- December 17, 2001
- Tech-Note – 094
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reception in New York - WNBC and WPIX have moved back to the Empire
has resulting in a big improvement for reception of both stations
at my apartment. WNBC has gone from unwatchable to fair-to-good;
WPIX has gone from barely watchable to fair-to-good.
- Other than WNBC and WPIX, all the
others are the same.
Multimedia to acquire Grass Valley Group
From a Grass Valley
Group Press Release
multimedia announced last Friday (Dec 14th) that it has entered into
an agreement to acquire the Grass Valley Group, a privately held digital
media company headquartered in Nevada City, California.
Grass Valley Group is well known in the digital broadcast equipment
and Internet streaming markets, with a complete line of hardware and
software products for creating, storing, manipulating, and distributing
high-quality video content. Its installed base of servers, switchers,
routers, modular products and digital news production equipment touch
nearly 80 percent of the world’s television signals.
foreseen acquisition will further extend Thomson Broadcast's digital
solution portfolio and strengthen its position as a supplier of integrated
and networked broadcast equipment for content providers. Valued at
U.S. $172 million to be paid in cash at closing, the transaction remains
subject to regulatory approvals and is expected to be completed in
the first half of 2002
will be a significant gain in this combination for our customers in
professional content creation, editing and distribution — no matter
where they are in the digital media chain. The Grass Valley Group’s
video expertise will leverage our capacity to help video professionals
work on any content, any time, any place” said Marc Valentin, Vice
President -- Thomson Broadcast.
part of a global portfolio company focused on the digital media opportunity
is one of the best things that could happen to the Grass Valley Group’s
customers and to the company itself.” said Tim Thorsteinson, President
and CEO of the Grass Valley Group. “In a nutshell, it means uninterrupted
product delivery, accelerated research and development, and tremendous
distribution and service reach”.
Conference Draws Momentum for National Warning Organization
There’s little question that the current emergency alert system
(EAS) just isn’t effective. Knowing that something should and must
be done, it looks like that may just happen.)
than 120 leaders from the emergency warning community met November
30 and unanimously called for the creation of a public-private partnership
aimed at improving the delivery of timely and accurate emergency information
to people at risk.
group came together at a special conference arranged by the National
Warning Organizing Committee, a group of emergency warning advocates
representing the public and private sectors. Conferees included
federal, state and local government officials, not-for-profit organizations,
and representatives from the private sector.
mission of the new organization is to improve the delivery of warnings
and emergency information to the public through better education,
research, standards creation and policy recommendations.
Chair David Liebersbach, Director of the Alaska Division of Emergency
Services, appointed Peter Ward, formerly of the U.S. Geological Survey
and chair of a White House-appointed working group on natural disaster
information systems, to head up a committee to determine the new organization's
structure and governance.
who also serves as the new organization's spokesman, stressed that
"The need for a partnership of this kind has been underscored
in numerous studies and by many national committees over the past
added: "It is gratifying to sense the momentum for a partnership
of this kind. We're moving ahead on a national initiative which
will enhance ongoing efforts to save lives by providing integrated
solutions for rapid, reliable and precise emergency warning and notification
to the public."
conference was hosted by The MITRE Corporation in McLean, Va.
is a not-for-profit national technology resource that provides systems
engineering, research and development, and information technology
support to the government.
Observations on computers and platforms
I’m not a fan of what has transpired in the PC and IT worlds. We continually
abandon hardware, software and even precious documents and media in
a mad rush for the next better thing. As these things continue to
become pervasive parts of all our lives whether or not we like it,
I think it unwise that we let Microsoft, Apple, the government, HP,
or anyone else own, or define, our basic information and supporting
should define the file formats, language of word processing, IT, databases,
display resolutions ... ad nauseaum? We have far too many Windows
variants, Apple just abandoned its long standing OS for version 10
a Unix variant, so virtually overnight I became an Apple idiot.
seems that there are 3 major computing camps now, Microsoft, Unix
variants such as OS-X, Linux, Sun, and the mainframe types. These
continually spew out new software, hardware, protocols and connectivity.
We now have USB, SCSI, FireWire, Gigabit Ethernet, and too many OSes.
Do we really need USB-2, 1394B, SCSI-320 and endless software revisions?
The answer is yes, if we want to support companies but we end up causing
problems for end users. It is too important to let that situation
stock G4 Mac has FireWire, USB and gigabit Ethernet and a dialup modem.
