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Tech Notes

Published by: Larry Bloomfield & Jim Mendrala

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December 29, 1999

A very Prosperous New Year to all

Tech Note - 048


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 the new E-mail addresses.  To remove yourself from this list, send an E-mail to: in the subject place the word Remove.  We now have over 560 subscribers & growing.  This is YOUR forum!  Past issues are available at: WWW.SCRI.COM We also have a second site where the Tech Notes are posted now: Check it out too.


Subject: HDTV on A Big Screen at A Theater near You

By Jim Mendrala

George Lucas announced at ShoWest last March in Las Vegas, NV that his movie “Star Wars – The Phantom Menace” would be released in June in an HDTV digital format at four theaters, two on the East Coast and two on the West Coast. Since then, Hollywood has been gearing up to bring you more movies in HDTV digital format on the big screen.

Miramax released, on the coat tails of “Star Wars”, “The Ideal Husband” and “Shakespeare in Love”.  Disney Studios then released “Tarzan” just a few months ago.

All of these movies have been presented so far in HDTV digital format on the big screen.  I explained a while back in a previous Tech Notes that the “Star Wars” Inter Positive (IP) was transferred on a Spirit telecine to a Panasonic HD D-5 videotape machine. Industrial Light and Magic then transferred those images to a Pluto Array for playback in the theater. That array used 20 18 GB drives. Compression was a low 4:1, using the Panasonic HD D-5 format.

In two of the theaters a Texas Instruments (TI) Digital Light Processing (DLP) cinema projector, the images were squeezed to fit inside the 1920 x 1080 raster to occupy only 1280 x 1024 of that raster. The TI DLP cinema projector with its three 1280 x 1024 Digital Micromirror Device (DMD) arrays projected those images onto the big screen with the use of an anamorphic lens to regain the 2.4:1 image.

For the other two theaters, the images for the Hughes/JVC projector were recorded to fill the 1920 x 1080 raster. The images were also played back from a Pluto Array and scanned onto the infrared CRT’s that illuminate the Image Light Amplifiers (ILA). These images were collapsed so that the image had the correct aspect ratio of 2.4:1.

Disney/Pixar has now has released “Toy Story 2” at six theaters across the nation in HDTV digital format. Those Theaters are:

Hollywood, CA: Disney El Capitan

Irvine, CA: Edwards Spectrum

Burbank, CA: AMC Media Center 8

San Francisco, CA: AMC 1000 Van Ness

Orlando, FL: AMC Pleasure Island 24

Plano, TX: Cinemark at Legacy

In “Toy Story 2”, like the “Tarzan” movie, the RGB computer files were converted to HDTV by using a software program that rendered each frame out in a 24psF HDTV format. The images were then color corrected for the TI DLP cinema projector and recorded at Pixar in a HDTV format using the QuVis proprietary compression system. Compression of these images is reported to be around 20:1 using a proprietary Wavelet compression technology. These compressed HDTV 1920 x 1080 images were then uncompressed and played back from the QuVis to the TI DLP cinema projector in the theaters using SMPTE 292M serial digital protocol. The TI DLP projector then downsized and squeezed the images to fit the 1280 x 1024 DMDs.

“Bicentennial Man” which opened Dec.17, 1999 is being shown in HDTV digital format at the following theaters:

Phoenix, AZ: Cinemark at Valley View

Toronto, Canada: Famous Players

Vancouver, Canada: Paramount

Chicago, IL: AMC Studio 24

Kansas City, KS: Famous Players Riverport

Cleveland, OH: AMC South Barrington 30

In March and May 2000, “Mission to Mars” and “Dinosaur” respectively, are scheduled to be released in HDTV digital format.

What’s wrong with pursuing these HDTV digital format presentations? The resolution of these theater presentations does not come close to 35mm film or even the full resolution of HDTV quality. What’s being shown at a digital cinema theater near you is less than full HDTV quality, except it is on a big screen.

Kodak, in an advertisement in the November 1999 issue of the SMPTE Journal, on page 753, states that film has 4,096 pixels x 3,112 lines of resolution per 35mm frame. That’s over 12 Megapixels. When you consider the movie is in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, that works out to 4,096 x 2,214 or more than 9 Megapixels.  HDTV at 1920 x 1080 computes out to just over 2 Megapixels. Both are far from the 12 Megapixels Kodak claims for its film product and the 9 Megapixels needed for a theatrical release on the big screen.

Another production comes to mind - - the record setting “Blair Witch Project” which was shot with standard home video equipment then transferred to 35mm film for theatrical release. Everybody knows that 640 x 480 only computes out to a little over 307,000 pixels. Does this mean that because of its success films should be presented with less resolution than what has been traditionally the norm? What will 70mm films like “Laurence of Arabia” and “The Sound of Music” look like to audiences of the future when played back in HDTV digital format on a screen with only 1.3 Megapixel resolution? These films will need at least 12 Megapixels to be considered true digital cinema.

