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Tech Notes
Published by: Larry Bloomfield & Jim Mendrala
E-mail = or
April 30, 2000
Post-NAB Edition
Tech Note - 055
"It's a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word."
                                                              - Andrew Jackson
"What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out,
    which is the exact opposite."              - Bertrand Russel

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.  To remove yourself from this list, send an E-mail to: in the subject place the word Remove.  We now have over 655 subscribers & growing.  Thanks to our regulars and welcome to the new folks.  This is YOUR forum!  The Tech-Notes are posted and past issues available at: and
From the Publishers:

Both Jim and I were at NAB-2000.  Thanks to all those who looked us up while there as it was great putting faces to the names.

Please note my new e-mail address:   and, yes, I've heard most of the jokes about it being a stinky service, but the GTE - A/DSL service I’m getting, prevents me from remaining on AOL.  It is beyond me why the phone company insists on putting its customers through an experience liken to a canary giving birth to rhinoceros:  it didn’t go well.  I was first told that I was too far from the central office, and then when they check their records and I was within the 16,000 feet limit.  Tests from their contract-testing center, however, showed that I was nearly twice the distance that I was.  Field checks found that I had both partial grounds and shorts on the line and the load coils hadn't been removed.  This really screws up their readings and the non-technical contract (not GTE Techs) didn't know the difference.  In true spirit of GTE service, that wasn't discovered until 4:30 PM on the Friday afternoon of the second appointment date for turn up of service.

I'm sharing this with you in case you want A/DSL service and have been given possible misinformation as the result of faulty cabling to your home or office. Be persistent!  It has been my experience that public utility telephone companies will skate out on their responsibilities whenever they can; there are, of course, rare exceptions to the contrary.   This whole experience has borne out the truth that GTE stands for the Great Telephone Experiment!


Subj:  New 24p Cameras
by Jim Mendrala

At NAB 2000 several new 24p cameras were shown. Some were touted as being suitable for electronic cinema, some for electronic digital cinema and some for just plain digital cinema.

Sony showed their m/n HDWF900 which, it is said, will be used by George Lucas in shooting the new Star Wars film. From what was being demonstrated at the booth, they have some work to do. The motion blur was unacceptable. When asked why there was so much motion blur, the floor person tried to explain that it was the monitor running at 24 frames and that if those images were transferred to film they would look just like film. To say the least, there were some basic flaws in the way Sony was demonstrating their camera.

First the camera shutter was wide open. The camera was capturing on the CCD array an image in about 1/24 of a second or 41.7 msec. Any still photographer will tell you that if there is any motion in the scene that you are shooting, there will be an excessive amount of motion blur at 1/25 of a second. The faster the shutter, the less motion blur and the sharper the image. In motion pictures, the Cinematographer generally cannot expose the individual frames of film in less than 1/50 of a second (20 msec) for each frame. Hence, he has images that have less motion blur. The reason for this is that the camera, while the shutter is closed, has to move the film precisely 4 perfs, stop the motion of the film, and then register that portion of film in the aperture with registration pins before the shutter opens and the next exposure takes place. This is typically less than half of the 24 fps time or about 1/50 of a second. Motion picture cameras have been doing this for a long time. (There are some cameras that move the film and pin register the image in less time, allowing for a much longer exposure time. These have been used to record CRT images at 25 and 30 fps.) Exposure time is measured in degrees and is typically 180, or less, degrees per frame, a frame being 360 degrees at the reciprocal of the frame rate time. A film camera running at 24 fps with a 180 degree shutter has an exposure time of approximately 1/48 of a second or 20.8 msec. Fortunately the motion blur that is photographed is generally quite acceptable. The photographed images have an acceptable amount of image blur for the 24 fps rate.

Because the eye/brain generally can retain the image while it tracks the motion, this is a good trade off. The same holds true for the shutter used for the faster frame rate. If a 1/60 exposure time is used and the frame rate is increased to 60 fps, then close to a 100% exposure time will be obtained for each frame. This is possible, however, only with electronic cameras. If the image is blurry (because of excessive exposure time), the eye/brain will detect that blurry image. Douglas Trumbell, in his Showscan experiments, determined that if the frame rate was increased upwards to about 62 frames a second, then the eye/brain would interpret the motion without any flicker and would appear very realistic. His camera at that frame rate had an exposure time of 1/124 of a second.

