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The Greenway of Video

by Chris Lesieutre
Wall Street Communications

cles@wallstcom.com

A Long and Distinguished Lineage
Richard Crosoer's grandfather first joined the BBC in 1927 when the "wireless" was still new. broadcast has been in the family ever since. Crosoer's father went to work as a BBC engineer. And Richard followed in his father's footsteps, joining the BBC as an engineer in 1965.

Silvered-haired (maybe wiser) and more than twenty years later, Crosoer founded Greenway Limited in 1988 as a specialist supplier of television equipment to the U.K market. Since 1988 the company has grown to support four salesmen around the country, as well as a product specialist for editors and a dedicated service manager, and has its own assembly and manufacturing operation. "We're still a small company, though," says Crosoer, "and we still pride ourselves on the fact that we give engineering expertise along with giving that small-company level of service and support."

Representation with a difference
Greenway represents a number of manufacturers from around the world, including Applied Digital Technology, EMC and Techtel. But supplying equipment is only the beginning of the process. Unlike the typical distributor, Greenway is known for its after sales support. "When we sell a piece of gear, that's just the beginning," says Ron Atkinson, sales manager for Greenway. "We try to develop long term relationships with customers, keep giving them the things they need. Our product line has to be good because we have to stand behind it." Like Crosoer, Atkinson has extensive experience in the industry. He spent twenty-five years with Ampex, starting as a sales engineer and eventually taking on sales manager responsibility.

Greenway now offers the U.K. market a wide range of equipment from MPEG-2 video servers to format conversion products. "We're always looking for innovative products that are not offered by anyone else in the U.K. or products that give a distinct price advantage to our customers," Crosoer explains. And Greenway is also a complete system provider - they have installed a number of complete edit suites in the U.K. and Europe.

Always moving with technology:
today the rage is the MPEG-2 video servers
Greenway built a reputation by supplying products and expertise in the traditional engineering-based products like routers and format converters. But the company has always advanced with new technology and maintained a position on the leading edge of technology. For instance, Greenway represented the first non-linear editor in the UK: the EMC (see below). The latest advanced br /oadcast product represented by Greenway is one of the first MPEG-2 Video Servers: the ADnet from Applied Digital Technology.

The ADnet Video Server provides a modular and flexible solution for video storage and control. Providing up to 16 channels per module, it features RAID 5 storage, variable data rates, programme switching, hot swappable mirrored disk drives and power supplies, backup decoder channels and a LAN interface. Extensive system security is also standard.

ADnet is suitable for a wide variety of applications including local origination, news playback, video walls, near-video-on-demand and time delay and as well as ad insertion.

One of the first installations of ADnet in Europe was MTV Europe in Paris. The server is used for remote ad insertion. The ADnet system enables commercials to be MPEG-2 encoded in London and downloaded to the remote site via ISDN. Remote unattended operation is enabled via a Greenway-designed custom control system (that's another thing Greenway does better: applies their engineering expertise to make the exact products you need). Playlists from MTV's London-based traffic system are uploaded from London to a remote site via a special communications system built by Greenway and Applied Digital Technology. MTV Europe became the first br /oadcaster to transmit material that had been delivered to the transmitter by the ISDN rather than conventional link circuits. The system has proved so successful that MTV has ordered a second ADnet system for their Oslo facility.

Greenway also represents Applied Digital Technology's ADnet MPEG-2 Encoder and the ProStor JPEG Video Server.

Better ideas
Some of the most useful products for television professionals often do simple jobs - but do them very well. The BugShot and the OneShot from Techtel are two perfect examples that have been very well received in the European market. Users include the BBC, Channel 5, Live TV, and even the European Parliament.

BugShot is a floppy disk based 4:2:2 image store which allows industry-standard TGA-format files to be output as full br /oadcast standard NTSC or PAL video. It includes a linear downstream keyer and the ability to store up to 16 bugs or 1 video frame. Simplicity of operation was one of the main design goals of the BugShot. BugShot uses 3.5" floppy disks and stores files as industry standard TGA format. When fitted with ANIMAKER it also provides animated bug sequences. Ideal for presentation studios, OB or SNG trucks and equally at home in remote transmitter or cable headend operation, BugShot is an inexpensive, set and forget, logo inserter and standby caption source.

The OneShot is a BugShot without the downstream keyer.

