by: Larry Bloomfield & Jim Mendrala
= HDTVGuy@aol.com or J.Mendrala@ieee.org
Golden Anniversary Issue
Note - 050
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Subj: Why are we
keeping It a Secret?
By: Larry Bloomfield
Unless you live in
or around Los Angeles, the name Chuck Henry probably doesn't ring
much of a bell, but in the nation's number two market, he is know
for his abilities both in front and behind the camera. Like
most all television personalities, Henry has worked at several stations
in the market, but most recently and notably as news anchor at the
NBC O&O, KNBC-TV, channel 4 and KNBC-DT, channel 36. It's
not what Henry has done in front of the camera that is of interest
to us here, but his production talents behind the camera and his
Henry is the Executive
Producer of a magazine format type show, "Travel Café."
Despite the educational interest value a show of this type inherently
has, where Travel Café departs from other magazine format type shows
is that it is done in High Definition.
Again not particularly
earth shattering, but if you can pin Henry down long enough, with
his busy schedule, the man is passionate about his philosophy on
how the show is shot and aired. Although different in today's
commonplace approach to production for hi-def, his ideas are valid,
make sense and he can back them up.
Travel Café's been
on the air for about a year now. It airs almost continuously
on KNBC-DT, Channel 36, for demonstration purposes, as well as during
its weekly time slot on the NTSC channel 4. Reflecting back
to the early days of the show, Henry said: "We started
shooting the show with the 4 by 3 aspect ration in mind, but after
the first show, we gave up. That was a dumb idea to do it
that way (4 by 3). It seemed like we were trying to hide the
fact that it is a Hi-def show. I took the position that we're
in high definition and we wanted everyone to know it. We shoot
it 16 by 9 and asked the station to air it that way on both Channels
4 & 36."
Henry said that when
he told the station (KNBC-TV) that he wanted the show aired on both
NTSC and DT channels in 16 by 9, they told him he was crazy and
would get lots of complaints. With a very definite note of
pride in his voice, Henry said: "In the year we've been
on the air with Travel Cafe, we've gotten over forty-thousand pieces
of mail and not one of them have ever even mentioned the letterbox
format, much less complained about it." Henry assured
me that they have had a few derogatory comments, but they had nothing
what so ever to do with the aspect ration, letterbox or high definition
When asked about
production costs, Henry said that Hi-def tape costs about three
times as much as beta-sp. He said that after they shoot the
show in hi-def, because of the high costs associated with a hi-def
edit suite, the first thing they do is make a down-converted dub
to everyday NTSC. With the plethora of edit suites available,
they can economically do all their editing on an Avid, which generates
an edit decision list (EDL). When they get a show in standard
def "in the can," they can then, using the EDL go into
a hi-def suite and in a faction of the time, cut the hi-def show.
Henry said he could
not understand why so many of the high definition shows are hiding
the fact that they are in HDTV. Yes, some of them have a brief
few seconds at the opening with a lower third billboard saying they're
in Hi-def along with the name of sponsor who paid for the HDTV transfer,
but that's about it.
Henry makes it very
clear that local HDTV shows can be done, without having to hock
the queens jewels to do them and as long as you're putting all the
time and effort into doing them in HDTV, tell the world about it,
It's hard to watch
the Tonight Show with Jay Leno after seeing all the press about
touting it as being the first and only nightly show in HDTV.
There sets all that fine HDTV equipment being used to produce the
top rated show in its time slot and nothing is said on a nightly
basis nor is there any indication to the NTSC viewer that the show
is still being done nightly in HDTV. Sure does bring new light
to the "out of sight - out of mind" concept.
