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Tech Notes
Published by: Larry Bloomfield & Jim Mendrala
E-mail = or
May 22, 2000
Tech Note - 056
"It's a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word."
                                                              - Andrew Jackson

"Television won't matter in your lifetime or mine."

                          -Radio Times editor Rex Lambert, 1936

(Ed Note:  He’s probably 50% right.)


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 E-mail to: in the subject put the word Remove.  We now have over 660 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
Reader Responses

From: Cliff Benham

I am disappointed to find three glaring inaccuracies on the HDPictures site:

ONE...  480p is characterized as "SDTV". It is not.  It is at least EDTV, and is part of Table 3 whether you give that document credibility or not.

TWO... I also completely disagree with the characterization of 480p as "a TAD better than NTSC..." 480p is about 75% better than 480i in ALL respects.

THREE... 720p and 1080i BOTH should be classified as "TRUE HDTV".

Cliff Benham


Response from Larry Bloomfield

I am responding since Tech Notes are published on this website as well.  I could not find the exact quote that Cliff is referring to, but according to international authority, unless the picture is twice the scan line as the standard definition signal, it is not considered high definition.  Because any of these dozen or so standards are part of Table 3, this alone does not make one standard or high definition. There has been considerable debate on weather 720P is HDTV or not as it does not meet this criteria.  If, in some international eyes 720P doesn’t qualify as HDTV, then we know for sure that 480p is most assuredly SDTV.  I’ve run my “finder” over the entire text of Table 3 and can find no mention of “EDTV.”

Digitally delivered 480p pictures are better than 480i NTSC, but I believe it was the authors choice of words, “TAD,” that may have upset Cliff and I can bear no responsibility for that nor try to answer it either, what he had in mind by “TAD.”


Subj: Comments filed In the Matter of Review of the Commission's Rules and Policies Affecting the Conversion to Digital Television (00-39)

By: Larry Bloomfield

What should be the most serious of events, to date; along the path in the migration to digital television, is the Biennial Review by the FCC, which is currently in process. 

Because the FCC is a politically appointed organization that marches to the tune and at the pleasure of the political whims of the holders of the reigns (and yes I spelled that way on purpose) of power with in the DC beltway, it is even more important to become a part of this process before it turns into another Washingtonian quagmire and debacle. 

Amidst the clamor of accusations that this is only a face saving gesture on the commission’s part and that there are special interests and hidden agendas afoot, it would be wise to watch each and every move of the participants with a “life or death” vested interest as a hungry eagle might, looking for food to feeding her starving young.

There are many issues that need to be address within this forum, but unless each and everyone of us pays due diligence to the efforts, actions and proceedings, of those conducting this event, this may end up one of the greatest debaucheries the broadcast industry has seen in its short seventy-five plus year history.

Issues, such as modulation standards, DTV must carry and translator/LPTV transitions to the wonderful world of digital are only the tip of the iceberg.  There are many more issues that need to be addressed and hopefully they won’t fall through the cracks.

A very rhetorical question:  When was it that you heard one of these Washington bureaucrats say: “we are working for the common good,” when in reality they should have finished the sentence by adding: “providing it lines our pockets or those we are fronting for?”  A modification of the old Roman saying:  Let the broadcasters beware!

The more comments that are filed, the more visible this whole Biennial Review business, and, in turn, the tighter these self-serving residence of the Washington DMA will have to “toe the line.”   This is an opportunity to exercise you right to free speech and I don’t mean doing so by being quiet.  Check out the links listed below.  See what others have had to say, so far, and add your two cents, even if you only have a smidgen or scintilla of interest in this matter.  As the Pontiac add says:  “More is better!”

Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers

Merrill Weiss Group

Hammett & Edison, Inc. (the longest of the comments filed to date)

Advanced Television Systems Committee

Joint Broadcasters, Filed By: Covington & Burling

The Pennsylvania State University


KM Communications, Inc.

Microsoft Corporation

National Public Radio

Motorola, Inc.

Lenfest Broadcasting, LLC

ADC Telecommunications

ADC Telecommunications Inc.

California Oregon Broadcasting, Inc.

WRNN-TV Associates Limited Partnership

Pappas Telecasting of Southern California, LLC


George Bednekoff

Carole Lomond

Covington & Burling

David White

FCC Policy and Rules Division

By the time you get this, there will probably be more.  Check the FCC’s web page for more information:



Subject: A Reality Check

From: Lee Wood

(Ed NoteLee Wood is Director of Engineering at KOIN-TV, Portland, OR.  Any opinions he may inadvertently expressed are his own.  Email:  or

I have had the pleasure of attending several of the IECF sessions taking place here in Portland and meeting face to face several participants of the group.  It has inspired me to launch a new (anew?) review of the situation from my perspective so far removed from the Washington beltway.

It's the Content...

