The Ultimate Free Over The Air (OTA) Digital HDTV Antenna Installation Information For Us Canadians And Those In The Greater Toronto Area

Whew! What a title…. But I’m hoping that the title will assist people with finding this blog post on the Internet….

Over the past few months, since the arrival of my HDTV, I’ve been spending some time setting up an antenna and trying to capture as many free over-the-air HDTV stations as possible. One of the big problems I had was trying to find information on an antenna. It was not only a decision on deciding what type to get but also how to set it up. It was very hard to find suppliers in Canada and it was also difficult to find easily obtainable (and understandable) information on how to go about installing something that might actually work. This blog post is my story and it’s my hope that you might benefit from it.

Early Days – First Cuts at HDTV Reception

My first cuts at getting HDTV reception actually occurred several years ago. However I was hampered by location (Etobicoke, ON), a small number of HDTV transmitters that were on low power (pre DTV switchover in the US and still low power in Canada)  and most of all by not having a suitable antenna. For those of you new to HDTV you are probably aware that it is a significant upgrade from our old analogue system called NTSC. You might not be aware however that the new over-the-air transmission system, that delivers HDTV, is called ATSC. The corresponding connection on your TV to connect an ATSC antenna is often called a DTV connection referring to Digital TV transmission.

I’ve actually owned several of these ATSC tuners prior to getting my HDTV set earier this year. The first ATSC tuner I purchased was in the form of a computer card, that put the tuner in my computer. I used the computer monitor to display the HDTV picture. My first ATSC Tuner Card was ATI’s HDTV Wonder. However I never really got any HDTV reception from the card because there were few HDTV stations in my area and the antenna that was provided with the card was not capable of picking anything up in the outskirts of Toronto.

Indoor Antenna

ATI's HDTV Wonder Was My First HDTV Tuner

My second tuner was an  Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-1600 PC tuner. I purchased it for a MYTH-TV home DVR box I was building. Again I was hampered lack of a proper antenna system to pick up some of the HDTV stations that were starting to transmit in nearby Buffalo, NY.

WinTV-HVR-1600

A few years later I purchased Hauppauge WinTV-HVR 950. It was different because it fin inside a USB housing but it too came with a lame antenna –as you can see by the picture below– and once again, even though we had HDTV transmissions occurring in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) I had little success in receiving HDTV.

My Third ATSC Tuner And It's Antenna

My Latest Efforts – Learning About Antennas

So when I purchased a 42″ Vizio 1080p TV,  set, with a built in ATSC tuner, I had to get serious about an antenna. When I mentioned the need for an antenna there were objections from my wife. She kept thinking I was talking about erecting a tower like they did way back in the 1950’s. The reality is that towers for DTV antenna’s no longer need to be built. Today’s ATSC antennas can be wall mounted, chimney mounted, a tripod mast can be placed on your roof, and some new designs that don’t even look like antenna’s. Once more  you can hide your antennas by placing them in your garage or attic.

Antenna Confusion

The next issue I had was what kind of an antenna do I need. I had been told by engineers that the classic yaggi antenna was the best and a friend had told me about a really neat Gray-Hoverman Antenna that I could construct myself. However recalled that DTV had been designed to work just as well with a simple “bow tie” antenna. Despite all of the fanciness of the Yagi and Gray-Hooverman many people I talked to said they were getting great reception with these bow ties which many had constricted from “coat hangers”.

Classic Bow Tie Configuration In Hand Built DTV Antenna

The video below shows you how to construct a simple bow tie antenna. It shows clearly how one can cut coat hangers and arrange them to create the bow ties that act as the receptors in a classic bow tie antenna. As you’ll see in the video below the construction of these antenna’s are relatively simple and by watching the video you’ll get a good idea of how antenna’s work. You can also download the instructions in pdf form here.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “test“, posted with vodpod

By the way, the work involved in building an antenna is easy and can be build by kids with adult supervision…..

