The Valencian technological leader Brainstorm is celebrating its 20th anniversary throughout 2014 with major products announcements. Brainstorm presented its latest cutting edge product ‘Infinity Set’ at IBC 2014 in Amsterdam.
Infinity Set is a virtual set solution featuring TrackFree, a new and patented technology which allows combining tracking and trackless productions for maximum flexibility, creativity and visual impact within virtual studio environments.
With virtually infinite virtual cameras and the industry-first TrackFree technology which allows combining tracked and trackless techniques in the same camera for further flexibility, Infinity Set is the most advanced solution for broadcast design and virtual set production. It combines elements of previous Brainstorm trend-setting state of the art technology such as the eStudio engine and EasySet to create a new environment for next-generation cross-media broadcast requirements.
Peter Snow is not an unfamiliar name in Britain; his famous ‘swingometre’ dominated Britain’s election nights for years, but when he visited Valencia back in 2005, it wasn’t to teach Valencia how to host an election special, but to learn about the latest advances in TV election graphics from the masters in the field: Brainstorm, which is the brainchild of Ricardo Montesa.
Ricardo was away in Orlando bringing the Americans up to date on the latest advances when we called, and so we were attended by his brother Javier, a Telecommunications engineer and Professor who co-ordinates the roomful of geniuses who are leading the world in digital graphics from a small office in Valencia’s central Calle Maestro Gozalbo.
The place doesn’t look like much when you walk in, at least until you reach the section where all the machines (‘hardware I believe they call it’) are. However, when you look at their client list you realise that this is a world leader. These include the BBC, NBC Universal, CNBC, Reuters, RTL Germany, TVE Spain, Al Jazeera, TSR Switzerland, NHK, NTV and Asahi TV Japan, Nasdaq, ESPN, the PGA tour, AccuWeather, The Pentagon Channel, Abu-Dahbi TV, ERTU Egypt, KBS and MBC Korea and many more.
One example is their collaboration with the BBC, where the Brainstorm Production team began 2011 with the Stargazing Live project, a three days live program which was broadcast during the first week of January from the Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester.
Brainstorm created a touch screen interactive application giving the presenter the ease and flexibility to load pictures directly from the telescope in real time and then use various effects to zoom in and highlight relevant detail.
An average of 3.3 million viewers watched Stargazing Live each night the programme was aired.
When Ricardo finished his University degree in Industrial Engineering, computer generated graphics were just emerging from the Stone Age (do you remember those green phosphorous texts? Anyone under 20 needn’t bother answering that question.)
Ricardo wasn’t simply in the right place at the right time; he helped shape the time, in his belief that so much more could be achieved.
And he set about proving it initially with a video camera taking images frame by frame with the help of a super computer that was luckily available at Valencia’s Polytechnic University.
Using what would nowadays be considered ‘primitive’ equipment, his results were good enough to impress the local TV company Canal Nou, who used his banners and graphics for their news programmes.
As there were very few companies doing this kind of work at the time, Ricardo set up Montesa Grafics in 1987 and began working using computers which, as Javier pointed out, “were about as powerful as my phone is today”.
From the news they moved into other areas such as sports programmes, developing the precursors of those annoying graphics that pop up and blot out the ball at a crucial moment with unwanted information or advertising.
In the early 90s they moved into 3D as more competitors started to appear and were pathfinders in the development of virtual scenery, which would later lead to their technology being used in many famous films such as Artificial Intelligence or I, Robot.
Technology progresses at a breathtaking pace, and Brainstorm seems to be permanently one step ahead.
It is not however the lure of money that drives the company forward, but the challenge of overcoming new barriers and moving into new areas of research and development, such as CAVE, the 3D stage which allows people to interact with digitally created imagery.
Interaction and participation are high on Brainstorm’s list of priorities, as demonstrated by a collaboration with Valencia’s Hemisferic IMAX and 3D cinema, in which they have explored an interactive project in which the audience, using laser technology, chooses where, for example, a Mars Pathfinder vehicle goes on the planet’s surface, voting with their lasers.
Another project is Senior Channel, an Internet TV station which enables OAP participation in programmes through Webcams.
Professional recognition for Brainstorm doesn’t stop, and the Spanish magazine, ‘Produccion Profesional’ celebrated the eighth edition of the most important Awards in the Spanish broadcast market proclaiming Brainstorm as Company of the year.
Their main products are:
eStudio – the one-stop shop in broadcast graphics – capable of fulfilling all a station’s graphics needs and it is also the motor behind Brainstorm’s complete product range
eStudio On Demand – a powerful playout application for Brainstorm’s eStudio, enabling easy management and playout of complex graphics templates.
eStudio Web – enables customers to display their broadcast graphics on the Web, with the same quality and performance but in addition enabling interactivity.
BrainNews – a sophisticated MOS-compatible control system for News, integrating Brainstorm’s powerful 3D graphics engine into the most complex News environments.
Aston – the power of eStudio has merged with the Aston’s traditional user interface, resulting in stunning 3D graphics, with fast, page-based graphics recall using the Aston’s dedicated keyboard layout.
EasySet – a powerful yet cost-effective and easy-to-use virtual set solution, designed to enable the creation of full 3D virtual studios scenes in minutes.
Easy On Air Graphics – a template-based intuitive graphics solution for all types of broadcast graphics using industry-standard design tools.
BrainSports -is a sophisticated sports graphics application enabling the easy creation, preview and playout of live sports graphics.
EasyMaps – a powerful global mapping tool, enabling the easy creation of still or animated maps with the addition of text, objects and animated objects.