Published by: Larry Bloomfield & Jim Mendrala
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Tech Note -
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Subj: Lets hear
from more of you out there
From: Jim Mendrala
A lot of people are reluctant
to write freely because of "corporate" policy. Companies,
as you know, want to co-ordinate there “public image” with their
PR department and anything published has to fit the image the PR
firm has set up for that company. Consultants are a lot freer
to write if they choose to do so. They, however, do not want to
bite the hand that feeds them. It sure would be nice to have
freedom of speech. But unfortunately too many people have
there own agendas and the one who dishes out the bread makes the
rules. If you’ve got something to say, we will maintain your
anonymity, if you so wish.
Subj: Cable Companies
and DTV Programming
From: Tom McMahon
Cable companies, which carry the DTV programming, appear likely
to do so only in QAM, not 8VSB. They'll do this by doing a demod
(either from a terrestrial antenna or some satellite or other link)
and then a QAM remod of the ATSC stream at the head end.
At the consumer end, you won't be able to plug this right into your
DTV set, not for years to come, because none of the new DTV sets
are cable-ready in that sense. They don't have QAM front ends and
they don't know how to tune around the cable system to find an ATSC-carried
signal (no EPG info available to them).
On the other side of the coin, none of the QAM digital cable boxes
being deployed support ATSC. Although they DO know how to tune around
the cable system, even if they knew how to decipher the Programming
and System Information Protocol -- PSIP (which they don't), they
wouldn't have a clue what to do with most of the formats in Table
3 when they finally inherited them.
So even if your cable company carried the Terrestrial DTV programming
and figured out all of the tuning and protocol issues, you are only
likely to get SDTV programs out of your new digital cable box unless
the cable company takes the extra step to format-convert all DTV
programming to their native CATV video format prior to distribution
on their cable system. This could pretty much guarantee that you'd
get all of the terrestrial DTV programming, and that it would be
backward compatible with the nation's 300+ NTSC sets, since all
of these cable boxes will have NTSC and S-Video outs. But HDTV
goes by the wayside.
Another option would be to make the cable box spew the ATSC transport
stream out the back door over 1394 or some other home networking
scheme instead of trying to decode it natively in the cable box.
Of course this assumes the downstream devices all support that particular
networking technology (none of them do yet). It also assumes the
copy protection nonsense is worked out. It also assumes nobody cares
much about watching their terrestrial DTV programming on their 36
inch Sony Trinitron - they have to buy a new (still non-existent
DTV set with a network connection). It also assumes nobody cares
about the value-added stuff that the cable company will be running
in the digital set top box since the GUI information from those
apps won't run across the network link to the DTV set.
Of course the consumer could switch between the 1394 input on their
new non-existent DTV receiver and the NTSC/S-Video input on their
new non-existent DTV receiver when they want to flip between the
ATSC PSIP EPG and the Cable Company EPG and E-Commerce GUIs. But
then they'll need two remotes to perform even the simplest channel
surfing. "Let's see, Remote A: flip to NTSC input, tune Channel
3, Remote B: tune cable box to ATSC-carried channel 43 on the cable
system, Remote A: flip back to 1394 input, tune DTV EPG to ATSC
sub-channel 3 on DTV receiver....etc." How do you hook in DSS?
Are all of these facts a good thing or a bad thing? Would they solve
your problem and make DTV not DOA?
I myself believe that cable Must-Carry solves nothing for the consumer,
especially in the short term. It sounds good on the surface but
won't hold up in practice. A robust terrestrial delivery system
would be worth a lot. Plus, the ability to watch a sporting event
or local news on a shirt-pocket device or a portable TV on a boat/train/bus
would be very valuable to terrestrial DTV market development.
Subj: Reader Response
to: Tech Note 046
From: Jeff Evans
DVD-Audio -- The discussions in HDTV Tech Note 046 show an interest
in, and confusion about, DVD-Audio. Audio Intervisual Design
is sponsoring a seminar / meeting / discussion on DVD-Audio. This
will be held the afternoon of December 14 in North Hollywood. If
you are interested, look at our web site www.aidinc.com
for information and registration. No charge, we may all learn something.
