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TV Tech Notes

% Larry Bloomfield & Jim Mendrala

(408) 778-3412 or (805) 294-1049

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November 26, 1998


DTV Tech Note - 022 (Thanksgiving Edition)


Sharing experiences, knowledge or anything else relating to DTV, HDTV etc. with your fellow engineers: That’s what we are all about. We will send this to anyone asking, just E-mail us. If you are receiving this newsletter and didn’t ask for it or want to get off the list, just e-mail us that request.  Welcome to all the new subscribers.  We hope everyone, new and long time subscribers, will participate in all ways with comment, experiences, questions and/or answers. This is YOUR forum!


It’s been a while since we put out the last issue of this forum.  No excuses this time, we just didn’t any of those round “Tu.” its.  If all goes well, we got some now and will get back to putting this newsletter out a little more regularly. Again thanks to the many subscribers who have e-mailed and called to find out what has happened to us.  Andrew from “Blessed by an Angle” has not visited the Tech Notes.  We are alive!  And for that we’ll be Thankful.  Happy Thanksgiving—from the two of us.


Some DTV notes from Larry’s desk.

There’s a new standard for Closed Captioning.  Check out EIA-708.  It allows for different kinds of fonts and different colors, but it’s not for NTSC.  Yes, the new standard is for DTV.  WGBH did some work in this are recently and set a first in the ever-growing DTV book of Firsts.

Pluto’s HyperSPACE

In a recent survey I took of broadcast engineering managers in the top 10 markets, they told me, by the numbers, that one of the biggest problems they were having making digital TV a reality was the availability of equipment.  Since many television stations have made the transition to an analog video server as their main stay for commercial play back, program delay and other familiar uses, it has become an important item to be considered for the digital plant as well.  News of such a device certainly deserves mentioning.

When someone told me that “Pluto” had developed such a device, all I could thing of was the mythological Roman god, the ninth and farthest planet from the sun or thoughts of the gangly, floppy eared Disney dog, but certainly not a video server. Was I ever surprised!

I wasn’t too far off track when I thought of the planet because Pluto has developed, what they are calling, The HyperSPACE HDCAM.  Now the HDCAM part of the name comes from Pluto’s association with Sony.  The HyperSPACE HDCAM is a playout server designed to be used in HDTV broadcast applications.  It is random-access, so it should work well with station automation and can be put to work as a Hi-Def disk recorder for post-production applications.

The way the project went together was that the R&D team at Pluto Technologies International used the HDCAM compression technology developed by Sony.  The product will allow broadcasters, cable operators, Direct Broadcasters and Post-productions houses to operate in one environment (HDCAM) minimizing “generational” video quality loss that improves the on-air product.

The HyperSPACE HDCAM is designed as a “plug and play” device and is initially

being offered in several packages ranging from a simple server/encoder, for

reliable storage and random access to media, to larger systems that include an

editor, switcher and VCRs.  No mention was made as to video formats

accommodated.  For additional information, visit either the Pluto web site at or the Sony web site at


Beyond the Label

Character Generators (CG) have been around for a while and aren’t particularly newsworthy; unless the one you’re talking about is new, different and does a lot of really “neat things.”  That is the case with this “new box” from Pinnacle.

Within the past year or so, while Chief at my last station, I looked at quite a few CGs trying to find a replacement for an aging workhorse that was becoming increasingly more undependable: an all too familiar story, I’ sure. I had almost every known manufacturer, or their rep, stop by to show me their “goodies.”  As an NBC affiliate, we wanted to look like them, but hardly had the budget to cover the cost of the paperwork the Peacock factory used to buy their CGs with.

This fall, when I was invited to have a “look-see” at Pinnacle’s new FXDeko, I was truly impress with what I saw and all that it does; shatters, 3D space rotations, warps into position, and more.  At the risk of sounding like a product review or infomercial, I’d like to share with you only the things that impressed me the most and let the salesmen take care of the rest.

Besides being a character generator that will handle most any font library going, including Chyron’s, it’s also a digital video effects (DVE) generator that will take two channels of external video and put them though the same gyrations it puts the fonts through.  It interfaces with other systems such as equipment made by Quantel.

Speaking of fonts, I had a very difficult time a few years back finding a CG that would handle non-Roman language fonts.  Although most places don’t have the requirement, it’s nice to know that the FXDeko supports Arabic, Hebrew, Cyrillic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean script and probably a few I can’t remember.  You never know when you might get a job requiring one of those systems of script.

