March 6, 2001
Tech Note – 074
Sponsored by: Bloomfield & Associates


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 6200 visitors since July 1st, 2000. Thanks. We are growing. We now have over 1085 subscribers. Thanks to our regulars and welcome to the new folks. This is YOUR forum!

Reader Responses

Subj:  Tech-Notes #73
From:  Robert Goodman

I have seen digital projection at the Loew's in NY. It was as you'd expect - all the pluses of digital projection and all the minuses. It's a great starting point that should only get better. The benefit for the audience is consistent projection. Though for a photographer with 30 years of experience, there are noticeable visual quality issues which have been detailed here and elsewhere.

best regards, 
Robert Goodman
Contributing Editor, Digital Cinema, Digital TV, Videography 

Subject: HD Cameras
From:  David Scott Devenney

(Ed Note: Devenney (DSD), a media student in the UK, send us an e-mail about HD Cameras. The questions are simple, but important to many who don’t now. Jim Mendrala (JM) answers.)

Here are my questions! I understand some might not be entirely relevant to you, but any feed back would be useful. Thanks again.

Best regards, David Scott Devenney.

DSD: How do HD cameras differ in use from other cameras and what are the immediate benefits? e.g. digi beta, film etc.

JM: Except for their higher resolution and 19x9 aspect ratio, HD cameras operate the same as any other TV camera.

DSD: How does using HD cameras affect production? e.g. light, movement.

JM: Other than the HD camera seeing more details using an HD camera should have no appreciable effect on production, light, etc..

DSD: How does using HD cameras affect other members of cast and crew?

JM: Most wouldn't know unless they were told it is HD.

DSD: How do HD cameras compare to shooting on film?

JM: Cameras are somewhat more sensitive in low light levels so lighting might be simpler compared to shooting on film.

DSD: Does the use of HD cameras affect the budget of production?

JM: Somewhat at this time as HD cameras are more expensive to rent.

DSD: What types of programming is HD suitable for and why?

JM: HD is suitable for any type of programs. It gives a much more detailed image that can be viewed on a much bigger and wider screen much like film does today in the movie theatre. And an HD image down converted to Standard TV looks great. It gives the best image for TV no matter what the transmission standard is.

DSD: What qualities do HD cameras bring to television?

JM: Good looking pictures.

DSD: Are there creative advantages in post production from shooting on HD?

JM: Yes. If one wants to crop an image in HD for a release in standard TV no apparent loss of resolution is readily visible.

DSD: Does shooting with HD cameras affect how programs are sold overseas?

JM: I doubt it. Any HD program can be converted to any standard TV standard.

DSD: Does shooting with HD cameras require the operators to work in different ways?

JM: Except for image aspect ratio (framing), No.

DSD: What are the limitations of working with HD cameras?

JM: None.

DSD: What is the future of for HD cameras in television and film?

JM: HD will replace film in the near future.

DSD: How would you sum up working with HD cameras?

JM: Fun because HD cameras are the "State-Of-The-Art".

Subject: Tech-Notes #73
From: Bob Miller 

Thank you for posting my rant on Tech-Notes.

In response to Jay Ankeney and Ed Williams I would like to say that I would appreciate any pointers from them. If I have made a mistake or misrepresentation point it out. 

I agree with Ed Williams that Roy Trumbull had an interesting idea. Once you decide to COFDM like Roy did there are many interesting ideas to explore. 

Jay suggest that obsolete a few receivers would kill OTA DTV and advocates a fix it or it is dead scenario. Well what if a fix takes three years? What if a fix takes longer or doesn't happen? Why is COFDM not a fix? It works right now. What is killing OTA DTV is obviously the problems of 8-VSB. 

How Jay can suggest a fix is the answer is beyond me. What time element is he thinking of? I think fixing 8-VSB is fine. In the meantime COFDM should be allowed for the few broadcasters that want to use it. There are only three. The MSTV tests state that there is no difference in the interference between COFDM and 8-VSB. Also the FCC has allowed the modulation of COFDM, QAM to be used for years on digital stations without it causing interference. One comes to mind in Houston being used by Accelerate. 