Cinematographers have known for a long time that as they shorten the exposure time of each image (without changing the frame rate), a strobbing of the image starts to become visible. We see this effect on a lot of the sport telecasts where shutters on the cameras were shortened to make “slomo” playbacks look much sharper. But the down side is that the image becomes stroboscopic and at 24 fps is really pronounced. Cinematographers have known that for certain frame rates panning speed must be restricted so that the motion blur captured by the 1/50 second exposure does not exceed a certain perceptible limit.

A CCD camera captures the image at one time just like a piece of film captures the image. If the frame rate is 24 fps, then 24 images are captured per second and are transferred to a storage device so they can be read out either progressively one line at a time or interlaced by averaging every two lines. For example, if the image is progressive, each line stands on its own. The vertical response has to be zero at the number of scan lines or the image will suffer from some aliasing. The actual vertical response is about 2/3 that of the number of actual image scan lines. In an interlace camera, the CCD sensor is read out averaging every two lines, thus reducing the number of actual scan lines per field by half. On a moving image, the fields become the frame rate but with the penalty of half the vertical resolution. 1920 x 1080i at 24 fps becomes 1920 x 540p at 48 fps with half the vertical resolution. Incidentally, 1920 horizontal samples of an image that have, by necessity, a zero response at that sample rate, to eliminate aliasing, realistically have a response of about 65% at 1280 samples. This is why a 1280 x 720p image at 60 fps with a resolution of approximately 850 x 480 looks as good as it does. The 1920 x 1080i at 30 fps when dealing with motion becomes about a 1280 x 360 line image at 60 fields per second.

Philips might have a better idea. They have designed their LDK6000/LDK7000 camera with a CCD array with over 8 million pixels (1,920 x 4,320). Even though the aspect ratio of the sensor is still 16x9, the pixels are rectangular instead of square. The idea is that with a 4,320-line sensor an image with a zero vertical response at 4,320 lines will have a visual response that is much greater at the derived line numbers. For example, if every 4 lines of the 4,320 line array is averaged, the response at 1080 lines (4320/4) will be much higher and will help eliminate the aliasing that occurs in the vertical because of the higher vertical sampling. For a 1280 x 720p camera, this looks like the ideal camera. The camera can operate at 24/25/30/50/60 and 72 fps. It has an electronic shutter and the LDK7000 has a cine lens adapter manufactured by Angenuie to allow standard cinema lenses to be used with the camera. This is similar to what Panavision is doing for the Sony cameras.

The idea is to allow film cinematographers to use the lenses they are most familiar with and adapt them to the smaller format of the CCD. The only down side is that the smaller sensors are running into the diffraction limit of the lenses. For example, without a lens adapter, a lens that would normally yield a 45 degree taking angle on film would with a 2/3 inch CDD be equivalent to a lens with a much longer focal length and a resulting smaller taking angle.



Subj: NAB 2000 – a follow-up
By:  Larry Bloomfield

This years NAB attracted over 113,000 participants.  About the only place that didn't have representation was Bikini Atoll, and then I'm not sure if I hadn't just missed them. Along with the latest “goodies” from the participants, there seemed to be a contest to see who could out do the other guy on booth size.  Sony and Panasonic look pitched across from each other to do battle across the isle and split-level area within the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC). There didn't seem to be much room at LVCC to do much of anything else.

The  “dot-commers” held court along with the other digital folks who thought they had the answers to all broadcasting's problems at the Sands.  Most of these new entries had some really great ideas, but didn't have a clue as to how to incorporate them into broadcasting.  The languages spoken were computerize and broadcastize.  The two languages had many similarities, but many differences and not many knew both.  Many of the dot-commers gave me the impression that had they been in a Mighty Mouse suit, singing the strains of “Here I am to save the day,” someone would have said it was “type casting.”

The Sands was flowing with streaming video proponents, with many of the exhibitors bragging about the excellent quality they had to offer in their 1 Mbit streams.  (Yuk!) Other dot-commers were under the misguided impression that the American viewing audience would gather around the family computer monitor to see their favorite shows “stream” into their homes.

