Category Archives: Video

Using Video in a Theatrical Application

A Reader Asks

“I’m debating using projections or a series of stacked televisions for an upcoming theatrical production.  I’m picturing a tower of televisions of multiple sizes on either side of the stage. The images on the televisions would be the same.  Nothing fancy like an image traveling down from the top to the bottom or one image being stretched over multiple televisions.
Initial thoughts: They are all daisy chained together and hooked to a single DVD or VCR.  But, how do you control them if there are periods where they wouldn’t be used?”

What you are describing is a pretty common setup. I would not recommend simply turning your video monitors on and off because some televisions will reset to a default state if they are disconnected from power and that default state might not be what you want it to wake-up in. What you need is a vertical interval video switch and a black burst generator. These devices will send black video to mute the screen when not in use. You also may want to mute the sound too. A solution for this would be a vertical interval “Audio Follow Video” switch. All “vertical interval” means is that it will switch your video seamlessly without a big break-up (glitch) on the screens.  
As far as interconnection, when you are sending the same source signal to all the video monitors it is seldom a good idea to “Daisy-Chain” an audio or video signal, especially when it comes from a relatively weak source device like a consumer DVD or VCR. I strongly recommend a device called a Video Distribution Amplifier. You also would need an Audio Distribution Amplifier if you are going to send the same audio to all the television monitors.  
I know you said you had a single source but if you wanted to send a different signal to all the monitors or do fancy images that would go from a different picture on every screen to a big blow up of a single image using all the screens there is a solution for that too. You could get software driven system that would do this automatically for you. They are expensive but rentable at a fairly reasonable cost if you are a one and done kind of user. -33-


Television Reception Calculator

Want to find out the signal reception strength of TV stations that serve your area? Check out the calculator on the FCC’s Website:

Enter your Zip Code or address and get the TV stations and signal strengths that can be received at your location. This takes both distance and topography into consideration and is great for procuring and aiming the correct antenna for your locale. Linked to Google Maps you can actually target your house or location using the satellite maps and dragging the teardrop to your exact area. -33-

TV Converter Box Coupon Applications Available

Article Updated January 2, 2008

Happy New Year. Your federal government has a late holiday gift for you. If you follow Televising The Revolution you already know the FCC has set February 19, 2009 as the date when analog television will end its broadcast day and begin to broadcast in digital.


Beginning January 1st, 2008, American consumers will be able to log in to and request up to two coupons worth $40 each to assist in purchasing new digital-to-analog converter boxes. Alternately you can call 1-888-DTV2009 to apply over the telephone. Printed applications will also be available at post offices and at public libraries, in English, Spanish, and other languages.


Once you apply be patient because the coupons won’t be sent out until mid-February of this year. Starting February 18, 2008, the government will send coupons via The US Postal Service in the form of a gift card consumers can use at electronics retailers that sell the set-top converter boxes . Currently the selection of converter boxes on the market is slim but that should improve as more manufacturers jump on the bandwagon over the next several months. As of this writing the converter boxes are retailing for $60. to $70.


The coupon program itself is administered by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). It is backed by $1.5 billion appropriated by Congress and established in Title III of the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 (PDF)


What will this “converter box” do for you? Not much more than the basics. According the NTIA proposal the converter box shall:

  • appropriately processes all Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) radio frequency (RF) signals provided to the antenna-only input and then provides output signals in standard definition video for display on a National Television Systems Committee (NTSC) television receiver/monitor;
  • delivers NTSC composite video and stereo audio to drive NTSC monitors;
  • delivers Channel 3 or 4 switchable NTSC RF output for television receivers;
  • complies with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requirements for Closed Captioned, Emergency Alert System (EAS) and the required parental controls;
  • operable by and includes a remote control; and
  • tunes to all television channels 2-69.

The government is not in the entertainment business. By providing a basic digital to analog converter it wants to make sure it is only paying for the bare minimum to supply people who are using analog receivers with a viable alternative to continue to receive free television from over the airwaves.


For more information, or to sign up for coupons, you can call 1-888-DTV-2009 or visit -33-

Lithium Ion Battery Air Travel Restrictions

If you are one of the many air travelers who carry spare lithium laptop, cell phone, camera and other electronic equipment batteries with you when traveling by air, take note: The government has some new rules which go into effect on New Year’s Day, 2008.


There are new regulations going into effect on January 1, 2008 if you travel by air with lithium batteries. Everyone would be well served by checking with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website BEFORE they travel. 


The SafeTravel.Dot.Gov website has additional information that may be helpful.


This information is subject to changes by the Federal Government. Check back with the above links often for the most up to date information. -33-


EDITOR’S NOTE – 12-30-07 at 2100H – Minor revisions to clarify article.


Video Archiving


What can I do to obsolete proof my video archives? Most of them are on Beta SP®. Do I need to go to a Duplication House to have copies made?

  Just a few quick thoughts:

  • There is no real “obsolete proof” archival format.