There have been numerous comments involving the future or lack of it for Over-The-Air Free Television.  Many of these included opinions that a new 'business model' is needed NOW or even that NOW is already too late.  While I do understand the we now live on Internet time (see, the useful life of this message is already over), I do not agree that present day broadcasting is fossilized.  In fact, there is still quite a bit of meat on the bones and they are moving around.

Does conventional television broadcasting need to 'develop a new business model'?  That presumes that the old one is static and unchanging.  As a local broadcaster I can say that it is not.  OTA broadcasters still reach over 90% of all households some time during the week.  The nearest 'cable' network is far, far below that.  It may not be with the primetime network fare, but they continue to tune in and find something we provide useful to them.  We continue to look for new ways to attract more of that audience and improve on their loyalty to our brand.  This has always involved an evolution of what we do into what our customers want.  (Not a lot of westerns on TV today are there?  And wrestling is back in vogue.)  This is how broadcasters have maintained their audience appeal in the face of what are now hundreds of channels of competition.

Are we planning to use the DTV channel as a functional replacement for the analog channel?  Only so far as that is the entry point.  We need to walk before we can run.  And we need the tools and understand how to use them before we can take our new digital opportunities and craft something with the audience appeal beyond what we have today.  The tools are not there yet and we are doing our part, working with others in various disciplines, to help develop those tools as we learn how to use them.  As we do this, our primary focus will continue to be as an information and entertainment medium.  We will also continue to be primarily a passive medium.  Now before you jump all over that statement let me add that we will also learn to apply the already identified 'digital interactive' opportunities to create enhanced broadcast content, again, once the tools are there and the audience base technically able to receive them.

Are we looking for new opportunities?  You bet you!  HDTV is just part of the types of service we will continue to provide.  As an iBlast partner we see datacasting, both as a carrier and a content originator, as one such opportunity.  We will begin experimenting with this in the very near future with our various developing partners.  Multicasting, in various forms and combinations is another.  We have already experimented with this during NCAA with a reasonable response.  I don't anticipate stopping here.  The entire scope of what we can do is so new that the 'killer apps' are still to be developed and likely has not bee thought of.

As we continue the transition we will also continue the traditional broadcast model with its public policy goal of being nearly universally available through the combination of over-the-air and cable delivery.  (Satellite delivery of a digital broadcast signal is very unlikely for now.)  I would expect that the most successful of the new services we broadcasters create will continue to support this type of model because at the end of the day it is the CONTENT that we deliver to our customers that makes us successful.  It is also what makes us unique.

Now a few words about the technology...

Fire 1...

The consumer product available on the market has not a clue on how the broadcaster might create new or enhanced content.  (The first Betamax VCR couldn't be pre-set to record a program either - it was done with an external timer.)  Until there is content direction the consumer electronics business will not develop the new features to take advantage of it.  (Have you seen some of the unfriendly and ugly PSIP based channel guides?)  They will follow from a distance; they will not lead.  Broadcasters will have to push the bubble out first.  If the CE folks really want to build the sizzle of digital television they should be looking at including digital tuners in to more and more models on their own.  Even an SD signal on a 27-inch set will be improved.  Add in the PSIP guide, 'interactive' enhancements to programs, and other new content features and you have a viable product that makes getting a digital set, even a non-HD set, into homes (and out of stores).

Fire 2...

Cable is still integral to the broadcast model.  It is not going away and it is not becoming any easier to work WITH.  As systems add digital tiers they add dozens of content sources that pull a national audience in the 10s of thousands for a program when local broadcaster produced content has far more appeal.  In major markets within a very short time (normal time, not Internet time) you will have enough digital set owners looking for content to easily out draw most of the digital cable content.  Cable should listen to its customers and work with broadcasters to provide the HD and digital content the broadcasters will be providing.  It is their one big asset over satellite services.  They argue that they will have to kick off ten of their highly prized channels, like CSPAN or ESPN2, to accommodate digital stations.  Since they are creating new tiers where there was no service before this claim is ridiculous.  They also forget to mention that in the closed cable environment that they really would only occupy half the stated number of services.  There are a few enlightened systems, Cablevision, Cox, Time-Warner and others, that see the value of being first to provide their customers with the HD content broadcasters provide.  The others are missing the advantage they could have just so they can fight over it later.

Fire 3...

Modulation (DUCK!), while it MAY present numerous challenges in the US broadcast model to stick with 8VSB, I STILL await EVIDENCE that a change NOW is required.  I am waiting to see what the MSTV results may reveal.  It is also an issue of what will be received as well as what will be transmitted.  If the CE builders include multi-mode tuners then it doesn't matter what broadcasters send out.  (If the Sinclair proposal to permit multiple modulation systems were implemented this would be required anyway.)  Do I expect 'miracle' chips?  No - I just expect continuing product improvement that has always taken place in consumer electronics (just much over sampling and buffering does a portable CD player need?) to meet the needs of the customer.  By any measure it is not there yet.  If there is going to be continuing design work then dual mode tuners could be included as part of that and probably find applications in international markets.  This way, if, after careful testing and analysis, a modulation change is needed it would be relatively painless for the masses.  We are far enough from that decision that proper planning is still possible.  A rush to judgment is not necessary. Let's just get it right.

