Published by: Larry Bloomfield & Jim Mendrala
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December 17, 2000
Tech Note – 067


Sharing experiences, knowledge, observations or anything relating to Digital Television, Digital Cinema, etc. with fellow engineers and readers is our purpose. Our mission statement, other relative information and this current issue of the Tech-Notes is now posted on our website.  You can also find all our past issues there as well. We’ve had over 3400 visitors since July 1st, 2000. Thanks.  We are growing.  We now have over 895 subscribers. Thanks to our regulars and welcome to the new folks.  This is YOUR forum! 


Subj: Reader Responses - HD cheap converter chip
From: John J. Stapleton

Do any readers know how soon and how many cheap converter chips (est.$39) would have to be in use to end the counterproductive simulcast of HDTV & NTSC that would enable the present analog TV sets to receive and affordably display all 2 megapixels, such as in US patent 6124893 or the like and thus solve the Catch 22?

Subj: More Reader Responses - Virus vs. television
From: Janet West

Interestingly this was raised at the IBC conference at The Russel Hotel in London last week. Comment was as long as the PC doesn't become the next 1generation of intelligent set top boxes then a virus shouldn't happen. If the PC does then one hacker could bring down an entire network with irreparable damage.

Janet West - The Skills Zone Ltd - Producer/Writer

Subject: Sunset Post’s new D-Cinema Mastering Theatre
By: Jim Mendrala

Sunset Post, one of the premier postproduction houses in the Hollywood area, has announced the opening of it’s new THX certified Sunset Post D-Cinemastage.

The stage is in reality a Digital Cinema Mastering Theatre. It is the first Lucasfilm THX-certified mastering theatre using a Texas Instruments (TI) DLP-Cinema projector from Christie Digital (formerly Electrohome). The TI DLP Cinema (with the commonly refered to black chip DMD) projector) along with a Christie lamp house illuminates a 10 ft. high by 24 ft. wide motion picture screen. The DLP projector sits next to a standard 35 mm film projector in the projection booth. Side-by-side comparison of film print to digital imaging and matching can be achieved using the DaVinci 2K color corrector. The DLP-Cinema projector is balanced to 6500K while the 35 mm film projector is balanced to the SMPTE standard of 5400K. However the screening of excerpts from “Star Wars – The Phantom Menace” were very close in colorimetry and white point. Other clips shown like “Mission to Mars” for the open house demo showed off the colder color temperature difference of the DLP projector realative to the warmer look of the film projector.

The DaVinci is the centerpoint of the room for the colorist. The Producer and Director occupy plush armchair type seats at the optimum 2.3 screen height “Sweet Spot” for 1.85:1 aspect ratio images. Behind them are seats for several other people in the production team. They are approximately at 3 screen heights back.

The THX-certified surround sound system completes the movie going experience. The theatre uses the JBL Cinema Array Loudspeaker system for an impressive gut shaking sound level. 

There is a plurality of sources for the digital images that can be displayed on the screen digitally. Sunset Post has a Cintel C-Reality HDTV Telecine it uses for mastering from film. Other source material can also be utilized using Sunset Post’s TeraNex, Alchemist Ph.C standards converter.

Ron Burdett, President of Sunset Post, pointed out that in a few of the film clips shown it was blatantly obvious that 2K scans for special effects and spliced in with other film elements in digital projection stand out like a sore thumb. His recommendation is to go to 4K scans for special effects sequences if they are to be believed.

He also said, “If you like 24p, I like 24p. If you like 30i, I like 30i. If you like 720p/60, I like 720p/60. If you like 1080i/30, I like 1080i/30. In other words we can convert anything you’ve got to anything you want!”

Even though Sunset Post after two years in design and planning has its D-Cinemastage now operating it is only one of the many services they offer. They can work in any frame rate, 24, 25, 30, 50 or 60 frames per second (fps) and any scanning format – 1080i/1080p or 720p as well as the standard NTSC or PAL formats.

