May 6, 2001
Tech Note – 079
Sponsored by: Bloomfield & Associates
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~~ Reader Responses, Inquiries & Comments ~~
Surprisingly none for this issue.
There were some very good papers presented this year on COFDM/8VSB field- testing, DTV filters and combiners, single frequency networks, and software for finding the proper position to slug a transmission line.
On the floor, the big companies were selling big items and the small items were often lost. Of the companies to watch, I’d put Triveni near the top of the list. In my opinion, they have the most useful measurement package for the off-air DTV signal. Also in their booth was a company that will promo your competitor’s channel while a viewer is watching your channel. Don’t lose sight of that development.
Panasonic had a huge HD projection screen and they rotated between 480p, 720p, and 1080i. The 480p and 720p looked almost the same. The 1080i looked better. I know that doesn’t agree with what people are saying but it did look better.
SBE and Zenith are sponsoring two one-day seminars on 8VSB. The first will be held May 22 at Milwaukee Area Technical College from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. Prior to May 11th the cost is $35 and after that date it is $50. The contact is Jan Pritzl at 414-297-7577 ( email@example.com )
The second seminar will be June 18th from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott. The enrollment fee is $65 and space is limited. Contact Mike Gianneschi at 847-941-8043 ( firstname.lastname@example.org ). A light lunch will be provided.
I talked with Gary Sgrignoli during NAB and he tells me he is hauling even more equipment on the road for these seminars than for the one I attended in San Jose. SBE allows 1 CEU credit for this seminar. A set of course notes are provided and please ask lots of questions.
I understand the State of Utah is helping to underwrite the installation of booster and translators for DTV.
SCRI International (www.scri.com) has just completed a large-scale quantitative survey among broadcast as well as production/post facilities regarding the transition to digital and high definition. The first report of the series, HDTV Trends Among US TV Stations is now available. Please contact email@example.com for more information.
(Ed Note: Your editorial staff had something to do with this report.)
By: Dave Scammell, dave@2M2L.com
(Ed Note: Dave Scammell has prepared the following informal report of a digital cinema meeting held in Las Vegas during NAB, and in no way represents any official minutes. It is provided in good faith simply to inform the wider audience, many of whom he believes would have liked to have been there, given the significance of the meeting.)
NAB e-cinema meeting report:
On Tuesday, 24 April during NAB, an informal meeting was held between many of the interested parties in e-cinema. This meeting was prompted by an earlier discussion between Charlie Sandbank of the UK DTI/DCMS e-cinema group, and Brad Hunt from the MPAA. Several members of the UK group felt that such a meeting should have been held in a more open forum, given the importance of issues over Standards, and this was the result.
Attendance at the meeting, which was organized quite late and billed simply as a discussion between interested parties, was much higher than expected, and over 40 attendees contributed. This included representatives from SMPTE, MPAA, Disney, Warner’s, Sony, Universal, Lucas Film, Paramount, ECT, CST, BT, BBC, NASA, Snell and Wilcox, NATO, MPEG Forum, DVB, IBC, BKSTS, ITU, China, Japan, and more than I could write down!
The meeting was “hosted“ by Thomas MacCalla, from ECT, who had set the agenda.
To begin, he asked each of the various European groups to make a short presentation on each of their projects. This did cause some dismay amongst the group, since they had not been informed of the agenda or a possible presentation request, so felt a little “backfooted”. Charlie Sandbank, however, did give a short talk on the Celluloid-Silicon project, Bernard Pauchon (French Telecom) gave a (longer) talk on what was happening in France, including the role of the CST, and then Mats Erixon spoke about what was happening in Scandinavia. This prompted a lot of interest from the Hollywood delegation, the seating plan having neatly placed them on the opposite side of the table from the Europeans! Later in the discussions, they also heard about the BKSTS group (from Dave Scammell), and about the Eureka project from Peter Stansfield.
There followed a well-prepared presentation from Japan on behalf of the Digital Cinema consortium, which is proposing a new projection standard of 3840 x 2048, and will be showing this at Siggraph in August (JVC). Also, there was a further talk from Japan looking at the increasing production of digital films and their plans for 100 screens by the end of the year. However they were very reticent when pushed by Thomas later in the discussions into what kind of standard they might opt for.