One cannot help but
muse about how things are different today when compared to the early
days of color TV -- You know back in the days when NBC had the peacock
spreading its tail feathers in front of your face every half hour
or so or the color TV cameras and boom-mikes did their little dance
to the fanfare music. I guess we've lost sight of the fact that
that was back when NBC, through RCA, had a vested interest in getting
color off the ground. Well, with only 6 years left before
NTSC is supposed to go away for good, you'd think somebody would
start drawing attention to DTV and it's obvious premier headliner,
If attention were
drawn to the fact that a show is in high definition by airing it
in its true native aspect ration of 16 by 9, it would be a reminder
through out the show that something different is afoot. It shouldn't
take a Harvard or Stanford graduate to figure that out. Added
to that, a small, unobtrusive caption to the NTSC letterbox presentation
in the black (or other colored bar) at the bottom saying, something
like: "This show can be seen in superior quality High
Definition with a digital television set on KNBC-DT, Channel 36."
The sales of HDTV sets might just take off like you wouldn't believe.
We certainly don't seem to have a problem with the network or local
bugs competing for the lower right-hand corners of our programs.
When this idea was mentioned in passing to some of the folks at
the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), it was met with great
It's a good thing
we didn't have the mind set in the early days of television that
we have now, or we'd still be trying to justify the move to 525
lines for NTSC television, not to mention the CBS color wheel or
RCA compatible color. As you've seen in this column before,
lead, follow or get out of the way because someone is going to take
the bit in his or her teeth and win this horse race, banking the
big purse that goes with it!
** ** ** ** ** **
Subj: Some Thoughts
on Digital Cinema
By: Jim Mendrala
Digital Cinema is
in its birthing pains. Seems that everyone who is involved with
the digital cinema effort has a different idea as to what is needed.
Some want multiple languages so that theaters can run films
in different languages.
As an example, Tuesdays could be "Spanish Night" and Thursdays
could be "French Night", etc. But these kinds of things,
even though technically possible, are like a two-edge sword and
add a certain amount of complexity. Some want to be able to have
a "G" or "PG" rating in the afternoon and a
"NC-17" or "R" rating version in the evening.
Digital cinema is
supposed to reduce the cost of distributing 35 mm motion picture
films and provide a higher level of security to the movie by reducing
the threat of piracy. To do this, the quality of the digital
cinema product must
be equivalent to 35 mm film. But listening to the various people
involved, the quality or "film look" has yet to be determined.
Kodak published an ad that states that film has 4,096 lines
of resolution. Others
say that film is only 2K resolution and that 1,920 x 1,080 is good
enough. This brings to mind the movie "Blair Witch Project"
which was shot with consumer grade home video equipment then transferred
to film for distribution. It obviously only had 480 lines of resolution
but it made a lot of money in the box office.
In the audio department,
all digital cinema demos and releases to date have had uncompressed
audio, but the compression people say that we really need to compress
the audio to allow more room for the compressed picture. The question
then becomes--whose compression system to use, should it be Dolby,
DTS, SDDS, MPEG or some new type of compression?
Some advocate that
live TV has to be a part of digital cinema. Who is going to license
TV broadcasts to a theater where you have to buy a ticket to view
the program? Does live TV have 35 mm quality? I don't
What should be a
simple solution for the movie industry at this point seems to be
becoming very complicated and is lacking direction, but this is
why SMPTE has set up a Study Group on digital cinema (DC28). The
idea is to put forth suggestions and requirements, then run them
up the "flag pole" to see who will salute. After that,
SMPTE working groups can be set up to set the standards for digital
A few things are
obvious to me.
1. Have a film delivered
to the theater digitally that is at least as good as 35 mm film
if not better.
2. Use an encryption
scheme that will thwart the would-be pirate.
3. Provide at least
CD quality audio with at least 5.1, but preferably more, channels
4. Allow better content
management and feedback to the distributors/studios so that better
films can be produced and marketed.
5. Make the presentation
in the theater as simple as possible but with a quality that is
better than today's film projections.
The key to the success
of digital cinema is to keep it simple (K.I.S.S.). The distribution
of films today is not broken and does not require fixing, but digital
cinema should offer some exciting new alternatives to the distributors
and studios with a better quality to the moviegoers.
** ** ** ** ** **
From: Dave Hill at
LARCAN is pleased
to announce a unique DTV seminar at our Toronto facility (Mississauga)
structured to enlighten all members of the TV Broadcast Community.
