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The End of NTSC


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#1 Keith Walters

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Posted 20 June 2009 - 07:47 PM

The recent switch-of of NTSC standard transmissions in the US after almost 70 years of continuous transmission seems to have attracted remarkably little comment.

Of course NTSC is far from dead; a large number of people are still watching it via cable, and/or composite NTSC from digital set-top receivers, as well as DVD players etc.

From what I've read, the main problem has been people who have been content with sometimes severely sub-optimal NTSC reception, suddenly finding they have no reception at all.

In Australia, Analog TV is set to continue until 2013 in the big cities at least and the Federal government is embarking on an educational program to raise awareness of the issue well ahead of time.

I would be interested to hear what problems have people personally encountered in the US that you know of.
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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 20 June 2009 - 08:16 PM

Sadly its shade will live on even after NTSC itself is long out of use, in these ridiculous fractional framerates we're forced to endure.
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#3 Chris Bowman

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Posted 20 June 2009 - 08:45 PM

I work in an electronics department part time, and the biggest misconception that we run into is people insisting that they need a "digital antenna." It is sometimes very hard to convince people that what is important is the tuner/converter, and that the massive power-rotating antenna they already have mounted on the roof of their 3 story house really will work better than the tiny set top antenna that some salesman working on commission at another store told them to buy for $90.

We also get a lot of complaints from people who live out in the sticks who lose a channel or two that they (barely) got on the analog broadcast.

Lots and lots of complaints from people who don't know how to hook up anything that doesn't have 300 ohm leads (it's all color coded, can it possibly be THAT hard?), and people who don't know how to work anything electronic. I've had several older people (including my grandmother!) insist that the new TV's are no good because they don't have a dial. (It took grandma about an hour to decide the remote was her new best friend, though!) There are also a lot of people who think that if the picture falls apart because of bad reception that it means the TV is broken, and assume it's my fault (ah, retail!)

One of my friends lives near train tracks. Every time the train goes past the image completely falls apart and freezes until the train is gone, while the sound remains unaffected. The analog signal used to go a little snowy, but would generally remain watchable.
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#4 Thomas James

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Posted 20 June 2009 - 11:08 PM

The convertor box coupon program is a joke. I tried to use my coupon and the only box that was eligible was low definition 480i . The government even banned standard definition 480p because they consider progressive scanning a luxury. So I used my own money to buy a box capable of 720p and 1080i outputs
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#5 K Borowski

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Posted 21 June 2009 - 12:42 AM

The recent switch-of of NTSC standard transmissions in the US after almost 70 years of continuous transmission seems to have attracted remarkably little comment.

Of course NTSC is far from dead; a large number of people are still watching it via cable, and/or composite NTSC from digital set-top receivers, as well as DVD players etc.

From what I've read, the main problem has been people who have been content with sometimes severely sub-optimal NTSC reception, suddenly finding they have no reception at all.

In Australia, Analog TV is set to continue until 2013 in the big cities at least and the Federal government is embarking on an educational program to raise awareness of the issue well ahead of time.

I would be interested to hear what problems have people personally encountered in the US that you know of.


Why, because you are a supporter of NTSC now too?

Please tell me your reasons for the support of the latter don't mirror those for your support of the former: 35mm film, blind nostalgia for your youth or some past job or event in your past. . .

Film isn't a magic time machine to your past childhood clouded memories. But NTSC definitely, definitely isn't.

Does anyone here really miss NTSC? The only thing I miss about it were mid-'90s broadcasts that didn't have attrocious digital compression.
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#6 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 21 June 2009 - 07:18 AM

We also get a lot of complaints from people who live out in the sticks who lose a channel or two that they (barely) got on the analog broadcast.


I live approximately here, which is about halfway between the terrestrial transmitters here and here, and is perched precariously on the sides of a shallow but solidly built river valley to boot. This means that a lot of digital TV reception round here ends up s- ing lik- -is, a- it's very ann- g for those of us who pr- sly en- d much better perf- ce under the analog regime. Click, whzip, fizz.

This is a commuter town with a population of 120K; it is not out in the sticks. It is a sad but unavoidable fact that the digital signal is vastly less robust than the previous types.

On the upside, it means that if I want to watch news stories about people being mugged, stabbed, stabbed and mugged, raped, shot, or burgled, I can watch BBC London news, or, if I want stories about the price of fertiliser and the Little Crappingham Combine Harvester Race, I can watch Look East. By this technique I've been able to work up my anti-BBC vitriol to previously unheardof levels, which I plan to deploy fully next time I get the chance.

P
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#7 Chris Bowman

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Posted 21 June 2009 - 08:09 AM

This is a commuter town with a population of 120K; it is not out in the sticks. It is a sad but unavoidable fact that the digital signal is vastly less robust than the previous types.


