Thursday, May 27, 2010

Echolab shuts down, will liquidate; is there an opportunity for Blackmagic Design?

Last week, Echolab, a well-regarded manufacturer of video production switchers, closed its doors and gave notice that the company will be liquidated. All the company's employees have been laid off. Echolab focused on the midrange switcher market--higher-end than the industrial-style switchers from Panasonic and Broadcast Pix, but below the high-end from companies like Ross and Grass Valley.

Echolab's investors are looking for companies to buy its technology and inventory; in a liquidation, all, part or none of the company's assets may be sold. Blackmagic Design comes to mind as a potential buyer of Echolab's technology. Blackmagic has been a leader at driving down the cost of video production technology, and they're revitalizing DaVinci's color correction business. Production switchers are generally far too expensive relative to the price drops for most other video production and post-production equipment, and Blackmagic already makes an inexpensive, well-regarded line of routing switchers. Echolab might have technology and software that they could use to bring the same kind of cost-effective products to the production switcher market.

And yes, I can hear some of you saying that NewTek's Tricaster already fills the low-cost space, but there's plenty of room for competition. NewTek's control surfaces leave a lot to be desired, and by the time you get to their entry-level HD-compatible model, the TCXD300, you're talking almost $15,000, plus another almost $2,000 for a physical control surface. That's pretty close to the price of Grass Valley's Indigo AV switcher/audio mixer.

In any event, Blackmagic may already have all the technology it needs to produce a production switcher, or it may have evaluated the market and decided that it's not big enough to warrant the effort. However, an under-$10,000 HD production switcher from Blackmagic would get a lot of people very excited. Whether or not they pursue Echolab, it could be in the cards.
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