Published by: Larry Bloomfield & Jim Mendrala
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Subj: Electronic Cinema Comes of Age
By: Larry Bloomfield
Normally my partner and co-publisher, Emmy award
winning, Jim Mendrala, would cover this topic. It is with
the greatest pleasure that the bounty of sharing this with our readers
should fall on me. Jim just happens to be out of town this
week on a very much-deserved vacation.
Mendrala has been involved in electronic cinema
for many years, arguing for its own standards and not just the adoption
of HDTV standards for the fledgling industry. Mendrala's uncompromising
quest for nothing but the very best has been directed through his
association with a start up company know as Real Image Digital,
formerly known as Real Image Technologies. Mendrala's position
with Real Image is that of vice president of technology
I have raised the question about what will become
of the film processing and manufacturing companies, if and when,
electronic cinema begins to make its mark in the motion picture
industry. I have said that the discussions in the boardrooms
of the various film manufacturers and processors has been focused
on what ever it will take to survive on this new playing field and
not the color of the carpet in the lobby. For a typical 110-minute
movie, over 15 million feet of print stock are used just to get
it distributed. One of the companies in Hollywood that would
be hurt most by electronic cinema, if they didn't have something
else going for them, would be a company that does this kind of 35
mm duplication service.
It, therefore, came as no big surprise when it
was announced Friday, August 6, 1999 that Technicolor took a 49%
stake in the Los Angeles based Real Image Digital.
Technicolor is a subsidiary of Carlton Communications, which is
based in the United Kingdom. The cost of the buy in is reported
to be $23 million, with an option to buy another 11.5% at
"pre-negotiated terms." Technicolor has also agreed
to invest a further $60 million if trials of Real Image's approach
to the technology prove successful.
Mendrala, for five years and his associates at Real Image, for three
years, have been working with any number of studios, theater-circuit
and technology executives in their efforts to develop the standards
for the electronic distribution of feature films into theatres.
Mendrala and his associates at Real Image have spent many long hours
working with such equipment manufacturers as Hughes/JVC and Texas
Instruments in their race to develop a super high-resolution electronic
digital cinema system. Real Image is also focused on the digital
compression, encryption and storage of motion picture images.
Mendrala recently return from Princeton, New Jersey where he worked
with the Sarnoff Labs research facility, in Real Image's efforts
to develop the appropriate compression technology needed to transmit
and store image data.
Real Image was founded by Linwood Dunn, an Oscar-winning cinema
Real Image's president is Donald Rogers, also
a very respected industry veteran and former Warner Bros. senior
VP of post-production services.
Technicolor shopped around before deciding to put its money behind
Real Image. Technicolor was seriously interested in no less
than three other competing companies, including Cinecomm Digital
Cinema. One of Real Image's strengths that appealed to Technicolor
is its consensus-building approach to creating an open standard
that would allow competing systems to work
together. It didn't hurt to have Mendrala on the Real Image
team either. Having had a very successful relationship with
him when he was one of the senior engineering managers at the Technicolor
subsidiary, Vidtronics, they knew they were getting into a quality
"In Hollywood, the only thing that is going to fly is an open
system," said Hummel, exec VP, digital technologies development.
"You don't want to get into a situation where you have to make
five different versions of your film for five different systems."
Technicolor's move was also preemptive. "I didn't want to wake
up one day and read that someone else had done it," said Hummel.
Technicolor's long-standing relationships with studios and exhibitors
can't hurt Real Image's chances and should go a long way in giving
them an edge as it attempts to move into digital film distribution.
"We're absolutely delighted that Technicolor, a longtime force
in the motion picture industry, is taking steps to assure their
involvement in the future," said Phil Barlow, exec VP of electronic
cinema for Walt Disney Co.
I take back all those harsh things I said to
Jim when he was out doing Real Image business instead of knocking
out stories for these Tech Notes. Please join me in
congratulating Real Image and Jim Mendrala in their first significant
step on the way to success in this new Tinsel Town industry.
Subj: OpenCable and NDS
By: Elizabeth Thabet
-- TSI Communications >> firstname.lastname@example.org
Yes, I would love to receive Tech Notes. I went to the Web
site and it appears to be a wonderful resource in keeping me up
to date with the industry. Thanks so much! Also- if you are
interested in NDS--
At this week's OpenCable POD Interoperability Event, NDS announced
its driving support in providing the cable industry and consumers
with interoperable set-top boxes (STB's) and the next generation
of interactive services and applications.