Technically speaking, film by its very nature is composed of nearly equal resolution yellow, cyan and magenta imaging layers. Film is a subtractive color process. Subtractive color mixing in film involves the absorption and selective transmission or reflection of light. It occurs when colorants (such as pigments or dyes) are mixed or when several colored filters are inserted into a single beam of white light. In HDTV, the images are constructed of red, green and blue (RGB) in an additive color process.

No concepts in the field of color have traditionally been more confusing than those just discussed. This confusion can be traced to two prevalent misconceptions: the subtractive primary, cyan, which is properly a blue-green, is commonly called blue; and the subtractive primary, magenta, is commonly called red. In these terms, the subtractive primaries become red, yellow, and blue; and those whose experience is confined for the most part to subtractive mixtures have good cause to wonder why the physicist insists on red, green, and blue as the primary colors. The confusion is resolved when it is realized RGB are additive primaries and provide the greatest color gamut. For the same reason, the subtractive primaries are, respectively, blue absorbing yellow, red-absorbing cyan and green-absorbing magenta or more commonly called in the film industry YCM.

Another thing to consider is that in HDTV color is under sampled. The argument is that the eye cannot see small details in color. While this is true, it depends on how far you are from the image. It is a known fact that the eye can resolve about one minute of arc of resolution. What this means in simple terms is that if you view an image with a 43 by 24 degree viewing angle at about 3 screen heights, then the eye cannot see any finer color resolution in the image. This is fine in the home where most people will sit at least 7 to 8 feet or 3 screen heights from their screens. In many theaters, however, this means you would have to be sitting in the back row of the auditorium. Most people, when they come into a theater, tend to sit about half way to two thirds back from the screen. Therefore, the images must have better color resolution than HDTV's YUV format. HDTV’s and MPEG-2’s under sampled 4:2:2 and 4:2:0 just won’t cut it for the big screen. Equal resolution RGB is a necessity.

Considering all these factors, if you want to see the potential image capability of HDTV, then try to see one of the new films projected in the HDTV digital format. Sit about three screen heights from the screen. Remember the resolution is slightly less than what the broadcasters are capable of putting into your home right now. HDTV for the home is not only wide screen but also big screen TV. At three screen heights, the picture is superb. All of the networks and DirecTV are now transmitting HDTV programs, but so far to date, HDTV-ready TV sets have been, for the most part, unimpressive with their 34 to 60 inch rear screen projection small screens.

While the current trend of presenting movies in the HDTV digital format in some instances is better than some projected film prints in theaters, poor resolution and inadequate color pixel depth, in general, limit the HDTV digital format. Although projection of digital images is in its infancy, it will prepare the movie–going public for what is to come.

In the future, a true high-resolution RGB digital cinema system will not be restricted by the HDTV digital format and will provide pictures of truly outstanding 35mm quality and beyond.


Subj:  Testing in the San Francisco Bay area

From: Ray Herring, Transmitter Supervisor -- KGO-TV, Channel 7 & KGO-DT, Channel 24

Was out doing some testing last week with an unnamed chip manufacturer to test their chips for some next generation set top boxes and TV sets with the DTV tuner built in.

What we found is that the second-generation receivers work well in many places with a $10 real funky indoor loop UHF antenna that looked like a radar dish. I worked real well even at some places 42 miles from Sutro.  Worked real well going across highway 37 (27 miles from Sutro) at speeds of from 35 to 70 mph. Proves that you don't have to have a 15-foot long yagi antenna to get DTV, even with 8VSB. I think sometimes the big antennas are a little overkill and add to the multipath problems we are still seeing with the receivers. A lot of times, bigger is not better.

I'll have more for you on the testing we did when I get permission to talk more about it.

(Referring to the Holiday Tech Note) By the way, wave that flag my friend, it's not dead yet!!!!!!
20+ years Air Force and retired in '81. A lot of the time, overseas, the only link with home was AFRTS. (A-farts as we called it, but you're just too nice a guy to say that.)  :-)


(Ed Note It was very interesting how much support and compliments we got from our support and mention of AFRTS.  These guys are truly unsung heroes in many ways.  Try doing a TV show while dealing with incoming!  Shades of Viet Nam.)


Subj: Events Dedicated to Flat Panel Display Industry
From:  The Business Wire

Date: Monday-Friday (Jan. 31 - Feb. 4, 2000)

WHAT: The first annual Display Applications Conference (DAPPCON) San Jose exposition dedicated to FPD manufacturers and integrators to be co-located with DisplayWorks 2000

WHO: -- U.S. Display Consortium (USDC) -- California Display Network (CDN) -- Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI)

WHERE: San Jose Convention Center 150 West San Carlos Street, San Jose, Calif.

