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does what it can, but genius does what it must!
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Nat Ostroff: The difference between genius and stupidity is
that genius has its limits.
and Digital Cinema
From: Bill Hogan -- Sprocket Digital, Burbank, CA >>
Over the past 6 years Technicolor has "reinvented" the
Dye Transfer Release Print Printing Process. Several years ago they
made several prints of Batman. Then there were a few prints
of Bullworth and Godzilla. These prints were promising for the color
quality, dynamic range and deep blacks with no crushing of the image.
Then came more prints of archive material "Gone with the Wind"
and "Wizard of Oz". These last two releases suffered from
the quality of the archive material available.
Recently history was made. Over two hundred prints of "The
13th Warrior" were released. These prints from Buena
Vista Releasing (Disney) are showing in the metro areas of Los Angeles,
New York and Orlando, Florida.
RUN, RUN, RUN to see one of these prints. They are truly spectacular.
See for the first time in modern history what is really on the negative
translated to the print.
Last May I and the rest of the Hollywood SMPTE Education Committee
were privileged to see a side by side comparison of one reel of
13th Warrior comparing Eastman Kodak Vision and a Dye Transfer print.
The comparison was most interesting. The dynamic range was far greater
on the Dye print and the color was wonderful. Deep blacks. Truly
black with no hint of cyan tint as most Eastman/Fuji prints tend
to be. And the whites truly white. And from Black to White true
tracking of the color and black and white gray scale. Skin tones
to die for. Skin tones that showed that everybody has a different
skin tone and not everybody is some shade of orange. Color like
we remember Technicolor to be.
On this anamorphic film resolution was better than the Kodak print.
And absolutely steady pictures. This is because every step of the
process is pin registered. Now the only unsteadiness is in the theater
projector and they are better than we think after seeing 4 prints
on 4 different theaters in the LA area over the weekend. Technicolor
told us at the May USC/SMPTE conference that they were making these
Dye Transfer prints at over 800 feet per minute pin registered.
This picture was shot 2 years ago and has been on the shelf waiting
for release. There are two scenes in particular that show the process
to the fullest. The arrival of the band of 13 warriors coming to
save the king's kingdom as they enter the tribal house. The wood
interior decorated with animal skins, leather objects and the wood
trappings shows the incredible blacks and tracking into the shadows
with no hint of color contamination. The other scene is the trek
through the woods with shafts of sunlight. Incredible dynamic range
with full detail still visible.
I have never seen video pictures like this displayed on any type
of display. The most costly studio monitor cannot show images
like this. And Digital Cinema comes no wheres close. The lack of
film grain is amazing in this dye transfer print. This film is obviously
shot with a lot of high speed negative (probably pushed) and many
practical lights (flaming torches) and there is little to no grain
in the projected image. This indicates that much of the projected
grain we see is added in the intermediate film stages or in the
Eastman/Fuji projected print. Kodak does make both the matrix and
blank stock used in the printing
The director of photography was Peter Menzies, Jr., ACS and the
camera operator was Robert Prestley, SOC. Menzies also filmed "The
General's Daughter" released this year. They are to be commended.
This may well be one of the year's best photographed features.
For background on how the Technicolor Process works look at the
These sites are a great source
of information on all early color processes.
This picture may not last too long in the first run theaters. In
the LA area I know that the picture is playing at most AMC's, General
Cinema theaters and at the Pacific Winnetka. At the Pacific Winnetka
it is in two theaters including one with a 70 foot wide screen It
looks great and looks much better that the trailers proceeding it.
The 70 foot screen is a real test that digital cinema cannot come
close to. At the AMC 14 theater in Burbank it is ironic that it
is in the same theater as the June TI Phantom Menace technology
demo. This film image is much better. The best theater image that
I watched over the weekend was the Glendale General Cinema at Central
and Milford. And for those sound fans the sound track is one the
best I have ever heard. A great theatrical presentation with a Jerry
Goldsmith music score and some of the best sound mixing I have ever
heard. The sound effects editing and the use of the surround channels
is incredible. Disney's own (Pacific managed) El Capitan theater
in Hollywood is playing a Kodak print.
Don't know what theaters in the New York/New Jersey area are playing
the film in Dye Transfer. You will know it when you see it. Probably
playing in Orlando at the AMC Pleasure Island complex where the
digital cinema showing was. Maybe members of this group can post
locations if they learn of them. More production details can be
found at: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0120657
As usual these opinions are my own. I believe that this Dye Transfer
image quality raises the bar way up. Will be very hard for Digital
Cinema to equal but I think digital presentations will come eventually.
No pixels or compression artifacts visible on this film screen.