A approach proffered by these well-intentioned neofite digital folks was the idea that any television station could feed their programming over the Internet for anyone to see.  There’s no question about the capability of that being done, but déjà vu; didn’t we just go through a whole Congressional thing, just a few months back, with the new Satellite Home Viewer's Act (SHVA)?  If anyone can go to the Internet and watch any TV station, anywhere, anytime, isn't that circumventing the SHVA philosophy and intent?  In any event it sure seems like shaky territory to me. Until the quality of this streaming video improves substantially, I don't think there is much to worry about in that area, for a while at least.

I have always taken the approach that one should be permitted to go to their local news stand and buy a copy of their hometown newspaper.  By the same token, one should be able to see any station they wish, at any time that is offered on a satellite system.  Both newspapers and television carry copywrited material.  If a local broadcaster is worried about loosing audience share, give the audience come compelling programing and you won't!

On the other side of that coin, don't think that these digital folks and others are asleep at the wheel.  Much talk and experimentation is in the works that will allow broadcasters, and others, the ability to cram and get better quality into those very narrow band streaming bits and bytes.  Very impressive is Internet II, which has carried HDTV on it and in good quality too.

There was one report that bears our consideration.  3Com, TeraLogic Inc. and, in a joint venture, have developed “technologies” for transmitting a 20-Mbit/second HDTV stream over a switched IP data network.  Watch out:  The Camel's nose is in the tent!

This group claims to be the first to deliver HDTV streaming over IP networks using the same digital TV standard adopted by broadcasters and the standard Real-time Transport Protocol embraced in the Internet world.  If they can sustain this kind of delivery, the painting is on the wall as to what may be next.

3Com says: “…although competitors have tried to deliver, broadcast quality video using proprietary protocols and file formats, they have not been successful.”  From what else was demonstrated at NAB 2000 and I saw, I will agree that they were not successful.  It is blatantly obvious that if anyone could cram an HD signal into a 1 Mbit stream, broadcasters would jump on that bandwagon in a heartbeat.  Freeing up bandwidth for other uses would be a godsend.

3Com says that they ran the HDTV prototype over an industry standard Ethernet LAN using “their” networking equipment and “their” network interface cards for desktop computers.  TeraLogic's single-chip HDTV decoder board and software extracted, which was reported on in this fine journal (date), was used to decode the HDTV video streams off an IP network. 3Com and have co-developed an HDTV-over-IP video streaming server and client software, as well.  Who knows, perhaps when we get to Tech-Note #100, we can stream it out over the internet in HDTV too, but don't hold your collective breaths!

Broadcasters came to NAB 2000 knowing that they had to do something soon about digital, but none seemed to know exactly what.  The terms “Business Model” and “Business Plan” were bantered around in more than one conversations I had privy to.  Engineers seemed to have been permitted out of their traditional mushroom roles and are finally being asked questions, but in areas that are not their concerns.  Few if any engineers have MBAs.  It is not the engineers job or place, in the overall scheme of things, to come up with "business models" or "plans."  And don't look now, but it isn't their job to program the station or networks either.  Yes, this was done in the early days of television when engineers were about the only ones around a station, but the creative types have taken over during the ensuing year and have done a.....    Well you be the judge of the kind of programing we now have.  Engineers are neither programmers nor content generators.

It is finally being realized that engineers have consistently been the mainstay in keeping television operational all these years and although, for the most part, they are experts at this, I say again: it is not their job to do programming or make business plans except as it applies to the technical operation of their facility.  But go figure:  I have yet to meet many engineers who don't have an opinion on just about everything, and I'm no exception.

Things that stood out.

The emphasis this year was certainly on digital.  Most every one of the major manufacturers had something new to tout.  Many had made refinements to their already best selling equipment.

I had occasion to speak with Ray Maker, Maintenance Engineer in charge of Automation for KIRO, the Cox station in Seattle, WA.  Maker was helping out at the Sundance booth while on vacation.  Maker gave me a sample CD that his 17-year-old son had developed which could make the lives of television engineers substantially easier.  Wirelists, cable records and the like are an absolute necessity for keeping track of the plethora of cabling and wire in a television facility, but is usually put on the back burner because of the tediousness of the job and often times is put off altogether.