This is sufficient for real-time DV effects. If you need higher
data rate SD or so-called HD then you put in an Adaptec SCSI for $350
and supporting drives and PCI card from Pinnacle or Matrox.
I note with interest that Imation has a FireWire Travan drive at 20gig,
DVD RAM does almost 10gig and both are inexpensive.
small market TV station where I currently work will probably not ever
invest the millions to go to 601 digital. We have the same Philips
(Thomson) router but analog. It is more likely we will integrate
the video area network with Omneon or a Grass Media Area Network.
Omneon has DV FireWire networking, gigabit Ethernet, Fiber Channel,
and most vendors such as Pinnacle are migrating to SAN (storage area
$400 ipod with 1000 songs in your pocket is a belweather of what is
to come, cheap mass storage and home networking. This 5 gig
drive can hotplug and doubles as a hard drive if you prefer.
It could store 20 minutes of DV. Who will be first to make such a
device talk to a DV camera directly? Ikegami has its expensive solutions
for harddrive acquisition. So, one could easily record directly
to DV harddrive and/or DV tape. Hotplugging the non-linear drive
may be faster than tape.
have an Odetics circa '92 which we cannot upgrade to include News
room integration or disc server caching without upgrade from DOS to
Win 2000 "Aero" version at $50-$70k just to be able to upgrade.
We are spending about $300,000 this year for minimal DTV compliance
relative to mandates and not market conditions or sound business.
Even Odetics now pushes DLT datatape for archiving.
the downturn of the fortunes of Internet and broadband, the expense
of last mile infrastructures, and company failures and splits there
is a window of opportunity for broadcasters to get something out of
DTV. Internet media streaming is a bad idea but DTV is made
for it. AT&T bet the farm on broadband and had to
retrench. They have spent a staggering $5,000 or so per customer
with insufficient return.
our station will spend $300,000 on a DTV transmitter to reach a fraction
of our normal 600,000 audience which is 80% cable; it will reach only
a small footprint in our long and narrow territory. So,
we would be investing 50 cents if we could reach all viewers but if
we can only reach 6,000 then it costs $50 dollars each. Still
a bargain compared to broadband. Why not pay cable to
"must carry"? It would be worth it especially in our
unusual footprint. It would be wise to equip consumers with
iBlast or Wave Express technology for low cost point of entry into
DTV streaming of media. If we cannot produce and distribute
media more efficiently then we deserve to die the death.
Nixes Sat Mix
National Association of Broadcasters say they will oppose satellite
TV provider EchoStar Communications Corp.'s proposed purchase of Hughes
Electronic Corp.'s DirecTV.
$26.1 billion combination would create the biggest satellite television
provider in the United States with 16.7 million subscribers, but has
already raised concerns among federal communications regulators.
has a history of challenging Congressional mandates, ignoring FCC
rules, and bad faith business dealings -- all to the detriment of
consumers,”' Edward Fritts, head of the National Association of Broadcasters
(NAB), said in a statement.
the past, broadcasters and satellite services have dueled over carrying
local broadcast television stations in their local markets.
NAB has consistently requested that DBS companies expand our local
to local delivery to more markets,'' said EchoStar spokeswoman Judianne
disappointing that the NAB would now switch gears and oppose a merger
that would expand the delivery of local network channels via satellite
to nearly 85 percent of U.S. households,'' she said.
committees in the U.S. House of Representatives are slated to hold
hearings that will touch on the proposed combination, the Judiciary
Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Ergen, the company's chief executive, is slated to testify at the
hearings. He has argued that antitrust enforcers have examined satellite
service in the context of the broader pay television market and that
should work in the favor of the proposed combination.
officials at the Federal Communications Commission have raised questions
about reduced competition in rural markets and one company holding
the prime direct broadcast satellite slots.
burden is on EchoStar to explain how America will benefit by combining
the only two satellite companies that compete with cable,'' Fritts
CNN Completes Multicasting Trial
and Path 1 Network Technologies have announced the successful conclusion
of a 90-day field trial with CNN to test multicasting of broadcast
quality video over an IP network. The field test has shown that IP
networks can be used as a high quality and reliable means for exchanging
live and taped news material between CNN affiliated stations.
field test which linked Los Angeles, Washington D.C., St. Louis and
Atlanta, required coordination by seven companies, including BellSouth,
CoreExpress, Path 1 Network Technologies, Leitch, Cisco Systems, Pixelmetrix,
and Tandberg Television.
possibilities yielded by this field test are very exciting,” said
Tony Seaton, vice president, Corporate Technology and Standards, Turner
Broadcasting System. “The trial achieved the desired level of multicast
capability, latency and video quality and delivers the level of service
we need to exchange news with CNN affiliates ranging from large metropolitan
to small market stations.
should these terms not be commingled? Granted the "thing"
we call the Internet is directly interconnected to many private IP
networks, such as the one(s) used in the CNN test. But the basic underling
technology is similar, if not identical.
point is that IP networking is going to play a major role in the distribution
of digital media content.
even more important, what is really important is not the Internet,
it really matter if we utilize private networks for IP applications
that do not need to be shared with the public network?
all Internet "broadcasting" services and protocols were
first proved on private IP networks before being run on the real Internet.