All too true, Phil. I was mostly referring to people who live deep in the woods of Ohio and western Pennsylvania when I referred to "the sticks." It's one of those regions with enough hills, valleys, and trees that receiving any radio transmission is difficult. I can't tell you how many cell phones I've had to return from these same people because they can't get a signal anywhere near their home, despite the fact that there are dozens of towers in the area.

As I mentioned before with the train example, ATSC doesn't hold up all that well to multi-path. It gets confused very easily and falls apart. It also makes using directional antennas more difficult, since a misalignment of only 2-3 degrees can be the difference between perfect reception and no picture at all. Analog signals were much more forgiving, even if their pictures were not as clear and crisp.
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#8 Thomas James

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Posted 21 June 2009 - 11:05 AM

My rabbit ears could hardly get any analog channels and the reception was horrible with a lot of snow. With digital high definition most of the time my channels come in crystal clear. Now that analog NTSC has ended braodcasters will start using their primary antennas to broadcast digital rather than the secondary antennas so reception should improve.
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#9 K Borowski

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Posted 21 June 2009 - 04:13 PM

They both have their strengths and weeknesses, one way or the other, but in tis modern world of cable and dish, who cares?

The only ting that would remotely interest me is that the HD signals, according to David Mullen and others on here, look better over the airwaves than with the typical compression algorhythms used with cable and dish TV.

Other than that, we're still getting bombarbed by mostly needless EM radiation that dish should've made obsolete.


AM & FM are one thing, antenna TV is another entirely. Honestly, who cares? There is practically nothing worthwhile about *having* an antenna set, and there hasn't been in nearly 30 years now.
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#10 John Sprung

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Posted 21 June 2009 - 08:44 PM

The convertor box coupon program is a joke. I tried to use my coupon and the only box that was eligible was low definition 480i .


Yup, that was the idea. The coupons are intended to let the poor keep using their old TV's. They're not for rich guys who can afford HD, i.e., us. It's like food stamps -- TV stamps? ;-)

I don't know of anyone here who didn't already have satellite or cable, so basically none of us noticed. Where it does affect us just a little is that the 4:3 center cut downconversion that the networks did last year is now pushed even farther downstream. All internal network and station operations are 16:9 HD now, the downconversion and center cut happens at the satellite and cable head ends, or in set top boxes. A couple years back, we were delivering two tapes, and could do the center cut ourselves, with a few "pan and scan" fixes for the worst cases. Then last year the networks went single tape, in anticipation of this.





-- J.S.
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#11 Keith Walters

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 02:20 AM

As I mentioned before with the train example, ATSC doesn't hold up all that well to multi-path. It gets confused very easily and falls apart. It also makes using directional antennas more difficult, since a misalignment of only 2-3 degrees can be the difference between perfect reception and no picture at all. Analog signals were much more forgiving, even if their pictures were not as clear and crisp.


The DVB-T system that's used in most of the world is much more forgiving of ghosting. The subcarriers that make up a 7MHz DVB-T channel are basically like 6,000 or so separate AM transmitters with very low modulating frequencies. Because the wavelengths of the modulating signals are so long, to have any effect, a ghost would need to come from hundreds of miles away, which simply does not happen. Because of that, a DVB-T antenna really only needs to be a piece of wire, the gain can come from an internal amplifier, which is what is used quite successfully in lots of places. Most of the set top boxes sold here have a power supply built into the antenna socket for this purpose.


Because I live so far from the Sydney transmitters, I get better results on some channels from Wollongong, another city south of here. My UHF antenna is consequently at right angles to the Sydney transmitters, and so the Sydney UHF analog channels are barely recognisable. Yet, on days when the signal is strong enough, digital reception from them is rock solid. It's hard to believe that you could extract anything from that psychedelic mess, but you have to keep in mind that digital TV transmission works on completely different principles to analog.

Most "digital" antennas were designed to be compatible with Analog transmissions; once that requirement disappears, you can expect some major changes to the design.
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#12 Keith Walters

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 02:27 AM

Why, because you are a supporter of NTSC now too?

Please tell me your reasons for the support of the latter don't mirror those for your support of the former: 35mm film, blind nostalgia for your youth or some past job or event in your past. . .

Film isn't a magic time machine to your past childhood clouded memories. But NTSC definitely, definitely isn't.

Does anyone here really miss NTSC? The only thing I miss about it were mid-'90s broadcasts that didn't have attrocious digital compression.


Huh?
This is a civilised country.
We use PAL TV for broadcasting.
Tipping is entirely voluntary.
And hardly anybody at McDonalds says says "Have a nice Day" or "Take Care"
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#13 Chris Millar

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 02:49 AM

And hardly anybody at McDonalds says says "Have a nice Day" or "Take Care"

McDonalds ... civilized ??
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#14 Keith Walters

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 07:21 AM

McDonalds ... civilized ??