Maker, the Younger, has taken the cable record keeping "chore" and simplified it, making it easier and far less time consuming by writing a database founded on Microsoft Access that will get the user out of the pen and pencil era into the wonderful world of digital record keeping.

I was impressed to find that this young seventeen year old is also Microsoft Certified Professional.  Now that might not mean much to some of you reading this, but I've been going to school for over six months to get the same certification and, believe me, it's not easy.

Maker said that his son was working a program what should be released this month.  It will incorporate many new features, but will still support legacy platforms such as Windows, NT, 95 and 98."

Needless to say, I was impressed.  For more information on this NAB surprise, contact Maker at

There are some new developments in the area of antennas.  TCI had a new pylon antenna that performs very similar to a flat panel device in the way it is broadbanded and capable of higher power.

3DV has refined the art of keying.  Instead of needing blue or green walls to key on, they have improved infrared technology to act like very precise radar and can key on any distance from the ring device they had on the lens of the test camera.  Most impressive of their demonstrations was the one in which the pitch man called up an audience member up and had them interlock hands while standing a few feet apart.  They then keyed a cartoon graphic to come over their shoulder and down through the area between the connecting arms.  It really looked real and great.  The only drawback that I could see was that there were no generated drop shadows, but I'm sure they are working on that as we speak.

Ross Video has developed a box, which will accept control panels from other manufacturers video switching systems, updating these older legacy, but familiar, switcher panels to the wonderful world of digital. I saw a Grass Valley model 100 switcher control panel attached to the Ross “box” and it seemed to have even more capacity than the original Grass configuration.  NAB and technology sure makes for some strange bedfellows.

Speaking of which, Grass Valley was there in their entire slender showing off their product line.  This is the first time that Grass has been at NAB in over 20 years as a stand-alone company.  They spoke of their acquisition of Vibrant Technologies.

Leitch had two devices on display, which impressed me.  One was their bi-directional, anything in, anything out, frame synchronizer, which seamlessly interfaces both video and audio between any flavor of digital and analog and prevents lip sync problems.  The other was their bi-directional capability of the I/Os on their servers.

Anyone who has been to any of the NAB bashes at the LVCC knows that the building is a cavernous steel and concrete edifice, to say the least.  I did have occasion to see the, which was one of two DTV devices that were used in the indoor reception test of DTV.  The other was a 60 inch plasma display HDTV receiver.  Both of these receivers were equipped for COFDM DTV tuners.  It is interesting to note that a scheduled multichannel presentation, using 8-VSB, had to be canceled due to the inability to receive those signals indoors.  To my knowledge, no one was able to receive an 8-VSB with an indoor antenna in any of the exhibit halls; and I did ask around.

I don't how many of you had the opportunity to stop by the Acrodyne booth, but if you didn’t, permit me to fill you in.  I watched, as many tried to make the reception to this little Nokia MediaScreen device fail.  It was nearly impossible, short of placing the Nokia MediaScreen in some form of RF shield. They tried nearly everything from just walking around to ducking behind large metal equipment rack and the like; it performed like a champ.  It appeared neither fan motors, large reflective objects, rain, sleet or show, or any other thing could cause reception to fail.  I understand, from reliable sources, that very impressive and successful tests were done while driving around Las Vegas in a car.  I'm not easily impressed, but these results were truly remarkable.

JVC showed an interesting projection system, their new Digital Image Light Amplifier or D-ILA.  I did a story last year for Broadcast Engineering on it's predecessor.  In all aspects the D-ILA seemed to out perform their closest competitor, Texas Instruments (TI) and their Digital Mirror Device (DMD). Bottom line is that JVC can get more pixels on the screen than TI can or anyone else for that matter.  This should be of particular interest to the digital cinema folks and the well healed home theater purists.

There were other devices and events that I had occasioned to see or be part of, but space does not permit me to mention them all.

Setting the record strait.

It seems every year at the broadcasters annual spring dash to the desert (NAB) has been plagued with some incident or another, which has fallen into the realm of defying common sense, reason or human courtesy.  Some of these incidents even take on the conduct and candor of high school and/or college kids on spring break.  The news of these kinds of events seems to travel faster than the speed of light, with the instances snowballing into ugly and inaccurate rumors.  This year was no exception!