Another feature of the D-CinemaStage is a Voice Overs (VO) room making it easy to do VO or add director’s comments over the footage.

Those in the D-Cinemastage for the demo seemed to agree that under the right conditions, digital cinema theatre demonstration are now the technical equal to conventional film release prints.

Ron Burdett when talking about DVD stated, “Now we don’t want to claim we invented DVD but we were there in 1994, not long after the birth of the medium and our pioneering efforts had a lot to do with the way DVD looks and works. Movie makers are experimenting with director’s cuts, trailers, behind the scene footage, photo galleries, multi angle video streams, multi language tracks and the like.”

Some of the movies mastered at Sunset Post include – Titanic, American Beauty, Lucky Numbers, Rules of Engagement, The Exorcist 2000 and others.

The first Digital Cinema theatre was constructed at International Video Convertions after George Lucas announced at the March 1999 ShowWest conference that he was going to screen”Star Wars – The Phantom Menace” in June of 1999. Since then a few more digital cinema mastering theatres have been set up one at Modern Video Film. But Sunset Post has the distinction of having the first THX-Certified Digital Cinema Mastering theatre on its D-Cinemastage.



Subj: New Broadcasting Models and DTV
From:  Duane Dunn

(Ed Note:  Please welcome Duane Dunn to the Tech-Notes.  He is an unpublished author and has some interesting prospective on our industry.)

Just what will be the useful life of DTV? How many years will terrestrial broadcasting of DTV be viable? Will DTV sent via other means, cable, satellite, DSL etceteras, last far longer? Every technology has a useful life span, but not likely the 50+ years of service NTSC will have by 2006. Despite FCC chairman Kinnard’s insistence, don't assume that grand old TV standard will go away on the drop-dead date. This paper explores the useful life span of DTV, its business potential, consumer acceptance, and ability to compete in the next five years and beyond. It also concludes that if we do not repurpose DTV it should be abandoned as the new pervasive standard to replace NTSC. DTV has far too many basic conceptual flaws and some heavy constraints of cost and regulation to be considered as a long-term holistic solution. Still, much of the underlying technology is very good, for example the highly agile data stream, so it can be retooled to serve useful niches in the interim and into the future. These are the major constraints to a successful DTV roll out.

  • TV is 19.4 megabits per second, highly lossy and a fixed non-scalable data rate.
  • DTV is inherently unidirectional, not interactive, especially if delivered by terrestrial transmissions.
  • High costs for broadcasters and consumers alike and no low cost point of Entry.
  • Far too confusing for consumers and broadcasters alike.
  • FCC constraint means that DTV is not technologically agile.
  • Competing broadcast models are free to innovate and increase bandwidth services at will.
  • Emerging broadcast models coming online may supplant the need for DTV.
  • Transmission and reception problems are still extant despite the FCC's contrary wishes.
  • Remote disc caching means that non-real-time delivery of media will supplant real time streaming in many instances.
  • A practical consumer model looking decades into the future was not envisioned for DTV.
  • Media groups have petitioned the FCC to stop digital transmission of intellectual property due to the Napster scare.
  • Home networking and peer-to-peer networking will further erode DTV's potential.
DTV: Broken because it is fixed

The war was over before it ever started. DTV is a fixed data rate forever that in real-time mode can only deliver highly compressed images. Meanwhile most competing technologies for media and data transmission are free to innovate and upgrade bandwidth and features at will Even the consumer DV format at 25 mega-bits has a higher data rate than multi-channel DTV's 19.4 mega-bits DTV delivery and potential for success depends upon the congress and glacial FCC bureaucracy which cannot keep pace with relatively unregulated Internet style development which has proven itself to be technologically agile. The question begs, "Can the DTV techno-sloth survive an environment of revolutionary development and adapt to the climate changes of business and consumerism?" So far the answer has to be a definite "no way".