Ye-e-ss...
In this country, even McDonalds restaurants are civilized.
What was your point, exactly?
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#15 Thomas James

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 07:43 AM

I know but where does it ever end when we talk about banning services for the poor? The convertor box program banned high definition because it considered it a luxury so why not ban color television convertor boxes because the poor do not deserve color tv. Progressive scanning convertor boxes were also banned because it was considered a luxury so now the poor are stuck with this defective and obsolete interlace scanning for their convertor boxes. The banning of progressive scanning means that the poor are not able to clearly read emergency text messages but have to put up with the tops of all their letters chopped off which happens with this horrible interlace flicker.
And why not pass a law banning free HDTV broadcasts since the poor do not deserve to get any luxury for free? And why not pass a law banning the sale of any low cost HDTV under $200 and insist that low cost televisions must be cathode ray tube 480i interlace displays only?
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#16 Keith Walters

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 07:43 AM

The convertor box coupon program is a joke. I tried to use my coupon and the only box that was eligible was low definition 480i . The government even banned standard definition 480p because they consider progressive scanning a luxury. So I used my own money to buy a box capable of 720p and 1080i outputs

Huh???
I can buy set top boxes for $A35 that have progressive scan.

"The government even banned standard definition 480p because they consider progressive scanning a luxury."

Rubbish.

As it happens I am right this moment involved in an endless argument with some imbecilic Chinese engineers who can't for the life of them understand why we want the progressive scan function REMOVED from the box they're trying to sell us.

Earth to TJ and China: Progressive scan on a set top box does absolutely NOTHING except cause people to lose their picture wth no way of getting it back.
The chipsets have Progressive Scan so that when they are built into a TV set, the manufacturer only has to modify the line and frame scanning to produce a progressive scan TV. That way they don't need the extra frame store and so they can make an economical set. Except that that never happened....

However the engineers responsible for engineering the same chips into a standalone box all seem to think it's a wicked waste not to use the progressive scan function, even though there are very few CRT-based progressive scan TV sets than can make real use of it, because just about of them have the necessary upconversion circuitry built in anyway. You really will not see any difference.

BETTER set top boxes (and DVD players) have a composite output (yellow socket) that outputs standard PAL or NTSC no matter what you set the component outputs to (progressive or interlace).

CRAP boxes have a composite output that also changes to progressive scan, which means that virtual all CRT TVs lose their picture, leaving the owner with no way of re-setting it, because they can't see the setup menu. THAT would be the reason the $40 voucher jobs don't have it.

If the video starts out as interlace, it's going to have all the Interlace artifacts regardless of what the set top box does to it!
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#17 David Rakoczy

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 07:49 AM

Now if we could only get rid of having to frame 16x9 for 4x3 we would REALLY be making some progress!!! <_<
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#18 Keith Walters

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 07:52 AM

I know but where does it ever end when we talk about banning services for the poor? The convertor box program banned high definition because it considered it a luxury so why not ban color television convertor boxes because the poor do not deserve color tv. Progressive scanning convertor boxes were also banned because it was considered a luxury so now the poor are stuck with this defective and obsolete interlace scanning for their convertor boxes. The banning of progressive scanning means that the poor are not able to clearly read emergency text messages but have to put up with the tops of all their letters chopped off which happens with this horrible interlace flicker.
And why not pass a law banning free HDTV broadcasts since the poor do not deserve to get any luxury for free? And why not pass a law banning the sale of any low cost HDTV under $200 and insist that low cost televisions must be cathode ray tube 480i interlace displays only?


If all they have is an old interlace-scan TV, the only thing that's going to work is interlaced NTSC! Sure, you can give them progressive scan. There'll certainly be no interlace flicker; because there will be no picture at all.

A digital set top box with NTSC out is still going to give them a better NTSC picture than anybody has ever received over the air for the last 55 years....
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#19 Thomas James

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 08:39 AM

Before 2007 millions of HD ready televisions have been sold in the United States that do not include any type of digital tuner. These included LCD and plasma flat panels as well as HD CRT's and projectors. These HD ready televisions were affordable and available to the poor in smaller screen sizes. Before the government coupon program all digital set top boxes would include high defifiniton red green and blue component and HDMI outputs that were selectable in the following resolutions 480i 480p 720p and 1080i. Now the government coupon program has banned these boxes. You can still purchase them but with your own personal funds only. 480i coupon eliglible convertor boxes can take a high definition signal such as 1080i but it becomes downconverted to 480i. As for losing a picture with an incorrect setting this is impossible because my set top box has a switch in the back so I can select 480i 480p 720p or 1080i.

As for your Chinese engineers they probably feel that 480i interlace scanning outputs should be banned rather than the 480p and the 720p outputs. To the Chinese removing progressive scanning would be like removing color from the television. However a color tv signal is backwards compatible with a black and white set but a progressive scan signal must be downconverted to 480i to be viewed on an analog set.
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#20 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 02:08 PM

I have neither knowledge of nor any particular interest in this issue, being based in the UK, but I do know that wherever Thomas James posts, comedy is likely to ensue!

P
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