Regards to all and now it is time to head for home.             Lee Wood


Jim’s copy


Subj:  TV set or PC Monitor?

From:  Stephen W. Long and Larry Bloomfield

(Ed Note: Stephen Long is the Chairman of the Department of Defense, Intelligence Community - United States Imagery and Geospatial Services Video Working Group.)

In light of recent press releases by Mitsubishi saying that their Digital-TV sales in the US are rising, one cannot help but wonder what is happening amidst all the talk of DTV being abysmal failure on one front or another.  The grassroots issue that rises before any other is the cost.  The average household has a problem with a five or six hundred-dollar expense when it comes to replacing the family boob tube, much less the cost of a DTV set at nearly ten to twenty times that amount.

Webcasting and streaming video, as they improves over the Internet will have their place, but no one in the civilian community has ever advocated, much less envisioned themselves, watching a PC for long-form TV programming. Yet much of the technology for reaching the wonderful world of DTV is based around many of the techniques imbedded in the computer world, but to paraphrase Winston Churchill, “We are two great industries separated by a common electronic discipline.”  Both have their place and there are aspects of both industries technologies, which can be merged for the betterment of anyone wanting to enjoy his or her favorite program.  

Then why does everyone continue to talk about PC displays as if they are always laptop class LCDs?  Steve reports that he purchased a 35” NetTV progressive scan CRT display for his family room, and drives it with a 1024x768 PC that has a DVD player in it.  He also has a "standard" DVD player that he drives the Y/C input of the NetTV.  He can switch back and forth.  Steve says that the PC DVD is significantly superior to the stand alone DVD.  The next upgrade to his PC will come this summer when he hopes to take delivery on an ATI plug-in card to accommodate OTA HDTV reception for this PC.

Given a Moore's law PC universe, where one can buy a DVD equipped PC for $595 (Steve bought two for Christmas; one for his Dad, one for his Brother), and he can buy a 35" NetTV for ~$1600, and a HDTV PC card for $300, I can have all of the benefits of the digital entertainment age (PC, DVD, OTA HDTV...) at a total price in the neighborhood of $2600.  Given the lighting conditions, spouse factor (furniture size/placement), and the sometimes-questionable "value" of the entertainment content, this is about as much as he am willing to pay for his "TV."

Steve very aptly put it:  “If I can figure this out, why can't the big CE manufacturers figure it out?  Just build me (and 100 million other consumers) a "box" that has a PC's guts, put in the DVD, OTA card, etc., equip it with an IR remote control, GUI and get on with it!  Life is way too short to put up with the continued stupidity from CE manufacturers trying to sell $5000 sets that don't do boo.” 

Amen and hallelujah!                                                                     Steve & Larry



From:  Jim Waschura

SyntheSys Research Inc (makers of DTV and Communications test equipment) is looking for a couple of senior-level software engineers with experience architecting user interface and hardware control systems.  We're located in Menlo Park, California next-door to Palo Alto.  Video experience is a big plus!  See our website or contact:                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: H/DTV Budgets at US TV Stations Plus SCRI New Reports
FROM: Des Chaskelson, Research Director (

             SCRI International (

Data from the recent 2000 H/DTV survey of US TV Stations shows that over half of all stations (51%) expect to spend between $2 and $7.5 million in total on their conversion to digital; 11% expect to spend less than $2.5M; 7.9% expect to spend $7.5 - $10M; 11% between $10 - $15M; 16.5% were unsure.

These figures are very representative of the norm if all parts of the transition are taken into account:  tower, transmission system, studio and ENG/EFP facilities.  The 17% who don't know can take their cue from the $2.5-$7.5M that most stations are budgeting for.

The full report is available from SCRI -- online table of contents at:

Also, New 2000 Product Reports - Market Size and Brand Shares for over 20 Product Categories --

Coming Soon - Streaming Video Survey Among Broadcast and Pro Video Facilities send any questions you would like to see included to:


Parting Shots & Food for thought

  1. Larry is doing some research on Set Top Boxes (STB).  If you know anything about them, please give him a call or e-mail him. 

2.   Do 8-VSB proponents fear the Sinclair proposal?  If so, why?


The Tech-Notes are published for broadcast professionals, and others, who are interested in DTV, HDTV, Electronic Cinema, etc., by Larry Bloomfield and Jim Mendrala. We can be reached by either e-mail or land lines (408) 778-3412, (661) 294-1049 or fax at (419) 710-1913 or (419) 793-8340. The Tech-Notes are sent (BCC) directly only to those who have asked to be on the mailing list, however feel free to forward them, intact (including this message), 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.