Ross Video Founder John Ross Awarded SMPTE Honorary Membership
As a teenager, John was keenly interested in designing and building amateur radio equipment. In 1950, the chief engineer of radio station CKY in Winnipeg, Manitoba offered him a summer job as transmitter operator, thus launching John’s career in broadcasting at the age of 14.
In 1954, John 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’, John built his own studio production switcher to replicate the effect. This became the first switcher in Canada to have wipe transitions and keying capability, and it was used by CBWT for many years. In 1968, John entered the University of Manitoba to become an engineer, having been urged to do so by the head of CBC Studio Engineering. During summers, John worked for CBC Engineering in Montreal where he did TV studio design and installation.
In 1963, John 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. John 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. John 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, John founded Ross Video in 1974. To fund the new venture, he sold the World War Two training aircraft he had restored. At Ross Video, John 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, John’s son and current CEO David Ross joined the business.
John retired in 2006 and 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, he has designed and funded many local recreational facilities. To those who know him well, John is 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.
John comments on the award with typical grace. “I’m extremely grateful to the President and officials at SMPTE for this prestigious honor, which is most unexpected. 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 honored 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.”
Barbara Lange’s SMPTE’s Executive Director welcomes John 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”.
The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers®, or SMPTE, is defining the future of storytelling. The Society’s mission is to enable the technical framework that allows the global professional community to make media for artistic, educational, and entertainment purposes and to distribute that content for the benefit and enjoyment of people worldwide. As a global volunteer-driven society of technologists, developers, and creatives, SMPTE is engaged in driving the quality and evolution of motion pictures, television, and professional media. The Society sets industry standards that help businesses maximize their markets more cost-effectively, provides relevant education that supports members’ career growth, and fosters an engaged and diverse membership community. smpte.org