The built-in Frame Grabber lets you snag images from video clips, etc., extending your Creative Services’ ability to come up with unique and good looking local material while retaining that certain “image” and still looking distinctively different.

Being NT based, with both hard drive and standard 3.5-inch floppy drive for memory, it’s compatible with other similar based equipment.  The “box” is reported to be DTV ready (whatever that means).  It runs in all currently popular analog formats; NTSC, PAL S-Video, etc.  Inputs are RGB, YUV or serial D1 and the outputs are the same plus SMPTE/EBU and key.

The FXDeko lists out at about half the cost of the “industry leaders” comparable top of the line.  I’ll let you go away trying to figure out who that is.  I’m purposely not going to mention price as we all know the FXDeko will ship for various prices, depending on who you “strike a deal” with.  Good luck and good looking.

Check out Pinnacle’s web site at:


Spectrum for Latinum

By Larry Bloomfield

If you’re not a “Trackie,” then you may not know that Latinum is the intergalactic money of the future and what it will take “a lot of” if you want a frequency to operate on in the future.

The auctioning off, to the highest bidder, of frequencies and spectrum is at hand, and will be the way of the future, in all services under the auspices of the FCC.  The successful party, who vied for an available frequency, will no longer be a matter of the most qualified or necessarily worthy, but the one with the most bucks or Latinum.

Many broadcast engineers and technicians are also amateur radio operators.  I’m no exception, KA6UTC.  Those who are may recall, not too long ago when a large chunk of the 220 MHz amateur band was wrestled away from them by the “guardians of the air waves,” the FCC.

Want to know what happened to it?  Read on!  In report number WT-98-36, the Commission, in a harbinger of things to come, announced they had, in about a five-week period and in their 17th auction, raised $21,650,301.00 in net bids after 173 rounds for the 220 MHz service.

I can’t help but wonder if Daddy Warbucks, of Little Orphan Annie fame, had been an amateur radio operator and had bid $22 million, if we couldn’t have retain that spectrum for amateur radio use?

For more heart throbbing details see the FCC web site at:


DirecTV High Definition Television Service for in-store demonstrations

By Jim Mendrala

Since HDTV is the next generation of television entertainment, a new service from DirecTV will provide to its customers, it will broadcast the high definition programs from its satellite in orbit at 95 degrees west longitude rather than its satellites at 101 degrees west.

The strategy is to keep the current SDTV on it’s existing satellites at 101 degrees west. This way no DirecTV customer will be inconvenienced. HDTV consumes more bandwidth so it will be broadcast via the new 95-degree west satellite.

DirecTV will be the first satellite TV system that will be built into H/DTV sets.  Since DirecTV is in partnership with Thomson Consumer Electronics, all RCA and ProScan H/DTV sets will be satellite ready. For those subscribers who want access to DirecTV, there is a “smart card” slot. For terrestrial reception there is an antenna connection. DirecTV and the terrestrial broadcaster will be transmitting digital TV in the MPEG 2 format. This will make it easy for DTV owners to have access to DirecTV, USSB and terrestrial channels via a rooftop antenna.

The antenna will have to be changed to a new elliptical satellite dish to be able to receive the signal from the 101 and 95 degree satellites.

Programming in HDTV will be mostly demonstrations in the beginning followed by movie clips, sports, nature and documentary footage, concerts, with 5.1 channels of sound, and event highlights. HBO and USSB available on DirecTV will have heir HDTV also. Sometime in 1999 DirecTV plans on expanding its HDTV programming once consumers start to take delivery of their HDTV sets.

DirecTV will be “format agnostic” and will transmit in all ATSC formats. By having the satellite receiver built in to the DTV set the consumer will have a convenient, all in one, easy to use television entertainment package.

For additional information, visit their web site at:

One other note:  Thomson has publicly stated that their new digital TV sets will on be able capable of displaying about 1 million pixels.  That’s only half the pixels broadcasters of high definition will be transmitting.


Dose EchoStar know about this?

