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CCD vs. Flying Spot

The recent discussions of flying spot vs. CCD technology have been
informative and lively. I am, of course, assuming that these discussions
relate to HDTV or higher reslution scanning from these devices so I limit
my comments to that arena only.

The Spirit DataCine has proven a true contender for the championship title
but I have to say that the flying spot system is by no means down for the
count. Unfortunately, Cintel has been too quient too long about the
"C-Reality" (yes, please! show us reality!) so I cannot speak to it's
performance.  I can say that there are now 3 commercially available flying
spot  HDTV systems in the LA area. Here at Universal, IVC in Burbank and
now HTV. All these systems have proven that flying spot scanning still has
a very impressive story to tell. It also proves that anybody with a MK IIIC
in the back room now has the future potentional of upgrading to a fully
functional and competitive answer to the CCD alternative at a fraction of
the cost.

I don't know the specs of the others, but at Universal we have done our own
shoot-out with the 'Spirit' as well as Sonys system and were pleased with
the results. Yes, all those issues raised by Mike Kaye and others are valid
and have made me (us) lose much sleep. But regardless of what the Physics
textbook says, we can achieve a 30mhz sweep; an MTF flat to 800 lines; and
a S/N ratio of 56db at .4 gamma and 59db at linear gamma.     These results
have prompted certain observers to ask where we are hiding the CCD camera
inside the MKIII chassis!! Others have simply stated that it's impossible
and walked away. Most say they are encouraged and impressed.

The real key is that we have been doing this for 4 years, in a commercially
viable HDTV mastering environment, and our experience has taught us flying
spots can still fly to new heights. We have yet to examine what can be done
with higher sensitivity in the cell box, larger CRT surfaces, digital
deflection, better optics etc., etc., 

The CCD systems, on the other hand, require a huge amount of re-tooling to
yield increases in resolution or performance. Remember that the Spirit is
really only 1k by 1.5k scan with detail added and interpolated up to HDTV
output (2k x 1k)  The current flying spot systems are 2k x 1.2k RGB full
bandwidth scanning.

This industry is going through a huge transition now with ATV and HDTV
looming around the corner, big bucks are being spent with wild claims being
made to justify the expenditure. What really needs to be said is "Wait a
dog-gone minute, what are my real options here?  Does $1.3 million get me
twice the performance of $600,000? Can I assure my clients that the new
rate card gives them the best high resolution product? Will the upgraded
MKIII really carry me into the future?" and most important  "Will Cintel
really come through with a commercialially available hi rez scanner before
NAB and make the competition really interesting????" ( Peter Swinson...
jump in any time)

The answers will not come easy, but nothing in this bizz ever does!!

Ron Martin
rlmarti at unistudios.com

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