Published by: Larry Bloomfield & Jim Mendrala
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Tech Note - 022 (Thanksgiving Edition)
Sharing experiences, knowledge or anything else
relating to DTV, HDTV etc. with your fellow engineers: That’s what
we are all about. We will send this to anyone asking, just E-mail
us. If you are receiving this newsletter and didn’t ask for it or
want to get off the list, just e-mail us that request. Welcome
to all the new subscribers. We hope everyone, new and long
time subscribers, will participate in all ways with comment, experiences,
questions and/or answers. This is YOUR forum!
It’s been a while since we put out the last
issue of this forum. No excuses this time, we just didn’t
any of those round “Tu.” its. If all goes well, we got some
now and will get back to putting this newsletter out a little more
regularly. Again thanks to the many subscribers who have e-mailed
and called to find out what has happened to us. Andrew from
“Blessed by an Angle” has not visited the Tech Notes. We are
alive! And for that we’ll be Thankful. Happy Thanksgiving—from
the two of us.
Some DTV notes from Larry’s desk.
There’s a new standard for Closed Captioning.
Check out http://www.CEMAcity.org
EIA-708. It allows for different kinds of fonts and different
colors, but it’s not for NTSC. Yes, the new standard is for
DTV. WGBH did some work in this are recently and set a first
in the ever-growing DTV book of Firsts.
In a recent survey I took of broadcast engineering
managers in the top 10 markets, they told me, by the numbers, that
one of the biggest problems they were having making digital TV a
reality was the availability of equipment. Since many television
stations have made the transition to an analog video server as their
main stay for commercial play back, program delay and other familiar
uses, it has become an important item to be considered for the digital
plant as well. News of such a device certainly deserves mentioning.
When someone told me that “Pluto” had developed
such a device, all I could thing of was the mythological Roman god,
the ninth and farthest planet from the sun or thoughts of the gangly,
floppy eared Disney dog, but certainly not a video server. Was I
I wasn’t too far off track when I thought of
the planet because Pluto has developed, what they are calling, The
HyperSPACE HDCAM. Now the HDCAM part of the name comes from
Pluto’s association with Sony. The HyperSPACE HDCAM is a playout
server designed to be used in HDTV broadcast applications.
It is random-access, so it should work well with station automation
and can be put to work as a Hi-Def disk recorder for post-production
The way the project went together was that
the R&D team at Pluto Technologies International used the HDCAM
compression technology developed by Sony. The product will
allow broadcasters, cable operators, Direct Broadcasters and Post-productions
houses to operate in one environment (HDCAM) minimizing “generational”
video quality loss that improves the on-air product.
The HyperSPACE HDCAM is designed as a “plug and
play” device and is initially
being offered in several packages ranging from
a simple server/encoder, for
reliable storage and random access to media, to
larger systems that include an
editor, switcher and VCRs. No mention was
made as to video formats
accommodated. For additional information,
visit either the Pluto web site at
or the Sony web site at
Beyond the Label
Character Generators (CG) have been around
for a while and aren’t particularly newsworthy; unless the one you’re
talking about is new, different and does a lot of really “neat things.”
That is the case with this “new box” from Pinnacle.
Within the past year or so, while Chief at
my last station, I looked at quite a few CGs trying to find a replacement
for an aging workhorse that was becoming increasingly more undependable:
an all too familiar story, I’ sure. I had almost every known manufacturer,
or their rep, stop by to show me their “goodies.” As an NBC
affiliate, we wanted to look like them, but hardly had the budget
to cover the cost of the paperwork the Peacock factory used to buy
their CGs with.
This fall, when I was invited to have a “look-see”
at Pinnacle’s new FXDeko, I was truly impress with what I saw and
all that it does; shatters, 3D space rotations, warps into position,
and more. At the risk of sounding like a product review or
infomercial, I’d like to share with you only the things that impressed
me the most and let the salesmen take care of the rest.
Besides being a character generator that will
handle most any font library going, including Chyron’s, it’s also
a digital video effects (DVE) generator that will take two channels
of external video and put them though the same gyrations it puts
the fonts through. It interfaces with other systems such as
equipment made by Quantel.
Speaking of fonts, I had a very difficult time
a few years back finding a CG that would handle non-Roman language
fonts. Although most places don’t have the requirement, it’s
nice to know that the FXDeko supports Arabic, Hebrew, Cyrillic,
Chinese, Japanese, Korean script and probably a few I can’t remember.