Mass Communications; a failed paradigm

Gutenberg’s printing press ushered in the era of mass communications, a unidirectional tour de force of information, persuasion, and control. Later mass comm. took the forms of public address loud speaking which Hitler used effectively to rally support, radio used by Orson Wells to warn us of the Martian invasion, then TV. The effect was always the same, the few reaching many with no feedback path, no way to quickly gauge the delivery of a message, accuracy of reception, or gather transactional information. Consumers of traditional mass comm. delivered via TV were under complete control and schedule of the broadcaster's whim. The Internet and other data networking models change all of this.

Interactivity is not inherent to the DTV model and this forces Broadcasters to team up with ISPs. New network savvy companies such as AOL/Time Warner, Yahoo, MSN, iBeam,, Akamai are demonstrating that new ways of media delivery are viable and desirable with the added benefit in most cases of a return path conduit for instant transactions. Proposed services such as iBlast may make use of DTV’s datacasting mode viable for broadcasters and affordable for consumers, but congress and the FCC frowns upon such notions.

Broadcast choices

Perhaps the purest way to "broadly telecast" is by use of a satellite beaming directly to the earth. Unfortunately, there is no single mode of delivery that works in all areas. Many living places cannot obtain line of sight for a dish. Terrestrial broadcasting too has its many earth bound obstacles to reception success. At least cable and Telco types of delivery allow for "inter-casting" (interactive broadcasting). During the next 5 or so years of DTV roll out, the last mile infrastructure of Internet style media and data services will become more integrated and broad band. Wireless and low power local distribution nodes will provide the real possibility that high power terrestrial unidirectional broadcasting will become outmoded in most ways. Present and emerging technologies;

  • High bit rate DSL at up to 37 mega-bits per second
  • Low power point to point microwave (Harris MCD)
  • Various hybrid schemes that mix fiber, coax and twisted pair
  • iBeam
  • iBlast
  • Time Domain broadcasting
  • Satellite
  • DSL
  • High speed wireless

$$ Count on the cache! $$

Remote disc caching is increasingly affordable and available to consumers in the home now in the form of Tivo boxes in Philips and Sony guise as well as Instant Replay by Panasonic. The home itself will become a network. IBeam uses "edge servers" to locally cache streaming media into 150 cooperating ISPs around the country. This gets data past Internet bottlenecks. The top 3% of heavily clicked media is distributed via satellite to these special servers on the fringe, effectively circumventing QOS (Quality of Service) data-flow problems. Caching data allows for interesting possibilities. Media can be delivered hours ahead of time and released via software code unlock at air time or at purchase time. Even lower bandwidth networks can deliver uncompressed media if done in non real time over night. Note that the Sony PlayStation has expansion facilities for a hard drive, networking, plus two USB ports.

High Definition or High Deception?

The difference between uncompressed high definition pictures coming out of a camera and the same passing through the DTV system is a loss of 98 bits out of every 100. Fortunately, frame-to-frame memory tricks cover p for this loss of data and only changing data is really needed to be sent to update the new frame. Still, if you were to take an individual frame of motion video and and blow it up like you can do for 35mm film you would soon discover that DTV is like having a 110 negative, blocky, with loss of detail especially in low levels. The audio part of DTV, the so-called 5.1 six-channel systems is also very highly compressed and not true high fidelity. Those that petition the FCC to stop digital transmissions of perfect clones of their property have very little to worry about. It will have an average of 55:1 compression.. They should be worried about the Internet, which can send the same media as a perfect clone in non-realtime.

Gridlock on the Information Superhighway

The notion of streaming media across the Internet is all the rage right now. TCP/IP delivery of media on an uncontrolled Internet network is a difficult task. Latencies vary and available bandwidth shifts. This means that pre-fetching and other digital memory tricks must buffer the channel of media delivery. Multi-casting mode helps to greatly lessen the load on the server but the distribution channels can still get clogged. Companies such as Akamai, nd iBeam have developed means for managing bandwidth dynamics. Realtime streaming and broadcasting is only really necessary for live media. There is talk of implementing QOS (Quality of Service) protocols on the next version of IP. ATM and Frame Relay networking already have such functionality, which guarantees bandwidth for users that pay the price. As of now, high speed Internet connections are billed at flat rates. Someone doing DV movies and distributing them to a large peer to peer email list as attachments takes up gigabytes or even terabytes of dataflow per month whereas Joe Blow neighbor only uses 100s of megabytes and pays the same. As the emerging high speed networks saturate, you will likely see billing that reflects usage. This will be exacerbated if media streaming becomes the mode of choice for media delivery.