The 2-day seminars
will discuss such topics as: -The need for evolution, -Introduction
to the DTV concept, -MPEG-2,
-8VSB, -DTV Transmitter
Theory, -Corrections, -Performance measuring,
There is no cost
to attend the seminar. Hotel and expenses are not included, however,
we will provide lunch each day and all course materials. The
following dates are available: JUNE 12 - 13, SEPT 18 -19 and OCT
23 - 24.
These seminars are
dependent on obtaining sufficient participants. If attendance is
low, we reserve the right to reschedule or cancel a seminar, so
please let me know if you have some interest.
** ** ** ** ** **
Subj: The Passing
of Television's Last Lion
By Larry Bloomfield
It is never a pleasant
task to report the passing of anyone, especially when it is a person
who has made such an impact on our industry, our nation and our
lives. The success and very existence of the American Broadcasting
Company and the thousands of jobs that go with that network are
the result of the vision and tenacity that this gentleman demonstrated.
If you don't know whom I'm speaking of, it was Leonard H. Goldenson.
Goldenson, who had
been ill for several years, passed away quietly, December 27, 1999,
in his home on Longboat Key, near Sarasota, Florida. He was 94.
Goldenson came from
a tiny farm town near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where his father
owned a dry goods emporium and a small share of two movie theaters.
From these modest beginnings, he went on to enroll at Harvard at
age 16 and eventually go on to its Law School, while working summers
for a Pittsburgh securities broker. Buying on margin and carefully
managing his portfolio, he built up a small fortune, liquidating
his holdings just weeks before the market crash of 1929.
In the midst of the
great depression, Goldenson pounded the streets of Manhattan, where
he was eventually hired to help reorganize the bankrupt Paramount
Pictures New England theaters. As the result of his success
at the movie "Theater Company" and his association with
Y. Frank Freeman, when Freeman made the trek to Hollywood to head
Paramount studios, Goldenson took over Freeman's position as boss.
Now, as head of the world's largest film exhibitor, he made many
contacts, which would prove invaluable in years to come.
Goldenson was stimulated
by what he saw at the New York world's fair in 1939; an experimental
thing called television. Goldenson pushed Paramount to launch
Chicago's WBKB, one of the world's first TV station. As the
result of the Supreme Court ruling about movie companies owning
theaters, Paramount spun-off their theaters with Goldenson as president
When Leonard Goldenson
broke into television, he knew he was facing the fight of his life.
Two powerful companies dominated the industry: NBC, which invented
network broadcasting, and CBS, which followed the NBC model and
improved on it.
Despite the hostilities
that existed between the upstart, "television" and the
motion picture industry, Goldenson got the directors of United Paramount
Theaters to buy the failing American Broadcasting Company from Ed
Noble. Noble wanted $25 million for ABC, whose ratings placed
them fourth, after CBS, NBC and the now-defunct Dumont television
network. At that time, the ABC network consisted of 14 stations
total - five of its own, primitive and poorly maintained, and nine
affiliates, compared with nearly 100 stations each for CBS and NBC.
From the get go,
life wasn't easy. Goldenson was denounced by Hollywood as
a traitor for entering a rival medium. On the flip side, broadcasters
also maligned him for his former ties to Paramount Pictures.
He was even accused of purchasing the fledgling network to destroy
it and eliminate competition for movies. Despite all this, Goldenson
convinced the FCC that his only aim was to increase competition
in broadcasting and to further its development. On February 9, 1953,
the FCC approved the purchase.
Later that year,
Walt Disney came to Goldenson with this crazy idea: he wanted to
build an amusement park for children. The Disney studios were in
dire straits and were turned away by banks. Being turned down
also by NBC's David Sarnoff and CBS's William Paley, Goldenson understood
what Disney was offering. ABC agreed to put up $500,000, to use
its theater real estate for collateral and to underwrite $17 million
for construction and operation of the Park. In exchange, Disney
agreed to produce a weekly show. ABC also obtained access to Disney's
library of animated films, 35 percent of Disneyland and a decade
of concession revenues.
