Workflow in a box12 October 2012
According to Peter Hajittofi of Pebble Beach Systems, there were at least 32 channel in a box products on offer at NAB and IBC this year. If the market is so crowded, why did his company, along with another market leader in playout automation, Harris, enter it with their own new offerings? Over more than a decade now, many manufacturers, led by companies like Oasys and PlayBox, have developed all-in-one playout devices. Almost all are based on a standard PC, although at least one (Tools On Air) uses Apple hardware. Given the processing and graphics power available in off the shelf technology, it seems like an obvious solution. Yet the perception is that channel in a box systems are primarily the domain of low-cost or niche channels. Many vendors are working to change this perception: since Grass Valley acquired PubliTronic late in 2011, its units – now branded K2 Edge – are running major channels. The Encompass playout centre in London is migrating to K2 Edge exclusively, for example. The latest developments in processing power mean that high reliability can now be offered from a channel in a box, and along with automated resilience in N+n configurations, more broadcast centres will undoubtedly follow Encompass’s lead. Pebble Beach’s Hajittofi, talking about the new 64-bit Stingray product, said “it is a fact that many new customers and projects are asking specifically for channel in a box, and we have been able to exploit our experience in delivering best of breed automation and integrated channel technology.” For Harris, the solution moves away from the traditional PC platform, although it remains inside a 1U box. Essentially Versio – launched at IBC after a whisper suite introduction at NAB – includes a PC running proven Harris automation software from its ADC and D-Series lines, plus a separate processor running Ikon graphics and a third which is essentially the video I/O board from a Harris Nexio server to manage the content.