By Larry Bloomfield

The headlines read: “Local TV On Satellite Hires Veteran Broadcaster as Chief

Operating Officer”

Since there are over 1700 television station in the USA, it would seem to me that Local TV on Satellite might be a very ambitious venture for these folks.  Since some of the cable folks are balking at the new DTV/HDTV formats and are iffy about having to carry more than one of the two TV station from the same operator in the same market, maybe this is an answer.  It may also be an answer to the problem of translators and what’s to become of them.  Remember that many of the communities in the and West of the Rocks depend on translators for their TV service.  Portland, OR stations along have anywhere from 50 to 75 translators each.  In the 202nd market, Bend, Oregon, I had 8 translators when I was Chief Engineer there, but with the number of stations to be considered across this fruited plane, this is quite an undertaking!

According to the press release, John H. Hutchinson, a veteran broadcasting executive will join Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc. as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, a new position.

Hutchinson, will have the job of implementing LTVS’s plan to deliver all local television stations in the U.S. via satellite, giving consumers alternatives to their cable providers and translator systems. He joins LTVS after 28 years with Jefferson-Pilot Communications Company, the last seven as President of the Television Group and General Manager of WBTV in Charlotte, N.C. During his career, he’s held a variety of broadcast management positions.  Hutchinson is a member of the Television Board of Directors of the National Association of Broadcasters and a District Representative on the CBS Affiliates Advisory Board. He holds a BA degree from the University of North Carolina.

Jim Goodmon, President and Chief Executive Officer of Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc., said, “John Hutchinson’s extensive broadcasting experience will be a huge asset as LTVS develops its business plan to provide meaningful competition in the multi-channel video programming market.”

When asked about his new position and about LTVS, Hutchinson responded, “I believe LTVS has the technological ‘local-to-local’ solution that broadcasters and Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) providers need to give consumers greater choice, better service and lower prices. I look forward to making local television via satellite the industry standard.”

Local TV on Satellite, LLC was founded in 1997 by Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc. and its subsidiary, Microspace Communications Corporation, to develop and implement a plan to deliver all local television stations in the U.S. via satellite. Using “spotbeam” satellite technology, LTVS would make DBS providers fully competitive with cable, providing quality transmission of all local television stations in all local markets. Current laws prohibit DBS providers from carrying local stations. Congress is considering legislation this session that would change all that, guaranteeing all consumers access to local programming from all providers.

CONTACT:  Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc.  James F. Goodmon 919-821-8504


Something to Give Cable a Headache

By Larry Bloomfield

It looks like the goal of giving cable a worthy competitor is working not only here in this country, but worldwide.  According to a report from Cahners In- Stat Group, a high-technology market research firm who claim to have comprehensive understanding of computer and convergence, networking, wireless, telecommunications, Internet, enterprise software, and semiconductor markets, say that worldwide digital direct broadcast satellite (DBS) subscribers will reach 55.4 million in 2002.  That’s five times the number of subscribers in 1997.  The report also says that the growing DBS platforms will enable the number of worldwide subscription revenue to reach $28 billion by 2002.

Michelle Abraham, senior analyst with Cahners In-Stat Group’s Multimedia service, and author of the report, said: “Though DBS systems have been around since the 1970s, the transition from analog to digital systems, as well as the start-up of new service providers, continues to provide growth for digital DBS service providers.  Even areas of the world hit by economic problems have continued to grow the number of subscribers to DBS services.”

The Digital DBS Industry report provides DBS subscriber and subscription revenue forecasts through 2002 and includes profiles of digital DBS service providers from North America, Latin America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia Pacific, Japan and the rest of the world.

Another recently published report by the same group focused on the DBS set top box and its semiconductor components in which they forecast that digital DBS set top box shipments will reach 20 million units in 2002, with the semiconductor dollars per box dropping to $26.  This information should be of interest to both manufacturer and consumer in light of the deregulation permitting consumers to own their own set top boxes.

For additional information, visit their web site at:


Yo Ho Ho and a Geo-Satellite or Two

By Larry Bloomfield

Since many of my fellow Broadcast Engineering types got their start in the military, I though they’d like to know some of what’s going on today.  Even though the times are a chaingin’, it was like stepping back in history, when I learned about the Navy’s launch of their most recent UHF Follow-On satellite, built by Hughes Space and Communications Company.

Liftoff was at 3:19 a.m. EDT October 20, 1998 from Cape Canaveral Air Station aboard a Lockheed Martin Atlas IIA rocket.  About 30 minutes later, UHF F9 was injected into an elliptical transfer orbit and about 5 minutes later, satellite controllers received signals from UHF F9, indicating all systems were operating normally. The elliptical transfer orbit is what gets the geo-stationary or geosynchronous satellite out to 22,300 miles where it can go into its 24-hour orbit.