If Ed Williams likes Roy's ideas maybe he would like ours. We planned on distributing one million free COFDM receivers in each of twenty markets within 18 months of COFDM being allowed for a free service that would not interfere with HDTV but actually thrive and feed off of it. I think that would qualify as a DTV transition better than the one we have.

We have to get beyond this 8-VSB bottleneck.

Bob Miller, Viacel Corp.


Subject: NAB 2001 – Visit us at Booth #L430
By: Larry Bloomfield

With NAB just around the corner, it’s time to get the laundry list of places you plan to visit during your trek to Las Vegas finalized. Hopefully you'll stop by the Pixel Instruments booth #L430, where some of the Tech-Notes folks will be so we can have the opportunity to say hello and meet the many of you who get the Tech-Notes and/or visit our web site. I want to thank J. Carl Cooper, the man behind Pixel Instruments, for affording us this opportunity.

Since we only associate ourselves with companies who are very reputable and have top quality, state-of-the-art products and services, you might want to take a look-see at their latest video/audio products for digital and analog television facilities.  If you can't visit us at the booth, stop by Pixel Instruments' web site (My son built it from scratch and I'm proud.) at: 


Subject: Digital Drives TV Viewing-Study Finds

Digital cable and DBS customers are watching three to four more hours of TV a week when compared to analog cable customers, according to new CTAM research. 

The CTAM study, "Impact of Digital Features on Household TV/PC Viewing Decisions," found that almost half of digital customers are watching more TV since subscribing to new services. 

For those getting premium channels, 58 percent of digital cable customers subscribe to three or more premium channels, versus 32 percent of DBS customers and 15 percent of analog cable customers. Moreover, 89 percent of digital cable and 82 percent of DBS customers say they are frequent viewers of premium channel movies. 

Digital cable and DBS customers also are more likely to be frequent purchasers of pay-per-view movies (39 percent for digital cable and 35 percent for DBS purchase pay-per-view once a month or more often) compared to 5 percent of analog cable customers, the CTAM study said. In contrast, analog customers rent videos more often (69 percent rent at least once a month), while 57 percent of digital cable customers and 39 percent of DBS customers frequently rent a videotape or DVD.

More than 70 percent of digital cable and DBS customers agree there is a good selection of movies on their respective TV services, the study found.


Subject: DTV: 1950s Sitcom Revisited 
By Alan Rassmussen 

I remember my Dad climbing on the roof to orient the antenna for our new TV.  My mother would shout to him from the living room when the picture came in clear, and he would try to lock the cumbersome apparatus in that position. In the process, he would jiggle it a little bit and lose the picture. She then yelled louder at him, and he yelled back at her (and mumbled many an oath not intended for my tender ears), but eventually he got the antenna fixed in a compromise position that let us get two stations some of the time, weather permitting. That was high technology in rural Indiana in the early 1950s. 

Fast-forward fifty years. We now have the miracle of digital television, the result of a half-century of research and we're still confronted with the same comic scenario of climbing on the roof to orient the antenna for the one or two stations we can pick up clearly. Of course, we now have wireless headsets and digital signal-strength meters to make the task a little more refined, but the basic premise hasn't changed. 

The reason it hasn't changed is that when the Federal Communications Commission decided it was time to unleash the digital monster, they did it according to an outdated distribution model: that of local broadcasters beaming signals over the air to local residents. The move ignored the fact that almost 70% of the viewing public gets TV via cable, and a significant number get it via satellite. Only a small fraction still receives TV
the old-fashioned way. 

So why didn't the sages at the FCC require cable providers to carry the new signals? Why didn't they require TV makers to include digital tuners in new sets? Local broadcasters were the only ones required to do anything go digital at enormous expense to each station, with no guarantee of an audience. In retrospect, they were the least important participants in the total plan. Major league sports and blockbuster movies are the prime motivations for any consumer to switch to digital ie, network fare, not the local six o'clock news. The satellite services figured this out early in the game; cable providers have yet to catch on. 

