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ATV / DTV Standards

I had to let a couple of days go by before replying 'cause my first take on
this message sure felt like a personal attack.  Maybe I read too much into
it.  If that's the case I apologize for doing so...

>To those who can't be bothered to look at the ATSC standard, or can't
>comprehend it, laughter is probably as good a response as any.

I read them and understand them very well... and I still think they did a
poor job.  The problem I have with all this stuff is that I don't see any
foresight.  How important will NTSC or PAL "compatibility", of any degree,
be in 10, 20, 30 or 50 years?   Zip.  Zero. Insignificant.
The solution to a problem is rarely the most complicated route.  The
of  "standards" is nothing less than a tower-of-babel in a TV version.
Nobody knows
what language to choose for fear of going the wrong route.

While it is true that a certain percentage of current programming would be
adversly affected by up/down and sideways conversions, I do believe that a
long term adoption of a standard that had as it's aim the promotion of a
"digital film" equivalent for both production, post and transmission would
have immense long-term advantages.

The 29.97 world is nothing more than an abomination that resulted from
trying to make peace with the black-and-white world when color was
introduced.  I don't see reason enough to protect and guarantee it's future
for the next
fifty years.  The only standard I would seek to protect would be one that is
closely linked to the primary aquisition media:  film.  Film will probably
be around for a long, long time.

What would happen with the millions of poor soles that wouldn't be able to
watch 24fps material on their 29.97 or 25fps sets?  Simple, Sony,
Matsushita, Sharp, Philips, etc.  would come out with cute little $150 to
$250+ boxes that you could buy to "convert" your set.  Let the
consumer-world machinery deal with this stuff.  When it comes to producing
complex hardware in the millions they can do it cheaply.

As to the issues surrounding the post-production stage conversion from
29.97fps interlaced to 24fps non-interlaced..... I urge you not to
underestimate the capabilities
of the thousands of bright design engineers working for the many companies
supplying our industry.  I am sure a very nice solution would eventually
develop if that was THE conversion problem of the next big step in TV.

The other argument I would present is that the lifeblood of our industry is
new programming.  Be it commercial or long-form.  Most of the companies we
work for wouldn't exist if there wasn't a constant influx of new work.  What
I'm getting to here is that the "legacy" issues would be limited to some of
the stuff that couldn't be re-transfered from film.  Definitely a lot of
work, but in the context of looking forward ten, twenty or thirty years, as
I said before, the issues are insignificant.

So, criticizing is easy you say?  What would I have done if I was King?
I would simplify:

2- All production, post and delivery formats would operate at 24 fps.
3- A minimum legal resolution would be defined.  Say 480  (of course "P")
4- The "file format"  (because you could think of programming as just huge
data files)
     would contain regularly repeated headers with format and technical
     This would be the mechanism used to produce, and work with, higher
5-  Define a set of standard higher resolutions.  The idea here is to give
      manufacturers a roadmap to follow for future upgrades.  My thought on
this would be
      to agree on what 35mm film resolution is, and simply work in fractions
of this
      number.... so, you would have 1F, 1/2F, 1/3F, 1/4F, etc.  ("F"
denoting full film
      This would be SO much easier to sell to a client than what we have
now!!!!   "We can
      do your project at 1/4F or 1/2F depending on your budget"

That's basicly it.  At the transmission-end stations would then expect to
see a tape that would follow a single standard.  You wouldn't have the silly
battles we have now with one guy going 480P while the other insists on
1080i.  Chances are that with a simplified standard most prime grade work
would be done at 1/2F until technology allowed real time 1F resolution.
Lower grade work (sitcoms, news, etc) would probably opt for 1/4F or 1/3F
depending on budget.  Manufacturers would be able to supply equipment
knowing full well that they would be dealing with a consistently extensible
signal standard for the next 50 years (or whatever).  My guess is that for
five to ten years you would rarely see anything higher than 1/4 to 1/3F

My basic thought is that ATV/DTV should have as it's goal to deliver
"digital film" as opposed to some techno-soup of formats.  In this fashion
you could think of delivery choices such as 35mm or 16mm resolution analogs
depending on budget, etc.

> To those of us who do understand it, it is one of the most intelligent and
> thought out documents (or set of documents actually) ever produced in any
>  technical field.

A bit exagerated, I think.   Wanna read something intelligent and well
thought out?  How about the Space Shuttle technical and piloting manuals?
Now, there you have over a thousand pages or hard-core science.  It took me
six months worth of weekends to read them.

>Eighteen recommended formats (36 if you count the 0.1% slower "sister"
>that were thrown in for backwards compatability with NTSC) are a problem?

Four, maybe five formats, that's what the world needed, not what we got.

I'm sorry to have to say this because I am an Engineer and I have extensive
digital, analog and software design experience.  But, what we got is exactly
what you get when you let a bunch of Engineers loose with no crosschecks
with reality.

Go ask a salesperson if he/she would rather try to sell one of 36 formats or
4 or 5 easily understood formats that are simply on a linear scale of
resolution and content quality?
What if you sell your client on 1080i and then, when the program is
sindicated and they convert to 720P it looks like crap.  Who's going to be
liable for the decision?

> Some of the original 36 formats will probably never see the light of day,
> will be used for a while and then disappear, and new ones may emerge.

And that's smart?

Again, just my own (never) humble opinion.


Thanks to Queue Systems and Lipsner Smith for support in 1998.
No product marketing allowed on the main TIG.  Contact rob at alegria.com
1000 subscribers in 39 countries on Mon Jul 13 14:36:38 PDT 1998 
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