Regards, Bill Hogan
Subj: Update on Transmission
By: Nat Ostroff -- V.P. New Technology, Sinclair Broadcast
The comparative testing of COFDM and 8-VSB has been competed in
Baltimore. Over 40 sites were included in the test. These sites
were located both inside of the Grade A contour of the station and
at the fringes of reception beyond the radio horizon. The test sites
were both indoor and outdoor. The initial analysis of the data shows
that the current implementation of 8-VSB in commercially available
consumer grade set top boxes falls far short of what a consumer
product must do to gain general user acceptance. On the other hand,
COFDM allowed easy reception using simple antennas in most locations.
Generally speaking 8-VSB failed to be received at most locations
when simple antennas were in use. COFDM was
easily received at every site where 8-VSB was received and in addition
it was received at an overwhelming number of the total sample of
sites tested using simple antennas. Furthermore, at the fringes
of coverage there was no consistent difference between 8-VSB and
COFDM. Where one failed the other also failed. Thus we were not
able to demonstrate the claimed loss of coverage for COFDM against
8-VSB. A full report of the Baltimore test effort will be published
and presented at the Fall IEEE Broadcast Symposium
held in Washington, DC on September 24th, 1999.
With the test results in hand Sinclair has prepared a petition to
the FCC to request that the Commission allow COFDM as an alternative
transmission standard to be available to broadcasters along with
8-VSB. It was our intent to circulate this petition throughout the
industry to obtain signatures and support.
In the last several days announcements have been made by both Motorola
and NxtWave corporations about a new chip based on new technology
that, according to news releases, "solves the multi-path problems
of 8-VSB." The new technology does not approach the problem
of multi-path reception in the
conventional manner that continues to be implemented by the consumer
set makers. Both of these companies are not set makers.
These announcements, coming from non-consumer set makers, need to
be taken into consideration and evaluated before any further steps
are taken with the FCC. The fact that the work has been inspired
by background intellectual property from The Sarnoff Corporation
lends a degree of creditability to the issue that must be recognized.
Sinclair has therefore decided to temporally hold onto the FCC petition
and instead invited the chip making companies to come to Baltimore
and demonstrate there achievements using our facilities and the
"calibrated locations" available in Baltimore. We believe
that they will accept the offer and come to see us early in September.
If the September tests bear out the claims already made for this
technology then there may not be a reason to file the current version
of our petition with the FCC. We will report to you as the information
While we at Sinclair remain skeptical we are also cautiously optimistic
that these companies have found the code to crack the most difficult
aspect of the reception of the 8-VSB standard. If they can demonstrate
their achievement we want to be among the first to say congratulations.
Our objective throughout this entire process was to insure that
the broadcaster ended up with a robust over the air delivery service.
We rejected the CEMA model that required outdoor directional antennas
and continue to find that model both unrealistic and unacceptable.
If our efforts have contributed to the atmosphere that enables these
companies to come forward now, we are pleased.
Nat Ostroff (Ed Note: Please address
all E-mail correspondence to Nat Ostroff via his associate, Mark
Aitken at: MAitken@sbgnet.com )
(Ed note: We received
a note from good friend and subscriber, Roy Trumbull, Asst. Chief
Engineer at KRON in San Francisco. Jim Mendrala answered Roy's
questions and addressed his statements. Since we feel it makes for
interesting reading, it is included here.)
RT: I'm not a film head so take this with a grain of salt.
Years ago I researched an article on Showscan for a magazine. That
made me familiar with a few things. One was that while 16 ft-lamberts
is the specified
illumination for film screening, it is the rare theater that does
JM: SMPTE 196M specifies a screen brightness of 16 ft. Lamberts
with an open gate and the shutter running. When a piece of film
is inserted into the gate the light drops a little and in a perfect
theater is about 12 - 13 ft Lamberts. Some theaters, in order to
save on lamps, reduce the light a little more making the screen
dimmer. This is not what is recommended but does happen.
RT: Another is that brighter is better. A brighter picture
is perceived as being better hence the misunderstanding about the
video projection resolution. Much can be forgiven in a brighter
JM: I couldn't agree with you more. The brighter the better.
More contrasty pictures do appear to be sharper.
RT: An odd fact I learned from Dr. Schriber at MIT was that,
in their tests, the picture shown with better sound was judged to
be superior to a like picture with normal sound.
JM: Yes and to evaluate only the picture one must turn off
the sound as it does distract. Unfortunately this is not possible
in a public theater.
RT: I'm sure someone must have done a study on the effective
resolution of 35mm after the eye handles that weave effects from
the sprocket holes and pull down.
JM: Yes there was a paper written about that in the SMPTE
Journal about 15 years ago.
RT: I remember shuddering every time someone said that HDTV
was going to be as good as 35 mm. God forbid.
JM: In some cases HDTV can look as good as film especially
when viewed at more than 3 screen heights like in the home.
However there are a lot of theaters where 3 screen heights is the
last row or back wall of the theater.