You’ll need for DTV
(copyright 1999 rev 12/9/1999
-- Permission is granted for non-commercial use in newsletters and
for SBE websites)
The HP 8560E Spectrum Analyzer
with Tracking Generator option
I use the HP 8560E spectrum
analyzer with tracking generator to cover the range from 30 hz to
2.9 gig. I can’t say enough good things about it. It is very intuitive
to use and I think I’ve had to refer to the instructions only twice.
It has an averaging function that is essential for checking the
flatness and skirts of a DTV signal. It has a number of marker functions
with the delta marker being the one I use the most. It shows on-screen
what the level is relative to the center span of the signal. You
can pick a peak and read its frequency to a resolution of a hertz.
The tracking generator can
be used to set the center point of the IOT input cavity and to adjust
the bandwidth of the double slugged tuned. The tracking generator
is connected to the input of the circulator feeding the IOT and
the spectrum analyzer is connected in place of the circulator’s
The HP 89441V Vector Signal
The VSA has been available
in several configurations and what I have is the same as the one
used for the ATSC field measurements. I opted for less bandwidth
since I could look at my third harmonic with the 8560E. I also have
less input sensitivity. During the ATSC field tests, additional
gain was provided by two Mini Circuits preamps. Passing on those
features saved me about $15,000. The options I did buy were:
IC2 – HP Instrument Basis
I needed this for a measurement program
written by Gary Scrignoli at Zenith
UG7- Lan Support
My Zenith modulator has an automatic setup
program for linear and non-linear correction. The computer must
interfaced both to the modulator and the
89441 to analyze the signal and create the correction files.
AY8 – Internal RF Source
This is pretty much a required option
and essential for field measurements.
The VSA can do scalar measurements
much like a spectrum analyzer but it can also demodulate the 8 VSB
signal and display eye and constellation patterns. The display can
be set to quad configuration to show multiple measurements at the
same time. It can also do a tabular chart that shows error vector
magnitude (EVM), signal to noise, pilot level and pilot frequency
error and much more.
The VSA has a built in floppy
drive. You can save a screen as data but that requires software
to make use of the resulting file. A nice alternative is that you
can use the print/plot button and to create a tif file that can
be opened in Windows. Thus you can save a screen and import it into
documents or just print it out. It’s also handy that a particular
measurement setup can be saved and then loaded from disk.
The VSA has a feature called
“Autostart” that permits you to store default settings that you
want the VSA to use upon powering up. In the save/recall menu select
“save more” to get to the softkey for Autostart.
I keep finding new features
all the time. The ibasic software from Zenith is on the HP website.
It makes both 8VSB and NTSC measurements.
The HP E4418B EPM Series Power
Meter and 8482H Power Sensor
This appears to be the preferred
way to measure power. The unit has an internal calibration source
and reads out directly in dBm. By adding the sample port loss to
the reading, the power can be computed. The Power Sensor covers
about as broad a signal range as you’re likely to encounter.
You can also measure power
using Gary Sgrinoli’s program mentioned above. However, you must
calibrate your test lead and add its loss plus the port loss into
The Power of an 8VSB signal
can’t easily be measured with a spectrum analyzer as the span must
be increased to 100 mHz to display the peaks. Then, within that
span, doing a power measurement across 6 MHz isn’t very accurate.
Instek Lab DC Power Supply
I bought this for setting
up modules in my Solid State M series Larcan NTSC transmitter. It
came in handy calibrating hall-effect sensors in the Larcan Landmark
because it has a constant current function. Thus I could run a lead
through a sensor, short it to the return, and set the current for
1 amp and calibrate a metering circuit.
The Extech 380947 clamp-on
This is very handy for verifying
focus coil current.
The Craftsman 16 gallon wet-dry
It isn’t a matter of if you
will spill coolant. It’s just a matter of when.
(ED Note: Roy is a frequent
contributor to the Tech Notes and is Asst. Chief Engineer at KRON-TV
in San Francisco.)