While making booth visits on the floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), I got a call on my cell phone, early Monday afternoon (March 13th), from an associate in the United Kingdom asking if I knew anything about “Sinclair being thrown out of a meeting or conference.”  I told him that I’d certainly look into the matter.

That evening I had occasion to meet up with Mark Hyman, Vice President of Corporate Relations for the Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG) and asked him if he knew what had happened, if anything.

Hyman said:  "During the DVB press conference, at which Sinclair was a participant, we announced the role that the Nokia MediaScreen would be playing in the experimental COFDM tests that were being conducted during NAB 2000.

“Invited guests in attendance were Wayne Luplow of Zenith Corporation and Jeff Joseph from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).  At some point during the hour-long press conference, which began at 10 AM, I was told by one of the people from DVB that some ladies, with Zenith badges, were in the back of room distributing leaflets and were disrupting the conference.   When asked to stop, they refused and were politely asked to leave. They did.”

Hyman indicated that this was the only thing he believes could have caused what follows to have happened.   Shortly after the DVB press conference and in a nearby room, Hyman said there was what he believed to be a joint Zenith/CEA/CBS press conference where Zenith was doing their laboratory demos.  Hyman continued:  "Jeff Joseph and Michael Petricone of CEA and Matt Miller of Nxtwave were standing outside the conference room and I (Hyman) introduced myself.  Shortly after that we started to walk in when some guy came up from behind me and physically grabbed my arm, pulling me back.  He then came around in front of me.  It was then that I saw his Zenith name tag.  Without missing a beat, he proceeded to pushed me in chest and said 'you're not welcome here.'”

Hyman said he was so surprised that he hadn't notice the name on the Zenith badge.  “I asked why I wasn't welcome and the person responded, that we, supposedly DVB and Sinclair, had not permitted them (Zenith) to attend the earlier press conference.  I told him he was mistaken and as a matter of fact, Wayne Luplow of Zenith Corporation and Jeff Joseph had been in ours (DVB-Sinclair), but he repeated ‘you're not welcome!’ So I left.   As soon as I rounded the corner, I saw a member of the press who'd just witnessed the whole incident.”

I was able to contact that reporter and he confirmed what Hyman had told me.  Hyman concluded:  “I felt as though I was back in elementary school and they were challenging me to a fight in the playground.”

Needless to say, as the 60’s chant goes, “The whole world is watching.”  We don't need some over overzealous proponent of any issue to resort to goon-squad tactics.  We can do enough to sully our reputation and position through indecision and foot dragging; we certainly don't need, nor is that kind of deportment ever acceptable.

Zenith declined to comment.

In Conclusion

I would hazard to guess how much was spend on equipment, personnel and resources by the various participants, both exhibitors and attendees, at NAB 2000.  The figure has got to be astronomical.  Was it all worth it?  No question: yes!  I don't believe there are many paces on this planet that could accommodate the vastness of the displays and provide the comfortable lodging necessary for the large number of attendees as easily as Las Vegas does.  The quality and variety of after exhibit hours entertainment is also hard to beat.

It is always good to have competitors, entrepreneur, inventors, visionaries, etc. come together in a common arena or forum to layout their products, plans and technology.  It gives the participants the opportunity to see for themselves what is vaporware and what is real.

With the up coming deadlines for the balance of the television industry to make the transition to digital, it would be very wise to budget for as many people from each organization to attend next year as possible.  As stated earlier, it is impossible for one person to see it all.  Several people are needed to get a through input from all that is at NAB and there should be serious debriefing sessions when you all get back to your home turf to compare notes.  It is an education well worth the expense weather you are in the top markets or the smallest.

And I’ll leave you with this parting NAB 2000 thought:  Here it is May 2000 and the cable industry has yet to come up with a standard.  The seemingly blatant lethargy and self-serving agendas of that group confounds the finest of minds.  We have between 65 and 80 percent of all homes here in the United States attached to some form of copper or fiber, depending on whose figures you are using.  If the cable industry doesn't get their collective acts together, give the consumer electronics industry some clue as to what kind of silicon will be needed in the front-ends of new DTV receivers so they can receive both off the air and cable delivered signals and finally, if the FCC doesn't impose a strong digital must carry regulation on cable, we will surely see much of the investment by those who have already made the transition to digital seem like a reprise of the junk bond scandal a few years back.


