OTTAWA — Entering a realm of industry icons, Iroquois-area resident John Ross is set to become an Honorary Member of SMPTE® — the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers.
Honorary membership is the Society’s highest accolade, and as a recipient, the Ross Video founder will join some of the most influential names in motion picture and television engineering history, including Edison and Disney.
The local company says it’s “immensely proud” of the recognition slated to be conferred on Ross at this year’s all-virtual SMPTE Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition, Nov. 10-12.
The award adds to an impressive number of titles already bestowed on the recipient, including Ross’s 2013 Order of Canada and his 2015 recognition as an Honorary Member of The International Trade Association for the Broadcast & Media Industry.
As a teenager, Ross was keenly interested in designing and building amateur radio equipment. His career in broadcasting began at the age of 14, when the chief engineer of radio station CKY in Winnipeg, Manitoba, offered the young enthusiast a summer job as transmitter operator in 1950.
In 1954, Ross joined the staff of the new TV station CBWT in Winnipeg. Inspired by watching The Jackie Gleason Show and the program’s innovative use of “wipes,” he built his own studio production switcher to replicate the effect. The first unit in Canada to have wipe transitions and keying capability, it was used by CBWT for many years. In 1958, Ross entered the University of Manitoba to become an engineer, having been urged to do so by the head of CBC Studio Engineering. During summers, Ross worked for CBC Engineering in Montreal where he did TV studio design and installation.
In 1963, Ross left the CBC to found the Broadcasting Equipment division of Central Dynamics Limited in Montreal — a company that was then producing landing gear for aircraft. He assembled a talented engineering team and during the next 11 years accomplished many world firsts. This included the first fully transistorized production switcher, the first automated master control switcher, the first computer-based videotape editing system and the first TV digital character generator display system to be used in any broadcasting equipment. He was also granted a fundamental patent for the first chroma keyer to offer easy single-knob selection of any keying hue. This was quickly adopted by all switcher manufacturers and led to the use of the green screen.
Encouraged by Jim Leitch (of Leitch Video) to start his own business, Ross launched the company that bears his name in 1974. To fund the new venture, he sold the World War Two training aircraft he had restored. At Ross Video, he designed several series of production switchers as well as many unique distribution and signal processing products, including a compact NTSC to digital converter specifically for use on the International Space Station. In 1991, his son, David — current CEO — joined the business.
The founder retired in 2006 but has continued his aviation pursuits as manager of the local municipal airport, which he built and donated to his community. In addition to enjoying flying and maintaining his two aircraft, Ross has designed and funded many local recreational facilities. To those who know him well, he’s a rare blend of intellect and humility, and the rapid success of Ross Video in the early days was a direct result of his passion for the industry, his infectious enthusiasm and his people-oriented approach.
“I’m extremely grateful to the President and officials at SMPTE for this prestigious honour, which is most unexpected,” Ross says of the award. “As an engineer, it’s especially humbling to be recognized by a society that has had so many illustrious names in my field as members and I am honoured to be recognized among their number. I have also had the privilege of working with many great engineers and teams throughout my career; I share this success with them and thank them for their encouragement and advice over the years.”
Frank Kunkle from SMPTE welcomes the new inductee to the roll of Honorary Members. “With his work and inventions spanning more than five decades, John Ross is the true embodiment of a role model, mentor and leader. We are pleased to honour his achievements.”
Ross Video operates a major manufacturing facility in Iroquois, South Dundas. The firm started by John Ross touts its “unrivalled range of products and services comprising virtual studios, real-time motion graphics, cameras, robotic camera systems, production switchers, video servers, infrastructure and routers, social media management, newsroom systems and mobile live events.” Ross solutions have impressed the audiences and marketing partners of NBC Sunday Night Football, Eurosport, BBC World, Google, YouTube Space London and China’s eSports powerhouse VSPN.