Subj: A Simple
Master Control For HDTV
By: Larry Bloomfield
At the risk of sounding like
a product review, it is only proper that information on new equipment
be shared when it is the first or very much different than most
anything else available in its class or category. Having worked
in the Master Control (MC) of a major network O&O in the nation’s
second largest market, I can truly appreciate the need for simple
and straight forward equipment to do the job, especially when it’s
crisis intervention time. As most MC operators know, crisis
intervention can manifest itself in many different shapes and forms,
besides cropping up at usually the most inopportune times.
The Master Controls at most
of the new digital stations are a complex array of equipment put
together in a not too friendly way in an attempt to duplicate the
efforts of the station’s analog counter part. One thing that
is conspicuous by its absence in most new digital television facilities
is the capability of doing digital Emergency Alert System (EAS)
messaging, much less the normal dip to blacks, dissolves, crawls
etc. Don’t look now, but the FCC requirements at a digital
station are no different than they were at the good old-fashioned
NTSC operations. You’ve got to have EAS!
In a recent telephone conversation
with Jay Adrick, Vice President of Systems Integration at Harris
Broadcast Communications Division, he reassured the Tech Notes that
Harris has been working diligently in an attempting to fill this
need. Adrick says it takes typically 13 different boxes or chassis
of currently available digital equipment to do all the jobs in a
MC switcher that are typically done in a minimal NTSC MC switcher
and you still don’t have EAS. There should be no doubt in
anyone’s mind that Harris is not the only equipment maker working
on this, they just happen to be the first to put most all the trick
of a digital Master Control into one box.
Right on cue, Adrick said:
“We’ve (Harris) developed the world’s first totally integrated master
control module for High Definition Television (HDTV) which is a
3 input switcher; two HD inputs (1.5 Gbts) and one SD input (270
Mbts) with frame synchronizing on all inputs.” Adrick said
that the “Masterplus” system, which is the name Harris will market
the new product under, not only supports the 1080i/720P/480P high-definition
formats, but it is the only master control system that accommodates
high-definition EAS (Emergency Alerting System) requirements and
seamless closed-caption switching among program sources.”
I had to ask and yes it does
have several internal generators for black and test signals in addition
to having the capability of inserting the now famous watermarks
or bugs in the lower right hand corner of the picture and a small
still store for what ever the stations wants to use it for.
As much as the ability to bump up standard def NTSC fair to HD is
a disservice to the HDTV viewer, the switcher does have that capability
too along with the ability to handle the more popular flavors of
audio formats and most normal MC audio transition and input requirements.
De-embedding is a term we’ll
all learn to love or hate in the wonderful world of digital.
A digital MC, weather it is SD or HD, will have occasions when the
audio must be stripped from the bit stream. Harris thought
of that too and handles it well.
You will probably be impressed
as much as I was when you have the opportunity to read more about
what all this HD MC switcher will do, but as I said early on, this
is not an equipment profile; simply a way to let you know there
is something out there that may titillate you interest, as it did
mine. For additional information, visit the Harris web page
Subj: Does Uncle
Bill Have Big Plans For TV?
Weather they like it or not,
when the Lion roars on the Savanna, all the other animals pay very
close attention. Like him or not, when Microsoft Chairman and CEO
Bill Gates speaks, it pays to respond to our animal instincts, and
pay attention too, irrespective weather they are a monopoly or not.
You may not be old enough
to remember the Red and Blue radio networks, but it was seen in
the 1940‘s to be a monopoly. The result of that break up is
NBC and ABC. Although GE spun off the radio part of NBC, if
you take a look at ABC, they have more radio networks then anyone
back in the Red and Blue network days could have ever imagined.
On the other hand NBC has sever video services. What I’m saying
is that if one big operation can come back bigger and more, Microsoft
will also recover from any monopoly issues.
