THE DIGITAL TRANSITION: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly about the Digital Transition (Part 2)

No matter what you’ve heard, there are always good and bad points to any technology. The transition to digital is no different. Let’s at least mention some of the good points before we talk about the bad parts of this whole digital thing.

Better picture quality is the most notable and easily visible quality of the Digital delivery system over Analog

I’m sure you’ve already heard some of the hype surrounding the transition. Most of what the sales people focus on is the picture quality and I really can’t fault them for that.  The quality, (even in the lower resolution of digital and HD picture quality) is much better than the old analog broadcast and it should be. It generally has a minimum of twice the resolution.

So what does that mean? It means that there are more lines in the picture. (More lines generally translates to mean better picture quality.) The old analog signal only has around 250-265 lines. The new signal generally has a minimum of 480. Another thing you will notice when people talk about the lines of resolution is either a thing called “i” or “p” after the listed number of lines, (480i, 720i, 720p, 1080i, 1080p…etc). The “i” stands for interlaced scan and the “p” stands for progressive scan. In this article I won’t get into the technical discussion of the two. I really just want you to understand a little more about the nomenclature most widely used. (I’ll save the other discussion for another day. Who knows, I may even bring in a friend to explain it to us better than I can.) (We’ll see what happens…but…I  promise it will be sooner than later.)

So why do I mention all this technical stuff, anyway? I don’t know for sure, but I guess it’s just the technician in me. (You’ll find I also have the tendency to build a person a clock when they ask me what time it is.)

Without getting too technical, what if someone mentions to you the quality of a program they are watching and they say, “this program is in 480 i, what does that mean?” You can tell them, “It means that there are four hundred and eighty lines of resolution and it is interlaced.” (Wow, don’t you just love the power you now have to make that statement.)

In reality, I think most of you are probably saying, “So what does all of this mumbo, jumbo mean?”

Since it is easier to show than to tell, I would like you to check out what I consider a really good illustration comparing the two at:

< http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_scan >

This will help you understand the two types of scan delivery we see on our TVs the most. A full understanding of television is a much more involved process than I want to offer here, but at least, after visiting that link, you may understand the difference between the two types of scan a little better. (Besides, I fully understand that most people just want to watch their TVs, not know how to build them.)

Interlacing is still necessary today and solved a big signal delivery problem early on in television broadcasts. It was the norm for many years. Progressive scan does not fully replace older technology, but, it does hold a strong place in the new way of delivering pictures to people along the different avenues into peoples’ homes and especially over the internet.

With Digital delivery you can fit more into less

Aside from greatly improved picture quality, another good thing about digital signal delivery is that you can fit more into less. That sounds like a strange statement I know, but, it is true.

Let’s talk about a little thing called available bandwidth. The new digital signals allow stations to offer more in the same amount of bandwidth than analog did. If you’ve had the chance to observe some of the new Television signals, you have probably been a little confused by all of the similar numbers that you find.

As an example I want to use the Naples-Fort Myers DMA local NBC and PBS broadcasts. If you tune your TV or converter box to channels 20-1 and 20-2 you will notice the similarity between the two. 20-1 is the main DTV/HD channel for their local and network programming. You will notice that 20-2 is now called their 2 News Now channel. It is in the same signal as their 20-1 but because of the digital technology, can carry different programming entirely.

There are limitations to the use of their available bandwidth that are dictated by the amount of information they use up with their broadcasts. To simplify, they could possibly broadcast at least up to six channels in their available bandwidth but not all six could be HD channels.

My second example is the local PBS affiliate. If you turn to their channel 30-1 you will find their main broadcast of DTV/HD. Change the channel up to 30-2 and you will find what they now call PBS World. It is generally separate programming from 30-1 and can also be in HD. Their next channel is 30-3 and they call it PBS Create. It is also separate programming from the other two. That brings us to the final example of  their channels 30-4. At the present, this is a lower resolution channel and contains what they call FKN/FLC and carries programming from Florida Schools (Florida Knowledge Network) and the Florida Government Channel (FLC).

