Thursday, August 12, 2010

Blackmagic Design acquires Echolab

Last May 27th, I wrote a blog entry about the demise of Echolab, a well-respected manufacturer of video production switchers that had just run out of money and gone into liquidation. At that time, I wrote that Blackmagic Design might be a good buyer of Echolab's assets. For years, Blackmagic has driven down the prices of professional video capture cards, converters and routers. Last year, they acquired DaVinci, and this year, they flipped the professional color correction market on its head by offering a software-only DaVinci implementation for OS X for under $1,000 (US), and a full-bore, Linux-based implementation with dedicated control surface for literally hundreds of thousands of dollars less than the previous comparable DaVinci Resolve implementation.

By merging Blackmagic's and Echolab's know-how, the company could introduce powerful production switchers at lower prices than the competition. Today, Blackmagic announced that it acquired Echolab, and said that it will be displaying an updated version of Echolab's Atem switcher at IBC in Amsterdam next month. The entry-level Atem with one mix/effects bus and 10 inputs (8 SD/HD/3Gbs SDI and 2 HDMI) will be priced at $19,995 (US), and the two mix/effects bus model with 18 inputs (15 SD/HD/3Gbps SDI and 3 HDMI) will be priced at $51,995.

In the future, it's easy to imagine Echolab's technology brought down to the desktop level--perhaps a reengineered UltraStudio Pro or Multibridge with 1 M/E bus and 4 inputs for under $10,000. An iPad-based user interface wouldn't be out of the question, either.

In any event, this is great news for both Blackmagic Design and the engineers who worked on the Echolab platform, many of whom have been rehired by Blackmagic. Here's the official press release:
Blackmagic Design Acquires EchoLab
Boston, MA, USA - August 12, 2010 - Blackmagic Design today announced the acquisition of all assets of EchoLab Inc., one of the world’s leading designers and manufacturers of production switchers. EchoLab has over 35 years of experience in designing and building production switchers since 1974. This experience has culminated in the latest ATEM range of production switchers that include cutting edge technology for world leading features such as up conversion on inputs, multilayer SuperSource™ input, Stinger™ transitions, and built in multi-view monitoring, all in a familiar and affordable, fully digital M/E style design.

The ATEM production switchers will be demonstrated at the Blackmagic Design IBC 2010 booth #7.B25.

For the thousands of people who use production switchers, ATEM will be instantly familiar. It uses the conventional M/E style of design that’s easy, safe and fast to use on even the most critical live production. ATEM also combines powerful features such as SuperSource™, which is a separate multi layer engine with 4 x 2D picture in picture DVE’s and 4 x keyers that provide the same power as adding a whole extra multiple M/E switcher to the ATEM input!

SuperSource can be called at any time, and connects into the switcher as an input. Only SuperSource gives you the power of 4 built in layers of keying, plus 4 picture in picture DVE’s, while keeping ATEM an easy and fast to use conventional M/E style switcher.

For connecting to the widest range of cameras, decks and computers, the ATEM 1 M/E model includes 8 SDI inputs that operate at SD, HD and 3 Gb/s SDI, plus 2 switchable HDMI/Analog video inputs. ATEM includes multiple SDI outputs for program, preview, and aux. outputs, plus an HDMI output for the multi-view monitoring output. The ATEM 2 M/E model includes 15 x SD, HD and 3 Gb/s SDI inputs, as well as 3 x switchable HDMI/analog inputs for a total of 18 video inputs. ATEM 2 M/E also includes two multi-viewer outputs, clean feed, aux., program and preview SDI outputs. All ATEM switchers include serial ports for camera and VDCP servers as well as genlock.

ATEM switchers allow previewing of transitions before putting them on air. Users simply select “Preview Transition”, and the preview output of the switcher will show all the elements of the transition, so users can have the confidence to make fast multi layering decisions during live production.

When working with multiple cameras and sources, ATEM saves thousands of dollars on expensive monitoring because it includes a built in multi-viewer that lets you see multiple sources on a standard HDMI television or monitor as well as program and preview outputs. When sources are on-air, ATEM multi-viewer displays highlighted borders, and multi-viewer windows can be custom labeled.

