Sony MPEG IMX Players selected by Crown Media International for Global Program Distribution

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How do you reach television viewers in 110 countries – all using different formats and broadcast standards — with programming in their own language?

For Crown Media International, a subsidiary of Crown Media Holdings, Inc. and the company that operates the Hallmark Channel internationally, the answer is 40 Sony MPEG IMX™ players.

Crown Media distributes the Hallmark Channel to its international markets from a global playback center in Greenwood Village, Co. Launched in February of 2001, the center originally used Sony Digital Betacam® videotape players. The facility has now migrated to Sony MSW-M2100 MPEG IMX players.
“We moved to MPEG IMX because each player can accommodate eight sound tracks of 16-bit digital audio quality plus provide broadcast quality images,” said Charles Zabilski, Crown Media’s vice president of operations. “This makes our lives a lot easier, greatly simplifying the origination of dubbed programming and continuing our commitment to quality imaging and sound.”

The Sony MSW-M2100 players can play back the Digtial Betacam tapes Crown Media has in its library in addition it plays Betacam® oxide, Betacam SP®, Betacam SX® and MPEG IMX ½” format tapes on both large and small cassettes and switches between the 525 NTSC and the 625 PAL television standards.

“Sony’s MPEG IMX VTRS are capable of playing back all 200 million half-inch cassettes that are located globally,” said Stephen Jacobs, senior vice-president of Sony Electronics’ Broadcast and Professional Systems Division. “The multi-format playback capability is ideal for international program distribution.”

“It’s an obvious advantage for international program origination,” Zabilski noted. “We’re already committed to MPEG compression in our satellite distribution, so the new players are a perfect fit.” The playback center is designed to originate 16 simultaneous channels, with future expansion to 32.

Foreign languages are accommodated in three ways. World Standard Teletext subtitles support the code-based character sets and appears at the viewer’s option. Imitext subtitles support complex fonts like Thai and Chinese, which are “burned into” the video. The third option, audio dubbing, puts a priority on multiple channels of audio playback.

In the Crown Media system, Sony videotape players handle long-form programming, while interstitial material plays from servers. Sony’s Systems Solutions Division, based in San Jose, Calif., integrated the entire playback center.

Sony’s MPEG IMX players deliver superb video quality through a very practical approach. Part of the credit goes to MPEG-2 compression using the 4:2:2@ML I-frame at 50 megabits per second. Credit also goes to Sony’s rugged half-inch tape transports, already proven in more than 500,000 broadcast VTRs.

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