Published by: Larry Bloomfield & Jim Mendrala
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DTV Tech Notes
% Larry Bloomfield & Jim Mendrala
(541) 385-9115 or (805) 294-1049
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March 21, 1998
DTV Tech Note -015
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Subj: Seattle to get early look at HDTV
From: Randall Paris Dark and Larry Bloomfield
KCTS-TV's newest production,
"Over Ireland," which was shot in the HDTV format, shows
sweeping aerial shots of Ireland's beautiful green country side from
it all but friendly coastline to it rock laden hills and cliffs. It
is safe to assume that this is partly in preparation for the Hi Def
that is coming to Seattle this fall.
"Over Ireland" is
excellent subject matter for demonstrating the advantages in the
new, sharper resolution and widescreen format. There is no better
way of capturing the subtle shades of green, which are augmented by
the ruins that cast a sharp relief to the countryside.
KCTS will begin digital
broadcasting in early 1999. Several commercial stations in Seattle
plan to air some HDTV programming this fall, a year ahead of the
deadline set by the government for the switch to digital
transmission. Seattle's commercial stations, being in the
12th-largest market, have until November of next year to begin
digital transmission. All Public stations however are not required
to convert until 2003.
Apparently the influence of
the software and technology industries have spurred broadcasters in
the Pacific Northwest to embrace the digital revolution in a big
By creating their program
material initially in the Digital domain using the HDTV format makes
it readily adaptable for other digit formats as well, like CD-ROMs
etc. It also opens up revenue opportunities for the local station
that, due to recent cuts in federal funding, has made them to act
As we all know, both public
and commercial stations will end up forking out the big bucks to
convert their old analog infrastructures. Estimates of how much a
station will spend to make the change, one Seattle expert says is
spiral into the double-digit millions.
"It will cost $9 million
to $12 million just to pass a digital signal through and have some
production capabilities. To completely convert (a station) from stem
to stern, you're into higher numbers," one Seattle based
network GM said.
KOMO and KING-TV, both network
affiliates have already purchased their new transmitters. Seattle's
Fox affiliate, KCPQ-TV is rumored to have spent at least $20 million
to build an all-digital studio completed last fall, but will have to
come up with an additional $2.5 million more for an
The CBS affiliate, KIRO-TV, is
the only major network affiliate in Seattle that will wait until
fall 1999 to air its digital signal.
No matter when each stations
plans to make the leap, each is faced with the seemingly unending
antenna quandary of where to put it, what kind to get, the real
estate to house their transmitter, local zoning considerations,
tower retrofits etc. One station, KCPQ claims to have one of the
best spots, on Gold Mountain, about six miles west of Bremerton.
Making space available would be to everyone's advantage, if this
Our studies have shown that
the most reasonable approach for both the viewer and the stations
is, from many standpoints, to share a common site. It has worked
very well in San Francisco for years. Although not in the same
building, but basically the same location, is Los Angeles's Mount
Wilson. Panel antennas are broad enough that, with good combiners,
one tower and antenna system will work for all.
At least one chief engineer
has said: "We'd like to collaborate with another station to
With Larry Brandt, chief engineer for the local Fox affiliate,
taking that position, there is some hope.
KOMO's management has declined
to comment on their plans. KING-TV plans to mount its DTV equipment
from the same place where its analog transmitter now hangs.
Seattle's UPN affiliate, KSTW
(in Tacoma), is in a holding pattern. They don't plan to make any
moves until the consumer market shows the public is starting to
purchase home digital equipment. It sounded to us like a "we'll
buy when they buy" type of a situation. It is obvious KSTW
doesn't intend to broadcast HDTV this fall or any sooner then they
When asked when they thought
consumer acceptance and subsequent purchase of the new digital
equipment might begin to justify their investments, none we spoke to
have a clue. On executive said that it was anybody's guess just how
quickly the Seattle viewers will replace their old sets.
In speaking with an executive
at a consumer chain in the Seattle area, we were told that things
would be slow at first. Asking to remain anonymous, he said:
"Most people can't afford the $5,000 to $10,000 price tags even
the smallest model HDTV sets will have." When asked why so
much, his response was that the consumer is getting so much more,
even with the smaller sized 40-inch diagonal screens, the
rectangular like movie theater screens, the elaborate speaker system
and the new cabinetry and so on. With a reassuring note in his
voice, our executive concluded by saying: "Once the public has
a chance to see the new formats, the seed will be planted. It will
only be a matter time until they'll have one in their living rooms,
then bedrooms and so on."