You never know when you might get a job requiring one of those systems
The built-in Frame Grabber lets you snag images
from video clips, etc., extending your Creative Services’ ability
to come up with unique and good looking local material while retaining
that certain “image” and still looking distinctively different.
Being NT based, with both hard drive and standard
3.5-inch floppy drive for memory, it’s compatible with other similar
based equipment. The “box” is reported to be DTV ready (whatever
that means). It runs in all currently popular analog formats;
NTSC, PAL S-Video, etc. Inputs are RGB, YUV or serial D1 and
the outputs are the same plus SMPTE/EBU and key.
The FXDeko lists out at about half the cost
of the “industry leaders” comparable top of the line. I’ll
let you go away trying to figure out who that is. I’m purposely
not going to mention price as we all know the FXDeko will ship for
various prices, depending on who you “strike a deal” with.
Good luck and good looking.
Check out Pinnacle’s web site at: http://www.pinnaclesys.com
Spectrum for Latinum
By Larry Bloomfield
If you’re not a “Trackie,” then you may not
know that Latinum is the intergalactic money of the future and what
it will take “a lot of” if you want a frequency to operate on in
The auctioning off, to the highest bidder,
of frequencies and spectrum is at hand, and will be the way of the
future, in all services under the auspices of the FCC. The
successful party, who vied for an available frequency, will no longer
be a matter of the most qualified or necessarily worthy, but the
one with the most bucks or Latinum.
Many broadcast engineers and technicians are
also amateur radio operators. I’m no exception, KA6UTC.
Those who are may recall, not too long ago when a large chunk of
the 220 MHz amateur band was wrestled away from them by the “guardians
of the air waves,” the FCC.
Want to know what happened to it? Read
on! In report number WT-98-36, the Commission, in a harbinger
of things to come, announced they had, in about a five-week period
and in their 17th auction, raised $21,650,301.00 in net
bids after 173 rounds for the 220 MHz service.
I can’t help but wonder if Daddy Warbucks,
of Little Orphan Annie fame, had been an amateur radio operator
and had bid $22 million, if we couldn’t have retain that spectrum
for amateur radio use?
For more heart throbbing details see the FCC web site at: http://www.fcc.gov
DirecTV High Definition Television Service
for in-store demonstrations
By Jim Mendrala
Since HDTV is the next generation of television
entertainment, a new service from DirecTV will provide to its customers,
it will broadcast the high definition programs from its satellite
in orbit at 95 degrees west longitude rather than its satellites
at 101 degrees west.
The strategy is to keep the current SDTV on
it’s existing satellites at 101 degrees west. This way no DirecTV
customer will be inconvenienced. HDTV consumes more bandwidth so
it will be broadcast via the new 95-degree west satellite.
DirecTV will be the first satellite TV system
that will be built into H/DTV sets. Since DirecTV is in partnership
with Thomson Consumer Electronics, all RCA and ProScan H/DTV sets
will be satellite ready. For those subscribers who want access to
DirecTV, there is a “smart card” slot. For terrestrial reception
there is an antenna connection. DirecTV and the terrestrial broadcaster
will be transmitting digital TV in the MPEG 2 format. This will
make it easy for DTV owners to have access to DirecTV, USSB and
terrestrial channels via a rooftop antenna.
The antenna will have to be changed to a new
elliptical satellite dish to be able to receive the signal from
the 101 and 95 degree satellites.
Programming in HDTV will be mostly demonstrations
in the beginning followed by movie clips, sports, nature and documentary
footage, concerts, with 5.1 channels of sound, and event highlights.
HBO and USSB available on DirecTV will have heir HDTV also. Sometime
in 1999 DirecTV plans on expanding its HDTV programming once consumers
start to take delivery of their HDTV sets.
DirecTV will be “format agnostic” and will
transmit in all ATSC formats. By having the satellite receiver built
in to the DTV set the consumer will have a convenient, all in one,
easy to use television entertainment package.
For additional information, visit their web
One other note: Thomson has publicly
stated that their new digital TV sets will on be able capable of
displaying about 1 million pixels. That’s only half the pixels
broadcasters of high definition will be transmitting.
Dose EchoStar know about this?
By Larry Bloomfield
The headlines read: “Local TV On Satellite
Hires Veteran Broadcaster as Chief
Since there are over 1700 television station
in the USA, it would seem to me that Local TV on Satellite might
be a very ambitious venture for these folks. Since some of
the cable folks are balking at the new DTV/HDTV formats and are
iffy about having to carry more than one of the two TV station from
the same operator in the same market, maybe this is an answer.