Next in the agenda was a series of presentations by the Studios, led by a very comprehensive and succinct Bob Lambert from Disney. The common theme from all these speakers was that they are all active and supporting digital cinema, and are keen to get worldwide agreement on common standards and formats. Brad Hunt, speaking on behalf of the MPAA, representing all studios, said that it was a common aim also to see digital cinema as a way of improving the cinema-going experience. An interesting comment from Tadd Marburg from Warner was that the 4 films released digitally in the UK had been done that way as the later UK release date enabled the creatives to be involved in the digital mastering process. They are now looking to move towards day/date digital releases.
There was a clear common message from all the US presentations, a worldwide standard is important, if not essential, and the discussion moved into the next stage of how to achieve this. Thomas had prepared the agenda carefully, for we next heard from the various standards bodies. First up was Peter Schirling representing the MPEG ISO working group, who very eloquently laid out the groups plans (and ambitions) for MPEG 4 to become the standard for digital cinema. This was followed by a less intense but informative presentation on the DVB groups’ activities, pointing out that they normally come together under some commercial drive, and that wasn’t yet the case with digital cinema. Charlie Sandbank made a late run for EBU and ITU, and finally Bob Rast from SMPTE gave a very concise PowerPoint presentation on the DC 28 group workings.
Most significant in the SMPTE presentation was the new slide on what DC28 does NOT aim to do. DC28 does not aim to set the standards for the “small screen”, broadcast TV, or closed circuit. When questioned on the definition of “small screen” (a question posed at the first meeting of the BKSTS group!), Bob admitted that they had not got that far, but had added this clause following the feedback from Europe. No one asked about the definition of “Broadcast TV”, that may have been too controversial! And I suspect even the definition of “closed circuit” could pose and interesting discussion.
All this took about an hour and a half, and after a short break we moved into the discussion part of the agenda. The detail of this is almost impossible (and probably unnecessary) to report; however the conclusions were very positive. After a lot of discussion about differences and common aims of all the groups, it moved into the practicalities of getting some standards. There was agreement that SMPTE is probably as good a body as any to set a worldwide standard, if only because all of the important and passionate people are involved already. They also have a good track record with standards. The various pitches from the other agencies were rejected. Thomas Mac Calla noted that the first step in international agreement was that MPEG was not the right approach.
Suggestions for ITU, DVB and others to pick up the European mantle were effectively sidelined by a similar argument. There are already a couple of groups working in Europe BKSTS/CST and DTI/DCMA), and it was felt that if we could find a suitable way to get this voice heard by SMPTE, then this would be the most logical way forward.
The proposal at the end of the meeting was that a list of all the relevant “involved and passionate” people from the European groups should be sent across to SMPTE, with an arrangement that they will get some of the relevant SMPTE people together when these people come into town. Also the MPAA have agreed to support the BKSTS e-cinema sessions at IBC in September, and it was suggested that we should try and arrange a joint meeting twice a year, maybe at each of the test facilities (US and Europe).
There was also unanimous agreement that we need to step back from a lot of the specifics, and concentrate on getting a common architecture which we can then filter down to suit the varying requirements around the world.
Inevitably this is a very brief description of a meeting that lasted 4 hours, with over 40 people. It is also based upon my observations and memory. I apologize if I have misrepresented anyone or missed any significant contributions. Like many of the Europeans present, I was disappointed that we did not have a proper briefing or an agenda, and because of that there were several major omissions in terms of attendees. However, I came away thinking that there had been a major step forward in the international understanding of the need for digital cinema standards, but acceptance that there will be cultural and business reasons why these may have to build in some international variance.
Subject: DTV STATIONS: KNOW YOUR PSIP
When someone can't receive a picture on their digital TV, it's often blamed on the 8-VSB-modulation scheme. However, the problem is sometimes due to the wrong Program Specific Information Protocol ("PSIP") being broadcast by the station.
The PSIP standard was first issued in 1997 and there was a misconception that its main purpose was to produce an on-screen electronic program guide. PSIP is much more than that, however. This is the time to "get PSIP right," before DTV viewership becomes significant. See Broadcasting & Cable, 4/25/01, p 30.
"Of the 1,288 commercial television stations, 1,101 are yet to complete their DTV conversion by the FCC-mandated date of May 1, 2002" -- CBS' Joe Flaherty, Broadcasting & Cable, 4/25, page 6. In other words, expect a substantial number of delays.
Subject: NAB 2001 – The after math and then some By: Larry Bloomfield
First it was really great seeing those of you who stopped by the Pixel Instruments booth and were luck enough to catch me there and those many more I got to see while navigating around on the convention floor.
A serious vote of gratitude to J. Carl Cooper, the man behind Pixel Instruments, for making it all possible. If you didn't visit the booth, stop by Pixel Instruments' web site (My son built it from scratch and I'm proud!) at: http://www.pixelinstruments.tv.