WHAT:  Conference Workshops & Short Courses



Subj:  Moving On

From: Margie Baldwin -

I feel like I've just gotten to know you and your contribution to the broadcast industry. I do appreciate reading your tech notes and other articles. I will still be in this industry and want to keep up with the
news. Please continue to include me in your distribution. I wanted to share with you a decision I made recently. I sent the following announcement to many of my co-workers and professional acquaintances.

After 25 years of devoted service to KGTV, I have decided to accept another position with ANN Systems (Advanced News Network Systems formerly Nexus Infomatic of Germany) as Vice President of Operations (and Engineering/Tech Services). ANN Systems is an international company with several holdings in Norway, Germany and US. Recently, they decided to bring their Internet Development and Sales & Marketing headquarters here to San Diego. They are currently operating out of temporary facilities and would like for me to build their class A accommodations in Rancho Bernardo. After which I will take charge of all technical support services for all of the Americas (North, South & Central) and Australia in support of the sales efforts.  Their primary product is Open Media and Star Drive, the next generation competitor to Avstar. Since Tektronix merged Newstar with Avid and decided not to grow the Newstar code, Open Media became a major viable NT option.  Open Media is a leading automated newsroom system in Europe, Asia and Africa. They want to expand their product and services to the Western continents and felt that this was the right time. I am very excited about my new job and its future possibilities. I will be trained in Munich, Germany and will be building my tech support team right here in San Diego.

I am looking forward to going to NAB, RTNDA, Video Expo in Brazil and to many TV and Radio stations to check on customer support satisfaction and system integration process. (You know that I will enjoy checking out how all these other Radio and TV stations do things compared to KGTV.) The
company is expected to grow in size & number by the end of next year. This growth expectation is refreshing after so many cutbacks over the last few years. It is a bit hard leaving KGTV, but I have to give this level of a position a try in the private business sector as my next professional challenge. As one of my engineers stated in our informal shop meeting when I announced my plans, I guess "I am reaching for that brass ring". For those of you who want to stay in touch, please email me at until my new account at ANN Systems is set up in January. This email address of
will be good through the end of January.

Margie Baldwin - Engineering Director  KGTV-10


Subj:  HDTV Production Begins to Roll or How to build an HDTV truck
By: Charles Pantuso and Susan Dahlin

HDV-5 - the High Definition Television Production Mobile for the new millennium - hit the road this month (December), offering HDTV production to local broadcast stations.

The HDTV production mobile is a joint venture between WRAL-TV, owned by Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc. (CBC), DTV Resources and HD VISION, Inc.  HDV-5's initial project was the High Definition sports coverage of the first live college basketball tournament in HDTV, the "Food Lion MVP Classic", which was held in Charlotte, North Carolina on December 3 and 4. The tournament was produced and broadcast live in 1080i High Definition television and offered at no cost to all television stations currently broadcasting in HDTV.

In an effort to speed the transition from analog to digital, members of the NATPE/HDTV consortium are given particularly attractive and affordable rates.

"Our hope is that other HDTV stations across the country will take advantage of the mobile and provide viewers with more HDTV options to watch," said Jim Goodmon, CEO and President of CBC.

The new mobile is equipped with four Sony HDC-700 Studio Cameras with Canon 65x1 lenses and four Sony HDC-750 portable cameras with Canon 18x1lenses. The mobile is pre-wired for 12 cameras, with additional cameras rented when required. Vinten Vector-70s and Vector-700s support the HDC-700s
and Vinten Vision-22s and Sachtler Video-80s are provided for the handhelds.

HDV-5 normally rolls with four Sony HDW-500 HDCAM-format recorders.  HD VISION can supply two additional HDCAM recorders and four Panasonic HDD5 recorders if requested. Three Ash-Vale SM-2A dual-VTR slow-motion controllers are included in the standard package.

The standard NAPTE/HDTV Consortium configuration includes five cameras and three VTRS, with additional equipment available.

The mobile includes a Snell & Wilcox HD1024 1-1/2 ME production switcher with integrated still-store, two DVEs, three keyers, three chroma keyers, three expanded border generators, seven color correctors, and four positionable frame buffers.

A pair of Mackie Digital 8-Bus (d8b) mixers are cascaded to provide 48 analog inputs, 48 digital inputs, and digital and analog outputs for stereo and 8-channel surround.

