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New MacBook Pro Thunderbolt port gets attention at NAB 2011

A variety of vendors are demonstrating new products taking advantage of Apple's Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Pros at the National Association of Broadcasters convention.

Intel previously noted products in the pipeline from AJA, BlackMagic, Matrox, Sonnet, G-Tech, Promise, and La Cie when it unveiled the new high speed port with Apple at the launch of early 2011 MacBook Pros. Details are now flowing at NAB, now being held in Las Vegas.

The inclusion of Thunderbolt ports on Apple's MacBook Pro lineup promises to solve a significant problem for mobile video producers: the lack of both eSATA for fast disk access as well as a connection that can support high performance video input/output.

Currently, high end video applications use an ExpressCard slot to provide either eSATA or to connect video breakout boxes, but this limits users to one type of connection, and restricts them to the 17 inch MacBook Pro, which since 2009 has been the only model to retain an ExpressCard slot.

Thunderbolt supports chaining together both high performance RAID disk storage devices as well as offering general purpose, high bandwidth data for video input/output breakout boxes, and is now available across all three MacBook Pro sizes.

High end video users are now just waiting for Thunderbolt to catch on, and while it will take some time to bring new devices to market, NAB is flush with new announcements of Thunderbolt gear on tap for delivery, starting this summer.

Promise, the company Apple delegated its Xserve RAID business to after discontinuing its own SAN appliance, demonstrated its 4 and 6 bay Pegasus Thunderbolt RAID appliances for DAS (direct attached storage).

The company also unveiled SANLink, which will provide a dual 4Gb Fibre Channel link via Thunderbolt that can be used to connect to external Fibre Channel storage or to an Xsan network, as well as two additional daisy chained Thunderbolt ports for connecting to other devices.

AJA, BlackMagic and Matrox have demonstrated new break out boxes that use Thunderbolt. AJA's new box for 3G, HD/SD-SDI and HDMI workflows is codenamed “Phaser,” and plans to support HDMI 1.3a input and HDMI 1.4 output for stereo playback, provide 10-bit up/down/cross-conversions and RS422 device control and professional reference/LTC I/O.

BlackMagic unveiled its new $999 UltraStudio 3D breakout box for SD, HD or 2K capture and playback with support for two streams of full resolution video up to 1080p HD for new stereoscopic 3D workflows and uncompressed YUV 4:2:2 and RGB 4:4:4 workflows.

Matrox will be adding Thunderbolt to its MXO2 boxes for broadcast-quality video and audio output and capture with 10-bit realtime hardware up/down/cross conversion, HDMI video monitoring and H.264 encoding. The company will also provide an adapter for its existing products, enabling users to link to a Thunderbolt port rather than requiring an ExpressCard connection.