also three to four times faster and allows for more complex animation than previous versions. And Chryon has introduced its Duet LEX character generator that enables unlimited real-time animation. The package starts at $20,000.