Case Study: The Matrox DigiSuite range of products

Air Canada is a world-renowned airline. Its multi million dollar investment in video editing and multimedia tools has helped to...

Air Canada is a world-renowned airline. Its multi million dollar investment in video editing and multimedia tools has helped to build an in-house creative team that is the envy of its peers

In its 60 year history, Air Canada has grown from a modest operation comprising two 10-passenger aeroplanes and a crop duster, to a Canadian $4.9 billion corporation that maintains a fleet of 157 aircraft (excluding Air Canada's Regional fleet) and serves over 545 destinations around the world. In doing so, Air Canada have become Canada's largest airline.

The Audio-Visual Communications department, now known as the Air Canada Multimedia Centre, is the airline's internal resource for audio-visual communications and digital media development. Located in the company's Montreal headquarters, it serves a wide range of internal and external customers, from employee and corporate communications, training and multimedia development, to marketing and advertising, along with everything in between. Matrox DigiSuite products have become an integral part of the department's move toward expanding their digital production capabilities.

As a full-service media bureau, the department is staffed by industry professionals with experience in computer graphic design, multimedia, video production, photography and desktop publishing. Each member of the team is multi-functional and often job responsibilities overlap to meet customer demand. The focus is on quality, service and cost-effective production. Says Phillip Avis, the Multimedia production manager, "Air Canada supports the internal Multimedia Centre because it enables us to work more efficiently to meet the needs of our customers. The aviation industry is a highly specialised business. Working from the inside, we are able to avoid many of the complications that can arise from outsourcing. This method saves time and money."

With the advent of the Internet and the digital revolution, Air Canada recognised the potential that these new technologies could have on its communication and training processes. A multi media advisory council was established to review the company's needs and to propose guidelines and practices for what would become a $13 million investment in multimedia.

Phillip Avis, who was an AV co-ordinator at the time, representing the production and media development side of the equation, says that: "It became very obvious early on that we would be key players in the initiative and that it would have a profound effect on the type of work we would do, and the way that we would do it. We lobbied hard to ensure that we were kept involved at all stages of development."

Currently, Air Canada's multimedia project supports four CBT classrooms across the system, each using 26 computers centred around a server. The Training and Development group is equipped with 11 workstations. Every machine features a Matrox Millennium II card, with either 4Mb or 8Mb on-board. The Audio-Visual group uses a mixture of PCs and Macs. Three PC workstations are equipped with Millennium II cards and one with DigiMix.

Avis was instrumental in the original selection of Matrox products and says: "I have long been a supporter of Matrox. They offer the right mix of innovation, performance and price, and they are a Canadian company, which is important to us. And for support, it helps that their headquarters is located only a few miles from ours."

Air Canada purchased a DigiMix card to provide character generation using Inscriber Extreme CG running on Windows NT. "Inscriber works very well on the DigiMix card under NT and our clients are very pleased with the final results, which is what counts. DigiMix's feature-rich open system approach means that, even with our budget limitations, we would be able to build the workstation up, stage-by-stage, to become a fully-blown DigiSuite editing system."

Recently, the video team had to do a project for Air Canada's marketing and sales department. The client wanted a presentation that would be displayed via video projection. This would be shown on a large screen while presentations were given on the company's new routes and services. "They made it very clear to us that the text and images would have to be clean and colourful. It would have to have a life of its own, and have enough movement, visually, to keep the attention of the viewer. With the DigiMix card in our system, this was easy to achieve."

Air Canada is also dependent on their Multimedia Centre for video training material. They use the department to develop projects for branches such as Flight Operations and In-Flight Service Training. Based on the pre-defined storyboard, the department shoots the necessary video, usually on BetaSP or MiniDV. During the online edit, DigiMix does the finishing touches on the project, including all the CG and graphic elements. "You can see the amount of thought that went into the design of this card when working with it. It is a high-end professional product, but it doesn't have the high end-price."

Compiled by Will Garside

Read more on IT jobs and recruitment