NAB 2011: Grass Valley’s New 3G Transmission System Unites Fiber, Triax

The marriage between triax and fiber has always been a tenuous one. Sports broadcasters and mobile-production providers often must choose one or the other. Although fiber is the optimum choice for delivery of 1080i, 720p, or 1080p50/60 video, many broadcasters are more comfortable using reliable triax cabling. However, at a press conference on Saturday, Grass Valley announced its new 3G Transmission system, which it says will go a long way in eliminating this conundrum.

“We realize that the reliability and the ease of maintenance of triax in live OB environments are very important,” says Marcel Koutstaal, SVP of cameras for Grass Valley. “However, we also realize that fiber connectors and cable systems are improving and people are beginning to understand how to better deal with fiber. What we are here to prove is, triax now has true 3G capability to [deliver HD video].”

According to Grass Valley, its 3G Transmission system converges today’s triax and fiber connectivity into a single digital transmission solution. The system is capable of carrying uncompromised 3-Gbps signals over both triax and fiber. This allows any choice of transmission cable to carry uncompromised 1080i, 720p, or 1080p50/60 video.

“In this new transmission system, triax and fiber actually live side by side,” Koutstaal says. “It doesn’t matter if you choose triax or fiber, you will have the same functionality, performance, diagnostics, feature sets, and connectivity. There is no difference and no compromise if you choose one or the other. Even if you choose triax, you still have all the HD and 3-Gbps capabilities.”

Grass Valley’s 3G Transmission is also capable of carrying multiplexed pairs of 720p or 1080i HD signals for stereoscopic 3D applications. In addition, 3G Transmission extends the range of triax coverage by 25%, to a conservative minimum of 4,921 ft. (1,500m), providing more flexibility in the placement of cameras at venues.

3G Transmission also carries four digital audio channels back to the base station as two AES/EBU pairs and as an embedded signal within the digital video signal itself. Two independent video returns can be sent to the camera for operator monitoring and, for example, a stage-floor monitor at the same time. 3G Transmission also provides a clear talkback and a broad data channel for camera control, communication with robotics, real-time graphical-overlay processing, or remote alignment of a stereoscopic rig.

UK-based NEP Visions has been using the transmission system since January for its coverage of England Football Premier League soccer. NEP Visions currently uses Grass Valley LDK 8000 Elite WorldCam cameras connected via the 3G Triax system to deliver matches in 1080p50.

“We are working closely with our customer base and have done a lot of field trials,” says Koutstaal. “NEP Visions has proven it works in the field and has worked closely together with our team in the Netherlands. All of their feedback is being incorporated in the product we are now releasing.”

3G Triax is available immediately, with 3G Fiber to be on the market in mid May. Pricing for both the 3G Triax and 3G Fiber will depend on configuration.