Not only is NDS ensuring that its Point of Deployment (POD) security
modules are interoperable with the OpenCable standards, but it is
also providing test tools so that CableLabs® can verify interoperability
between all POD modules and all STB's in the OpenCable initiative.
Best regards, Elizabeth Thabet
Subj: Electron Beam People Stopper
By: Larry Bloomfield
This story is not exactly DTV or Electronic Cinema,
but it may forestall many hours of car chases have you may see in
future TV. Well, they may be a thing of the past. Between
DNA identification technology and a pair of devices under development
at HSV Technologies Inc., of San Diego, California, would be perpetrators
of wrong doings would be wise to give it all a second thought as
they tend not stand much of a chance these days. The device
that could be an answer to both law enforcement's desire to immobilize
an opponent and the military's goal to neutralize "the enemy"
without killing them, is currently under development at HSV Technologies
Inc. This non-lethal weapon, which sounds more like something
from Star Trek than a part of some arsenal, is for real and even
has a US Patent (#5675103).
The device uses ultraviolet (UV) laser beams
that will harmlessly immobilize people or any living thing with
skeletal muscles. It is estimated that the device will work
up to about 100 meters or more. Very similar to how the producers
of the long running Sci-fi show, Star Trek would have you believe
Capt. Kirk's Phaser works, this weapon actually uses two beams of
UV radiation to ionize paths in the air along which electrical current
is conducted to and from the target. The beams, by ionization,
create a conductive environment, similar to wires, in the direction
the device is pointed.
According to Peter Anthony Schlesinger, of HSV
Technologies Inc., "The current within these beams is a close
replication of the neuro-electric impulses that control skeletal
muscles." The low level of current delivered by this
device is imperceptible to the target because it is very similar
to his own neurological impulses. It differs only in that
its repetition rate is sufficiently rapid to tetanize muscle tissue."
The dictionary definition of tetany is: "an abnormal
condition characterized by periodic muscular spasms and tremors
that could be painful." Schlesinger says, "Tetanization,
as it is employed by this device, is the stimulation of muscle fibers
at a frequency which merges their individual contractions into a
single sustained contraction, thus immobilizing the target."
When asked about possible ocular damage to a
person or an animal, Schlesinger said, "No retinal damage can
occur because the cornea absorbs all ultraviolet radiation at the
wavelengths used. Moreover, the beams are too weak to produce
photokeratitis (corneal inflammation) unless they are directed at
the eyes for several minutes." When asked about other
possibly sensitive organs, Schlesinger said: "The current
transmitted is insufficient to affect the smooth muscles such as
the heart and diaphragm."
Probably the closest competitor to this Phaser-like
device is the wire-based Taser. According to HSV Tech, their
electrical beam weapon has a far longer potential range than the
HSV Tech has successfully tested their electrical
beam weapon at the University of California at San Diego.
Schlesinger says, but didn't explain, that further refinements,
using novel laser designs, are forthcoming.
The current prototype is not something that could
easily be carried on one's hip, as it's the size of a carryon suitcase.
A handheld version, however, should become feasible in the not too
distant future as advances take place in laser technology.
But we've saved the best for last. Remember
the car chase we mentioned early on? Well, they're soon to
be a thing of the past too, because HSV Tech is also developing
an engine-disabling variation of their electrical beam weapon for
use against the electronic ignitions in automobiles. The engine-disabling
version should be able to operate with off-the-shelf lasers because
it would be carried aboard police patrol cars.
The completion dates for both the tetanzing and
engine-disabling weapons were given as early as 2001. After
that, the would be criminal of the future shouldn't be surprised
if first their car is suddenly disabled and they become immobilized
as the local gendarmes put to use these harmless, but highly effective
space age law enforcement tools of the future. Get ready to
explain to your grandkids what those once famous chase scenes in
the movies and on TV were all about.
information, visit HSV Technologies, Inc.'s. Web page at WWW.N6RPF.COM-US.NET\HSV\
Subj: DTV across the pond
By: Dermot Nolan >>> email@example.com
With the current debate raging in the US about 8VSB vs COFDM here
is a piece on DTV in the UK.
DTV begain in the UK on November 15 1998, twenty nine years to the
day after PAL colour television. It uses DVB-T COFDM transmission
(mode 64QAM, FEC 2/3, guard interval 1/32, 2000 carrier version.)