Non-linear editing and other random processes
One of Greenway's most high-profile products is the Primetime editor from Editing Machines Corporation (now owned by Amsterdam-based br /oadWare, who plans further development of the EMC product through a series of software enhancements, culminating with a Windows NT version). EMC was the first company to offer a non-linear editor. The on-line version of Primetime has all the same features of the off-line Primetime as well as more effects editing features and, of course, Betacam level video quality.

Sadiq Mohamed, a well-known London based freelance editor, acts as Greenway's product specialist for editors. He's also the training expert, demo artist, and occasional assembly assistant. Sadiq, who has used most non-linear editors on the market, claims that the Primetime is the most well-engineered machine around in terms of video quality and ease of operation. He should know. Like Crosoer, he started as an engineer on the front lines at the BBC, and he's been a working editor for more than ten years.

Sadiq leads by example. He doesn't just demo and train on the Primetime. He's bought one for himself. He uses the Primetime on-line to edit documentaries for the Discovery Channel.

Greenway handles all assembly for EMC in the U.K., and even offers a range of options and special packages for the Primetime, including a special Student Edition Primetime developed for the education market.

Not just for distribution . . .
While Greenway's main function has been that of a distributor, the company also builds systems, has software capabilities in house and even has its own manufacturing operation.

Greenway primarily builds systems around its line of editors. Greenway has recently built a transmission facility for a satellite channel, and a number of editing suites in the UK and Europe.

Greenway builds its own G-Range computers in-house for use with the Primetime on-line machines, along with customised monitoring and distribution systems for edit suites. Greenway's popular COMTEST is also manufactured by the company. It tests for and identifies faults in RS422 cables, and no engineer should be without one. It's one of those simple devices that's inexpensive (25 UK pounds) and can save hours of time and trouble.

G-Range Utilities are a range of software utilities developed by Greenway to fix bugs and errors in other manufacturers software. There's an EDL file view, a "fix Avid" command which adds line feeds to files saved on a Mac, and a "fix Sony" command as well. EDLs can be converted between different line standards - which is useful to convert rushes and use the original EDL to make a new master copy. It also allows conversion of EDL to a film footage count. Edi-Shell provides a front end for DOS editors (Calaway and Ampex) and is a whole EDL management system.

The Grass is always Greenway . . .
The last few years have seen the introduction of some great new technologies, but we've also been given some challenges and things to think about. Crosoer sums it up: "You can see a sort of great amoeba-like thing called the computer industry threatening to swallow up the video industry along with just about every other aspect of life. Those of us born into this industry have seen a great infiltration in the past five years of the new computer industry into our business. They made it difficult for us at first because they came in with great marketing machines and hordes of forceful young salespeople in immaculate suits as if they walked straight out of the IBM sales machine from 1980."

"Before 1980," Crosoer explains, "the development of television technology had actually been leading much of the electronics development that was taking place in this century. The radar, for instance, really came into being as an offshoot of research and development that had gone into television. And people forget where the big push for digital came from. They assume the computer industry started it, when in fact it was the television industry itself.

"The br /eak came around 1980 when many people in the television industry came to a general realisation that they really did not need to continue pushing their own development because they saw that the computer industry would do it for them. This decision has really led to an erosion of standards and expectations in the television industry. We became content to make do with other peoples' technology and trying to make their technology work as well as possible in the applications we had. The old quest for performance and engineering excellence ceased to be dominant. Instead of improving quality further, the goal simply became to make everything cheaper. The attitude has become, 'Near enough is good enough and cheap is even better.' But to be fair, we have to recognise that quality today is very good. For those of us who can remember, in the old days, near enough was pretty much a miracle.

"While the computer people did a great job of getting machines through the doors, as the novelty wears off, it is becoming plain that they don't understand what the television and video customer needs. Customers are starting to bite back. They're outraged by the marketing hype and the failed promises. And I think as the video/computer business matures, those that got the jump are not necessarily going to stay in front. It's going to go back to the customer demanding solid engineering. They aren't going to buy promises anymore. They're going to buy proven machines that don't crash all the time, machines that work. But there's definitely no turning back - the computer nerds and the gentlemen of video have to get together and make it work for the customer. Just look at us putting this Primetime editor together. We have to be computer experts for this job. But, I think our success has resulted from the fact that we're also video experts."

Crosoer chuckles to himself and says, "It's kind of funny for a die-hard video guy like me ... but we've actually been selling standalone computers here and there as an offshoot of the non-linear editing business. Just taking my own back from the computer industry."

It all comes around.

Adapted with permission from Hardware's UK Network

 

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