The Final Countdown: Only 11 More Days to the Digital Transistion Completion

Stay tuned to Norman TV over the next twelve days for some helpful information about exactly what is about to happen. Just in case you don’t know (or have forgotten), the final date for the Digital Transition is June 12, 2009 and it is coming fast. If you haven’t made plans for keeping your local channel reception from antenna, you are running out of time…

What does all this mean to you?

Several things:

  1. If you receive your locals from antenna reception of some sort, you will be losing your high power analog channels in 12 days.
  2. If you haven’t already, you need a digital to analog converter to continue receiving your locals via your antenna system.
  3. Even though you have good reception of your local analog channels through your antenna system does not guarantee you will have good reception of all of your available digital channels.
  4. If you have heard that you can get your digital channels through a set top antenna, (rabbit ears), you may be disappointed to find you can’t.
  5. If you receive your locals from satellite or antenna, you are fine for now.

Over the next twelve days, as we count down to the completion of the digital transition, we will be talking about what is and what isn’t happening. You may be surprised at some of the questions we have been asked, so, check back with us everyday to catch a short report in the NTV View (our video magazine). Everyday over the next twelve we’ll present a short video presentation (plus the written version) of some of those questions and a countdown to the final transistion.

THE DIGITAL TRANSITION: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (part 4)

As a little review of the last three articles (maybe even the last four), we have taken a general look at the  The Digital Transition itself where we discovered it was coming whether we were ready or not.  We also touched on some of the new nomenclature like the difference between interlace scan and progressive scan.

We took a very short look at  The Good side of it where we found the best features are probably the quality of the pictures that we see as compared to the old analog pictures. Another Good part was the lack of snow and reflections (ghosts) in the pictures and that was a great improvement over the way the analog signals were viewed on many TVs.

After a look at those good points we talked about what I call  The Bad parts of the transition and they included a short discussion on some of the bad parts of making the transition from analog to digital.  In that discussion, we found that making the transition was not at all as easy as some would’ve had us believe. It came with its own set of complications as well.

Now I want to tell you some of ” The Ugly” parts (at least that’s what I call them) of the digital transition.

Let me start by asking a question:

When you were being told how easy the transition was going to be, did anyone ever make it clear to you that you would need one converter box for each TV in your home?

I think the answer to that question is more than likely going to be answered with a “Yes”, but, I am not sure how many were really listening at the time. It seemed to me at the time, the people making the ads for the transition simply ASSUMED people would  understand that part. Now, I do have to admit I did hear it mentioned at times, but it seemed to me it was only in passing.

It is my opinion one of  The Ugliest facts of the transition is that I don’t think it was ever really made clear to the general public that needed a converter box to make the transition that they may actually need two converter boxes at one viewing location.

The reason I make that statement calling for two is, if they want to be able to record a program different than what they are actually watching, they would need one for the TV and one for the VCR or DVD recorder. This came as a shock to many and I did receive several calls about this particular situation. I don’t remember ever hearing anyone say anything about this in preparing the nation for the “coming digital transition.” (They may have, but I sure don’t remember it.)

Some of these customers actually do use  two converter boxes at one location so they can continue their viewing life according to the way they are familiar with. Others chose to stop recording all together because it became too complicated and, now, only watch their programs live. Some now record some of their favorites while they are out with a single converter box, but watch the rest of their favorite programs live or not at all the first time around and wait for the reruns.

The next UGLY fact has to do with their set top antennas. It seems no one really told them they would need at least one set for each viewing location,  (if they had more than one TV in the house). If they wanted to record and the signal wasn’t strong enough to pass through a splitter, they would need one for the VCR or DVD recorder and one for the TV along with that second converter box.

(Let’s see, now, Rusty… You’re telling me if I want to view one program and record another, I will need two converter boxes and possibly even two sets of  set top antennas? )

Yep … that’s true.

Are you beginning to see a pattern developing here? Yeah, I kinda thought you would. You see, even in hind sight, you wonder if anybody ever thought far enough ahead to make these facts clear to the consumers. In fact, I wonder if they ever really thought about it until it was too late to tell them properly.  I’m sure the information was available, it’s just that people in charge, once again, ASSUMED that people would just understand or know about all of this stuff. Unfortunately, the results have not proved that to be the case.

Now, lest you think I am just picking on places that only have set top antennas, I can tell you I have also run into reception problems with existing antennas that received all of the analog signals clearly and yet do not get all of the digital signals. This is probably one of the most frustrating things I have come across in this Digital Transition.

It appears to me that some of the antennas are possibly just too old and tired and don’t have enough gain anymore to pull enough signal for all of the digital signals. Of course, we do have to leave room in this part of this  discussion for the possibility that the problems mentioned back in part 3 could also be the problems with these antennas. Those problems of  which I speak, of course, are the possible multi-path problems or data stream corruption problems of some sort, that affect the digital signals differently than they did the analog signals.

Now I come to a thing I call a really “unfortunate UGLY ” part.

Because for some, this transition has been quite a bit more complicated than some made it seem, sometimes the average consumer has needed to call in service personnel to help them hook up their converters for one reason or another. It’s not because they didn’t try to do it themselves, it’s because they tried and became totally frustrated.  The unfortunate thing about this is it adds to the individual’s expense for making the transition.

