Chuck Colby

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  Colby DR-3000, First MPEG-1 DVR

The DR-3000 was the Winner of the Mario Award!


Colby Systems DR-3000 ENG Transmission System
I figger these guys deserve an award just for not burning down NAB headquarters. Their booth ain't listed in the official directories, and about the only way you'd see it would be if you were disgusted with Ikegami and tried to moon them.

Anywho, they have T.H.E. best ENG transmission system. The DR-3000 is a 27-lb. box that sucks up whatever video and audio ya squirt into it. It MPEGifies the video and dumps it on a hard drive. So far no surprises, eh? But then it plays said compressed video into a V.34 modem operating at 28.8 kbaud at a sixth of normal speed. Said modem connects to any ordinary phone line, or even a cellular link. Ayup, we're talking relatively high quality ENG via a telephone line. It ain't as cheap as a stingy miser like me would like, but I think I am justified in saying it's un questionably the cheapest device that does what it does, which mean Colby has done it again.


News channel going cellular to deliver video to newsroom
By Audrey Merwin
Special to Electronic Media

An all-news cable channel is going cellular to get remote spot news coverage back to the newsroom.

With the help of technology from Colby Systems Corp. and Bell Atlantic Mobile, Newschannel 8, a 24-hour channel serving the Washington metropolitan area, can send video signals like a cellular phone call.

Newschannel 8 regularly uses the new system for spot news, said Alex Likowski, director of engineering and operations.

The channel has used the system since October and he said it's been a great time saver because it eliminates the need for the videographer to fight traffic to get video back to the newsroom before going on to the next assignment.
Here's how the system works:

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Colby Systems makes the equipment, called DR-3000, that sends and receives the video signal.

The portable unit that sends the video signal weighs about 27 pounds, is roughly the size of a videotape recorder, and travels easily in a car or van. Outfitting the vehicle requires wiring for cellular phone connection.

Once the videographer has taped a segment, he or she connects the videotape recorder to the DR-3000, which transfers and digitizes the segment in real time.
Users can choose from up to 10 levels of resolution, with the highest offering a 30-frame-per-second image, similar to video shot on a Betacam.

"We typically will go to the level nine. Level nine looks like good VHS, like 3/4 (inch)," Mr. Likowski said.

After digitizing is complete, the user dials up the receive unit in the newsroom and sends the digitized file, using from one to four cellular lines. The more lines used, the faster the delivery.

The system has a feature that handles interruptions in transmission.

"It knows how much and exactly what it's transferred, so if you encounter a blip in the cell it picks up where it left off, and if you are disconnected completely it will redial and resume feeding where it left off," Me. Likowski said.

The video is received by a unit at the newsroom and the MPEG-1 file is off-loaded to Betacam SP tape.

A key advantage to the system, said Charles Colby, president of Colby Systems, is that it uses MPEG-1 as a compression standard, which is "a universal standard for CD-ROM video." that "will be around forever."

While transmission isn't instant — because the signal must be stored and received — the system has some advantages over satellite and microwave technologies.

FIrst, the gear is easy to get in and out of tight spots, without using a large remote truck.

Second, it doesn't require the line of sight needed for satellite or microwave transmission.

Lastly, using cellular lines, particularly at lower resolutions, can be cheaper than satellite time.

Bell Atlantic Mobile's Karen Ann Kurlands said a business flex plan for cellular use runs from 39 cents a minute at peak hours to 17 cents a minute off peak. Monthly charges are $24.95.

Mr. Likowski said Newschannel 8 pays from $10 to $15 a minute for satellite time. He estimates the time it takes to transmit 20 seconds of video over 4 cellular lines to be 10 to 15 minutes.

Newschannel 8 has purchased one DR-3000 system, which costs $40,000 for the portable unit and $10,000 for the receiver.

Reprinted from Electronic Media Magazine, November 28, 1994
(image caption: Colby Systems' DR-3000 setup delivers video using cellular phone lines)