NAB Still Store Preview, Part 2: In Action and Connected

By John Rice

The words still store may conjure up a sedate product category that creates a serene sense of being, but the reality is that still stores, increasingly, aren’t so still. And they often perform more graphics-related functions.

“When people refer to a still store, they mean something that will do still and motion,” explains Pete Challinger, CEO of Pixel Power Inc. “It’s been that way for a while.”

Challinger believes that, while a dedicated still store may offer cost savings to some users, “there is benefit to having the functionality integrated with something that can do other things as well.”

Pixel Power’s Clarity system is its primary resource for still and clip storing and playback capabilities. “Our position is that having a multifunction device makes more sense,” says Challinger. Today’s sports-production environment requires more than simply recalling stills and clips.

“It’s also got to be able to squeeze it, caption it,” he says. “The workflow and the operator interaction are important. You want to be able to get things up in a hurry.”

Another Pixel Power offering, LogoVision, is also being used in sports production for still and clip playback. While the standard-definition system is designed primarily for branding, it does have capability for full-frame or squeezed stills. “It’s a still store that can do a little animation,” Challinger points out.

“Media these days is not just static images,” says Teicia Joffe Guapp, Avid Technology technical marketing manager. “It’s transitioned over the last few years that everything should move.” That transition led Avid to develop a product category she defines as “live production server” because, “in a fast-paced situation, it delivers still search and recall and clip stores.”

Avid’s Thunder line of such servers comprises the Thunder MX, with one or two channels of SD video and key, and the Thunder HD, featuring one or two channels of HD video with eight channels of audio and video key. The ThunderBrowse option is a software version that “can live in a remote environment and tie into the main Thunder server,” Guapp says. “With Thunder, there is the ‘super-channel’ delivery, and any Thunder channel can play back HD or SD video, key, and audio and graphic elements. One single Thunder channel can do the job of six VTRs in a traditional workflow.”

Thunder integrates with Avid’s Deko graphics system in a proprietary environment and offers interoperability with third-party products, supporting MPEG-2, QuickTime,.mxf,.dv,.avi, and other file formats.

Late last year, Avid introduced Thunder 7.1 and recently upgraded to 7.1.2, which Guapp describes as providing “some additional capabilities and ‘hardening’ of the product.”

Vizrt has “been moving from a 3D-graphics company to more of a workflow company,” says EVP of Marketing Francois LaBorie. Part of that transition, made possible by Vizrt’s acquisition of Ardendo in 2006, can be seen in Viz Link, first shown at the 2008 NAB Show and enhanced with additional product introductions at last fall’s IBC.

“The demand from our customers was clearly to access stills and clips from the graphic interface,” says LaBorie. Viz Link extends a traditional search process, he points out, “but [the operator] would search the media-management database, select a video clip, which would be automatically inserted into the graphics.” The ClipStore function of Viz Link is “the purest media-management solution that is available to the operator. In terms of workflow” from ingesting clips, having clips in a playlist, having some editing tools” it’s really a full media-management solution that is bundled as the Clip Store.”

Viz Link works “primarily with Vizrt,” says LaBorie, “but, from the control-application side, we have a lot of partners who have developed specific control applications for specific sports. They could interface as well through this workflow.

“What we are pushing is the workflow, the completeness of the solution,” he adds. “Editing tools, metadata tagging, all available from the regular graphic-control interface.”

Harris offers the Inscriber G-Store Digital Media Store as an SD or SD/HD media-management system, but, says Product Line Manager Curtis Mutter, “we’re seeing less and less demand for that type of media management or playback box. You want the added functionality.”

The Harris Media Store is included as part of the G1, G3, and G7 systems. “You get the best of both worlds,” says Mutter. “You’ve got the full CG as well as the Media Store integrated into one system. There’s a demand for functionality, but you want to do more with it. You want that creation ability. You want the sequencing ability. You want more than you might have been offered in a traditional still store.”

Integrating with Harris’s Connectus Media Server, Mutter says, G1, G3, and G7 offer the ability to “move media content between multiple systems. If I’m using my Media Store to manage the resources of one CG box and I decide I need those on another system, I can select whichever content I want, publish that up to our Connectus server for graphics-storage management, and download that to any other Media Store on my network.”

That connectivity, Mutter believes, is the greatest benefit to Harris’s offerings. “The Media Store tool itself hasn’t changed a lot,” he says. “As we add new functionality to the CG” new G3D tool, 3D playback” those 3D events are now available through the Media Store.” For NAB, Mutter says, the “big thing is the Connectus integration. We’ll definitely be showing that.”

Whether standalone clip-store product or still- and clip-store capabilities integrated into a larger system, suppliers agree that a key aspect of their offerings must include benefits to workflow and user operability. While full-function graphics systems provide clip and still modification and playback control to a single operator, the standalone devices also provide integration with other products for ease of use and, often, a reduced number of operators. A driving trend through all the product offerings, though manifest in different ways, is connectivity” between devices and even locations.

Speed, cost-efficiencies, and ease-of-operation are mantras shared by virtually everyone in the field.

To access Part 1 of this series, click here.