If on the other hand, non-real-time data transfers and local caching become the delivery model supported by live DTV streaming, then we have the best of both worlds: Each technology working to its strengths.

Napsterizing the network

All along the presumption of broadcasting is that consumers only want to be fed information. Increasingly consumers are content creators that wish to share their digital movies, photos with others, upload to their website or host a site in the home... all in a peer to peer data conduit. This means high-speed communications into the home needs to be fairly symmetrical with capability for outbound speeds matching that of inbound traffic. To assume otherwise is to invite having to revamp your data delivery strategy later on.

The notion of streaming media across the Internet is all the rage right now. TCP/IP delivery of media on an uncontrolled Internet network is a difficult task. Latencies vary and available bandwidth shifts. This means that pre-fetching and other digital memory tricks must buffer the channel of media delivery. Multi-casting mode helps to greatly lessen the load on the server but the distribution channels can still get clogged. Companies such as Akamai, and iBeam have developed means for managing bandwidth dynamics. Realtime streaming and broadcasting is only really necessary for live media.

The new Consumer model

A format such as DTV has to cater to the environment in the home. As such, we need to think strategically as to what is likely to be the compliment of entertainment and computing equipment in the home. Any media delivery system needs to be able to cater to a broad range of uses and realities, including scalability. Here is what home already have or soon will have:

  • PCs, Gaming computers, and set top boxes all networked at high speed.
  • Caching disc drives such as Tivo, iblast and Instant Replay can pre-fetch, post-fetch and store high quality media, software, games, and data.
  • Direct view, projector, rear screen, and flat panel displays
  • Whether in the den, living room or bedroom, consumers will have accessto most capabilities in most places.

Technology Survey Playstation, Tivo, G4s, DV, Napster, Interactive, Set top boxes., QOS, IBeam, Iblast, Akamai,, Time Domain, low power wireless, DSL, Cable, Ricochet high speed wireless

The new Consumer model

The strength of traditional broadcast facilities is in content creation and real time streaming especially of lives material.

Subj: Integrated DTV set problems?
From: Arland Dave

Thomson Consumer Electronics recently started notifying customers who have purchased 38-inch RCA and PROSCAN-brand high-definition television products that a potential component design issue could impair high-quality picture performance.  We regret any inconvenience this issue may cause, but are committed to maintaining consumer and retailer confidence in the RCA and PROSCAN brands.

We are asking retailers to return their inventory of 38-inch HDTV products, and we will initiate a replacement program for those consumers who have purchased the HDTV sets.

Test analysis at our Consumer Acceptance Laboratory has detected a color purity issue, related to a component within the set that could negatively affect picture performance in some circumstances.

We want to make it clear that there are no safety concerns related to this component issue.

Thomson recently began initial shipment of these products, and only a few thousand potentially affected HDTV sets have been shipped to retailers.  We are taking steps to insure that retailers and consumers will maintain a high level of confidence in our high-definition TV products and the outstanding picture quality that is possible with HDTV.

Thomson has re-designed the affected component and will shortly begin new production of HDTV sets.  We intend to rapidly replenish retailer inventory as soon as replacement products are available.

Consumers who have purchased 38-inch RCA or PROSCAN HDTV sets will be offered a new replacement unit and a $200 credit toward a future RCA purchase to compensate for the inconvenience.  Consumers who have purchased this product can contact Thomson directly at a hotline number (877-443-4388) to get more information.

Let me know if you need any more info, but the above should be pretty clear.

- Dave

Subj:  ATSC, SBE team up on DTV education for broadcasters

The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) and the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) have agreed to cooperate in developing educational materials  and activities to assist broadcasters in implementing digital television.

