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DTV Tech Notes

% Larry Bloomfield & Jim Mendrala

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

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December  1998  (Before the holidays)

DTV Tech Note – 024

Happy Holidays

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By Larry Bloomfield

It wasn’t too long ago that, as Chief Engineer at a station in the Pacific Northwest, I had to get replacement parts for a piece of equipment supported only from a European country.  That, in itself, wasn't a problem, but the foreign currency exchange rates drove us nearly nuts trying to figure out what the thing was going to cost us and how we'd go about paying for it. 

By the same token (no pun intended) anyone who has or does travel, for what ever reason, will probably identify with my dismay when loosing a percentage of my funds at the moneychangers in the various ports of entry.  It's almost impossible to plan, so you never know from one day to the next what the exchange rate is going to be and how much they'll gouge you for;  you just know that you're going to loose money.  Wouldn't it be nice if the world's governments, and their respective financial institutions, standardized in much the same way as science has and is standardizing in the area of weights and measures?

Well hold on to your hats, the quest for common sense isn't just a dream, it's "a happening!"  Over the next four years, most of Europe's historic national currencies will disappear in a sort of voluntary "euthanasia" to be replaced by a new single currency known as the Euro.  To be more accurate - as fractions or multiples of the Euro, depending on what ever their precise value was as of the end of this past year (1998).  

The good news is that there will be no more need to convert from one currency to another when traveling or trading between the eleven European countries that subscribe to the new European Monitory Union (EMU).  

As of the first of this year (1999), the exchange rates of the national currencies were irrevocably fixed to each other and to the Euro.  The various government debt issues have now been denominated in Eeuros and trade between the participating countries, or states as they are now called, will take place in Eeuros. The year 2002 marks the culmination of the process, when national notes and coins are all phased out over a six-month period and replaced by newly printed and minted Euro notes and coins.  Since people, countries and governments tend to be like inductors (they resist any change in current flow), I find this absolutely amazing and tends to rebuild my faith in humankind.

A common short-term interest rate was set by the new European Central Bank for all countries in the "Euro zone."  In return for surrendering the freedom of being able to manipulate their individual economies by juggling short-term interest rates, the participating European states hope for low inflation, greater protection from currency storms, an expanded and more efficient market for their goods and services and closer political integration.  Careful now, a united states is a radically new idea that's only a little over 200 years old.  Doesn't it bring to mind 13 colonies that have grown into 50 states?  Common sense in the financial world: now there's a real milestone in mankind's evolution!

Not all European countries have jumped on the Euro bandwagon; Britain, Denmark and Sweden have adopted a "wait and see" policy, but they have wisely chosen to retain their right to adopt the Euro at a later date.  Some countries have not measured up or qualified for membership.  Greece, for example, has been ruled out from joining the EMU at this point, since it does not meet the economic conditions for membership. The irony in this is that the term "euthanasia" I used to describe what is happening to the old currency comes from the Greek: it means a good death.

So it's goodbye to the Guilder and farewell to the French Franc. The great Deutsche Mark has departed and there's no more percentage in Pesetas. With the Markka also being finished, so am I with this story.


The Y1.9K problem!

By Larry Bloomfield

With all the press, tons of money, studies and publicity about the Y2K issues, it is hard not to pass this story on that was heard recently on National Public Radio.  Looking to the future, it is easy to forget that it could work in the other direction too.  Case in point.  The Swiss government sent out a notification to all five-year-old children that they had to report to their local school to begin their education.  The only problem is that a gentleman 105 years of age got one of the notices.  Go figure.

There ought to be a law!

By Larry Bloomfield

Divinely inspired laws, like the Ten Commandments, shouldn't be a problem for anyone to accept.  If nothing else, they're a good set of guidelines to live by, but when ordinary men begin to make laws, watch out.  You get things like it's against the law to whistle in a barbershop, you can't have a hippopotamus in your hotel room or you can't even sleep on park benches.  Who makes these laws?  Lawyers, of course!  When you get so bound up in legal mumbo-jumbo where you can't do your job, one relishes those refreshing thoughts, when they come to mind, like what Shakespeare said:  "The first thing we must do is start off by killing all the lawyers." 

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not advocating killing anyone.  I'd just like to see a law prohibiting lawyers from ever holding any kind of public office.  Now there's a refreshing and novel thought!  What brought all this on?  It's the new copyright law our beloved elected representatives blessed us with and guess what, most of them are lawyers. 

If you'd care to try to unravel the ramblings of this new edict, you can check it out on the web at  What makes it bad is not only can you get busted for copyright infringements but you can also get into deep trouble if you come up with the equipment or technology to circumvent copyrights.  How about fines of "not less than $200 or more than $2,500 per act of circumvention, device, product, component, offer, or performance of service, as the court considers just."    People who do this for commercial gain face fines of up to $1 million and up to 10 years in prison.  Remember that judge is a lawyer too.