Subj: Reader Feedback
Tom Lento at Sarnoff correctly pointed out that in our coverage
of the Motorola announcement of the new 9-VSB receiver chip (Tech
Note #39) that is was developed in collaboration with Sarnoff Corporation
not "Sarong Corporation, with all due respect to Dorothy Lamour,"
as Tom pointed out.
Tom Holman pointed out, in reference to the story on the one bit
audio device, that: Surround Professional covered the 1-bit conversion
issue for audio in issue no. 2's column Relevant Research. This
contradicts the insertion in Tech Note #39 about the Sharp "invention".
Unfortunately, the down side of 1-bit sampling was not covered.
Here is the piece from Surround Professional: A group at Analog
Devices including Robert Adams report in "A 112 dB SNR Over-sampling
DAC with Segmented Noise-shaped Scrambling" (AES preprint 4774)
the tradeoffs between 1-bit and multi-bit systems, while explaining
new converter technologies. "Conventional 1-bit sigma-delta
converters (both D/A and A/D) are limited by the noise of switched-capacitor
circuits and by idle tones, and cannot easily achieve dynamic ranges
in excess of 110 dB without expensive support circuitry.... Unfortunately,
the problems of 1-bit conversion will be with us for quite some
time if the proposed 'DSD' specification is adopted. It is ironic
that just as the majority of the world's chip designers are adopting
multi-bit converters to achieve freedom from idle tones and high
dynamic range (see, for example, the coverters session of the 1998
ISSCC convention), the recording industry is about to adopt a standard
that records a 1-bit stream directly on tape and thus requires the
use of 1-bit A/D and D/A sigma-delta converters. These converters
will either be based on switched capacitor circuits, in which case
high SNR will come at a high price, or continuous-time 1-bit systems,
where pico-second clock jitter will be required. In the mean time,
inexpensive converters designed for the consumer market will be
achieving 120 dB SNR with no idle tones, but
these converters will not be used for professional DSD-based applications
because they are internally based on multi-bit technology."
[DSD means Direct Stream Digital, Sony's name for 1-bit 2.8 MHz
David Naranjo of Matsushita Television & Network Systems Company
of America addressing the OpenCable story in Tech Note #38 said:
I do want to provide you some insights into the "real"
OpenCable initiative. Although progress in being made in POD interoperability
as well as other aspects, let no one kid you that "true"
retail availability is a dim reality come 7/2000. Although CableLabs
is attempting to form a common set of specifications in order for
CE industry to design, manufacture, market STB's at retail, CableLabs
is also controlled by the cable companies with varying degrees of
business and political agendas. In short, there still is a long
way to go before, CableLabs and the cable industry can find common
ground that enables the CE industry to drive a successful retail
Subj: A few Notes
of my own
In writing my material for
Broadcast Engineering, I run across some rather thought provoking
information. Here's a few notes I've collected over the past
several months that just might get your gray matter to whirling,
What's to become of the old
NTSC channels or secondary channels as we make the transition to
digital television? Lauren Colby, a communications attorney
out of Frederick, MD got me to thinking when he mentioned that according
to the recent Balanced Budget Act, the FCC will auction off all
the NTSC channels in the year 2002, just 5 years before any of the
new owner-successful bidders could use them. Colby also pointed
out that the auctioned spectrum may or may not be used for television.
There is nothing that says it has to be.
There are 1599 full power
NTSC stations on the air as of this writing, of which there are
370 non-commercial licensees. Including the stations already on
the air and those about to go on the air, only a total of 341 applications
have been filed, to date, for their digital CP. That's over
700 that had better get on the ball before November 1st
if they plan to remain in the television business.
Keep an eye out for an interesting
story on the stations in Denver in the September issue of BE.
The newer local residences by the transmitter site have developed
a very serious NIMBY attitude. Many of the stations have been
on Lookout Mountain for nearly 50 years. Reminds me of the
guy who built a house at the end of a runway and then bitched about
the air traffic overhead.
TeraLogic has come out with
a "decode almost anything" chip. If it gets a good
clean (there's the secret) bit stream to it, it will output in almost
any format you can think of. More on this later either here
in the Tech Notes or in BE.
Motorola and NxtWave have
both come out with a filter circuit, which is supposed to be the
elixir of the 8VSB world by eliminating serious multipath problems.
With a Microtune tuner followed by one of these chips then into
the TeraLogic chip, we just might make this 8VSB puppy work yet!
Again, if BE doesn't publish the story I did on them, you'll see
it here. Now if we can get the set manufacturers to build
a display that will show all 2 million plus pixels the broadcasters
are transmitting in the 1080 by 1920 mode, we might be able to say
we have HDTV, too. The ITU doesn't think that 720 is HDTV.
And finally, keep an eye on
the big guys. With the ink hardly dry on the FCC new duopoly
rules, lord knows who will end up "king of the mountain."