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Making a Gray-Hoverman DTV Antenna wi…“, posted with vodpod

So understanding the principle of “bow tie” antenna’s is important to understanding the “lingua franca” of obtaining an antenna from a retailer. As you can see by the images below modern DTV bow tie antenna each of the bow ties are referred to bays and antennas are marketed in terms of the number of bow ties or bays that are on them….

Two Bay DTV Antenna

Four Bay DTV Antenna

Playing With Antenna’s

Since I didn’t know how successful I’d be and I could not locate a store that I could walk in and purchase an antenna, the first antenna I purchased was a two bay  Antennas Direct Terrestrial Digital Small Multi-Directional UHF HDTV Antenna from tigerdirect.ca. I surveyed my house and decided to mount it in a window inside my garage. It was a prime location for cabling as it was quite easy to pull the coaxial cable from my garage to my basement office where I had placed my HDTV set. It also had the added bonus of not having to climb up to the roof to install it. I placed it in my garage window by hanging it from a teacup holder and had my first success in tuning in some of those free OTA HDTV stations.

I found I could tune CBC and CTV Toronto in HDTV consistently. I could tune CHCH (Hamilton) most of the time but stations from Buffalo were erratic as to when I could or could not receive them. Even worse it seemed weather made no difference. Some clear days and nights the stations would tune in with minimal distortion, while other days or nights with similar weather I could not tune any Buffalo stations. Even the reception from Hamilton (25 miles away) was spotty.

One weekend in September I finally found some time to work on improving my reception. I had noted that on a recent trip to the multitude of Computer stores that have collected along College Street (around Spadina) were selling a variety of four bay and eight bay DTV antenna’s. Their prices were very good ranging from $25 to $60 and collectively they seemed to have plenty of stock. One store also sold Yagi’s and antenna rotors! I had finally found at least somewhere in Toronto where antennas were plentiful and there was competition around their pricing.

Is A Four Bay DTV Antenna Really Be Better Than A Two Bay?

In the end I purchased an eight bay antenna (which is actually made up of two four bay units) for about $50.00. This investment meant I could compare the ability of two bay, four bay and eight bay antenna’s to see what worked best for me. Initially I replaced the two bay hanging in my garage window with a four bay and noticed an immediate improvement in the stability of channels. The upgrade also added a couple of more stations but some stations, both in Buffalo and Toronto came and went depending on when I had my TV set do a channel scan. My conclusion; the four bay antenna was an improvement over the two bay. The only problem being that I was not getting as many Toronto stations as I thought I should be getting.

How Critical Is Antenna Placement?

The following weekend I decided that I’d work on placing the antenna at a better angle to see if I could improve the number of stations that I could pick up. I removed my four bay from my garage window and used camera tripods to hold the antenna’s while I experimented at which angle I should point the antenna to get the maximum channels. Eventually I found an angle that strattled the line of sight between Toronto and Buffalo to where I could get the maximum number of stations to tune in. Here are some of the things I discovered during my tests;

  1. A four bay antenna performed much better at picking up stations than a two bay antenna.
  2. For my use, because I did not want to do a rooftop antenna, an eight bay did not increase the number of channels I could recieve.
  3. After settling on the appropriate angle it did not make any difference if the antenna was outside or inside my garage. So (because it was easy) I decided to mount the antenna on the wall in my garage.

The Final Location For My Four Bay DTV Antenna Was On My Garage Wall

Adding A Channel Master 7777 Antenna Pre-Amplifier

The exercise of properly locating my antenna was well worth it. I had increased my brood of fairly dependable HDTV channels from eight to around 12, however fairly dependable is not ideal because I’d still find some of them not there when I wanted to watch a show on them. The solution in this case was to purchase an antenna pre-amplifier. An antenna pre-amplifier is a device that amplifies the signal that the antenna picks up. It has to be located right at the antenna. One day while I was browsing a website called hdtvexpert.com I noticed in a blog posting wherechannel reception almost doubled when a Channel Master 7777 Antenna Amplifier was added to the mix. Could this be the “killer” piece of hardware I needed?