It may also be an answer to the problem of translators and what’s
to become of them. Remember that many of the communities in
the and West of the Rocks depend on translators for their TV service.
Portland, OR stations along have anywhere from 50 to 75 translators
each. In the 202nd market, Bend, Oregon, I had
8 translators when I was Chief Engineer there, but with the number
of stations to be considered across this fruited plane, this is
quite an undertaking!
According to the press release, John H. Hutchinson,
a veteran broadcasting executive will join Capitol Broadcasting
Company, Inc. as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer,
a new position.
Hutchinson, will have the job of implementing
LTVS’s plan to deliver all local television stations in the U.S.
via satellite, giving consumers alternatives to their cable providers
and translator systems. He joins LTVS after 28 years with Jefferson-Pilot
Communications Company, the last seven as President of the Television
Group and General Manager of WBTV in Charlotte, N.C. During his
career, he’s held a variety of broadcast management positions.
Hutchinson is a member of the Television Board of Directors of the
National Association of Broadcasters and a District Representative
on the CBS Affiliates Advisory Board. He holds a BA degree from
the University of North Carolina.
Jim Goodmon, President and Chief Executive
Officer of Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc., said, “John Hutchinson’s
extensive broadcasting experience will be a huge asset as LTVS develops
its business plan to provide meaningful competition in the multi-channel
video programming market.”
When asked about his new position and about
LTVS, Hutchinson responded, “I believe LTVS has the technological
‘local-to-local’ solution that broadcasters and Direct Broadcast
Satellite (DBS) providers need to give consumers greater choice,
better service and lower prices. I look forward to making local
television via satellite the industry standard.”
Local TV on Satellite, LLC was founded in 1997
by Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc. and its subsidiary, Microspace
Communications Corporation, to develop and implement a plan to deliver
all local television stations in the U.S. via satellite. Using “spotbeam”
satellite technology, LTVS would make DBS providers fully competitive
with cable, providing quality transmission of all local television
stations in all local markets. Current laws prohibit DBS providers
from carrying local stations. Congress is considering legislation
this session that would change all that, guaranteeing all consumers
access to local programming from all providers.
CONTACT: Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc. James F.
Something to Give Cable a Headache
By Larry Bloomfield
It looks like the goal of giving cable a worthy
competitor is working not only here in this country, but worldwide.
According to a report from Cahners In- Stat Group, a high-technology
market research firm who claim to have comprehensive understanding
of computer and convergence, networking, wireless, telecommunications,
Internet, enterprise software, and semiconductor markets, say that
worldwide digital direct broadcast satellite (DBS) subscribers will
reach 55.4 million in 2002. That’s five times the number of
subscribers in 1997. The report also says that the growing
DBS platforms will enable the number of worldwide subscription revenue
to reach $28 billion by 2002.
Michelle Abraham, senior analyst with Cahners
In-Stat Group’s Multimedia service, and author of the report, said:
“Though DBS systems have been around since the 1970s, the transition
from analog to digital systems, as well as the start-up of new service
providers, continues to provide growth for digital DBS service providers.
Even areas of the world hit by economic problems have continued
to grow the number of subscribers to DBS services.”
The Digital DBS Industry report provides DBS
subscriber and subscription revenue forecasts through 2002 and includes
profiles of digital DBS service providers from North America, Latin
America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia Pacific, Japan and
the rest of the world.
Another recently published report by the same
group focused on the DBS set top box and its semiconductor components
in which they forecast that digital DBS set top box shipments will
reach 20 million units in 2002, with the semiconductor dollars per
box dropping to $26. This information should be of interest
to both manufacturer and consumer in light of the deregulation permitting
consumers to own their own set top boxes.
For additional information, visit their web
Yo Ho Ho and a Geo-Satellite or Two
By Larry Bloomfield
Since many of my fellow Broadcast Engineering
types got their start in the military, I though they’d like to know
some of what’s going on today. Even though the times are a
chaingin’, it was like stepping back in history, when I learned
about the Navy’s launch of their most recent UHF Follow-On satellite,
built by Hughes Space and Communications Company.
Liftoff was at 3:19 a.m. EDT October 20, 1998
from Cape Canaveral Air Station aboard a Lockheed Martin Atlas IIA
rocket. About 30 minutes later, UHF F9 was injected into an
elliptical transfer orbit and about 5 minutes later, satellite controllers
received signals from UHF F9, indicating all systems were operating
normally. The elliptical transfer orbit is what gets the geo-stationary
or geosynchronous satellite out to 22,300 miles where it can go
into its 24-hour orbit.