In the botched roll-out of digital TV, each of the players has pointed an accusing finger at the others, saying the farce is their fault. The real fault lies in Washington, in the FCC's quasi-religious belief that "market forces" will cure everything. Sometimes they can, but market forces can't substitute for strong leadership from the top. The FCC should have laid down strict guidelines for all partners to follow in the DTV roll-out. If they had done that, we'd be getting DTV programming on our local cable systems by now, instead of re-enacting a scene from a 1950s sitcom.


Subject: FCC Rules on Antenna Install Case

The Federal Communications Commission recently delivered a victory to satellite TV consumers and their ability to install satellite dishes, ruling against a town home owner's association and some of its antenna installation guidelines. 

Victor Frankfurt, the Illinois petitioner in the case, and the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association argued that New Century (the town home owner's association) improperly set restrictive rules when it came to antenna/dish placement. The rules, according to the SBCA, included a 30-day approval period, a requirement that all antennas have a UL sticker, and demands that all installed antennas be able to withstand 50 mph winds.

Frankfurt, in his filing, and the SBCA, in a separate petition, stated that New Century's guidelines "delayed and unnecessarily raised the price of installing his satellite dish," both of which are not allowed under the FCC's Over-the-Air Reception Device (OTARD) rules. 

In its order, the FCC upheld guidelines requiring installed antennas to be able to withstand high winds, saying wind speeds created a legitimate safety concern. However, the commission, among the items it discussed in its order, ruled against New Century on its prior approval requirement, UL sticker placement, the hidden placement of outdoor wiring, specific locations for antennas, and its complex filing procedure.


Subject: Digital Terrestrial TV Prepares For Rapid Worldwide Growth 
From: Joshua Wise, Digital Media Analyst, Allied Business Intelligence, Inc. 

Television broadcasting has already begun the most difficult and comprehensive transition in its history — converting from analog to digital. The nascent digital terrestrial television (DTTV) market, whose signals were only received by 1.3 million households at the end of 2000, will experience an explosive annual growth rate of 100%, totaling over 87 million households worldwide by 2006. This will result in revenues from consumer digital TV (DTV) equipment increasing from $1.6 billion in 2000 to $32.5 billion in 2006.

These figures, along with regional and country breakdowns, are found in  a report from Allied Business Intelligence entitled “Digital TV: The Changing Face of Broadcasting.” The report discusses the shift toward digital broadcasting from analog, and some of the issues that accompany it.

Whether the broadcasters like it or not, DTTV is here and it’s here to stay. The government has made it abundantly clear that they want the analog spectrum returned by 2006. The only question that remains is whether or not the broadcasters can meet that deadline.

The most well known rollout of DTTV, albeit not for the best reasons, has been in the US. The US DTTV rollout has been plagued by delayed equipment shipments and general uncertainty over the technology. Nevertheless, with over 180 US stations already broadcasting some DTTV content, the terrestrial platform has tremendous potential in the US, but still has several obstacles in its path.

The worldwide rollout of DTTV has been met with far fewer problems by adopting the digital video broadcast (DVB) group’s standard for terrestrial transmissions. This has allowed the cost of digital tuners to drop significantly since the UK was the first to launch a DVB-based DTTV network in November 1998. In addition to the UK, Sweden, Spain and Australia have also rolled out DTTV networks using the DVB standard.

Details of these studies can be found at


Subject: Old Radio-TV Ads
From: Ed Williams

Go to:

Click on TV02

Click on TV0200

Overlay DTV where it says UHF and you are right up to date - only 50 years later.

Cheers,  Ed Williams, Sr. Engineer, DTV Strategic Services Group
Public Broadcasting Service


Subject: OpenCable & iDTVs vs STBs 
From: Frank Eory 

The first retail OpenCable boxes *were* delivered to retailers in July 2000, per the FCC timetable. Whether consumers actually want to buy them is another matter. Perhaps the value proposition for the consumer simply isn't there yet to own the box as opposed to renting it. A retail STB with more "convergence" types of features might improve that, but cost of owning vs. renting is obviously a significant hurdle for many consumers.