When we mentioned that CEMA
had estimated that 30 percent of all U.S. households would have
digital sets by 2006, his response was, "we sure hope their
right." Our Mr. X was fast to point out that he'd been told
there would probably be a number of converter boxes with various
features available to down-convert DTV to the older type sets. He
said, they plan to stock some of them also. He said, "At least
the consumer could get what is now studio quality pictures in their
home for a modest investment."
Our Mr. X did emphasize that
available programming that truly demonstrated DTV's superior quality
would go a long way to expand the public interest and sales. He
continued, "the tight-lips of the local stations and networks
in this area have me a little concerned." Unfortunately none of
the commercial networks have indicated which of their syndicators
will provide their products in a high-definition format.
By contrast, KCTS has a
library of HDTV programs including the already mentioned "Over
Ireland" and, in addition to this, "Chihuly Over
Venice" -- documenting glass blowing in a flourish of hue and
texture in high-definition -- produced by its staff. Like other
high-definition programs KCTS has created, "Over Ireland"
has aired in an analog format already this month.
The public station has shot
about 14 high-definition projects and will rebroadcast them,
including its "Over" series of aerial programs --
"Over America," "Over Beautiful British
Columbia," "Over California" -- when the PBS goes
digital in 1999. It appears that KCTS is living up to the PBS
slogan, "If PBS doesn't do it, which will?"
Subj: Spreading their wings
By: Larry Bloomfield
What's going on around us
while we're building terrestrial DTV? Well more than the camels'
nose is in the tent. DirecTV recently announced it has acquired
Ku-band transponder capacity on the Galaxy III-R satellite from
PanAmSat Corp. DirecTV will initially lease four Ku-band
transponders aboard Galaxy III-R.
Galaxy III-R is currently used
by a multinational company, Galaxy Latin America, to provide DirecTV
service in Latin America and the Caribbean. DirecTV will commence
using the Galaxy III-R capacity after it is replaced by the recently
launched Galaxy VIII-i satellite. DirecTV will have the ability to
expand transponder capacity on Galaxy III-R, ultimately so they may
offer up to 120 channels. The additional capacity will be dedicated
to special interest programming, niche programs and future
business-to-business applications. Galaxy III-R will also serve as
an additional platform for the launch of high definition television
programming later this year.
In the same announcement,
DirecTV spoke of arrangements for the development of a new DSS
model, which will include one 21- by 35-inch elliptical satellite
dish, to receive new Galaxy III-R programming as well as all
existing DirecTV programming from DSB 1, 2 & 3.
Initially, the new receiver
system will be manufactured exclusively by Hughes Network Systems (HNS).
It will be capable of receiving signals/programming from two
separate orbital locations, Galaxy III-R at 95 degrees West
Longitude (WL), as well as providing access to the more than 175
channels of DirecTV programming currently delivered from their three
spacecraft at 101 degrees WL. HNS will employ the same digital
technology it currently uses for its 18-inch dish systems to create
the new DSS product.
The initial programming slated
for distribution from Galaxy III-R will be a lineup of
foreign-language offerings provided by Ethnic American Broadcasting
Co. (EABC) featuring programming for Russian Ukrainian, Italian and
Arabic speaking people as well as programs for Asians from the
Indian subcontinent. The agreement with DirecTV provides EABC with
sufficient capacity to distribute as many as 20 leading ethnic
channels from countries around the world.
DirecTV and Galaxy Latin
America are developing Hispanic programming for the U.S. market, but
no specific decisions have been made yet with regard to partners or
satellite platform for such offerings.
Larry Chapman, executive vice
president of DirecTV, speaking of the new subscribers to this new
system, said: "Using the new HNS equipment, these subscribers
will not only have access to unique and previously unavailable
programming, but also will receive all of the DirecTV programming
available at our 101 degree location."
Lourdes Saralegui, PanAmSat's
executive vice president, said: "DirecTV's expanded service
offering will become PanAmSat's first direct-to-home platform in the
United States and our seventh worldwide."
Subj: Giant Screen TV
By: Jim Mendrala
How would you like to have an
8-foot diagonal TV for your "Station/Lobby"? Well, the
other day I visited ProLux Corporation. Steve Wilson, President/CEO,
took me on a tour of their facility. They build video projectors
called the "WallZapper/Pro1200V and WallZapper/1200S".
The difference between the two
is primarily the number of pixels. In the 1200V the resolution is
640x480. The 1200S is 800x600. The projectors on a flat screen
produce a spectacular picture from a good video source, such as
S-Video. The projector displays what is in the image very well. The
projector can input on BNC connectors: Composite video, S-Video,
NTSC and PAL signals as well as RGB or XGA (1024x768), SVGA
(800x600), and VGA (640x480).