Generally, myself and the service people I know best in the business, have tried to be as reasonable as we can with our charges on calls such as this, but, it has to be remembered that much of what we do is often covered by service calls that are figured by estimated time on site and travel time rates. Depending on what the service company has figured for time on site to make their business profitable tells how much time they are willing to spend trying to make the adjustments or fix the problem. I find many are more than willing to go the extra mile to help. (But, like it or not, our time is our most valuable asset along with what we know, or have learned, through our experience in working on, or with, the equipment we service  in this business.)

I realize I have only scratched the surface of all that has been involved in making this transition and a few of the problems encountered in this discussion. It is my hope, as time progresses, to have answers for some of the more complex and frustrating issues concerning Digital Signal Reception that I do not have at this very moment.

As it is, the transition is new to all of us.  As a technician I want to understand what causes these things so I can better help solve your problems with the transition.  I also want to better help you understand  what you are facing. All of this will take time …

In closing this part, I want you to understand that part of the problems we face in the transition are because we aren’t completely getting rid of the old analog system. Until everything switches totally over to Digital, we have to try and work with what we have been given.

For now, we are having to make two different types of technology work together as one and that is not easy. In the not too distant future, I believe things will get easier for two reasons. The first is because we will understand it better. The second is because everyone will eventually get rid of their analog only equipment and switch over to digital.

Until that happens, we must work with what we have and try to make it work as best we can…

Don’t forget to leave your comments or questions about all of this below in the comments box…

Tune in next time as we will discuss my opinion and possible recommendations for antennas to use, especially in our DMA (Naples-Fort Myers, FL).

See ya 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 3)

Okay, we’ve spent a little time talking about the good parts of the digital transition, but no conversation can be complete without mentioning some of the “bad” that comes along with the transition.

There is a reason why I call this article what I do.

According to the people that wanted to make this transition appear to be less complicated than it really was, all you had to do to make the the transition, (if you used either rabbit ears or outdoor antenna for reception), was plug in your antenna or little set of rabbit ears to your new little digital to analog converter and you will have made the transition.

Simple, huh? Well…that’s the way they made it sound…kinda… and unfortunately, it just hasn’t quite worked out that way.

Many have already experienced some of the frustrations of working with digital signals. The reason I know this is because of the many phone calls I receive concerning problems with receiving the digital signals. Having said that, I can tell you that I have not, as yet, figured out why there is a problem with certain channels.  I’m not admitting defeat and I haven’t given up yet, but, I must admit that some of this has slowed me down a  bit.

I think that is because some of it just doesn’t compute when you take years of working with analog television reception and all of the different situations there. A person would think, “Since I already can receive my locals on my rabbit ears and the pictures are decent, I should be able to receive the digital signals well also?”

Unfortunately, that is not the case.

At first, I assumed the very same thing. I just thought since they got the Analog channels clearly (very little interference) they should get the Digital channels as well. That was my first rude awakening and “bad” experience with the new signal reception. I have had many since then and, to tell the truth, I am more than a little confused at times.

I have just about come to the conclusion that “set top” antennas are just not going to work for everyone, at least in our area.  I do know there are places I have been where they do work, but I have been to more places where they either only get a couple of channels or they get everything but our local CBS affiliate (Naples-Fort Myers DMA).

In communicating with customers about this situation I have run across a lot of frustrated people.

  • First, they were told the Digital transition was going to be almost transparent, (the analog would disappear and the digital would take its place.
  • Second, they were told all they would need to continue watching their favorite local stations was a digital to analog converter box.
  • Third, the government was making it affordable by offering a $40 coupon to go towards the purchase of those converters, (two coupons available per household.)

None of the above statements were made to mislead anyone, they just proved to be very short-sighted and an over-simplification of the entire process.

I’m not here to condemn the conversion, but I do have to point out that it has not gone as well as some might have expected and it is proving to be more of a challenge for some than even I expected.

Let’s face it, there are some that only wanted local channels and nothing else.  For many good reasons, they chose to use the signals they could receive with a very inexpensive “set-top” antenna and got very good reception for years via the analog signals. They were happy and didn’t have to pay extra for it as they would have if they had satellite or cable.

Some live in Condos  (commonly known to satellite and cable people as MDUs or Multiple Dwelling Units) and are not required to have a connection to cable as some of those units do require. Their inexpensive set of “rabbit ears” worked fine and they enjoyed the programs available via the analog signals through them. With the loss of those analog signals and only the digital being available, often their favorite station, or stations, were no longer receivable. For one reason or another they had no reception of the channel via the digital signal…

And that, my friends, is where much of the frustration comes in. I have received numerous calls about one channel, in particular, missing from the digital lineup. It strikes me as strange that the hardest station for people to get with their set-top antennas used to be one of the easiest to get at least in my experience over the years.  I have struggled more with gaining reception of WINK 11-1 (CBS) (in particular while using peoples existing or even a newer set of set top antenna), more than any other channel in the present digital spectrum in our area.

I have no answer as of yet, but I really do think I am getting closer to understanding why it is so hard. I am in contact with some people that I know are a little smarter than I am on this particular subject.

I have learned through experimentation that it seems to take a more directional antenna than the other channels in our area. I have not had the time to try a bunch of VHF/UHF set top antennas because, for one, there are bunch of them out there, and for two, I don’t have the kind of money to invest in something that really won’t matter to many other than my own understanding of it.

What I can say is, if you come back and visit us on a regular basis, we will spend more time on that subject later.

Coming up in part 4, we’ll talk about what I consider to be “The Ugly” of the digital transition…

See ya 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 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:

< >

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:

< >

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…


© Feb 2009 – all rights reserved

Norman TV & Video Systems