There are currently over thirty stations in the DTV grid providing
37 SDTV/EDTV channels in 6 x 8 Mhz UHF channels broadcast from each
station. UK population coverage has now passed 75% and is expected
to reach 90% by Christmas 1999. Each channel
has a payload data rate of 24. 1 Mbit/sec carrying an ensemble of
DTV services. Stations transmit between 20 - 27 dB below their PAL
counterparts to achieve equivalent coverage typically 50-60 miles
radius, although in some instances DX -COFDMers are receiving DTV
90 miles away!.
Minimum clear sky C/N to successfully decode is 18.5 dB in very
easy locations and in the worst possible urban/hilly multipath areas
is around 25dB. Although these numbers may seem interesting it is
to be remembered that a Grade 5 PAL picture requires a C/N of 44dB.
Therefore the existing
installed antenna base is perfectly adequate to receive DTV. In
most locations simple 10 element antennae suffice and in Grade B
contours eighteen elements, which are preinstalled for analogue
use, usually suffice.
The COFDM DTV system is designed to work with today's antenna technologies:
i Over 80% of existing roof-top antennae work first time, and in
predicted coverage areas this figure rises to 95% after any modifications
or upgrades needed.
ii In City and Grade A contours portable indoor antenna reception
of DTV is widespread using either simple rabbits ears or amplified
indoor antennae ($30). Unlike 8VSB, COFDM works very effectively
with amplified signals as the interferers are added constructively
and the system can handle 0dB echoes common in urban areas. Indoor
DTV reception has become increasingly
popular in condos for those who would otherwise have to wait for
channelised MATV systems to be upgraded to DTV by building owners.
iii The system is immune to multipath which is why you will frequently
see off-air demonstrations of DTV in downtown retail shopping malls
rather than server sourced demos. The BBC conducted a detailed DTV
reception survey concluding that, to date, no areas have been detected
where DTV reception is prevented by multipath impairment. (the chosen
COFDM mode handles echoes as long as 28uS, but its believed that
the worst echos in the UK are under 20uS).
A wide variety of STB and IDTV receivers are available from major
international CE vendors. If you subscribe to ONdigital, the pay
DTV service provider, STB's are free. Minimum monthly subs are $10.
Otherwise the STB costs $600 unsubsidised. IDTVs , 16x9, Dolby surround
for $1500 + and are available with/without CA systems.
With the free STB business model current DTV penetration stands
at 300,000 DTV users (equivalent to 1.2 million homes in the US
market) and is expected to reach 500,000 before Christmas. The 'plug
and play' nature of COFDM DTV, its immunity to multipath, reuse
of legacy antennae systems, the channel line-up, the introduction
of widescreen tv, and its robust
reception on indoor antennae have been contributory factors to growing
consumer acceptance nine months after launch.
from SCRI International's Jan., 1999 HDTV Survey
From: Des Chaskelson,
Research Director, SCRI International (Des_Chas@scri.com)
(Ed Note: The Tech Notes staff assisted SCRI in the preparation
of their original report. Since then the question has been
raised about our use of 720 as an example in explaining the text.
We are aware that 720i this is not specified on Table 3, but there
is nothing to prevent a broadcaster from using it. We have
altered only this part of the report below.)
On page 23 of the ATSC Digital Television Standard
(Annex A) dated 16 Sept 95, there is a chart (5.1.2 Compression
format constraints) which shows the now famous Table 3. This
Table 3 lists the allowed compression formats. This is an
ATSC standard and was never officially adopted by the FCC as a broadcast
Table 3 shows as High Definition, 1080x1920 format
with both progressive and interlace scan formats and 720 as progressively
scanned. Please note that although not a part of table 3,
there was some talk of 720 interlace in some circles in an effort
to reduce bandwidth consumption, but really never got off the ground.
In Table 3, standard definition comes in two
flavors also, but both are 480 lines long. One has 704 pixels
across may be either 4x3 or 16x9 aspect ratio while the other is
640 pixels across and is in the 4x3 aspect ratio only. Both of these
may be scanned either progressively or interlaced. There are
six different frame rates specified, but not all rates apply to
each of the scan rates and aspect ratios. These are 23.976,
24, 29.97, 30, 59.94 and 60 Hz or frames per second.