The only show they
had worth mentioning was "Ozzie & Harriet."
ABC was loosing their shirt to the tune of a million a year.
And besides, everyone on Madison Avenue knew there wasn't enough
advertising to support three networks.
Goldenson knew he
could succeed, but first he would have to find a way to break the
other networks' stranglehold on stars, stations and sponsors.
He would change the rules of the game by getting Hollywood, the
very people who opposed the new television industry, involved in
making their programming!
If he couldn't get
big names, he'd invent them! Goldenson when to the William
Morris Agency, and hired a host of unknowns -- Sammy Davis, Jr.,
Danny Thomas, George Jessel, Joel Grey and Ray Bolger. Then
he'd get the studios to produce better programs, on film, than the
live shows broadcast by his competitors. In a nutshell, he'd have
to reinvent the medium.
Goldenson was persistent.
He went back to Jack Warner of Warner Brothers studios and after
a marathon lunch, he convinced him, that television was an opportunity,
not a threat. Warner opened a new division to make programs for
ABC. By the 1970's, not one major studio could compete without
a television division. Goldenson's vision that motion pictures and
television could serve audiences better as partners than as rivals
Goldenson had the
formula. He built the network to the point where it muscled
it way into first place in the ratings in 1977, remaining there
for three years.
later, in 1986, after engineering a $3.5 billion merger of ABC and
Capital Cities Broadcasting, the network had eight stations and
210 affiliates. Seeing his dreams come true, Goldenson then
stepped down as day-to-day boss to retire in Florida.
In 1996, the once
struggling Disney studios, whose survival Goldenson assured with
his astute 1953 investment, merged with Capital Cities/ABC.
We cannot close this
tribute to Leonard H. Goldenson without mentioning his second and
very significant legacy. When his daughter was born with sever birth
defects, Goldenson wanted to know what could be done to help.
With his wife of 60 years and close friends Jack and Ethel Hausman,
he created what would become the world's third largest medical charity,
United Cerebral Palsy. If this wasn't enough, topping off
a lifetime of generosity, in 1994 the Goldenson's gave half their
fortune--$60 million--to Harvard Medical School to endow research
on neurological diseases.
** ** ** ** ** **
Subj: My Opinion
By: Lee Wood
We need to tone down
the modulation debate and place the attention where it is truly
required. At this point COFDM would be suffering in the marketplace
just as much as 8-VSB. Lack of penetration is NOT related
to modulation, but to marketing. Before the public will clamor
for digital television they must be presented with a reason why
they need it. Why is it better? What's so good about it?
Why should they
My belief is that
many of the broadcasters are doing their damnedest to fulfill their
portion of the marketplace equation. You want a business plan
for DTV? Here's one: To Remain in the Broadcasting
Let me sight two
The first comes from
a sister industry, Newspaper Publishing. Newspapers have not
had an overwhelming reputation for innovation. Black ink on
paper worked for several hundred years. Okay, lets add color
for the Sunday comics and ad inserts. No one really cares
about color for anything else, besides, it's too expensive.
Coast along with that for a few decades.
Then along comes
'USA Today'. It starts showing up in a high-tech looking rack
stand RIGHT OUTSIDE THE LOCAL PAPERS FRONT DOOR. AND ITS IN
COLOR!! Yeah, the capital 'J' journalists may not like it
because it's print gone the way of TV news (flashy, short news clips
for fill, not 'serious' enough) but it sells!
Now most of the newspapers
in the country are color and flashy (at least to some degree).
Do you think publishing companies would have invested in those color
presses if it were not for competition? I don't think so!!
those not familiar with publishing; a color press of any size starts
at around $10 million and rapidly goes up. Our parent company
will have spent more on A color press for one of it's medium
market, 20,000 subscriber newspapers than I will spend on the entire
My second example,
though simpler, is perhaps more direct. Once cable began penetrating
metropolitan and new programming arrived most cable systems also
up-sold you into an FM Stereo connection ($1 per month added or
so). Why would you want a stereo connection? So you could
get HBO, Showtime and MTV in STEREO sound. TVs weren't stereo
(at least not then). It usually worked. The FM connections
were sold (or bootlegged later) and the children of the 60s and
70s wanted nothing less than that they had from their radio.