They have three rather impressive products: A frame synchronizer/time-base corrector that accepts analog – composite, component, S-Video or SDI and will deliver any or all of these from its outputs. Secondly an audio delay device that can delay up to 6 seconds and you cannot hear any change in pitch as it slews to the delay it is set for. This is very handy in a master control environment where lip sync issues tend to become more and more apparent. The third item is a device that will measure video delays and control the audio delay device automatically. Nice?
Assisting the Pixel folks afforded me a rare opportunity to see how NAB is put together before the masses invaded the halls. It is truly an orchestration of gargantuan proportion. When 4 PM rolled around on Thursday, it was equally as impressive to see how fast things came down and apart, making their way into the glut of specialized packing containers.
As for the rest of NAN2001, attendance was down about 20 percent from last year. Despite the CBS/Infinity withdrawal from NAB, there were a significant number of CBS nametags present. I also recognized a number of folks from NBC and FOX, both organizations having been estranged from NAB for well over a year now. Had a nice chat with the Senior Director of Broadcast Systems Engineering. With folks like him on their staff, they can sleep soundly at night.
It is only common sense to send representatives to this kind of shindig. With literally every manufacturer and service known to the broadcast industry present and strutting their latest this or this, it is foolhardy not to go see what they are up to and to learn, learn, learn. There is no conceivable way to get the depth of exposure and education from any number of magazines, brochures or visits by sales representatives. In many instances attendees had the opportunity to speak directly with the individuals who conceived, designed, put together and offer support for their particular “whatever.”
I find it just plane stupid not to include this event in the annual budget for at least one or two of a station’s leading engineering managers. Even non-technical types can benefit from the NAB show. If you think I’m wrong, then why did those in attendance see the plethora of foreign engineers ogling over the millions of dollars worth of equipment, while asking such in-depth questions as to border on proprietary issues? I must have heard no less than two-dozen different languages being battered about and that was in the newsroom that NAB had so graciously set up for us new-hounds: my thanks to Kathy, Stacey and their staff for the fine spreads and most helpful assistance.
It was most reassuring and gratifying to see AgileVision receive two different magazine’s “Best of Show” award for their AGV-1000 system. This device works at the emission level of 19.4 Mbps and can insert and/or manipulate video just as if it had been decoded. I had the chance to write about it in the April 2001 issue of Broadcast Engineering (toward the back).
It was interesting to see many of the folks from an old well-know company donning the colors and uniform of another company who bought them out during the past year.
I don’t believe there was anything particularly earth shattering at the show this year. New and better ways of doing many of the broadcaster’s daily tasks were on display. It looks like Sony will finally get around to marketing their Telecine machine and Leitch proudly displayed the products of the companies they have acquired in addition to the products they still manufacture.
I was impressed once again with Ross Video’s approach of replacing the older electronics of a switcher with their box, thereby retaining the familiar feel of the legacy board with ultra-modern electronics, not to mention adding digital capabilities.
The one criticism I heard consistently from the smaller companies was that they seemed to be bunched together along the outer walls and towards the back while the Panasonic and Sony’s of the show occupied the center of the hall with their company monikers ten feet tall and a block long, in a mute, but very visual, shouting match at each other. It wouldn’t hurt and probably would help these smaller folks a bit if the space allocation folks took note of this issue and generously redistributed the big and small, sprinkled the large and small displayers somewhat more evenly.
It appears that the trek between convention centers (Sands and LVCC) would be a thing of the past this next year (2002). I can’t remember when I was at an NAB convention in the past several years that there wasn’t some kind of construction going on. At least this year it didn’t block traffic. There is a massive extension to the south of the main Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) that is supposed to nearly double the existing floor space and meeting rooms. Hopefully they will have it finished by next spring.
Part of the Tech-Notes staff has made the move to Oregon. It has taken a bit of getting use to without the DSL. We now communicate with the outside world on the Internet via a full duplex (two-way) satellite service know as Starband. If I can ever figure out how to make the other computers in our office network through to this device, it will be nearly equal to the DSL we left behind in Silicon Valley.
Since I have received several inquires, permit me to share this. I’m guaranteed no download speed less than 350 Kbps. They have a button you can click to measure the speed at which the system is currently working. I just did and got 1240.3 Kbps. This is quite typical with the slowest speed I recorded at 650 Kbps. and the highest something above 1600 Kbps. Not bad in a rural town of less than 8,000.
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