In the mean time, Uncle Bill
has been a travelin’ and talking about interactive TV. While
at the European Technology Roundtable Exhibition in Monaco, Gates
told attendees that his company’s interests in interactive TV are
While justifying Microsoft’s
interest in interactive television, Gates addressed why television
will have a major roll in the future of computing: "People
can criticize Microsoft for supporting this TV thing for the past
eight years, but it is a long-term bet," Gates said. "There
is not any other software business that is as dedicated to the vision
the TV and the personal digital assistant (PDA) as we are."
Curious as to what the personal
digital assistant is, we contacted Microsoft and asked. Sallie
McDonald of Waggener Edstrom, Microsoft's public relations firm,
told Tech Notes: “Microsoft's goal is to provide people with the
power and connectivity they want anytime, anywhere and on any device.
This is idea behind the Personal Digital Assistant.” Clarifying
Gates’ comments, McDonald said: “Bill Gates didn't mean to
say PDAs and the vision of TV are the same thing, they are two separate
but related initiatives at Microsoft.”
Gates went on to reinforce
Microsoft’s investment in WebTV saying that it has been a perfect
fit for Microsoft both financially and at the human resources level.
Recognizing the lack of friendly interfaces now available to interactive
TV, Gates looked into the future and said that the interface of
the future will have less commands. “We will evolve the ability
of the computer to hint, which will be useful for interactive TV
applications.” Gates’ continued interest
in interactive TV speaks to the point that, while in a “wait and
see” posture, Microsoft has designs and plans to play as big a part
in all this as they can. Gates says that interactive TV will
play a much bigger role in the living room of the future with advanced
set-top boxes, digital music, digital photos, and video and the
advancement of games will all soon change the home, he predicted.
Tying this together with Gates views about handheld devises as the
wave for the future, perhaps Uncle Bill knows something he’s not
sharing about “the possibilities” in the area of handheld TV’s like
Sony’s walkman, but of a digital and perhaps interactive nature.
This could open up the whole thing about 8VSB and COFDM even more.
One thing for sure is that
with all these portable and or handheld devices brother Bill see
us all having in the future, it may well require Microsoft software
to keep the various programs between the different devices synchronized.
Be careful! The camel’s nose is very healthy and though possibly
asleep, it is definitely in the tent and has been there for eight
years by Gates’ own admission.
For more info, check
out the Microsoft web site at: www.microsoft.com.
In All Respects!
The launch of a geosynchronous
satellite in this day and age is nearly old hat, but when it is
done at sea, now that’s a different story. The launch pictures
of DirecTV 1-R, alone, are breathtaking, to say the least.
This is also of particular interest as it may carry your station’s
programming in the not too distant future.
Looking back to 1963, when
the very first geosynchronous communications satellites were launched,
much has changed. Syncom-I committed suicide as it tried to
make the change from “transfer orbit” to geosynchronous orbit, but
Syncom-II was a big success. Because there was no equatorial
correction made to Syncom-II just after it was launched, it, Syncom-II,
had a 22-degree north/south ellipse orbit, but in the spring of
1964 when Syncom-III was launched, the equatorial corrections were
made and it achieved near geosynchronous orbit. How do I know
all this? I was a part of the Syncom launch, positioning and
test team. Well, the belt around the equator at 22,300 miles
in space hasn’t been the same since, with its increasingly populated
have been launch from nearly every launching venue around the globe,
but for one to be launched from an ocean-based Sea Launch platform
certainly perked my interests. DirecTV 1-R is the fourth direct-broadcast
satellite built for DirecTV by Hughes Space and Communications (HSC);
the two companies are literally second cousins under the Hughes
umbrella, which is now owned by General Motors. The successful
launched took place late this fall and DirecTV 1-R became the first
commercial satellite sent up from an ocean-based Sea Launch platform.
Hedging their bets and looking to the possibilities that they may
have to deal with “must carry” obligations under the new Satellite
Home Viewers’ act, DirecTV is getting the capabilities out there,
just in case. According to DirecTV, the new “bird” will have
the additional Ku-band capacity to deliver local broadcast network
channels to nearly 50 million homes, or about half the nation’s
DirecTV 1-R is an HS 601HP
model, with 16 high-power Ku-band transponders. The new bird will
deliver 30 percent more capacity than the older DBS-1 satellites
currently serving DirecTV subscribers from 101 degrees West Longitude.