  • Beta SP® is still a very active format used by broadcasters, industry, education, media professionals and some hobbyists around the world.
  • You do not need to go to a duplication house to have your Beta SP® materials dubbed (copied). Will the format be here 20-, 40- or 60-years from now is anyone’s guess.
  • Most any television station, cable company, corporate facility, editing house or even your local event (wedding/party) videographers have the equipment to do this for you. The format is rather ubiquitous.


If you are looking for long-term storage of your program materials your best bet is to format hop as new formats develop. Beta SP® (A Trademark of Sony) is an analog format. An important issue with analog is that it does not copy into multiple generations well, although Beta SP® is one of the better formats for multi-generation duplication because signal quality holds up through several copies.


You should consider converting your program materials to a digital format (this is called “Digitizing”). To do this you would have your Beta SP® original digitized and placed on a DVD as a MPEG file. This is not a complicated process. You can simply go to your favorite electronics store, purchase a DVD player/recorder and connect it to a Betacam® VTR and you are on your way. 

Once it is in a digital format it can maintain the visual and audio quality of the original software. This means that you can make copies of copies with little to no loss in quality.


Format hopping comes in when you begin to see DVDs and MPEG formats slipping in popularity. Always go with the latest stable format to duplicate your materials. It is a lot of follow-up but well worth the effort to protect today’s program materials for generations to come. This is a big problem for still photographers. Many question if archived images taken today will be able to be opened for viewing 50, 75, 100… years from now. -33-

The File Frenzy


I create television graphics for broadcast. I typically save my files for use in the JPEG format (.JPG). My question is how stable are digital formats like .JPG. Can we ever expect obsolescence of these seemingly ubiquitous files?

It is always suggested that one maintain a cautious posture when it comes to formats. There are really no guarantees. You can print a photograph from a negative that is over 100 years old but some computer files created a few short years ago cannot be processed on today’s computer systems.


Consider what happened to the Sony BetaMax® video format. The general thought was that there would always be a machine on which to playback the tapes produced in this format. How many home movies were made by early video users only to have them sit on a shelf with nothing available to play them? Conversions are possible but the companies that do them are few and far between and the cost is high. VHS® could be destined for the same end now that DVDs are all the rage. There is a possibility that DVDs will be replaced in the next 10 years. HD DVD® and Blu-Ray® are already beginning to edge them out.

Considering software applications: If you had Native files created in an early version of a illustration application that let’s say ran on DOS or the Windows® 3.1 operating system, the Native files from that version may not open in today’s operating systems. Some early JPEG files might be incompatible too.

Many applications and operating systems have become obsolete over the years. Unless you have the original software, opening files created in these obsolete packages today might be a challenge or even impossible. How about 8” and 5” floppy discs? If you have files on those formats you are out of luck also. Time marches on, formats and applications change.


 The best rule of thumb to follow is to watch the formats, anticipate obsolescence and do conversions as required to keep your files up to date. Do not fall victim to changes. To ignore this simple fact one puts their files at risk. -33-

Calibrating New Televisions

A Reader Asks:

Do I need my new flat panel television calibrated in my home? I’m told this is something that should be done with new sets, but I have to tell you so far the picture seems pretty good.  In your opinion is this something that should be done with these new sets…?

Excellent question! If you feel a calibration is right for you. That is exactly what you should have done. As for my opinion: If you are satisfied and happy with the image and sonic performance of your new TV I wouldn’t change it.

The “need” sometime comes from some retailers who not only want to sell service contracts and expensive, high tech cabling that has the same performance as good quality, standard cabling costing much less, they also want you to consider having them come out and set up your new purchase in your home to “customize it for your personal viewing and listening space.” There is usually a fee attached to this service call.


This “gotta have it” sales pitch is much the same when buying a new car as it is when buying a top of the line “Uber-Television.” Most vehicles today offer a nice “standard” package with many creature comforts. The dealer makes some profit on the cars but the aftermarket “dealer installed” items like undercoating and rust proofing are their big money makers.

The car leaves the factory with a warranty. In 5-, 10-, or 15-years when you trade your care in for a new car, aftermarket rust proofing won’t make any difference in value and you likely would have gotten the same performance if you did not choose the dealer installed option. Did you need it? Probably not but the dealer made you think you did and made a hansom profit to boot.

From the tens of thousands of LCD, DLP, CRT and Plasma televisions seen in professional dealings with clients, it has been observed that a consumer level set comes out of the box ready to roll.


There is one recommendation that I do like to offer–Go into your setups and change from the brightest most vivid setting to another setup that pleases you. Do not change anything else but that setting and live with the set for about a week or two before you decide you need to change it back or have it calibrated. TVs leave the factory defaulted to pumped color and contrast because the factory wants it to look its best if it should be put in the bright lights of a store showroom display. Another reason for moving the set from the brightest setting is it will prolong the life of the unit’s internal lamp.  


The only calibrations that I normally recommend are in critical production applications where a wall of television monitors in a television control room need to be critically color matched. Other areas are in hospitals and operating rooms, photographic applications and graphics workstations where critical technical color observation is required for a medical/surgical diagnosis, printing application or digital photographic processing. Corporate displays usually need critical color matching too. Corporations are very fussy about proper reproduction of their corporate identity, including color. -33-