ATEM also includes Stinger transitions for exciting and creative transitions. Stingers can be loaded into the switcher, and are then available on the 2 built in media players. ATEM can hold 32 stills and hundreds of frames of real time clips with alpha channels, so users have a wide range of graphics and clips to play back as animations, supers and stingers. Media players can be selected into any of the 4 built in upstream keyers or the transition block for ultimate flexibility and creativity.

For enhanced effects and transitions, ATEM includes a 2D DVE with borders and drop shadows that can be used with any upstream keyer or in the transition block. This means the built in DVE can be used for transitions, or it can be used for keying operations. Because the 4 built in upstream keyers are stacked, users have a wide range of layering options available, and completely independent of the SuperSource input.

When the 4 upstream keyers are combined with 5 SuperSource layers, the transition block keyer, the 2 down stream keyers and the stinger, even a 1 M/E ATEM switcher can have up to 13 keyers on screen simultaneously. This is the heart of the power of ATEM, and would require 3 M/E’s on other brand switchers.
This makes ATEM a tremendous value for money, while providing a compact and portable solution.

ATEM can be fully automated with macros, and also includes support for VDCP controlled servers and robotic cameras, all from the ATEM control panel. Customers can use the built in joy stick for controlling cameras, and then recall macros for incredibly powerful operation with very few people. No other switcher allows customers to produce powerful live productions with so few people!

“I have been using live production switchers since I was in school where we covered local theater, sports, racing and bands. I think it’s the most exciting way to do production because it’s all live and thousands of people are watching what you are doing! Production switchers need to be powerful while also being familiar and easy to operate. I think the ATEM switchers from EchoLab are the most exciting switchers I have ever seen, and it’s incredibly exciting to add these products and intellectual property to the Blackmagic Design family”, said Grant Petty, CEO of Blackmagic Design. “The ATEM switcher is a fantastic creative tool, and it includes powerful features not found in any other product. Since the acquisition, we have already dramatically expanded the engineering team working on ATEM. This fresh engineering team, which is a combination of new as well as experienced EchoLab staff, will allow us to move faster in adding new features to the ATEM product. It’s so exciting, I cannot sleep!”

ATEM Key Features
•    1 M/E model supports 10 video inputs, 2 M/E model supports 18 video inputs.
•    SD, HD and 3 Gb/s SDI, HDM and analog video inputs.
•    Full 10 bit HD operation for broadcast quality.
•    Built in multi-viewer for monitoring switcher sources, includes custom labeling and tally borders.
•    Built in SuperSource allows 4 picture in picture DVE’s and 4 keyers independent of the M/E.
•    2 Media Players are built in for animated graphics and stingers.
•    Stinger effects are independent of keyers.
•    Includes 4 upstream keyers with each including chroma, luma, linear and pattern keying built in.
•    Includes 2 downstream keyers, and independent fade to black.
•    Supports macros, and graphic and clip downloads via PC software.
•   Up to 13 keyers active at one time.

Availability and Price
ATEM is currently being retooled for production and will be available late 2010 for US$19,995 for the 10 input 1 M/E model, and US$51,995 for the 18 input 2 M/E model from Blackmagic Design resellers worldwide.

Press Photography
Product photos of the ATEM production switchers can be obtained by emailing Terry Frechette at terryf@blackmagic-design.com. Press images will also be posted to www.blackmagic-design.com/press/images/ <http://www.blackmagic-design.com/press/images/> early next week.

About Blackmagic Design
Blackmagic Design creates the world’s highest quality video editing products, color correctors, video converters, routers, waveform monitors, live production switchers and film restoration software for the feature film, post-production and television broadcast industries. Blackmagic Design’s DeckLink capture cards launched a revolution in the television industry, while the company’s DaVinci Emmy™ award winning color correction products have dominated the television and film industry since 1984 and continue ground breaking innovations including stereoscopic 3D and 4K workflows. Founded by world leading post production editors and engineers, Blackmagic Design has offices in the USA, UK, Japan, Singapore, and Australia. For more information, please check www.blackmagic-design.com <http://www.blackmagic-design.com> .
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