Onboard Dolby encoding and decoding equipment supports both AC-3 transmission compression and "E"-type production compression.  360 Systems' Digicart and TCR-8 recorders provide industry-standard
2-channel playback, as well as discrete 8-channel stem handling for 5.1 surround mixing. Separate Multimax monitor processors for the Production Control Room and the Audio Control Room provide complete control of the monitoring environment from mono through stereo and 5.1 surround. M&K
Professional monitor speakers, subwoofers and bass management are used in the mobile. The M&K speakers are driven by Bryston 4B and 8B power amplifiers. A Tascam DA98 provides for 8-channel recording, playback, and layback using an industry-standard format. The audio system is pre-wired for
up to five additional DA-98 series machines, supporting up to 48 channels of on-board tracking for music productions. RS-422 controllable CD players and a cassette deck round out the audio capabilities of the mobile.

A Clearcom Matrix-3 Plus intercom system provides the communications hub for the mobile, which is fitted with ten 29-key LED display stations and ten 9-key LED display stations. Twenty drops of external RTS PL are supplied by four PS-31 power supplies and an SAP1626 assignment panel. BP-325 belt-packs
and Beyer DT-108 and DT-109 headsets round out the PL capabilities.

The mobile has 8-channels of powered IFB with RTS IFB beltpacks and Telex in-ear headsets.

Video waveform monitoring is by Leader Instruments, selected for its real analog display, which is generally preferable for adjusting camera setup.  Master SD-SDI and HD-SDI test generators are also supplied by Leader.

All picture monitoring is full HD quality, not downconverted for NTSC display or scan converted for flat panel computer display. This provides the best environment for producers to evaluate actual HD images for framing and composition, and CRT monitors provide correct colorimetry, an area where current LCD flat panels fall short. All evaluation-grade monitors are the new Sony BVM-D multisync series, so the mobile might be capable of multi-standard operation with a future camera upgrade.

On-board graphics is supplied by the Collage (formerly Pixel-Power) Clarity-HD graphics system. The Clarity includes a built-in paint system, as well as a complete still-store. Its massive on-board processing power supports dramatic real-time HD graphics transitions.

The Snell & Wilcox HD1024 switcher includes an integrated 32x20 HD-SDI routing switcher that provides all of the HD routing in the mobile under control of the Philips Jupiter control system. Additional Philips Venus frames provide 96x96 AES routing, 32x32 SD-SDI routing, 32x32 NTSC-Video routing, 32x32 stereo analog audio routing, 32x32 timecode routing, and a 64-port data router for machine control and downconverter-upconverter control delegation.

A complete Sony BVE-9100 editing system provides state-of-the-art linear editor control of the mobile's VTRs and audio recorders.

Downconverted Serial Digital and NTSC outputs are provided for all cameras and VTRs, as well as all of the program feeds, which should facilitate easy integration with side-by-side standard-definition shoots. For integration with other HD mobiles, copies of all HD Signals are available at the I/O panel, as well as tally inputs to all of the cameras so that tally can be from an external source when appropriate. The programmable VASGO Limited Source ID and Tally system can be tailored to accommodated any mix of
internal and external tally, either on-air or iso, as required by the production.

HDV-5 is usually booked for five-day periods, affording local stations an opportunity to tie in several events. "When we did our first live HDTV production at WRAL-TV, we scheduled it around a football game and huge concert in the park giving us more mileage on the cost of the rental," said John L. Greene, V.P. of CBC. "Consortium member stations should revisit the live events that are going on in their region (i.e., parades, sporting events and concerts) and look for tie-ins to promote HDTV," Greene said.

(ED NoteWe’d be willing to bet that HD Vision would be willing to rent this unit to anyone interested.)


Subj:  Thumbs Down on Digital Cinema
From: Larry Bloomfield

Check out this web page:

It seems that movie critic Roger Ebert of both TV and the Chicago-Sun-Time fame wrote a not too favorable story about Digital Cinema in a Copyrighted story that appeared in the Chicago-Sun-Times Inc. this month. 
Ebert says:  “I have seen the future of the cinema, and it is not digital. No matter what you've read, the movie theater of the future will not use digital video projectors, and it will not beam the signal down from
satellites. It will use film, and the film will be right there in the theater with you.”

All we can say is that Mr. Ebert must have been smoking the wrong kind of Popcorn or his elevator wasn’t reaching the “balcony” when he wrote this.  We’ve included it here for anyone wanting a real laugh.  We’ve read some really good, miss-informed “BS” on this subject, but this takes the cake.  Enjoy, but keep the barf bag handy.  This is not a New Year’s joke.

(Ed Note:  Larry is looking for some really good cutting edge technology stories for BE.  If you know of anything happening in our industry that would be of interest to the many engineers who read this fine journal, please contact him by Friday (Dec. 31st.)  Thanks.) 


(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.

Subject: 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 survey at:

<<< >>>

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, (661) 294-1049 or fax at (419) 710-1913 or (419) 793-8340. (Please note Larry's new e-mail address). 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.

See ya all next year.