The input video goes through
an interpolative line doubling, comb filter and converted to
progressive scan for display. The projector is a single panel
6.4" TFT LCD. It accepts a 16.7 million colors (8-bit color)
and displays a 2.1 million picture.
Now comes the fun part of what
I saw. They took the 1200V and put it into a folded optics rear
screen projection box with a screen of 8 feet measured on the
diagonal. The image tends to overpower you at first because it is so
big but then as you look at the screen from a farther distance, the
image really stands out.
The signals I looked at were
from an off air antenna at first, then from a DVD. The picture off
air was not too good as there was multipath, ghosting and poor
signal strength, mostly because the factory is at the bottom of a
valley along Interstate 5 just south of San Juan Capistrano. The DVD
looked much better.I could just imagine how it would look on a DSS
There are a lot of
applications for a Big TV, such as TV station lobbies, theaters to
run promos of coming attractions, hotel lobbies, airport waiting
areas, pizza parlors or sports bars, etc. It could also be used as a
background for a newscaster without having to install a "video
The unit stands a little over 7 feet high. For more info check out
their web site at:
This is truly a BIG
Subj: What's my Line -- PC or TV?
By: Larry Bloomfield
It wasn't too long ago that an
operations manager at a station I work for asked if there was an
easy way of getting the presentation from a PC onto tape, without
much loss of quality. Well the DTV station of the future will need
to know this too, so I checked out several approaches and a few
systems. None of them really delivered the quality either of us
wanted. We thanked the vendors and did without. It appears that a
new product recently introduced will fill that need.
Focus Enhancement, Inc. (FEI),
a Sudbury, Mass. company, has announced that they have developed a
PC-to-TV digital video co-processor. FEI says: "The new TView
FS300 video co-processor is currently the most flexible PC-to-TV
video convergence chip in the market. It works with TVs, PCs, or
set-top boxes to display computer images without any additional
software drivers, or external circuitry." The others I had
tested were no where this simple in approach.
What makes the TView FS300
unique is that it is the only such device, on the market, which
doesn't require software to be VGA chip independent. Because of
this, integration of the Focus technology is much easier and more
cost effective than other products of this type. FEI says their
technology is truly "plug and play" since it will
accommodate any refresh rate up to 90 Hz. Reports have it that The
FOCUS FS300 digital video co-processor is the only PC-to-TV encoder
that supports resolutions of 640 x 480, 800 x 600, and 1024 x 768.
Another appealing feature of this device is that it also provides
under scaling, compression and visibility at levels exceeding other
devices of this kind.
The Focus technology will be
available through several manufacturers. FEI has established
licensing agreements with Philips, Fairchild Semiconductor,
Picture-Tel, Zenith and Apple Computer, with negations in the works
with several other undisclosed companies. FEI tells me they have
received very positive feedback form these manufacturer on the
superior video quality and performance of their TView FS300 PC-to-TV
Marketed under their own
label, the "TView Gold" is their top-of-the-line PC- to-TV
consumer product, featuring IR remote control, video pan, video zoom
and video freeze. The TView Gold can handle PAL/NTSC both composite,
and S-Video signals and comes with all cables needed for most hook
ups. It stands to reason that some type of interface device will be
needed, such as a TBC or frame synchronizer, if you wanted to be in
time with your plant.
It is designed to be
compatible with the latest 1024x768-video resolution PCs. According
to one computer trade publication, "the TView Gold has the most
advanced signal processing circuitry to reduce artifacts and line
FEI also makes a mid-line
unit, the TView Silver, which comes with most all of the features of
the TView Gold and sells for about 30% less. The "Silver"
only supports 800x600 resolutions. When reviewed by a different
computer trade publication, they say: the TView Silver offers
TruScale image compression technology, which fits the computer image
on the television."
These devices could very
easily find their way into your station with applications not
limited to Creative Services or News. The advent of digital still
cameras displaying on PCs, not to mention the plethora of PC based
graphics libraries, has challenged engineers to find a
"quality" way to interface a PCs displays with their
plant. An additional challenge is to be able to do so in such a way
that most anyone at the station or facility, especially the
non-technically adept personal, can get the "pictures"
from one media to the other. FEI has opened the door in making the
transition smooth, simple while maintaining a reasonable level of
quality. Keep in mind that if the quality isn't there to begin with;
don't expect it to be there when it comes out of the Focus
equipment. Just think, now even an intern or that "all
thumbs" guy can take PC based material and make it ready for
use in the wonderful world of television with a minimal amount of
For more information, check
out their web site at: http://www.FOCUSinfo.com.