That's a good idea when you're testing multicasting, because the percentage
of Internet switches and routers that can pass multicast packets is
still way too small. But, it's getting better.”
Set Top Box to address DTV reception by legacy NTSC Analog
question that has been in the back of many current NTSC TV set viewers
is: “What will become of my current set if and when all the TV stations
make the change to digital?” It was only a matter of time when someone
would step up to bat and fill that void. With an unlikely name
like “WOW,” the Salt Lake City based company will address this issue
with tests and be ready to go for the Winter Olympics in February
Digital TV has been formed to provide the U.S. market with the first
low-cost enhanced digital broadcast platform that allows viewers to
watch over-the-air television (network and local programming) with
HDTV quality picture and sound. WOW Digital TV will also enable broadcasters
to enhance their programs with compelling original content that will
accelerate consumer adoption of digital television while also generating
new revenues. To this end, the company has already entered into a
strategic U.S. broadcast interactive television (ITV) software alliance
with OpenTV, it was announced today by Steve Lindsley, WOW Digital
TV Founder, Chairman and CEO.
Digital TV will be initially showcased in partnership with Bonneville
International’s KSL-TV in Salt Lake City, as part of its local programming
and news coverage of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in February. KSL-TV,
a leading NBC affiliate, will produce more than 70 hours of local
coverage of the games. This coverage will be enhanced by WOW Digital
TV and transmitted over KSL-TV’s digital channel.
KSL-TV transmissions will mark the first time enhanced television
content has been broadcast over the digital spectrum and received
on an over-the-air television set-top-box in the U.S. Viewers will
be able to access expanded information about the events, results and
local activities. In addition to primary video feeds, the viewing
experience will be enhanced by the ability to choose between multiple
video feeds from various locations via a remote-controlled on-screen
interactive-enabling software will integrate with the WOW BOX™ in
providing digital TV viewers enhanced, on demand access to enhanced
TV content with a click of their remote control. OpenTV is the world’s
leading interactive TV technology provider with its middleware having
been deployed in more than 20 million digital set-top boxes worldwide.
The company has extensive experience in providing cable, satellite
and terrestrial operators in 50 countries with the most advanced interactive
have it that the WOW Box will retail for somewhere in the neighborhood
of Two Hundred Dollars.
Subject: Do TV
Images look soft or is it my imagination
I live, I cannot get OTA (Over the Air) signals that are considered
good. I live in a valley, called Val Verde, 45 miles northwest of
Los Angeles, CA and Mt. Wilson where the majority of the
TV and DTV transmitters are located. Since there are only about 1,000
homes in Val Verde there isn’t any cable company that services my
area. Even the phone company cannot provide DSL service to my area.
months ago I got tired of watching the “hour glass” as I surfed the
Internet using a 56k modem that never connected much above 24600 bps
to my old Internet service provider. So I decided to go with StarBand.
StarBand is an Internet service provider that uses a geosynchronous
satellite to provide a high-speed downlink as well as a fast uplink.
uses a single satellite dish antenna (24”x36”) for receiving AND for
sending information. Plus, the StarBand antenna can accommodate both
the Internet and EchoStar's Dish Network satellite TV programming.
StarBand service brings the Internet and hundreds of channels of television
into my home, all through one dish antenna.
is up to 10 times faster than dial-up can provide. With download speeds
up to 600 kbps, downloading a file that used to take me up to 5 minutes
with dial-up now takes me as little as 30 seconds!
a StarBand subscriber I have the opportunity to be part of a unique
satellite multicast network. In the future, I should be able to surf
the Internet and receive channels of high-quality content from top
entertainment and information partners, including MP3 files, software
downloads, subscription content and more.
the last 6 years I have been a DirecTV subscriber prior to subscribing
to the Dish Network. In the early days of DBS the DirecTV pictures
were stunning. Sure there were some MPEG artifacts like noisy fades
and sometimes some “mosquito” artifacts on edges but overall quite
acceptable. Once in awhile during a heavy rain I’d get some MPEG blocking
but that was pretty rare.
