Echolab Aims Atem for the Dollar-Conscious

By Debra Kaufman

Echolab, a manufacturer of vide production switchers and related tools, today introduced Atem, a 1 M/E 3-Gbps 1080p/60 production switcher aimed at smaller-market stations, small mobile trucks, and non-broadcast markets.

Six months ago, said President Nigel Spratling, the company intended to release a big switcher at NAB 2009, but the increasingly bad economy derailed their plans. “The non-broadcast markets are staying steady,” says Spratling. “But on the broadcast side, we still have orders on hold.”

Atem features four upstream and two downstream keyers, Echolab’s SuperSource crosspoint and Stinger transitions and enables as many as 11 layers. With 10 mixed-format inputs with built-in synchronization and scaling, every input accepts SD or HD signals and two of the inputs accept computer signals.

The idea is to create a product for maximum flexibility, reports senior product manager Ankit Patel. Other Atem features include — in addition to program, preview and three auxiliary outputs in the switcher’s native format — two analog auxiliary outputs with internal down/cross conversion for SD distribution.

Inexpensive monitoring of program, preview and eight other sources is achieved via a built-in multi-viewer. There is a user-friendly internal clip player for animated lower thirds, backgrounds or short clips and a built-in 2D DVE for DVE transitions and animating objects on screen. An FAA-certified operating system ensures reliability and 10-second boot time.

At just under $20,000, the Atem is intended to hit the sweet spot for smaller stations struggling to upgrade to HD. But Spratling also stresses that, though 3 Gbps is still vapor-ware, it is an appealing feature of the new switcher. “3Gbps is going to happen in the future,” he said. “Big facilities are already planning and building infrastructure. Most small stations and small trucks are still analog and SD. So there is a replacement market when the money is there. For those finally moving to HD, it would be foolish not to add a path to 3G because whatever switcher they buy, they’ll likely hang onto it for a long time.”

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