If you contact them for any reason, please tell them where you saw
this article. Thanks Larry
Subj: Sony's HDTV Telecine
By: Jim Mendrala
At the Society of Television
Engineers (STE) meeting Thursday evening, March 19, 1998, Luke
Freeman of Sony gave his presentation on the FVS-1000 Multi-
standard Sony Telecine. The telecine differs from most telecines by
using an electronic/optical pin registration system. This allows
frame rates up to 60 pin registered frames per second (fps) and high
speed slewing of the film in the shuttle mode. Other features are an
updated version of the Peterson/Bell & Howell type RGB lamp
house and a sphere to illuminate the film. The sphere allows diffuse
light to illuminate the film image greatly reducing dirt and
scratches. Color balance is achieved by controlling the amount of
red, green, and blue light into the sphere and then on to the film.
Film in most telecines uses
the edge as a reference, but its tolerances are pretty course
compared to the reference sprocket hole that the camera pin uses
when photographing an image. Sony achieves pin registration by
sensing the capacitance of the sprocket hole on an x-axis and y-axis
and sends data to two servo-driven 1/8 inch thick pieces of glass to
move the image relative to the camera to bring the image back to the
point that is in register with the previous frame. The film itself
does not move during this registration process, only the image
The film can run at either
23.97, 24, 25, 29.97, 30, 59.94, or 60 fps making it a
multi-standard telecine. Images are progressively scanned in a 16x9
format and then interpolatively sub sampled to the output desired.
This means that you can output RGB, YUV, NTSC, PAL, or SECAM at the
appropriate frame rate.
Example: if the film is run at
24 fps, you can output at RS-140 2:1 interlaced with electronic 3:2
pulldown or you can output the film at HDTV as 1080i x 1920 at
60/30/2:1. You can also run the film at 23.97 and output at CCIR-601
59.94/29.97/2:1 as well as HDTV at 1920px760 60 fps progressive. The
machine will also output at 480px702 progressive at 24 fps making it
a fine machine for the DVD and MPEG-2 encoding. By running at 24
fps, there is about a 30% savings in bits with no loss of quality to
the image. (Presently the 3:2 pulldown that was inserted by the
telecine is extracted in the MPEG encoder and put back in at the
MPEG decoder.) It was not made clear if all of these outputs were
available in the basic machine or if they are options.
The STE is a Los Angeles group
of television engineers founded in 1941 and was instrumental in
forming the NAB. Bob Bajorek, is the current president. For more
information, check out their web site at: http://www.sony.com.
If you contact them for any reason, please tell them where you saw
this article. Thanks, Jim
Subj: What's Wanted at NAB '98
By: Larry Bloomfield
Thanks to all of you who
answered our questionnaire. This is what we came up with from that.
This composite article is probably better than saying the same thing
over a dozen and a half times, as was the case with one response.
Terms like "Big, massive,
not enough time to see everything and "WOW" were used to
describe last years NAB. There are so many factors from the press
releases I've seen so far, conversations with fellow engineers and
knowing that we're on the brink of a whole new world of technology,
indicates that NAB '98 will be even bigger. With this in mind and
the promise of probably the most intense trade show in our
industries' history, I called several associates, who's opinions are
held in high regard by their peers, to see if I was dreaming or if I
was on the right track. These are members of our industry who, when
asked how long they'd been going to NAB gave me ranges form on and
off for the past few years to over 33 years. The quotes not
attributed to anyone in particular are a summation of what I was
told by these gentlemen.
Some of the initial comments I
got were: "We're going to see the biggest show in NAB
history." Most all said: "wear comfortable shoes."
One even said: "if comfortable shoes were needed in years past,
you'd better have at least two pair this year." "You'd
better plan this one in advance or you'll miss something you wanted
to see," was another comment. One director of engineering went
so far as to tell me he was going to map out the various venues
floor plans, mark the vendors and displays he wanted to visit
and stick to it. So unless you have some kind of agenda or plan,
you'll probably not see everything you need or want to see.
There's no question in my mind
after talking to my associates that this is going to be the year for
DTV and high definition equipment. What did they say they wanted to
see? (I'll address what they will be buying later.) From their
comments, there's no question. Those companies who'll have displays
at NAB '98, if it's not too late, should include these kind of
things in their bag of tricks. "Economical 601 stuff," I
was told. Fairly consistent with everyone I spoke to was this reply:
" .....hope to see everything from RF systems (transmitters,
towers and antennas), STL's with NTSC and DTV capabilities, and
anything else DTV or HDTV." Interest was also express in such
things as multi-format cameras, format converters, Mpeg stream
splicing, MPEG 4:2:2 Video servers, compression equipment, up
converters, multiplexing capabilities, DVD and virtual sets. I was
surprised at the interest express in consumer products such as flat
panel displays. Several engineers told me they were interested in:
"Not only HDTV, but multi-casting and its possibilities."