As you can see the broadcasters are able to supply more programming in the same amount of bandwidth which is called one channel. This means the consumer has more programming available to watch and it actually only takes up one channel slot of bandwidth. Admittedly, the new signal is 3 mHz wider than the old Analog signal (it is 9 mHz wide as opposed to 6 mHz) but this is one of the good advantages of the new digital broadcast spectrum.

With Digital there is less visible interference

One of the great advantages of digital signal delivery is the absense of snow and ghosting. This is a mixed blessing. In one sense, you should always have clearer pictures because there should be no snowy interference and there should be no ghosting (multi-path) in the picture. In another sense, it could be that because there is such strong multi-path interference, you may not be able to receive a channel’s signal at all, (at least well enough to see a picture). (We’ll talk more about that in part 3, “the Bad”).

Wow! There sure is lot of stuff to talk about when it comes to THE DIGITAL TRANSITION; What do you think? I think we could go on and on, but I also think we will have more on Thursday… so … check back then and hear more on this Digital Transition stuff. That’s where I give my opinion of what I think is bad about the Transition. (Trust me, I won’t be too rough on it ’cause I really like it … well … mostly, anyway.

If you would like to know a little more technical info (and I stress the word technical) about DTV check out the link below:

< http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_television >

There is some really great info on that link …

Hey… this is Russ and:

I’ll see you next time…

© February 2009 – all rights reserved

Norman TV & Video Systems and

Rusty Norman

THE DIGITAL TRANSITION: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly about the Digital Transition (Part 1)

You’ve heard all the rumors and the confusing information, now is the time for some clear and concise information on this thing called “The Digital Transition”.

With the changes taking place over the last several months and the one that is taking  place today, I saw a need for a source of good information to be available for all of you out there and I intend to do my best to keep you informed, especially with the touted digital transition taking place today, (even though it’s deadline is actually being extended by the government to June 12th which will be observed by some, but not all.)

I can hear you now and you are asking, “Why should you listen to me … and  why do I think I know anything about it anyway?

First of all, I am no-one special and it’s no big deal, but I have been working on televisions and with antennas, satellite and private cable systems since 1985. That doesn’t mean I know it all, it just means I am familiar with the technologies that are used for signal reception and viewing. In fact, it is my opinion, the more you learn about technology, the more you find you need to learn, if for no other reason than it keeps changing so often.

So, what is this digital transition stuff all about?

I get calls all of the time about the “transition” and it is amazing to me how much wrong information is being shared with people about to experience one of the largest technical changes in their lifetime. Maybe “wrong information” is a little strong because I don’t really believe people are trying to mislead anyone, I just think there needs to be a better understanding of the consumers and what they are going through instead of someone always trying to sell them something.

Here’s how I see it. Sales people are programmed to make sales and sometimes the item they are selling is not the most necessary for the consumer’s need. That is not an indictment of sales people, but it is a fact that they are “sales” people and they make their living by selling stuff.

You’ve already heard on the news about the extension offered by the government until June 12th, but many of the major broadcasters have opted to eliminate their analog broadcasts anyway. As it stands at this writing, most of the major broadcasters in our area (Naples-Fort Myers DMA) are definitely adhering to the original Feb 17th deadline and it will happen by 12:00 noon. Some may think this unfair, but there are many sides to this situation and I will try to hit on a few of the important ones in this article.

First, and most unfortunately, many are still confused by what is about to take place. Hopefully this article will alleviate some of that confusion and make you feel more comfortable with what you do, or don’t, have and what you do, or don’t, need.

Let’s say, for example’s sake, you are watching the NBC local station (Ch20 or Ch2 cable) a little before noon today, February 17th, 2009, and you receive that transmission by an off-air antenna of some sort. Just before the noon news begins, your picture turns to snow. This means you were watching the analog signal for viewing their broadcast.

