There’s a through-line in Rony Sebok’s career, from working on the original Apple Mac to her BCG management consulting experience to the founding — and nurturing — of the video company 1 Beyond. The constant is her entrepreneurial drive; a desire to blend the best software, hardware, and business acumen to create something altogether new.
That spirit was instilled in her first gig, part of a then-diminutive group at Apple. “I got to work really closely with the hardware designer and a small team of five software engineers,” she recalls. “Everyone was motivated by the vision and belief that we could make a real difference in how people interact with and use computers.”
Two-plus decades ago, Sebok got the opportunity to innovate in a very specific field. The co-founder of 1 Beyond, Terry Cullen, was looking for an affordable video editing system — something that really didn’t exist in the late 1990s. Cullen was a friend, someone Sebok knew in her local sailing community (calling Sebok “outdoorsy” is an understatement — exploring nature is almost her second career), and as Cullen embarked on creating less expensive solutions, he brought Sebok in as a consultant.
“We sold editing systems to wedding videographers who otherwise would've had to do reel to reel tape editing,” Sebok recalls. Soon the company was undertaking storage solutions that were speedy enough to assist in editing uncompressed, high-definition video. “All that led to designing systems for movie and TV production; data wrangling systems,” she adds. The industry and manufacturing contacts that Sebok, Cullen, and their team were making allowed 1 Beyond to begin to explore live switching systems — and ultimately, the nascent idea of tracking live human speakers in a room.
“That's when we got into cameras and began to think about automating the whole production thing,” she explains. “So instead of having to have a production crew to man a camera or switch cameras, we could do that — because of my background — with software.”
Beyond the Mat
After identifying the right hardware and software partners, 1 Beyond introduced their first auto-tracker camera that was based on face and motion detection. This was a leap, explains Sebok: “Prior to that, there were tracking cameras, but they were based on pretty antiquated technology.” Those earlier solutions were usually deployed by universities attempting to record lectures with as little manpower as possible. The solution involved mats on a floor acting as triggers — stand on a mat, the camera finds you.
The problem? “Professors would always stand in between the mats,” Sebok says. “So when we introduced the auto tracker, it kind of took the university market by storm.” 1 Beyond’s proximity to schools such as Harvard, MIT, Northeastern, Brandeis, and Babson proved incredibly beneficial, says Sebok. “With all the universities here in and around Boston, it was a great testing ground for our product.” Ultimately, the complete automated solution — including multiple cameras, automated tracking and switching — really came into focus as 1 Beyond worked intensively to develop an automated lecture-capture system to meet MIT’s needs.
As word got out, corporations became interested. The cycle of trade shows 1 Beyond was attending triggered the next step. “We had some customers come to our booth saying, ‘Does your solution work with the Shure MXA910?’” Sebok recalls. “And within a year, we had a product that could camera track based on location information from the Shure mics.”
The company’s solutions evolved to encompass solutions that truly afford everyone on a video call “equal pixel real estate” during a Microsoft Teams® or Zoom™ meeting. “1 Beyond’s speaker tracking product can work in rooms of any size with multiple cameras located around the room and intelligence that selects the best one based on where someone is seated — we can give the best view of the active talker,” Sebok explains. For the remote worker and those joining from a conference room at a company’s HQ, the ever-improving mic-location technology coupled with multiple cameras and automated tracking and switching gives any attendee the experience of being completely engaged.
As those ideas gained traction, 1 Beyond was seeing steady growth as the demand for their technology spread from academia to the corporate world.
And then the pandemic hit.
“Our business tripled,” says Sebok. In the face of the expansion, the 1 Beyond team realized that they needed an immediate influx of resources. “When you have a technology and a product that a lot of people want, you’ve got to really grow the infrastructure of your company,” she explains. “Our technology was growing so quickly that we were having a hard time keeping up with building the business needs around it.” Sebok and her team realized that to keep up with demand for 1 Beyond’s technology, they needed broad, worldwide distribution, support and marketing — all of the things that they hadn't yet been able to build up. Crestron’s history and culture of innovation, as well as its ability to nimbly adapt and to operate at a much larger scale than 1 Beyond could handle convinced Sebok and Cullen that the technology developed by 1 Beyond could thrive at Crestron.
Sebok is now an integral part of Crestron’s product management team as director of intelligent video, and she will be intimately involved in Crestron’s future development of intelligent video solutions. Developing the Next Cool Thing is something that really brings her satisfaction, especially when the magic is shared. “We think we know we have something really cool, but it's when you actually give it to a customer and they're like, ‘This is incredible!’
“That's what drives me personally: The pleasure that I see in the customer who gets to use the technology.”