Good Things Come In Small Packages: The World’s Smallest Low –Delay UHD Wireless Transmitter
We recently sat down for a round-table discussion with some of the team members responsible for developing BSI’s new Mini-Tx to get a bit more insight into the development process for the world’s smallest UHD wireless transmitter. Joining us were:
Owen Groves, Lead Architect for BSI
Sacha Rossek, Lead R&D/RF Engineer for BSI
Abner Mir Ibarra, Engineering Manager for BSI
Let’s start at the beginning. What inspired the project? Where did the idea come from?
Abner: About three years ago, we set out to update and modernize our existing HD Mini-Tx wireless video transmitter. The existing Mini-Tx was a solid product, and used on many major productions, but we wanted to take advantage of the latest technology and come up with something truly innovative. Our first thoughts for what it could and should be came during a meeting of engineers at BSI. This group met regularly to talk innovation and consider “pie-in-the-sky” ideas that might have some traction and make positive impacts in the industry. There are so many potential uses for a UHD, low-latency, truly pocket-sized transmitter. Wearable applications, on bicycles for races, perspective shots from something like a guitar during a live concert, referee cams – really any sport has an application – the possibilities are endless.
Sacha: When we started discussing parameters for the new Mini-Tx and looking at new technology that was out there, it became clear that what we wanted didn’t exist yet. You couldn’t buy it off of the shelf. And really, none of it seemed to be on the timeline.
Owen: It’s true. I am dedicated to making things as small as possible, low power as possible, as high quality as possible…what we would need to make the Mini-Tx what we wanted it to be simply didn’t exist.
So, you decided you would have to build it in-house?
Sacha: Yes, and this type of development was new for BSI. Up to this point, BSI created innovative solutions by taking equipment and technologies readily available in the industry and building off of them to create new, custom products for our clients’ needs. Luckily, both Owen and I have experience developing products for the wireless camera industry, so we knew what it was going to take and how to get it done.
Where did the development start?
Abner: We knew what we needed for the wireless side of things – that wasn’t a problem, we had that in hand. What was missing was the encoder solution that met our standards for the product we were building.
Sacha: Owen began exploring our options. After the exploration, he came up with two credible contenders and set out to create a side-by-side test.
Owen: What we had, essentially, were two potential options available. So, I took them and encoded with them. Option A was fully formed and the one that everyone seemed to be vying for and pushing. And sure, it would have been easier to fit into what we needed, but the video quality wasn’t where I wanted it. Then there was option B. It looked fantastic, is was a good piece of technology, but it was in the early stages of development with the manufacturer and not on the market yet. It would require a lot more work on our end. When we viewed the encoded video next to each other and compared quality, there was no question, though. Option B it was – B and a lot more work on our part!
Sacha: Yes, it was a lot of long hours. Taking the leap with nascent technology is never easy and certainly the risks were significant at the start of the project, but this was the only path we could follow in order to achieve a very high level of integration – get the size down, get the power needs down. Furthermore, this allowed us to get other aspects of the design much, much smaller than we had previously achieved.
Owen: We bet the farm on the underdeveloped technology, and we formed a tight relationship with the manufacturer. I embedded myself in their mind so that as the development moved forward, BSI’s needs were in their minds at all times. We work very closely with them.
So, you have the technology you want in place, what came next?
Owen: At this point, we needed to create something that we could prove works on a development platform. We have to prove the theory – and prove that developing this product is worth the risk.
We did the A/B side-by-side comparison in February of 2018. By October or November of that year, I had the development platform up and working. Then we began getting all of the other elements in place for the final product.
Sacha: At that point, we began pulling it all together, building units and testing. We did in-house testing in the UK and in the US offices. Luckily, when you have made enough new wireless products you build up a feel for what you need to do testing-wise in house before it gets into the hands of technicians out in the field.
Then it made its debut…
Sacha: Yes, the transmitter went out January of this year and has been on several projects now with more coming. In fact, we just built ten more units.
Owen: And we are continuing to develop, test and deploy new features.
When you look back at the development of this product, what are you most proud of?
Sacha: It shows what BSI and NEP are capable of. BSI is known for delivering innovative solutions to our clients, but we are not generally known for developing products like these in-house. This will be a surprise to the industry.
Abner: It’s proof that if you have the right people, with the right drive, you can make ground-breaking solutions.
Owen: The size of the product opens a massive opportunity for where it can be deployed. Applications that this technology couldn’t be used before are now possible. For example, the possibilities for body-worn applications are astounding – this is perfect for that.
The development of the Mini-Tx was a major One Team effort. Other members that contributed to the development of this innovative product include:
Nate Lowe, Mechanical Engineer, BSI
Anthony Morel, Software Engineer, BSI
Clayton Peterson, Digital Engineer, BSI
Peter Sarginson, Electronic Digital Engineer, BSI