year I purchased a Sony Wega 24” TV set for my living room while waiting
for a decent HDTV to arrive on the scene. My preferred viewing distance
from the Wega is approximately 8 ft. or 9 screen heights. The flat
screen Trinitron display on the Wega has much more than 500 lines
of horizontal resolution and a very stable DC restorer. Blacks are
black with little, if any, long term drift. I use the “S” video connection
for all the heavy viewing and the composite video connection for other
videos sources such as my digital still camera, S-VHS machine and
sometimes my camcorder. My camcorder also has an “S” video connection
as well as the IEEE Fire Wire.
the bedroom I have an old Sony 17” Trinitron monitor, the kind that
many of the off line editing bays used several years ago when doing
3/4” U-Matic editing. It has a horizontal resolution of about 300
let me get back on track with the subject of this article. When I
made the switch from DirecTV to Dish, I was not impressed with the
quality of the images I was seeing. They were very soft, exhibited
lag, had very noisy fades and poor resolution. These are all MPEG
artifacts from not having enough bits to do the job properly.
have spoken with some of the engineers at both DirecTV and Dish and
they admit that on some channels they do turn down the bit rate so
as to not overwhelm the statistical multiplexers or Muxers as they
are called. This way they say they can get more programs into the
limited bandwidth available on the satellites transponders. Pay-for-view
seem to get top priority with the higher bit rates as they usually
look pretty good. Kind of like DVDs’.
have two receivers at my house. An EchoStar 6000 HDTV receiver and
an EchoStar DP301 receiver. Both are DVB compliant. The artifacts
I’m seeing are common to both receivers. The interesting thing though
is that the Dish Networks HDTV demo channel, #9443 and the CBS-HD
feed from the east coast, on channel #9453 look great even when viewed
using the 480i output to my 24” Sony Wega. The pictures are sharp
and crystal clear. In the CBS case, however, the same program in SDTV
on channel #243 looks very soft, has lag and poor resolution. Other
network feeds such as NBC and ABC are very soft, have lag and poor
this my imagination or are the pristine images that are being provided
by the various networks, to the two DBS companies, DirecTV and Dish,
(now merging into one company per FCC approval) being degraded to
the FCC in a decision last week that all DBS must carry all local
TV stations will this further the degradation of the images? When
a TV that has less than 350 lines of resolution displays images with
less than 200 lines of resolution I think it is time to take a closer
look at what is happening. When my camcorder images look sharper than
what the networks through the DBS companies are transmitting I can
imagine what might happen on the cable companies when they standardize
on a set-top-box and go digital. Why do we as consumers have to watch
less than VHS quality? What ever happened to true broadcast quality?
If we are to continue into the digital world with digital television
then I think it is time to think about switching over to HDTV because
even though, at this time, most people only have analog SDTV sets
an HDTV picture at 480i resolution looks like studio quality SDTV
as seen on studio monitors.
of content can take many avenues. Who is going to be the watchdog
for quality control purposes? As we have seen during the 911 crises
only a minority are receiving images OTA. The broadcaster probably
doesn’t know or even cares about how his signal is being degraded
as it is being distributed to the viewing public. We would like to
hear your comments on this developing problem.
Master Control Going Digital at US TV Stations
announced more results of their DTV Migration Survey of US TV Stations,
which shows the impending migration to digital in the master control
to SCRI's recent survey of US TV Stations, almost three in ten stations
(28%) have already converted their master control suites to DTV, and
by 2002, about two out of three (65.3%) will have done so. Since the
master control suite is the heart of any television station, this
move is imperative. It is not likely that a station will up convert
its NTSC (analog) programming for very long, once digital television
receivers are in use. Owners of digital television sets will soon
be spoiled by the superior quality of digital at the station on their
screens, much the same way satellite viewers and those who subscribe
to digital cable are reluctant to step backwards to the poorer quality
of a soon-to-be bygone era..
contrast, only 7.1% of stations have already converted master control
to HDTV. By 2002 just over four in ten stations (42.9%) are expected
to have converted their master control suites to HDTV, with the
two-thirds installed base expected by 2006. Again, the relatively
large number of stations that are still unsure (31.4%) will probably
mean that the actual conversion rate will be higher. This is especially
true, as pointed out earlier, when more HD program material becomes
available both locally, syndicated and from the networks.
to the NAB, as of November 19 there were 219 DTV stations operating
in 76 markets. There are 154 days to go (including weekends and holidays)
to the May 1. 2001 DTV deadline.