One concern that was expressed was there wouldn't be any useful
information on DTV adjacent channel operations.
When I asked them what they
specifically would be looking to buy, again, by the numbers, I got
the same answer, almost in unison: "DTV products - acquisition,
production, distribution, and broadcasting, DTV encoders, digital
microwave, test gear and HDTV system components." Draw your own
conclusions, but it sounds like most attendees will be buying what
they want and expect to see. Several made the cautious observation
that although they were going to get their feet wet in DTV and look
at HDTV and multi-casting, there was still a kind of: " ....we
want to see which direction the manufacturers and big boys are
taking and what everyone else is purchasing" attitude. Interest
was also expressed in buying nonlinear edition equipment and station
automation equipment, but most weren't sure if what was available
would handle both digital and analog signals.
Tied to the purchase issues
was interest in finding complete, typical business plan engineers
could tailor to their particular situation. This would be a big help
in budget preparations, which are a big part of most engineers'
lives in this day and age. "If we could have the "bean
counters" boiler plate jargon, we know what we need and can
sell them on our budgets more easily, leaving us more time to
address the technical issues," seemed to be the common thread
in this line of thinking.
Those who express an interest
in the conference sessions, again, were nearly all unanimous:
"Anything about building DTV/HDTV." More specifically,
"those session relating to DTV transmission issues, data
broadcasting for DTV, DTV audio workshop and 8VSB Modulation."
It was interesting to note that several mentioned the SBE meetings.
They said they wanted to: "see where the shakers and leaders
think we are headed as it relates to technical personnel."
On the other side of this
coin, I was curious to know what my associates thought would draw
the least interest. "Anything Low Def. or analog," seemed
to top the list. When pressed to be more specific, I was told:
"Analog switchers, routers, and effects, Video disk, large
screen SDTV projection, and Analog Cart Machines." One even
mentioned Tectan, saying: "They appear to have gone out of
business." When I heard, "Anything Radio," coming
from a television engineer, that didn't surprise me much.
This is going to be a bumper
year for manufacturers. The trust that engineers have in their sales
representatives has got to be founded in the fact that the sales
people know what they're talking about. Most engineers expect the
sale people to be as knowledgeable about television as they are and
to be "experts" on the device they are trying to peddle
and it's application in their plant. One thing I know, and was
express most clearly to me, "we (engineers) don't like to go to
NAB, see a great product that the manufacture can't deliver."
Several items were mentioned that were shown at NAB '97 which still
can't be shipped.
Advice to salesmen: If you
know your stuff and know what you're talking about, you'd better
have lots of pens, inked up and ready, with order pads handy. You're
gonna need 'em! The way the engineering folks are talking out there,
if the sales guy knows his product, where it can fit in into each
station they will probably right a lot of orders. I don't see where
there'll be much time for parties, as in past years. The sad part of
all this is I don't believe there are enough savvy salesmen with
each vendor, who has a "worth looking at" product, to go
NAB '98 is the year of
"DIGITAL" and "HIGH DEFINITION!" Make no mistake
about that. This is an excellent learning opportunity for all
engineers involved in this transition. We will not get a better
opportunity to meet and speak with the people who design and built
the very equipment we will be buying and installing: to look and
operate the very items we will be living with for who know how long.
I can see not going as a short cut to possible disaster. See ya
there! I'll be there with the Broadcast Engineering magazine group.
Jim will be incognito. If you see Jim, or me say HI.
The next step:
I'd planned to do a story on
3D-TV and MPEG-4, but had too many other things to check out this
past month. I'd be interested in hearing what any of you might think
the next step television would be taking after DTV is giving us our
various kinds of signals. 3D-TV maybe? And any comments on MPEG-4.
Saw a chip for a camera that is used in a telescope. Wow it was big.
How about 7K X 7K pixels? And we're worried about pixel count in
color cameras? Have covered some very interesting stories for
Broadcast Engineering. Look for my feature on DTV antennas soon.
Stay tuned. Thanks Larry
The DTV Tech Notes are published for broadcast professionals who
are interested in DTV, HDTV etc. by Larry Bloomfield and Jim
Mendrala. We can be reached by either e-mail or land lines (541)
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