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Tech Notes

Published by: Larry Bloomfield & Jim Mendrala

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September 13, 1999?

Tech Note - 040


Talent does what it can, but genius does what it must!

Our Mission: Sharing experiences, knowledge, observations, concerns, opinions or anything else relating to Electronic Cinema, DTV, etc., with fellow engineers and readers. We do hope that everyone will participate with comments, experiences, questions and/or answers.  Please note Jim Mendrala's new E-mail address. Phone numbers and other stuff that used to be up here is now at the end of this newsletter. We now have over 480 subscribers & growing.                  This is YOUR forum! 

                                   Past issues are available at: WWW.SCRI.COM


From Nat Ostroff: The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.


Subj  Technicolor 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 following links:

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:

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 Standard Testing
By:  Nat Ostroff -- V.P. New Technology, Sinclair Broadcast Group

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 is developed.

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: )


(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 it.

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 picture.

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

 #1. 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.

#2  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 sampled audio.]

#3  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 model.


Subj:  A few Notes of my own

By:    Larry Bloomfield

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, too. 

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 somewhere. 

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   Larry


Subj:  Jim's SMPTE report

By Jim Mendrala

The 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.

The 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.

John Brooks, SMPTE Hollywood Section Chair said, “Before you plan for the future, it is important to understand it’s past.”

The 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.

Richard 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.


(Ed Note:  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     

Subject: 1999 US TV Station HDTV Report Excerpt

From: Des Chaskelson, Research Director, SCRI International (

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%).



The Tech Notes are published for broadcast professionals, and others, who are interested in DTV, HDTV, Electronic Cinema, etc., by Larry Bloomfield and Jim Mendrala.  We can be reached by either e-mail or land lines (408) 778-3412, (661) 294-1049 or fax at (419) 710-1913 or (419) 793-8340. The Tech Notes are sent (BCC) directly only to those who have asked to be on the mailing list, however feel free to forward them, intact, to anyone who you think might be interested. There is no charge for this Newsletter, no one gets paid (sigh), there is no advertising and we do not indorse any product or service(s).  The ideas and opinions are those of the individual authors.  We still administer everything manually.  We don't use any "majordomo" automatic servers. News items, comments, observations, opinions, etc. are encouraged and always welcome. We publish when there is something to share.  Material may be edited for brevity, but usually not.  Tech Note articles may be reproduced in any form provided they are unaltered and credit is given to both Tech Notes and the originating authors, when named.  If they are to be used by a publication that normally compensates their writers, please contact us first.