Subj: COFDM/8VSB MYTHS and comparisons that lack sanity.
From: Ken Fowler


You don't need a digital display to support digital reception for 8-VSB any more than you need it for COFDM. All you need is a television, any television, be it $99, $299, $499, $999, or $1999. This applies to both COFDM and 8-VSB.


There are no MHz COFDM SDTV (480i-only) set-top boxes shipping today or any time in the near future. There are no 8-VSB SDTV (480i-only) set-top boxes shipping today to consumers. 8-VSB SDTV (480i-only) set-top boxes are coming from Motorola this spring at less than $300 for consumers.

The cheapest 8-VSB HDTV set-top box currently shipping is the $649 RCA DTC100; this also supports SDTV through composite and s-video. A $499 8-VSB HDTV set-top box is in testers' hands and set to begin shipping in 3-4 weeks. There are no COFDM HDTV set-top boxes shipping today.  The COFDM HDTV boxes coming to Australia next year are said to cost
between $1000 and $1500, a two fold increase over 8-VSB HD boxes shipping today, and a four fold increase over the 8-VSB set-top boxes to ship this spring and summer:

Dish Network 6000 720p+1080i HD receiver w/ 8-VSB - $399

Hughes HSYE-4686 1080i HD receiver w/ 8-VSB - $399


Neither standard will reduce the cost of $299 analog televisions. Neither standard in itself will reduce the cost of digital televisions, which rarely include set-top boxes. Quite the opposite--COFDM will increase the overall cost of digital televisions.

Many classify digital televisions as those that can accept and display a 480p or greater image. According to CE vendors, there is little to no cost to add 1080i to a set capable of accepting and displaying a 480p input.  By contrast, CE vendors report that there is substantial cost involved in adding the electronics necessary for native 720p support.

With the current 8-VSB standard, sufficient bandwidth exists--just barely--to support high-definition 1080i sports (recent measurements showed usage of 97% at 18.5mbps for the NCAA basketball). Customers buying 480p-capable digital televisions get 1080i capability "for free," given the similar costs involved. If 480p replaced 1080i, as many predict would occur with COFDM, consumers would be paying the same money, but getting less.  If COFDM were to provide high-definition, virtual unanimous consent has this being 720p.  Consumer electronics vendors report that native 720p support will NOT be cost effective for the foreseeable future.

[Most of the upcoming D-ILA/DLP consumer displays, despite using 1280x1024 or 1280x720 panels, will apparently accept only a 1080i input, which they will then down convert.]


This ignores the realities of consumer viewing. The networks are currently the most watched channels on cable and satellite. It also ignores the realities from a content perspective; in polls, HD viewers indicate their preference for sports over movies by more than three to one. Yet the parent companies of the four networks exclusively control most collegiate and
professional sports.

So, one might think, the broadcasters could offer network SDTV plus mobile services while cable and satellite offer network HDTV? Wrong--as it turns out, at least one [smaller-market] broadcast group is opposed to the idea of a cable or satellite provider delivering the parent network's HD feed.  According to this group, if they don't offer network HD, then cable and
satellite shouldn't be able to offer it either.

It would seem incredibly shortsighted for the networks to allow the broadcasters to negatively impact the 80% of network viewers on satellite and cable--which will be offering other cable channels in HD. If cable and satellite offer HDTV and broadcasters do not ("exit the broadcast television business" via COFDM), the percentage of off-air viewers will continue to drop. Then again, continued reduction in off-air viewing, and the expansion of cable and satellite, may well be what the parent companies’ want. By siphoning viewers from SDTV ABC to HDTV ESPN, Disney can cut broadcasters out of the picture and keep all advertising spots for themselves. The inability or unwillingness of all network affiliates to deliver HDTV could provide the eventual justification for doing just that.                                             ---Ken, an actual HD viewer

Ken Fowler can be found at:


Subj: FCC mandating what can and cannot happen
From:  James M. Burger Attorney-at-law at the Washington, DC firm of Dow, Lohnes & Albertson
(Ed Note: This is in answer to the question:  “Can't the FCC make the set manufacturers build 16x9 digital TV sets?)