They have designed and built the retail boxes and the POD cards. But this is not yet a viable business. Product development is often speculative, based on the expectation of emerging demand. In this case it is not only speculative, but mandated by the government. What more would you like? To specify the required level of investment?

It most certainly does matter (whether you put the 'tuner' in the TV or an
 external box). "Very slight cost reduction"? Let's see...power supply, case, infrared remote, separate tuner (one in the STB and one in the TV, when one alone would suffice for an iDTV with no PIP), separate STB motherboard vs. a single circuit board inside the TV that contains all components. Remember, we're talking about high volume consumer electronics products in which every nickel and dime of cost matters. You are correct that the ICs, capacitors, etc. cost the same in either location, but you have overlooked the fact that the component count is significantly higher for the two separate products than for the one integrated product.

I saw a prototype of a digital cable-ready iDTV at CES, complete with a POD slot. I don't recall if it also included an 8-VSB receiver, but suppose for the sake of argument that it did. Is this not exactly the inter-operable DTV we heard a broadcaster asking for in last week's Senate hearing? A consumer will be able to plug such an iDTV directly into a digital cable system or connect it to an antenna for OTA DTV reception (or at least be able to *attempt* OTA reception), exactly as with today's analog sets.

The STB, as you said, offers futureproofing by replacement. This might justify the additional cost of the STB + monitor solution vs. the iDTV solution for some consumers. On the other hand, this (futureproofing) is yet another reason for consumers to favor renting the STB from the cable company rather than buying it outright. It doesn't mean OpenCable is a "deeply wounded concept," just that the market conditions needed for OpenCable to take off are not there yet.

Regards, Frank Eory


Subject: What Viewers Want From Interactive TV -- Survey Summary
From: Shoptalk (

Survey of online adults in U.S.

Get additional news information     67%
Get additional show information     49%
Vote in viewer polls or surveys     45%
Play along with game shows          42%
Get additional sports information   32%
Get more product information        25%
Make purchases                      17%
Chat with other viewers             16%

(Source: DDB Optimum, November 2000)


Subject: Gemstar-TV Guide and Charter Communications Announce Long-Term IPG Agreement 
From: BusinessWire 

Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. a provider of Interactive Program Guide (IPG) services, and Charter Communications Inc., the nation's fourth-largest cable operator, today announced the signing of a long-term Interactive Program Guide agreement. 

Terms of the agreement provide for Charter to continue to use and further deploy TV Guide Interactive(SM) into additional markets and across all digital platforms. TV Guide Interactive is the IPG currently used by Charter in 200 systems representing more than 600,000 digital households.


Subject: Geocast Calls it Quits

Geocast Network Systems said that it suspended business operations and is currently in discussions to sell off its assets. 

Geocast was working on a content delivery network that leverages digital television transmission - including satellite, digital TV and cable broadcast signals - offering access to rich media content.

"Geocast had a tremendous vision and the talent to build to that vision," said Joseph Horowitz, chairman and CEO of Geocast Network Systems. "To reach the final stage of execution we needed additional funding. The current market environment was simply not conducive to our efforts in this regard. We sincerely thank our employees and partners for their commitment and support over the last 24 months." 

EchoStar signed a carriage agreement with GeoCast that was scheduled to kick in during the third quarter. None of EchoStar's business plans are affected by Geocast's move since nothing was launched, an EchoStar spokesperson said.


Subject: FCC Ends Leak Probe, One Fired
From: Multichannel News Ted Hearn

The Federal Communications Commission has ended its investigation into whether one or more employees improperly disclosed agency merger documents to unauthorized individuals, including reporters at the Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.

But the investigation did cost one FCC employee his job in connection with various documents he leaked to a nonmedia source.