Finally, BTSC stereo came along for broadcast TV. (Who among
the broadcast engineers didn't have to fight for the money to convert
the plant to stereo?) Today stereo is assumed for any program
of significance (though not all programs fall in this category).
been saddled with old technology while the competition has moved
forward into cable, satellite and other alternate distribution means
- all based on digital technology. Digital Television provides
broadcasters the opportunity to break out of the old ways.
There are barriers to DTV and IMHO the modulation standard is one
of the more minor ones. Getting started is the greatest (Q:
"What do you mean there's no ROI?", A: "You do want
to stay in broadcasting after 2006 don't you?").
Once started you
have to build the audience. The consumer electronics industry
MUST get the price down on DTV sets quickly. Today's consumer
has been trained by the industry to expect next year's model to
be 1/3 the cost and more feature rich. The CE folks have done
this to themselves. Satellite Dishes and Cell phones are examples
of this. Products that don't meet this expectation, like DAT,
don't make it. Sets don't even have to be HD, just a combo
of digital and analog will do. The improvement in picture
and sound a digital set provides will sell itself. There is
consumer value there.
Now for the really
dicey part: Broadcasters DO NOT control the means of delivery
of their product to the majority of their consumers. Between
60 and 70 percent of the viewers are watching through cable.
If broadcasters are to succeed in the digital world it will be through
cable first and over the air second. Whether we want to admit
it or not over the air reception is a secondary delivery service.
Yes, it has to be there so many of the cable systems can receive
it, but in our market we feed over half of them directly through
fiber and microwave. Cable reception of either modulation
system WOULD be accomplished even under adverse multipath (8-VSB)
or power line impulse noise (COFDM) conditions. Neither seems
to have an overwhelming advantage in this area. Cable carriage
must be settled and sooner rather than later or DTV will fail.
Once there are signals,
receivers and critical mass delivery means there have to be new
services to attract the audience. There are lots of possibilities
for everyone to compete with success. Whether it is HDTV multicasting,
datacasting or hybrid interactive DTV, or a combination, the winners
will be those who find the product their customers value and deliver
it. We're broadcasters for God sake. We've done lousy
jobs of trying to be anything else. We know how to create
content and use our delivery means to provide it to customers.
Let's get back to doing what we do best. Broadcasting is not
'broke', but it does need to grow and change with the millennium.
[Aside: I cannot
see mobile applications fitting into a 'broadcast' model.
I do not see a lot of Casio or Sony pocket TVs on the street and
they have been available for years. In most states it is illegal
to have a TV on where the driver can see it. Cell phones are
a big enough distraction to driving. Let's keep football games
and the emotions they create away from someone driving a two-ton
This leaves mobile
TV viewing to two groups: 1) Kids, and they are happy with DVDs
or VCRs and, more significantly, 2) The chauffeur driven limousines
of the executives of major broadcast groups who want to be able
to watch their station while being driven to the airport.]
Sorry, I ran long
again. Now you know why I'm behind the scenes and not on camera.
My opinions are just that - my opinions and are not meant to reflect
those of my employer or anyone else.
(Ed Note: Lee
Wood is the Chief Engineer at KOIN-TV in Portland, OR)
** ** ** ** ** **
or "DE" regulation?
By: Larry Bloomfield
With nothing better
to do prior to going on their normal governmental end-of-the-year
out of the office until January 3rd - hiatus, the Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) began to ask the question: "Should television
stations have increased responsibilities to serve the public interest
as they convert to digital broadcast?" Not that broadcasters'
don't have enough to do with all the hassles in the transition to
digital TV, but the FCC now wants to stir the pot further by "soliciting
comments on potential public interest obligations for TV broadcasters."