DirecTV says that one of the three older DBS-1 birds will be moved
to 110 degrees West Longitude to serve as back-up.
In speaking with one Hughes’
officials, he commented that with this new high-power satellite
in place, DirecTV will be ready to better compete with cable and
deliver local broadcast stations into local markets as soon as pending
legislation is passed by Congress. Now if that isn’t a wake
up call to the cable industry, its anyone’s guess what it will take?
Having gone through the experience
of losing a spacecraft (Syncom-I), it is not hard to imagine how
DirecTV President Eddy Hartenstein must have felt when it was all
over and he was able to commend Sea Launch, a part of the Boeing
family and his corporate cousins at HSC, for the successful launch.
The new state-of-the-art communications
spacecraft will be “parked” at 101 degrees West longitude, DirecTV’s
main orbital slot, along with the other older birds and will serve
to strengthen DirecTV’s in-orbit redundancy. Hartenstein said
that in addition to that, the new satellite will permit, “DirecTV
customers in up to 20 of the nation's key television markets to
receive their local broadcast channels as well as the current
lineup of digital DirecTV entertainment and information programming
through their existing set-top box and 18-inch antenna."
The satellite lifted off aboard
a Sea Launch Zenit rocket from the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
After about an hour, the launch rocket left the spacecraft.
This initial phase is called the transfer orbit. The transfer
orbit is like a slingshot to get the bird out into space.
Although the spacecraft does dip back and forth between its intended
orbit and earth over its 30 day transfer orbit period, the time
permits the controllers to maneuver the spacecraft into circular
orbit, deploy the antennas, solar arrays and radiator panels, and
test the operational functions, communications payload and propulsion
system. This is a much more gentle method than employed with
the first three Syncom satellites wherein they had a relatively
large apogee rocket that kicked the spacecrafts into their final
orbits. A common factor is the smaller positioning propellant
rockets necessary move all the birds into place and keep them there.
Range to the spacecraft is
critical. Too close to the earth and the orbit is less than
twenty four hours and the satellite appears to drift; the same is
true if the orbit is too far away from the earth, the orbit is more
than twenty four hours and the drift is the opposite direction.
Basically by lower and raising the orbits is one method of moving
or positioning the spacecraft. DIRECTV expects to begin offering
services from DirecTV 1-R sometime this month (December).
While all this was going on,
the bean counters and others were at work saying that shares in
Hughes Electronics are undervalued because parent company, General
Motors’ focus is on the automobile industry and they’ve been lobbying
for GM to spin-off Hughes and DirecTV. Sighting EchoStar Communications’
(DISH) remarkable climb in the stock market recently, these same
wolves are baying that this is one more reason to see the spin-off.
It is true that EchoStar shares have done well. The climb
has been such over the past six to eight months that twice the company
split its stock.
Apparently unimpressed by
this, General Motors (GM) President Richard Wagoner told reporters,
while attending an automotive accessories convention in Las Vegas,
that GM has no immediate plans to spin off Hughes Electronics, the
parent company of DirecTV. When pressed, according to Reuters
news service, it appears that although GM's has no current plans
for Hughes, Wagoner did not rule out a possible spin-off in the
Form of Compression?
It’s getting to the point
where you can’t tell the players with out a program. Mention
the company name “Divicom” and those who have been involved in these
early days of transition to digital television, will recognize it
as part of C-Cube, a Milpitas, California based company, who has
made their mark in digital compression and chip making.
Divicom is probably best known
for its work in high-quality standards-based MPEG-2 encoding products
and systems, but also have a very heavy presence in the areas of
audio/video encoding, data broadcast, network management systems,
consulting and integration services. Based on the MPEG-2, DVB and
ATSC international standards, Divicom products have enabled digital
video broadcasting over a variety of networks including satellite,
wireless, fiber and cable.