In a Dec. 19 report by the agency's inspector general, the FCC said it was unable to determine whether anyone within the agency gave documents to reporters in connection with three mergers, including the union between America Online Inc. and Time Warner Inc., which was approved by the agency in January.

On Sept. 21, the Washington Post reported that FCC staff supported approval of the AOL-Time Warner merger provided that the companies agreed to allow competing Internet-service providers to gain access to their cable systems.

The Post article said its source for the story was an FCC staff 'draft' it had obtained, yet the story provided no other details on the source of the disclosure.

That Post story -- combined with previous leaks that became the basis for other stories in the Post and the Journal between April 24 and Sept. 25 -- infuriated then-FCC chairman
William Kennard and Republican commissioner Michael Powell, who insisted that leakers caught in the act should be fired.

Outrage over the leaks prompted Kennard to ask Inspector General H. Walker Feaster to launch an investigation.

Feaster said he interviewed 30 people, including FCC personnel with access to key AOL-Time Warner merger documents. He also interviewed journalists and others outside of he agency, but the source of the FCC leaks could not be conclusively identified.

'The investigation is closed. We don't believe we found the source of those leaks to reporters,' Feaster said in an interview Tuesday. He added that his probe also covered leaks with regard to AT&T Corp.'s merger with MediaOne Group Inc. and Bell Atlantic Corp.'s merger with GTE Corp.

A copy of Feaster's two-page report was obtained by Multichannel News under the Freedom of Information Act.

Last October, the FCC adopted rules designed to crack down on leaks. The commission said it would require lawyers and lobbyists who conduct business at the FCC to return nonpublic documents to Feaster's office. The rules did not apply to the media.

While failing to catch media leakers, Feaster's probe uncovered that an attorney within the Cable Services Bureau gave AOL-Time Warner merger documents to an outside individual not named in Feaster's report.

Feaster found that the FCC attorney disclosed several nonpublic documents, including an internal memorandum, a draft of the FCC's open-access notice of inquiry and a draft order pertaining to the AOL-Time Warner merger.

Feaster's report concluded that the FCC attorney leaked the material in violation of agency rules 'for the purpose of acquiring input for the aspects of the open-access question and the merger matter upon which he was working.'

Feaster said he would not name the FCC employee, but he confirmed that he had been fired. The FCC attorney, Feaster added, hand-delivered some documents and electronic-mailed others. He said the employee did not accept compensation in exchange for the documents.

Feaster said he was led to the employee when the recipient of the documents returned the materials to the commission in October, around the time when Kennard and Powell spoke out about leaks.

Feaster said the person who returned the documents had to know his actions would allow the FCC to finger who inside the agency provided the information.

'The guy who sent us back the documents knew that he was putting the person who gave him the documents at risk,' he added.

Four sources familiar with Feaster's probe confirmed the name of the FCC attorney who was fired for leaking. But top FCC spokesman David Fiske said he had to consult with officials to determine whether he could confirm the FCC employee's name.

Feaster said he believed the fired FCC employee had not been the source of the media leaks or additional leaks beyond the person who returned the documents.

He said the person who returned leaked documents would have been covered by the FCC's new anti-leak rules had they been in effect, which was not to occur for another 60 days following their early October adoption.

'The person operated very openly with us. He was very uncomfortable dealing with the issue,' Feaster said. 'He had documents in his possession that he knew he shouldn't have had. If the rules had been in place at that point in time, [he] would have been [covered].' 


Parting Shots
By Larry Bloomfield

Among the issues you should keep a lookout for is the one that seems to be heating up the most, lately and that’s the incessant paranoia and obsession Hollywood has over copyright and the behind the scenes efforts by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to pull off and force down our throats poorer HDTV resolution.

Broadcasters came up with the HDTV standards and now Hollywood, for lack of desire to emulate the superior quality of 35mm film, wishes to snatch its superior picture quality for themselves and wants the broadcast industry to reduce the quality of picture resolution in an effort to dissuade the public from making copies of their movies. 


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