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Snell & Wilcox Unveils Kahuna - The Next Big Wave in Production Switching (24/9/2004)

In a move that establishes a new level of technical achievement in multi-format SD/HD production switching, Snell & Wilcox today announced the launch of Kahuna, the industry's most advanced production switcher and the first ever to offer simultaneous high definition (HD) and standard definition (SD) operations in the same mainframe with the same control panel. It is also the first ever switcher to enable the seamless integration of SD sources into HD productions without upconversion.

Kahuna delivers breakthrough performance for broadcasters. Future-proof and flexible, it allows operators to work initially in SD-only or HD-only mode and then upgrade to multiformat SD/HD operation whenever they choose. In multiformat SD/HD mode, Kahuna users can mix existing SD camera feeds, graphics, handheld shots, and archive footage directly into an HD production with no need to purchase expensive HD upgrades or extra HD upconversion equipment. This not only provides unparalleled operational flexibility, it also delivers tremendous cost savings to users.

Until now, HD/SD switchers have only been able to operate in either SD or HD modes, and generally require a reboot in order to switch between the two modes. This "either-or" operation limits flexibility and results in downtime when the machine must be taken offline in order to switch between operational modes. This traditional approach also means that in order to operate in HD, broadcasters must either invest in a complete HD facility-including cameras, graphics etc.-or purchase multiple channels of external upconversion in order to integrate sources from legacy SD equipment into HD productions.

Kahuna changes the rules of the game thanks to Format Fusion, a Snell & Wilcox technology that enables SD sources to be seamlessly integrated into HD products without the need for upconversion. With Kahuna, a single mainframe and single control surface simultaneously handles both SD and HD sources, and no reboot is required when switching from one standard to another. This functionality enables Kahuna operators to allocate mix/effects banks (M/Es) to either SD or HD sources, or to mix the two together on a single M/E. This operational flexibility extends to Kahuna's ability to network multiple control surfaces to different mainframes, to allocate one mainframe to separate control panels or to operate in SD or HD as required, making maximum use of all available M/Es.

The ability to use SD sources within high-quality HD productions extends the useful life of existing SD hardware, potentially representing tremendous cost savings for facilities that would otherwise be forced to purchase multiple HD upconverters, new HD graphics capabilities, and new HD cameras in order to move to HD production.

"From the user's point of view, Kahuna is more than just a switcher," said Joe Zaller, Snell & Wilcox Vice President of Marketing and Product Management. "It's the freedom to work with both HD and SD standards simultaneously, with outstanding picture quality, and to maximize the investment return on existing SD equipment, wherever the user may be on the transition path to HD. As the most modern switcher on the market, not only does Kahuna provide state-of-the-art performance, it also delivers tremendous value to end-users in the form of operational flexibility and freedom to migrate from SD to HD production at their own pace."

The growing demand for HD output, especially in sports and live events, means that switcher buyers must consider how best to future-proof their investment. Kahuna's unique, combined SD/HD functionality makes it a versatile solution for any business model in the emerging multi-format world.

"If you want to operate in HD only, it gives you the extra flexibility of using any SD source, directly, without upconversion," said John Carter, Snell & Wilcox switcher product manager. "If you plan to work partly in HD and partly SD, the benefits of Kahuna's simultaneous multi-format operation are clear. If you have no current plans to go HD, you'll find that even in SD-only form, Kahuna is the most powerful, feature-rich and cost-effective production switcher on the market, and it offers a simple software upgrade path to multiformat SD/HD operation."

Kahuna has already been enthusiastically received by production professionals who have previewed it in operation.

"One of the cleverest features about Kahuna is its multiformat SD/HD capability," said Trevor Bailey, a London-based vision mixer whose regular assignments include major sports events in Europe and worldwide. "This represents a major technical achievement. The ability to mix SD and HD sources within the one mixer will be particularly convenient for sports broadcasters. It would be equally useful where you are cutting SD and HD versions of the same show simultaneously. It's also good to see that, for all its innovations, Kahuna has a familiar control panel design and layout, making it easy for any operator to sit down and get straight to work."

Engineering Efficiency and Operational Control

Kahuna's compact, 11-RU mainframe is the smallest ever for a switcher with its capabilities, yet it contains up to four M/Es and eight channels of 3D DVE effects (optional) together with redundant power supplies. Its low weight, power consumption and heat generation make Kahuna equally at home in weight sensitive OB vehicles and in fixed installations.

Fully loaded with DVE options, the four-M/E Kahuna provides up to 24 separate SD or HD images that can be manipulated independently. In addition to having a dedicated Format Fusion engine, each M/E bank has four keyers able to perform luma, linear, and chroma keying; five transition wipe generators; still store and RAM recorder; RGB color correction; two utility buses; and DMEM capability.

Designed by Snell & Wilcox with pressurized live production environments in view, Kahuna features the generic panel layout familiar to control room professionals. Subtle enhancements, such as the size and layout of the transition keys on each M/E, give fingertip familiarity to essential functions without the need to visually check. For greater operational convenience, every M/E on the system can be dynamically assigned on the control panel, allowing the operator to select which M/E bank will be used to cut the program and where it will be located on the desk.

Engineered for robust performance, Kahuna's M/Es are entirely independent from one another to eliminate the risk of a single point of failure, and can be hot-swapped during live operation. This means that in the unlikely event that a problem does arise, the relevant board can be removed and replaced if necessary with no down time and limited operational disruption.

The Latest Milestone in HD Innovation from Snell & Wilcox

The development of the algorithms and new multi-format processing technologies that power Kahuna are the fruit of thousands of man-years of Snell & Wilcox R&D. With four Emmy(r) awards and many other industry laurels to its credit, the company has a well-deserved reputation for innovative products that eliminate the compatibility barriers created by different formats and standards-without sacrificing picture quality.

Snell & Wilcox introduced the first switchers able to handle all HD standards, the first SD/HD switchable systems, and the first with integrated HD DVEs. The company also supplied the first HD switchers to be used in 24p episodic production, the first in 720p production, and the first to be used in a regularly scheduled sports event, ABC's Monday Night Football in the U.S.

Kahuna is available for order now and will begin shipping in Q4 2004.

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