What it appears the
FCC wants to do is create a forum on how broadcasters can best serve
the public interest during and after their digital transition. Although
the FCC official we spoke to says the Commission isn't proposing
new rules or policies, it simply wants ideas and public comment
to determine what, if any, further steps should be taken as far
as DTV public interest obligations go, but you can bet that it won't
all end there. Read on!
The explanation given
us was, that with the increased capabilities on the new digital
television channel, such as multicasting and data casting, "opens
the door for the possibility of expanded public interest requirements.
No one should squawk. After all, broadcasters, today, are
only required to air three hours a week of children's educational
programming and that isn't too much to ask of them."
In an "I told
you so" pitch, it was pointed out to us that the FCC is only
following an order created in April of 1997 in which the Commission
said it would seek feedback about public interest obligations for
digital television broadcasters. Also sited as their impetus
in this matter are the recommendations the FCC has received from
the President's Advisory Committee on the Public Interest Obligations
of Digital Broadcasters.
It seems that President
Clinton appointed a commission back in 1998, called the Advisory
Committee on Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters,
that recommended that stations, in general, be required to carry
more public interest and educational programming.
As what appears to
be the result of a letter generated by Vice-president Gore in November
of last year on this matter, the FCC voted to ask for public comments
on the commission's recommendations the following month. But
that's not all, the Commission is also asking for comments on a
wide range of related issues. As you've seen it said here
before: The camel's nose is in the tent!
In a typical Washington,
DC speaking out of both sides of their mouth, we were told that
after the Commission receives comments, which are due by the end
of April, they "could" proceed to propose new rules, but
the process could take months or years to complete. FCC Chairman
William Kennard said the inquiry, if nothing else, would start a
"very, very important debate."
Probably the most
distasteful of all the issues to come up in all this is the controversial
requirement for television stations to give political candidates
free airtime. Chairman Kennard backed such a plan several years
ago, but went quiet on his position when he got some flack from
Harold Furchtgott-Roth isn't the least bit fired up on this issue,
arguing that Congress only asked the FCC to determine how to apply
existing public interest obligations to digital programming, not
to come up with new ways. "I cannot support something
that expands the notion of the public interest because there is
absolutely no basis for that in the statute," he said.
On the other side
of the coin, there are a number of advocacy groups who are look
for free airtime by pushing for expanded requirements. One
such voice is that of Jeffrey Chester, the executive director of
the Center for Media Education in Washington, DC. Chester
told Broadcast Engineering; "Broadcasters lobbied through the
biggest land-grab since the railroad land-grab of the 19th century.
The idea that broadcasters don't want to turn over a small amount
of time to political candidates is obscene." Chester
continued, "Every TV station was given a second channel, "free,"
to use for airing digital broadcasts. This public 'gift' allows
broadcasters to transmit several interactive digital channels, giving
them the equivalent of free beachfront property on the Information
Superhighway. The public deserves a dividend in return."
Chester says about
the move to digital: "It's all about securing additional
delivery capacity. There should be some civic quid pro quo.
It's not just about raising consumers, it a about raising citizens."
Adding to this and typical of others we spoke to, Chester said:
"Broadcasters ought to devote more attention to children's
concerns." He suggests that broadcasters be required
to let schools use some of the digital airwaves and that his Center
will ask for new safeguards to protect kids from harmful interactive
marketing and advertising practices on digital broadcasts. Looks
like it's going to be an E-Coupon ride -- stand by.
** ** ** ** ** **
(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. http://WWW.SCRI.com).
Subject: HDTV Marketplace
Trends and Product Reports: 2000 - 2004
From: Des Chaskelson
, Research Director, SCRI International
The HDTV Marketplace
Trends and Product Reports are now available. Data for the reports
was derived from extensive surveys of US television stations in
January 2000. The Trends report contains over 100 pages of data
and analysis. Each product report contains data on the percentage
of stations purchasing HD and SD units, by year (2000 - 2004), plus
total units (HD and SD) by year. Over 35 products are covered.
For table of contents see online at:
&/or contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
** ** ** ** ** **
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)
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