The two organizations will jointly develop a variety of training opportunities for broadcast engineers, including a manual that summarizes the essential aspects of ATSC standards, regional workshops on DTV implementation, and resources for local chapter activities. In addition to the core ATSC DTV Standard, the training materials will also cover the Program and System Information Protocol (PSIP) and Data Broadcast Standards. ATSC will also help develop DTV questions to be used in SBE certification programs.

“Providing the industry with educational resources is one of our key DTV implementation activities, and working with SBE on these projects will better enable us to meet this commitment,” said Mark Richer, ATSC Executive Director.

“This collaboration with ATSC will enable us to provide critical information to our members as they make the challenging transition to digital broadcasting,” added SBE president Andy Butler.

Subj: Televised meeting of the Toronto section of the SMPTE
From: Ernie Medori

I'm putting together a televised meeting of the Toronto section of the SMPTE.  It's scheduled for Jan 9th at 7 p.m. EST originating from the Global Television studios in Toronto.  This will be uplinked for satellite distribution to North America for any interested parties wishing to view it.

Details on transponder and satellite TBA.  (Check the Tech-Notes website for details.)

The program will be a presentation and panel discussion of 1080, 720 and 576 DTV profiles and the following issues 

  • Electronic production of motion pictures for TV and cinematic release;
  • TV production in the studio for entertainment, drama, etc.;
  • TV production in the field for sports, documentaries and news;
  • Storage - tape and server based;
  • Program exchange, networks;
  • Distribution in compressed formats;
  • Displays - CRT, PDP and DLP based;
  • Consumer devices, multimedia and interactivity
With the following participants:
  • Ken Davies - ex VP Engineering CBC
  • Charles Poynton - Scientist, author and colorimetry expert
  • Tony Uyttendaele – ABC
  • René Villeneuve – National Film Board of Canada
  • Adam Kunzman – Texas Instruments DLP display expert
  • Pat Griffis – Microsoft
  • Jim DeFillipis – FOX TV (to be confirmed)
As well, at the top of the show, a presentation will be made on the experimental Toronto DTV transmitter atop the CN Tower, which will help in obtaining data in the 8-VSB and COFDM modulation controversy.  The transmitter will be operated in both 8-VSB and COFDM and the resultant data will be given to the Canadian communications authorities for final decisions on these matters.

If you can find someone with downlink capabilities, you can catch the program or, if you're a SMPTE member, you're welcome to attend (it's a members-only meeting for those in-studio).

This should give us a good basis for "crystal-balling" for at least the next year.

Ernie Medori - Miranda Technologies Inc., Toronto Ontario

Subj:  Parting shots -What’s to come in 2001?
By:  Larry Bloomfield

In an effort to see what may be in store for us in the coming year/millennium, I sent out an e-mail to our beloved subscribers and posted the same question on several reflectors I subscribe to.  The question: “What will have the greatest impact on my fellow television
broadcast engineers in the year 2001?”

I used many of the responses in my material I submitted to Broadcast Engineering for Beyond the Headlines to appear in the January 2001 issue.  It was impossible to use all the responses in BE so, here are some of the ones that I didn’t use there:

* * * *
From: Bev Morel

I believe with the year 2002 on the horizon(FCC licensing req.) that Digital will have a great impact on us all. 

B.G. Morel CET

* * * *
From: Howard Kirsch

In answer to your question, one of the main concerns will be the ability to do more , or the same, with less resources. TV stations have more competition for advertising dollars than ever before. How they maintain profitable enterprises is going to be a challenge to all departments, including engineering, over the next few years.

Howard Kirsch – ParkerVision Western Regional Sales Manager - Video Business Unit

* * * *
From: Kent & Patti Randles

TV duopolies?


* * * *
From: Joe Zaller

How are broadcasters going to deal with the continual deterioration of their traditional business model?

Data broadcasting of *premium* content (and the technologies needed to pull this off) as a possible solution to the above problem.