The satellite is the ninth in the series, as
well as the second of three with a revolutionary Global Broadcast
Service (GBS) payload. When the third GBS spacecraft is launched
next year, the Department of Defense will have near-global high-speed,
wideband coverage on land, at sea and in the air. The F8, F9 and
F10 satellites continue to carry the baseline narrowband UHF and
protected EHF payloads as well. Unlike it’s sister spacecraft
that are used for Direct to Home entertainment with a fixed footprint,
the GBS payload has three GBS steerable downlink spot beam antennas,
in addition to one steerable and one fixed GBS uplink antenna.
This antenna modification results in a 96 Mbps capability.
UHF F9 is the eighth launch of the year for Hughes, and it is the
43rd HS 601 spacecraft to be launched.
By Jim Mendrala
I have visited several stores to see the “what’s
available” in the new H/DTV sets and I’m appalled at what I am seeing.
At one store in the San Fernando Valley they had a Panasonic 53”
16x9 H/DTV set. It was receiving a signal from a local broadcaster.
The NTSC artifacts were, to put it mildly, terrible. The set was
being fed from a DTV receiver box that sells, at this time, for
$1,499. The receiver had outputs for SDTV in composite and S-Video.
The HDTV output was RGB. I was not able to see what connectors were
on the back of the unit so I have no idea how the audio comes out.
There is also a digital output of some kind but the salesperson
didn’t know anything about it as the set only came in a few days
earlier. I asked the salesperson to see if anyone was transmitting
some HDTV so we flipped through all the available channels in the
LA area (4) and no one was transmitting any HDTV at that time. The
problem with the DTV signal was it looked to me like the NTSC composite
signal was being decoded at the transmitter via some cheap type
of NTSC decoder to feed the MPEG encoder that feeds the DTV transmitter.
There was lots of chroma crawl, some blockiness and some interlace
artifacts (and this is supposed to be digital component). The salesperson
then put an HDTV tape into what he said was a D-VHS VCR and we looked
at that. It was much better than the off air DTV signal because
it was in “HDTV”. Compared to DirecTV that I’m used to looking at
in SDTV, the D-VHS looked very nice. No visible scan lines at 3
Another store I visited had a Mitsubishi H/DTV
ready 54” 4x3 set connected to a Mitsubishi DTV receiver/decoder.
The receiver can only be used with the Mitsubishi set as all controls
come from the set via a DB-25 connector. The output of the box is
a proprietary RGB, H and V signal that is only compatible with the
Mitsubishi TV. The box only has a left audio and right audio output.
The pictures received from the 4 Los Angeles stations did not look
as good as the same programs on NTSC sets. The problem with the
picture is that it was lacking detail and overall was blurry. The
salesperson played a tape through a Comark device to simulate what
an HDTV broadcast would look like and it to was blurry. Not as much
as the unconverted NTSC but not as good as real HDTV that I have
Other HDTV ready sets were on the floor but
none were connected to a DTV receiver. The receiver will be offered
as an extra option. The strategy is to get people to by the HDTV
sets for around $6,000-$7,000 and when “DTV catches on” to buy the
DTV receiver for another $4,000 - $5,000 dollars. The sales manager
did not think anyone would buy a complete HDTV system due to it’s
While surfing the four channels, the receiver
took about 1 to 2 seconds to lock up and display the image. While
watching, there were a few MPEG artifacts visible on the NTSC up
conversion. Compared to DirecTV, its reception was full of hits.
Another store didn’t have any HDTVs but had
the new flat panel displays. They were on sale for $14,999 and compared
to a regular TV they lacked contrast and resolution. The pixels
were like looking through a window screen at 4 screen heights distance.
I was not able to evaluate any audio quality
or AC-3 encoded sound. That will have to be later when the stores
start putting the DTVs into their demo rooms.
The buzzword is “HDTV Ready”. It reminds me
of when color was being talked about back in the “fifties” and the
TV set manufacturers put an RCA connector on the chassis so when
the FCC would finally approved a color standard you could plug in
an optional sequential color wheel to receive the new color.
This they advertised as being “color ready”. I hope “HDTV Ready”
doesn’t turn out like the sequential color jack.
For additional information, visit these web
Mitsubishi at http://www.mitsubishi.com
or Panasonic at
The DTV Tech Notes are published for broadcast
professionals who are interested in DTV, HDTV etc. by Larry Bloomfield
and Jim Mendrala. We can be reached by either e-mail (and yes Larry’s
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