Most everyone has heard that CBS and Viacom are in the process of
getting married and if my inside sources are correct, the same thing
may be true, in one degree or another, with NBC and Paxson.
The only thing that will put
any kind of skids to this "buy everything in sight" trend
is the limit of only one owner per 35 percent of the total American
viewing audience. Anyone want to start a pool on when that
cap will get raised? Between the big guys buying everything
that's not tied down and the fellow with the most money getting
the license, there's not much hope of ever seeing any mama and papa
ownership's in the future, unless they a few billion stashed away
As I close these random thoughts,
I'd just like to mention that I'd sure like to know or hear about
any cutting edge or newsy tidbits out there in television land.
Don't be afraid to either e-mail us or call. I will protect
my sources, if you don't want your name up in lights. And
finally, welcome to all the new subscribers. We've gone from
the low 300s to nearly 500 in just the past few months: not bad
and thanks. If you're reading this because someone passed
it on to you, you can get your own copy directly. Just e-mail
us. No cost. If you know of anyone who is available
and looking or you have an opening, let us know. We'll run
a brief notice for you. Until next time, Later
Subj: Jim's SMPTE
Hollywood Section of the Society of Motion Picture and Television
Engineers (SMPTE) celebrated the 80th anniversary of
the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) by hosting a joint
seminar held at the historic Alex Theater in Glendale, CA.
Alex Theater on Grand Avenue in downtown Glendale has been beautifully
restored. Two film projectors were used to show the 11 historic
film clips. Some were 1.33:1, 1.85:1 and 2.35:1. The screen appeared
to be a 2:1 screen.
Brooks, SMPTE Hollywood Section Chair said, “Before you plan for
the future, it is important to understand it’s past.”
program ran smoothly and consisted of a presentation by Warner Bros.
Vice President and preservationist Richard May and an ASC panel
discussing the past, present and future of the cinema. As well as
the lesson learned from the past and the possibilities for the future.
May showed clips from classic Warner Bros. Films restored by the
studio. The clips showed the evolution from the original (1.33:1)
aspect ratio on up through wide film formats such as Cinemascope
(2.55:1 a/r). The clips included “Ben Hur” (1925), “Goldiggers of
Broadway” (1929), “The Good Earth” (1937), “The Adventures of Robin
Hood” (1938), “Rebeca” (1940) “The Harvey Girls” (1946) and Butterfield
8 (1959). There was some two color examples as well as three color
examples also some color reversal internegative (CRI) clips. Of
course there were some early Technicolor examples also.
The evening fnished up with
a panel discussion moderated by The American Cinematographer Magazine’s
Associate Editor, David Williams. Included on the panel was Dean
Cudey, ASC, Richard Edlund, ASC John Hora, ASC, Theo Van de Sande,
ASC and Steven Poster, ASC. The subject was past, present and future
of the cinema. It was almost unanimous that electronic or
digital cinema is here and no one knows yet what impact it will
have on the cinema as we know it today.
The Editors and Publishers of the Tech Notes wish to thank Des Chaskelson,
Research Director of SCRI International for his generosity in posting
the Tech Notes on the SCRI web site. www.SCRI.com).
1999 US TV Station HDTV Report Excerpt
Des Chaskelson, Research Director, SCRI International (Des_Chas@scri.com)
Local Programming Originating
in: High Definition
This survey makes it apparent
that most broadcasters either are not sure (14.3%) or, for the most,
don't have any desire (49.7%) initially to have any involvement
with high definition television. Even after a year of digital
broadcast, this total of 64% only changes a fraction of a percent
- 63.7%. Except for, what appear to be large markets, high
definition doesn't stand to be very successful, locally. The
reason behind this; could stem from any of a number of factors.
The most likely of which is probably a lack of any successful business
models on a local level (understanding) and fear of the unknown.
If and when high definition becomes more popular, this trend may
well change. Of those that do expect to originate local programming
in HD, most expect this to be within 1-10% initially (30%). After
a year of digital broadcasting, this is not expected to change much
- 18% expecting to originate 1-10% and 11% expecting 11-20%.
Local Programming Originating
in Standard Definition:
Again, except for the larger
market stations, it appears that the remainder of broadcasters are
not ready to run out and buy even standard definition digital television
equipment - initially - 21.3% don't know what percentage of local
programming will originate in SD, and 17.3% report "none".
Even after a year these figures don't change that much - 26.5% don't
know and 10.9% none. Of those that do expect to originate local
programming in SD, initially about four in ten (39.4%) expect to
be doing 50% or less - after a year of digital broadcast this is
not expected to change much (38.1%).
are published for broadcast professionals, and others, who are interested
in DTV, HDTV, Electronic Cinema, etc., by Larry Bloomfield and Jim
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