The satellite is the ninth in the series, as well as the second of three with a revolutionary Global Broadcast Service (GBS) payload.  When the third GBS spacecraft is launched next year, the Department of Defense will have near-global high-speed, wideband coverage on land, at sea and in the air. The F8, F9 and F10 satellites continue to carry the baseline narrowband UHF and protected EHF payloads as well.  Unlike it’s sister spacecraft that are used for Direct to Home entertainment with a fixed footprint, the GBS payload has three GBS steerable downlink spot beam antennas, in addition to one steerable and one fixed GBS uplink antenna.  This antenna modification results in a 96 Mbps capability.  UHF F9 is the eighth launch of the year for Hughes, and it is the 43rd HS 601 spacecraft to be launched.


Consumers Beware!

By Jim Mendrala

I have visited several stores to see the “what’s available” in the new H/DTV sets and I’m appalled at what I am seeing. At one store in the San Fernando Valley they had a Panasonic 53” 16x9 H/DTV set. It was receiving a signal from a local broadcaster. The NTSC artifacts were, to put it mildly, terrible. The set was being fed from a DTV receiver box that sells, at this time, for $1,499. The receiver had outputs for SDTV in composite and S-Video. The HDTV output was RGB. I was not able to see what connectors were on the back of the unit so I have no idea how the audio comes out. There is also a digital output of some kind but the salesperson didn’t know anything about it as the set only came in a few days earlier.  I asked the salesperson to see if anyone was transmitting some HDTV so we flipped through all the available channels in the LA area (4) and no one was transmitting any HDTV at that time. The problem with the DTV signal was it looked to me like the NTSC composite signal was being decoded at the transmitter via some cheap type of NTSC decoder to feed the MPEG encoder that feeds the DTV transmitter. There was lots of chroma crawl, some blockiness and some interlace artifacts (and this is supposed to be digital component). The salesperson then put an HDTV tape into what he said was a D-VHS VCR and we looked at that. It was much better than the off air DTV signal because it was in “HDTV”. Compared to DirecTV that I’m used to looking at in SDTV, the D-VHS looked very nice. No visible scan lines at 3 screen heights.

Another store I visited had a Mitsubishi H/DTV ready 54” 4x3 set connected to a Mitsubishi DTV receiver/decoder. The receiver can only be used with the Mitsubishi set as all controls come from the set via a DB-25 connector. The output of the box is a proprietary RGB, H and V signal that is only compatible with the Mitsubishi TV. The box only has a left audio and right audio output.  The pictures received from the 4 Los Angeles stations did not look as good as the same programs on NTSC sets. The problem with the picture is that it was lacking detail and overall was blurry. The salesperson played a tape through a Comark device to simulate what an HDTV broadcast would look like and it to was blurry. Not as much as the unconverted NTSC but not as good as real HDTV that I have seen.

Other HDTV ready sets were on the floor but none were connected to a DTV receiver. The receiver will be offered as an extra option. The strategy is to get people to by the HDTV sets for around $6,000-$7,000 and when “DTV catches on” to buy the DTV receiver for another $4,000 - $5,000 dollars. The sales manager did not think anyone would buy a complete HDTV system due to it’s high cost.

While surfing the four channels, the receiver took about 1 to 2 seconds to lock up and display the image. While watching, there were a few MPEG artifacts visible on the NTSC up conversion. Compared to DirecTV, its reception was full of hits.

Another store didn’t have any HDTVs but had the new flat panel displays. They were on sale for $14,999 and compared to a regular TV they lacked contrast and resolution. The pixels were like looking through a window screen at 4 screen heights distance.

I was not able to evaluate any audio quality or AC-3 encoded sound. That will have to be later when the stores start putting the DTVs into their demo rooms.

The buzzword is “HDTV Ready”. It reminds me of when color was being talked about back in the “fifties” and the TV set manufacturers put an RCA connector on the chassis so when the FCC would finally approved a color standard you could plug in an optional sequential color wheel to receive the new color.  This they advertised as being “color ready”. I hope “HDTV Ready” doesn’t turn out like the sequential color jack.

For additional information, visit these web sites at:

Mitsubishi at  or Panasonic at



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 (and yes Larry’s e-mail is till the same) or land lines (408) 778-3412, (805) 294-1049 or fax at (805) 294-0705.  News items, comments, opinions etc. are always welcome from our readers; letters may be edited for brevity, but usually not.     --------- <<<

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