Joe Zaller - VP Marketing - Irdeto Access

* * * *
From: Robin Rowe
  1. 1. HDTV
  2. 2. The Internet
  3. 3. Metadata
* * * *
From:  Michael Reen

Thanks for the invitation to respond.  We are more in touch with the consumer side of the business, so we can comment on the expected improvement in VSB and the debate...

We plan to introduce a new VSB chip in Q1 that will tackle multipath a little differently- we expect good things.  The timing of this product release will be near CES, so we will probably contact you around that time.  Also, from what I read the announcement by the RF task force, and/or MSTV will also occur around that time.

Mike Reen

* * * *
From: Jim Leighton

I just finished wrapping up with the Streaming Media West show here in San Jose.  Repurposing and streaming content is something that is receiving more and more attention and will be having an impact on what were traditional broadcasters.  I don't know if there is anything there that you would be interested in writing about, but I thought I would pass it along.


* * * *
From: Dane Ericksen - Hammett & Edison, Inc.,
Chairman, SBE FCC Liaison Committee - NAB/SBE Engineering Conference Committee - SBE Board of Directors

Here's my list:

1.      A final and credible decision on 8VSB vs COFDM.

2.      If 8VSB is retained, then an 8VSB chip set that actually works, and consumer grade DTV receivers that use double-conversion IFs, so that they really are immune to the UHF taboos.

3.      FCC action on RM-9418.  Not allowing digital modulation in the 2, 2.5, 7 and 13 GHz TV BAS bands, and now lso the 950 MHz Aural STL band, makes no sense.  How can Chairman Kennard be lambasting broadcasters for not moving ahead quickly enough on DTV when the FCC refuses to license TV STLs with digital or hybrid digital-analog "Twin Stream" modulation?

Dane E. Ericksen, P.E.

* * * *
From:  Isabel Brooks

A great impact, we believe, will be the implementation of a broadcast standard in the United States, either ATSC-DASE, DVB-MHP, or OpenCable.

4DL(our head office) recently did a demo for the Korean Broadcasting Committee interested in integrating digital satellite broadcasting next year.  4DL demonstrated the full end-to-end MHP compliant data casting solution--from the creation of the actual interactive digital content (produced with our newest authoring product, the 4DAuthor), the broadcasting server (4DCast--ATSC and DVB compliant) to the middleware employed by the server set top box.  It is quite an accomplishment for a company to produce the only complete end-to-end MHP detesting solution in the industry. I have attached a press released sent out today through Business Wire on this breakthrough news!

Another great impact will be the implementation of an easy to use interactive digital content creation tool that offers the flexibility and extensibility that Java-based applications can offer, without the headache of having to teach those in charge of the creative content complex Java programming tasks in order to produce an end product.  4D Dreamtel, has developed such a tool that is compatible with ATSC-DASE and MHP standards, offering the flexibility needed to easily utilize the application, and cuts back on the additional training and hiring of additional programming specialists to run the applications.  The product is called the 4DAuthor.  A Developer Edition for the 4DAuthor(with only limited capabilities) will be available for purchase by December 18, 2000 to all companies interested in purchasing the 4DAuthor commercial product (due by the 3rd quarter of 2001).  We foresee the product as a success, especially with the countries already making the change from analog TV to interactive digital TV broadcasting, who are still unsure which standard they will implement in their country.

Isabel Brooks - Public Relations Manager - 4D Dreamtel, Inc.

* * * * *
(Ed Note:  We had such good response to the question: What will engineers have to contend with in 2001, we will run the remainder of the responses that didn’t get selected for BE in our next issue. That should be out within the next week.)
Happy Holidays – Larry and Jim
The Tech-Notes are published by Larry Bloomfield and Jim Mendrala. We can be reached by either e-mail (above) or land lines (408) 778-3412, (661) 294-1049 or fax at (419) 710-1913 or (419) 793-8340. The opinions expressed herein are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of their friends, employers or associates.  If you wish to remove yourself from this list, send an E-mail to:  In the subject area put the word Remove

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