On the surface this might seem good, but if we only apply this new bit of legislation to the readers of Broadcast Engineering, the courts will be filled until the next millenium.  Most of our readers deal with copyright material everyday.  If the courts understand this new law, as several of us who have read and discussed it do, you can't even lift a clip out of a show for a promo at your local station if the material is copyrighted.  What makes it even worse, the equipment you need to lift the clip for that promo or whatever, is now illegal too. 

You've heard the expression:  "Guns don't kill people.  People kill people."  Well the same thing is true of the equipment we use on a day-to-day basis to do our jobs, but congress has now made it illegal to use that equipment in any situation that involves copyright material.  The pirates who are making illegal copies are the crooks who commit the crimes.  Electronics equipment doesn't make illegal copies: people make illegal copies.  Apparently the television industry needs representation that thinks like the National Rifle Association (NRA).  Go after the crooks, but leave the equipment alone. 

When guys like Fritz Attaway, general counsel for the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), was pushing for this law I'd be willing to bet that he didn't consider the tools the electronic artist need and use in their trade, from video tape machines, DVD to computers will be band.  You are invited to show me, or anyone else for that matter, a piece of equipment that knows if it is being used illegally or not.  God help the person who tries to take anyone of my several VCRs away from me.  You can quote me on that and it's not a copyright violation!

It is the ignorant thoughtless attorneys who continuously put us into situations where one can only wonder if it weren't easier to dump all laws (except the Ten Commandments) and start all over again.

Additional information on this subject can been seen at this web site:


Coma Prima!

By Larry Bloomfield

(Inspired by a story that first appeared on the TIG – Telecine Interactive Group’s electronic forum)

Coma Prima - For the first time.  During the past several months there have been so many "Firsts" in DTV that it's kind of hard to take a few steps without tripping over another one or two more.  Probably the biggest though, in any market, is the first broadcast ever in DTV, especially if it is in High Definition. 

Mention the name of Bill Hogan to most anyone who is active in any of the various professional broadcast organizations in Southern California and you'll get:  "Yea, I know him!"  If there were an award for endless energy in promoting the highest of professional skills, attending the most meeting and working behind the scenes to make things happen, despite ill health, Hogan would be very much in line for it.     

In this light, members of the Los Angeles section of the Audio Engineering Society can thank Hogan for his efforts in getting the first public demonstration of off the air multi-channel sound during the first High Definition television transmission in Los Angeles.   It all took place at the LA AES section meeting the last Wednesday of October.   Appropriately enough, the program was to be on the subject of Audio for DTV. 

Hogan said:  "About a week before the meeting I thought it would be fun to see if could demonstrate 5.1 multi-channel sound off the air. With the beginning of broadcasting and the deadline of Nov. 1 approaching there was an acute shortage of receivers or set-top boxes.  I called the Philips Consumer/Tri-media Semiconductor Group and was able to arrange for them to send a unit with engineering support." 

Of the four stations in Los Angeles slatted to go on the Air November 1st, KTLA-DT channel 31 was the only one that could commit to support the demo.  Hogan said:  "They were the first LA commercial station and they wanted to be the first to transmit full HDTV.  KNBC beat them with a transmitter on the air but the signal was unconverted standard def. and there was no audio."

At 2pm the afternoon of the AES program, KTLA-DT was not on the air yet and "I found that they did not have the necessary hardware to enable 5.1 channel audio... only 2 channel stereo.  So much for a full 5.1 channel demo,"  mused Hogan.

As things began to look like the best lay plans of mice and men had gone awry, KTLA-DT threw the switch (at 7:40 PM) and were on the air with up converted NTSC followed by the first full true HDTV broadcast in Los Angeles when they played back some of last year's (1998) Rose Parade. 

Hogan reported that the display was a 3 CRT Barco front screen projector.  He said:  "The picture was judged by those present as being truly spectacular.  The sound was encoded Pro logic and was decoded to full surround for the presentation.  A few minutes after KTLA-DT begin broadcasting; KCBS-DT began transmission on Channel 60 and ran the Panasonic Demo tape in HD.  Looked Great."

Hogan asked that we express his thanks and on behalf of those in attendance, their thanks, "To Philips Tri-media Group for their Equipment and Support.  Also to KTLA for getting on the Air just in time."  Hogan concluded:  "This was just like doing a live TV remote. Get your program here! (previously "Physician, heal thyself)"Bill Hogan hangs his hat at Sprocket Digital in Burbank, CA and can be reached by E-mail 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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