DTV Migration Survey Series tracks both technology and product trends
and usage among both broadcast and non-broadcast sectors. To view
the table of contents online, go to:
see three very distinct and absolutely important obstacles to the
transition to DTV:
Cable must carry. Out of the reported one hundred one million US TV
households, depending on who you talk too, there is more than sixty-five
percent of them tied to a piece of coax and broadcasters are at their
mercy when it comes to digital. Most NYC TV viewers, for instance,
didn't even know that the transmitters at the WTC were off the air
because they were on cable. Cable has got to carry the digital feeds
or they can forget the transition.
too far removed are the direct to home satellite carriers. It
must be said on their behalf that they are making inroads, but still
not doing enough (or should we say the one satellite carrier is).
Yes, Dish is carrying CBS HDTV, but that’s the only broadcast network.
DirecTV carries NO “broadcast network” HDTV. As we see
more and more HDTV shows “bill-boarded” on PBS, NBC and ABC, can’t
help but ask why?
have been told by one viewer who has a Dish model 6000 HDTV receiver
and displays its output on a standard TV using the 480i S-video output
says that the pictures are stellar when compared with their NTSC counter
parts. There are other viewer reports along the same lines from other
Magazine, published by Dale Cripps, is a subscription service, delivered
daily on line that lists US HDTV programs. The list is growing.
Why aren’t they all available? Perhaps the satellite folks are still
reeling over the recent decision that will force them to carry all
the station in the markets they currently carry in addition to the
four major networks.
TV sets. I think Congressman Edward J. Markey of MA is on the right
track in sponsoring a bill that will require all TV sets after a certain
date to be capable of receiving DTV signals. What good does it do
to have a DTV station if no one has a receiver that can receive it?
They did this when UHF came out and now it's time to include that
capability into today's TV sets.
The third item that needs to be addressed is an inexpensive STB that
will convert the OTA DTV signals to NTSC analog so the legacy TV sets
can at least see them until they are either replaced or phased out.
Perhaps the story we carried above about the WOW Box is the answer.
haven't "Somehow lost our way on the road to DTV," as one
engineering boss put it. I talk to CEs and DEs all the time.
Although they say it is a pain and strain, they're doing it!
don’t believe the road we are now following will lead to the demise
of over the air reception of TV, but it wouldn't surprise me to see
a service developed that would address portable TV sets and we'd see
the high power TV stations go by the wayside. I know this is treason,
but people just don't sit at home around the Radio or TV anymore.
It is a totally different society from what we can remember as kids.
haven't watched OTA TV in years. I've been using satellite for the
past five years and have had both DirecTV and Dish. At the beginning
of the five years I did supplement the Satellite with some cable,
but the service was so lousy in comparison, I dropped it.
does not mean that I don’t get to see OTA or cable TV; I do and cable
still stinks, in my opinion, but then I’ve not been exposed to “digital
cable.” There is one thing that is consistent, be it satellite,
cable and even over the air, and that’s audio levels that are all
over the place.
was a time when we were doing production, we would send a “0” level
tone out of our audio board with a color bar picture from the switcher,
all emanating from our studio. This was supposed to be recorded at
the head of the show or piece for reference purposes. You know; ---
something to set levels during playback by. I question if any of the
facilities that air shows or other material ever pay attention to
those references, if they are even there anymore.
former chief engineer of a prominent LA independent TV stations told
me recently that he caught uneducated production types splicing the
bars and tone at the head of their material. I can believe it. I have
seen audio levels on any of the channels I watch vary as much as 30
db from station to station and as much as 20 db on any one of the
stations. Where has Quality of Service (QoS) gone?
was a time when we all took pride in the craftsmanship that we put
into our work. Those days seem to have gone by the wayside. There
is no way one person can keep track of dozens of channels in the Master
Controls for these satellite up link facilities. The only time they
seem to respond is when someone calls in and then that’s a miracle
when they do.
closing, I’ve heard the comment: “It’s all digital now. We don’t have
to watch levels anymore.” Since there are gentlemen and ladies
reading this, I will not respond here in print as I did when I hear
the comment. With what the networks, post houses, and stations pay
these folks today, there is no excuse!
do you think about all of this? Time to get out of the bully-pulpit,
but first: However you celebrate this special time of year, may 2002
be filled with peace, joy, happiness and prosperity for you and your
loved ones. With best wishes,
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