Quantel opens its doors

I was lucky enough last night to get a tour round the headquarters of the global technology leader based in my home town of Newbury… no, not Vodafone, the other one. You may not have heard of Quantel, but if you own a television, you’ll be familiar with their work. What do they do? An interesting question, and I suspect the answer has changed in subtle ways over the past few years.

Quantel basically invented TV graphics. Their breakthrough product was Paintbox, responsible for some of the many crimes against art witnessed on the world’s TV screens in the 80s. When you bought a Paintbox, you were buying the ability to do something you couldn’t do otherwise. Was it the hardware or the software? It didn’t really matter.

Nowadays, of course, things have changed. Any Mac or PC is able to do a startlingly good job of video editing, and the software you need is probably thrown in for nothing. So why are Quantel still here? In a word, speed.

Over the course of the evening, we were shown a few demos of what their kit can do. A lot of it was very underwhelming, for anyone familiar with Premiere, iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, or (at a push) any decent graphics package. Yes, my £1000 home PC can theoretically do that too… but not with HD-quality footage (or higher… 4K anyone?), and certainly not in a second or two. Suddenly, the capability is a commodity, and it’s all about the hardware. Again.

Are the Quantel guys losing sleep at the growth of YouTube? Hardly. The HD revolution has only just started, and higher definition TV needs beefier editing kit. That’s where Quantel come in.