In general, the FCC has relied on the fact that it is doling out the "public's" spectrum to applicants that met the statutory criteria to receive a license. There is no doubt that they have the authority to prevent one user of the spectrum from interfering with another user. But beyond that, licenses issued to TV and Radio broadcasters are done so in the "public interest." Thus under general administrative law principles, the FCC can place various conditions on the use of the spectrum - such as the requirement to use 8-VSB or broadcast FM-stereo. It only indirectly affects consumer equipment. Just because the broadcaster is required to broadcast in FM stereo does not necessarily mean that the radio manufacturer is "required" to sell only FM-stereo receivers. With notable exceptions the FCC has not imposed requirements on consumer receiver manufacturers - the exceptions are often Congressionally imposed requirements such as closed captioning.

The FCC DID NOT mandate 1080i, 720p or any other format except for the MINIMUM requirement of at least equal to NTSC. Thus, as long as the broadcaster can argue that its transmitted video format is "at least" as good at 480i analog, it can use any format it wishes. As to the set manufacturers, other than a few requirements, such as close captioning, they are free to build any kind of TV they wish. Actually, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has had a few things to say about the sale of TV sets, but this comes under the unfair and deceptive trade law, e.g., saying that a TV does one thing, but actually doesn't. Indeed, the FCC left the video formats up to the broadcasters to allow the consumers to vote with their wallets as to what format they want.

The FCC has always insisted that any user of spectrum not interfere with other spectrum users. Some auctions, such as the PCS auctions did limit the use of the spectrum to personal communications, i.e., cellular type service. Without doing a little research I don't know if there were limits on the technology within the field of use (e.g., were the successful bidders required to use a particular “flavor” of cellular such as CDMA or TDMA, or could they have selected GSM). If I am not mistaken, in the channel 60-69 auction, successful bidders will be allowed to use any technology for any service, again as long as they don't interfere with established services.

Again the "public interest" language is what gives the FCC, the authority to place conditions on the grant of the license.  The FCC certainly has the power to do that if they wanted to but you have to remember the process. What has been considered sacred since 1934, when Congress passed the Communications Act, is the "grant of public spectrum" to a private entity. In effect, the statute says: "The Commission, if public convenience, interest, or necessity will be served thereby, subject to the limitations of this chapter, shall grant to any applicant therefore a station license provided for by this chapter." I could lecture you for a good 6 months about what all that means. (In fact, for a number of years I taught Advanced Administrative Law at UVA Law School.) The theory is that spectrum, especially in the VHF/UHF frequencies is quite scarce and belongs to the public. In addition, before granting spectrum the FCC must create a record upon which to grant the spectrum. (This is one reason for auctions since it is accepted that no hearings are necessary if you auction the spectrum off.) Thus, during these proceedings private interests argue for certain conditions that advance their own economic circumstances. In general, courts have deferred to the FCC's interpretation of what is in the "public interest" unless the FCC has acted "arbitrarily" or "capriciously."

I know that these comments are not precise, or totally satisfactory, but there are lots of lots of Washington private lawyers that specialize in FCC law making a very comfortable living interpreting these laws.

---Jim Burger


Subj: 14:9 Pictures
From: Don Sears, NBC Burbank

Oh, no! Another compromise... 14:9 pictures. The following is from The Mill in London.

The ITV network has confirmed July 1st as the day from which all TV commercials will need to be supplied 16:9 full height anamorphic - widescreen

The government have stipulated that the ITV network must continue to broadcast regular analogue TV alongside their digital output. This gives the network some problems. They cannot switch between widescreen and normal ratio commercials within an add break, therefore, after C day all TV commercials supplied to the ITV network and to the satellite channels will need to be 16:9 full height anamorphic. The station will have one master, which will air on both the digital and analogue versions of their channels.   ...the broadcasters compromise a widescreen picture to make it fit within a normal TV.

They will do this after C day by:

- Reducing the size of a 16:9 full height anamorphic picture
- Cropping some of the right and left off the picture
- By adding black top and bottom
- The result is a 14:9 ratio image within a 4:3 television picture.

For more information, you are directed to:


From: the CGC Communicator -- Fred Vobbe of WILO-TV in Ohio.