If you have no other way of receiving their signal (such as a satellite receiver, a cable box, a digital-to-analog converter or a TV with a digital tuner) you will be out of luck. You will no longer be able to receive their analog broadcast because it is being shut off.

If you have the other type of reception devices, then you will have to switch over to using which-ever one of them you have to continue viewing NBC’s local broadcast.

If you have none of  the devices mentioned above, then you will no longer be able to view their signals until you invest in one of them to use.

Second, if someone tells you you need a “SPECIAL” antenna to replace your existing antenna to receive the digital/HD signals, DON’T LISTEN TO THEM! If your existing outdoor antenna is properly receiving the local analog signals and your pictures were good and clear, you will, more than likely, be able to receive all of the existing local digital/HD signals for viewing. (Unfortunately, some antennas do not measure up to this statement.)

If you were using rabbit ears (or sometimes called a set top antenna) and had decent  reception of your favorite local channels, you may or may not be able to have good reception of the local digital/HD channels. It is my opinion, and believe me, I have worked with many differing types of ‘rabbit ears’, that they are not always capable of receiving the digital signals at a proper level to show you a picture. You have to remember, the digital pictures are either going to be there or they are not. The digital pictures will not go to snow as the old analog signals did. Once the signal drops down to a certain threshold level it will no longer key the converter or TV to show a picture.  Usually you will get an error message of some sort (such as a black screen with the message … no signal, or, possibly even just a black screen.)

Well, that should get you through today.  So… tune in tomorrow and we’ll continue this discussion and my opinion about “the Good and the Bad”  about “THE DIGITAL TRANSITION”

Hey, this is Russ and:

I’ll see you next time …

© February 2009…

Norman TV & Video Systems and Rusty Norman

THE DIGITAL TRANSITION: Get ready… here it comes!!!

READY OR NOT…Here it comes!!!

This is the day before the formerly designated day of the transition of high power broadcast stations from both analog and digital to digital only. Although I know there has been an extension of the transition date to June, still most of the stations in our area (Naples-Fort Myers,FL DMA) are shutting off their analog broadcasts permanently tomorrow, Feb 17th, 2009.

There will be a minimal effect on people in our area because many have already prepared for the change by purchasing their D2AC (digital to analog converters) or are already receiving their locals via Cable or Satellite.

Let there be no fear or confusion, this is a good thing but will not, and has not, come about without quite a bit of misunderstanding and confusion. Don’t be fearful of this day, it will pretty much take place without much notice except by the news media (especially the locals) and the people that will be affected by the analog shut off and just don’t know it yet.

I will be sharing some thoughts with you over the next week or so about what I call “The Good , the Bad and the Ugly of the Digital Transition.” I do think you will find this three part article interesting and informative even though it is a little after the fact (at least, for our area) it is still useful and relevant info.

By the way, this that you are reading is the beginnings of the Norman TV newsletter.  I call it  “The NTV View”. As time progresses, it will be a great place for information on many things concerning what’s going on in TV and Satellite, (we’ll let the cable guys inform you about their stuff), and about equipment in both of those areas. I think you will want to visit us often and probably even sign up to receive it on a regular basis. (STAY TUNED FOR ALL OF THAT ,coming soon!)

For today, just know that tomorrow will be the first of my three part article on “THE DIGITAL TRANSITION: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly…”

See ya, right here, next time…

Rusty

© Feb 2009 – all rights reserved

Norman TV & Video Systems

Hello and Welcome to Norman TV’s new site

Hi everybody, and welcome to our new site.  This is just the beginning of what I want to do and, over the next few weeks, I’m sure you will see changes happening here on a regular basis.  Don’t worry, though; eventually I will settle into what some would call consistency and will have a handle on the new layout and offerings.

For now I keep this short but there is much more to come in the very near future.  Stay tuned for our newsletter called: “the NTV View” and our soon coming podcasts. I’m even hoping to throw in some teaching videos on some of the questions I get asked the most. SO…stay in touch and come back often.  You’ll be glad you did!!!

Hey… this is Russ and:

I’ll see you next time …

Thanks