In a nutshell, irrespective
of the format of digital television a station or network is working
with, at some point it all has to be compressed to fit into the
6 MHz of bandwidth allotted each station by the FCC or some other
form or transport media. This is where Divicom enters the
C-Cube's Semiconductor Division
makes the highly specialized digital video chips as well as the
equipment for the communications and consumer electronics markets,
including digital set-top boxes, VCD, and DVD.
The (approximately) 425 employees
of Divicom will see a different name on their paychecks in the not
distant future. The new name will be that of a company, hardly
a few off ramps down the freeway and based in Sunnyvale, California,
best know in the world of cable television: Harmonic.
Harmonic used to be known as “Harmonic Lightwave,” but the “Lightwave”
got lost somewhere along the line. Harmonic designs and markets
both digital and fiber optic systems that deliver video, voice and
data over cable, satellite, telco and wireless networks and they
also have their foot into compression technology as well.
In speaking to several people
known to me personally at Divicom, they feel very comfortable with
Harmonic’s acquisition of Divicom as they explained it, it appears
to be a dovetailing of efforts and will better position Harmonic
as a supplier of open-systems for delivering video, voice and data
over a variety of network architectures. Our sources also
say that prior to closing of this deal, C-Cube will sell or spin
out all of the assets and liabilities of its semiconductor division,
after which Harmonic will acquire Divicom with a merger of C-Cube
into Harmonic. This information was confirmed in the press
release associated with the transaction.
To find out the Harmonic prospective, I contacted an associate with
whom I’d worked on developing a report about compression technology
a year ago, Ed Thompson, Vice President of Business Development
at Harmonic, Inc.
Thompson told Tech Notes,
“Harmonic is in the cable business. Divicom allows us to get
into satellite and terrestrial broadcasting. The key to our
future success is in the open architecture approach both companies
have adopted and practice.”
Thompson explained that Harmonic
provides fiber optic transmission capabilities for the cable television
industry and their claim to fame is their TRANSend product, a video
gateway system. Thompson said they also make plug-in cards
like encoders, ATM video, interactive inputs into Mpeg formats with
various types of input and outputs and small compact video gateways,
all for the cable industry.
In the short term, the marriage
will increases Harmonic's presence in the emergence of
digital video services over cable, satellite, telco and wireless
networks. In the long run, it will increase Harmonic's participation
in video transmission over emerging IP networks.
Thompson said: “The two companies product lines complement
each other with little or no overlap.” Divicom has extremely
high quality, low bit rate encoders and Harmonic has a constant
bit rate encoder. Thompson reassured me that Divicom customers
can rest easy because C-Cube, as part of the deal, will support
the Divicom product line for several years to come. According to
Thompson, Harmonic will need C-Cube for encoder chips to run their
business. Thompson said: “We will have the same access
that Divicom had to C-Cube chip development technology and it will
continue under the Harmonic banner.”
On the other side of the coin,
the folks at Divicom see Harmonic’s involvement in cable as a growth
opportunity, being purely synergistic, form a business point of
Divicom comes to the table with an impressive customer list, some
very familiar: BellSouth, Cablevision Systems, EchoStar Communications,
GTE, LIN Television, WGBH and US West. Divicom was recently
selected by DirecTV to provide the entire
digital television compression system to its Castle Rock Broadcast
Center in Colorado. Divicom says this new contract will make it
DirecTV's largest supplier of compression technology.
The nuptials should all be
concluded by the end of March 2000. For more information,
check the various companies websites at http://www.harmonicinc.com,
http://www.divi.com and http://www.c-cube.com.
(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 site.
FREE HDTV Report for US TV Station
From: Des Chaskelson , Research
Director, SCRI International
The following report is available
FREE to US TV Stations only who respond to SCRI's new HDTV online
On completion of the survey,
you will receive via email "The Millennium Report - The Migration
To Digital Television," an 80-page report compiled by Larry
Bloomfield, publisher of DTV Tech Notes and writer for Broadcast
Engineering Magazine. Results of the survey will again be
published in Broadcast Engineering Magazine.
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,
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