We have a problem in the Midwest and wonder if it's the same out there in California: Lately, I've seen a lot of talented engineers leave broadcasting. I don't see new people filling these voids. When I post a job opening, I either find that the
applicant(s) do not have the basic skills, or the applicant has a lot of undesirable baggage from previous employment. In short, there does not seem to be any qualified RF individuals in the upcoming ranks. Is this the same in CA, AZ, NV, etc.? Are young people more interested in computers than transmitters?

Fred Vobbe, who can be reached at:
Subj:  Job openings
From: David Snyder at National TeleConsultants, Inc.

I need to hire a couple of really bright video broadcast engineers to work here in Glendale, CA. We pay really well and provide relocation and great benefits.

Interested parties and any leads are greatly appreciated.  When you send your resume via FAX, e-mail or snail-mail, or contact me, please mention the Tech-Notes.   Appreciate any help.

R. David Snyder -- Director, Engineering for National TeleConsultants
700 N. Brand Blvd., 10th Floor Glendale, CA 91203-1238
Phone:  818.265.4400 x4480  FAX  :  818.265.4455  E-mail:


Subj:  NAB 2000 Awards
Taken from: an Itelco press release

Created just prior to the 1979 NAB convention, the Order of the Iron Test Pattern has filled a real need for television's technical slaves, recognizing their contributions.  The first annual meeting, during NAB 1980, honored the longest suffers of the lot and started a tradition that was scheduled to last 5 years, or forever, whichever came first. For some reason, this is the 20th anniversary of the first NAB meeting and Itelco-USA, Inc. presently sponsors it.

The press release reads:  The Order of the Iron Test Pattern, an organization formed to recognize "technical survivors" in the television industry, announced winners for 1999 in an awards ceremony during NAB 2000.

For being the oldest engineer (85) still earning a living in the television industry and having done so for the longest time (55 years), Brigadier John H. Battison, PE was presented the Crusty Engineer Award. Starting in experimental television with KMBC (1945) and development work with Dr. Peter Goldmark, John has worn most of the engineer hats in the industry.  After several years with ABC, he built the first TV station in Calgary Canada; purchased KAVE AM in Carlsbad, NM and built KAVE TV 6; went to UK as director of engineering, Associated RE diffusion, first UK commercial station; returned to US to found the Society of Broadcast Engineers; retired as director of Engineering, Ohio State University TV and radio
stations. John continues his career as a consulting engineer based in Ohio.

The Iron Desk Award went to Brigadier Joseph Barath for keeping the same position as television engineer for the Johnson Space Center Television Systems for over 34 years while being employed successively by 5 different organizations. Every time NASA changed prime contractors for management of systems, which included television, the new contractor hired Joe and his desk. He is still working in the same job ----proving that survival has become an art form.

When Dr. Byron St. Clair earned his PHD in Physics he must have calculated how many gigawatts of power one would need to blanket the world with the maximum number of television signals carrying the maximum number of commercials. He must have concluded that low power transmitters make the most sense and after 43 years of a colorful career in low power television, he survives -- grinning. The Rusty Doc Award went to Brigadier Byron St. Clair!

For collecting 70 ancient, broadcast television cameras, repairing, operating and storing them in his personal museum, Brigadier Chuck Pharis received the Rust Collector Award. Although it may appear that his secret to surviving 33 years in the television industry may be his hobby, Chuck has led a "serene" life as a Senior Video Engineer with ABC TV Network in Hollywood. He has worked on every type of show and spent many years with Wide World of Sports. He currently works on a Soap Opera called Port Charles and was involved with Monday night Football as Senior Video Engineer on the Panasonic 720P HDTV Truck. No pressure. That's what does it.

For further information, please contact Tom Newman Marshal (303-464 8000),


(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: NAB 2000 and SCRI Research News
FROM: Des Chaskelson, Director, SCRI International

NAB 2000 exhibitor listing and press release site - free access is still available at: -- includes over 600 NAB 2000 exhibitor listings and news releases! Contact for details. SCRI Research News:

US TV Station Migration to H/DTV -- System Specification

SCRI's New - 2002 Broadcast | Pro Video Trends Survey Now Online - Facilities only - Get FREE Access to Online Insider Report:

New HDTV Marketplace Trends Report: 2000 - 2004


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