The networks have initially polarized into various high definition
formats. CBS and NBC are opting for 1080i while ABC is subscribing
to 720p. Fox has also decided on 720p but say they will not be doing
any HD in the near future. Most of the networks have gone on record
as saying they will broadcast only limited programming in HD with
the anticipation that they will increase the number of HD programs
as viewership numbers in HD improve. The networks do not appear
to have learned how to manage their bandwidth as yet and opt for
the narrowest of the HD forms. 1080i is basically 2 each 540 pictures
scanned at 60 fields, interlaced together to form the 1080i picture
at 30 frames per second (fps). The holy grail of HD is 1080p at
60 fps, but compression techniques have not been develop, as yet,
that can compress this much data into the 6 MHz at 19.4 Mbts standard.
The operative words here are, "as yet."
It is anticipated that the affiliates will probably follow the networks
on their choice of formats. Just because a network sends one format
is no guarantee the station will broadcast it. There is nothing
preventing a station from receiving the network feed in one format
and converting it over to another. Observations of this happening
confirm this as fact.
PBS has said
they will broadcast HD at night and SD in the daytime. As has been
stated elsewhere in this report, not many stations have committed
to multicasting, but once the opportunities are more fully realized,
that is an area worth watching.
Background on Interlace vs. Progressive Scan
Progressive scan means just that. If the picture is 720 lines that's
how many are needed to make up the complete picture. The same is
true of 1080 progressive. This is not true of interlace. To make
up a complete 720 line picture in interlace the picture is scanned
360 lines which is the first field then scanned a second time 360
lines which are interspersed between the first 360 lines.
By the same token, to make up a complete 1080 line picture in interlace
the picture is scanned 540 lines which is the first field then scanned
a second time 540 lines which are interspersed between the first
This all takes less bandwidth than a progressive scan picture and
that's why they do it. Obviously two pictures taken at different
points in time and put together are not as good as one complete
picture scanned top to bottom as is the case with progressive scan.
This is why many industry experts support the progressive format
over the interlace. This is why ABC and someday, Fox are using 720
progressive as it makes for better pictures.
If the technology is ever developed to squish the very wide bandwidth
1080 progressive at 60 frames per second, we'd have the most beautiful
pictures you can imagine. HD looks good in all its formats, but
what has been called the "Holy Grail" is 16x9 - 1080 progressive
- 60 frames per second: It looks fantastic. Unfortunately, it won't
fit into the 6 MHz at 19.4 Gbts that the FCC has mandated at this
NTSC is 525 interlace with only about 480 lines of active video.
The rest of the lines are used for vertical synchronizing information.
This is done at 60 fields or 30 frames per second. So current NTSC
television only has about 240 lines per field times two for the
picture (480 frames).
HD / SD Formats Planned For Initial Use
Initially about half the US TV stations polled (49.3%) expect to
broadcast in standard definition at 480i/p. There appears to be
confusion among stations as to the definitions of HD and SD. This
is apparent since, in the prior question, 77% reported that they
will begin HDTV broadcasts in standard definition -- yet only 49%
report planning to go with 480 i/p. However if you add those that
reported 480 i/p (49%) and those reporting 720 i/p (27%), you get
76% -- the same as those reporting SD. Hence it is apparent there
are many in station management who, at this time, who don't know
Similarly 44% expect to broadcast in 1080 i/p - close to the 51%
who reported planning to go with HD broadcasts - again, most stations
are referring to 1080 i/p as HD. It is anticipated that interlace
will give way to progressive scan as the technology develops that
can compress the material into the appropriate bandwidth.
Obviously some stations expect to broadcast more than one format
- hence the total adding up to more than 100%. Those stations that
don't know will probably opt for some SD format that is bumped up
HD / SD Formats Planned After a Year of DTV Broadcast
After a year of DTV broadcasting, more US TV stations will adopt
formats other than those initially adopted. An additional one in
ten stations (9.8%) plan to add 1080 i/p; 12% plan to add 720 i/p;
while 7% plan to add 480 i/p. Almost one in four stations (24%)
remains unsure as to which formats they will be using.
It is anticipated that most broadcasters entering the digital arena,
even after a year, will do so with standard definition. It is the
most familiar aesthetically. HD programming will most likely come
solely from the networks and syndicaters with the station easing
into whatever HD format gains prominence.
The Tech Notes are published for broadcast professionals,
and others, who are interested in Electronic Cinema, DTV, etc.,
by Larry Bloomfield and Jim Mendrala. We can be reached by
either e-mail or land lines (408) 778-3412, (661) 294-1049 or fax
at (661) 294-0705. News items, comments, observations, opinions,
etc., are encouraged and always welcome. Material may be edited
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