I found the 7777  easy to install because you don’t need to run power to the amplifier that needs to be attached at the antenna end. You actually power the amplifier from inside your house with a separate power supply. The Channel Master uses the coaxial cable to power the amplifier on the antenna. Because my antenna was easily accessible in the garage it only took me about 15 minutes to hook the amplifier up. When I returned my set with the amplifier active, scanned for channels once again my stations increased. After having the unit for a week the vast majority of my stations are dependable and free of the digital breakup that’s normally associated with distant DTV stations. For me the Channel Master 7777 Antenna Pre-Amplifier is the killer piece of hardware that makes the entire system work and I highly recommend it.

What can I pick up?

Well with my total one time investment of approx $200.00 and with a fixed garage mounted four bay antenna I’m receiving 21 DTV channels which two are standard definition sub-channels that I did not list below;

  • 2-1 WGRZ-HD (NBC)
  • 2-2 WGRZ-US (NBC)
  • 2-3 WGRZ-RT (NBC)
  • 4-1 WIVB-HD (CBS)
  • 5-1 CBLT-DT (CBC)
  • 7-1 WKBK-HD (ABC)
  • 9-1 CFTO-HD (CTV)
  • 11-1 CHCH-DT (Independent)
  • 17-1 WNED-HD (PBS)
  • 17-3 WNED-TH (PBS)
  • 23-1 WNLO-HD (CBS)
  • 25-1 CBLFT-HD (CBC)
  • 29-1WUTV-HD (Fox)
  • 36-1 CTS-HD (Independent)
  • 41-1 CIII-DT (Global)
  • 44-1  OMNI 2 (Rogers)
  • 57-1 CITY-HD (RogersO
  • 64-1 OMNI- 1 (Rogers)
  • 66-1 CKXT-DT (SUN -TV)

Canadian DTV Antenna Resources. Where Are They?

Soapbox On Corporate Control Of TV Signals In Canada

With so much cross over in Canada with Cable and Satellite operators actually owning many DTV stations no one appears to be promoting over-the-air HDTV reception. In the United States they have a larger block of over-the-air stations because cross ownership is not allowed and PBS has been a champion of the conversion since its earliest days. In Canada its being treated as “a dirty little secret” with Cable and Satellite companies fearful of widespread adoption. They are afraid it will have a significant effect on their subscriptions.

Likewise Canadian over-the-air broadcast stations appear reluctant to invest in digital transmitters and repeaters even thought they’ve had over a decade to do so. Both Global and CTV have actively pursued an agenda to drop over the air transmission in favour of directly providing Cable and Satellite companies with their signals for distribution. If these broadcasters are successful it would enslave Canadian consumers to Canadian BDU’s that have little competition and a history of annual increases that go well above inflation. So it’s important that Canadians understand that they have a good free alternative. It’s also important to insist that these over the air broadcasters, who have had a monopoly on our publicly owned airwaves for fifty years, live up to their responsibility of providing free TV to those Canadians who desire it. Canadian shouldn’t be enslaved to large corporations that deliver television as exorbitant rates.

So with no corporate entity championing free over the air TV where does one get services, information and technology to get free HDTV?

Where do I get the technology?

Finding DTV equipment and information in Toronto can be challenging. However as I mentioned there are several computer shops in Toronto that are within a short walk of one another on College Street at the intersection of Spadina Avenue. About 1/3rd of them stock antenna’s and they are fairly competitive with one another. If you find a sale a four bay will bottom out at about $25 and a eight bay (usually $60) might be found for $50.

You can purchase DTV equipment online and in Canada. My favorite place to purchase is at Sensuz Media Inc. Their website tells you their inventory and they ship very, very quickly by courier. They’ll even allow you to go to their location and pick it up if you don’t want it shipped. This was the place I purchased the Channel Master 7777 Antenna Amplifier (onsale at under $100) and it was at my door in a day and a half….  You can also purchase DTV equipment online at tigerdirect.ca and factorydirect.ca.

What if I wanted someone to come and install an antenna for me?

I found antenna installers are difficult to find. However I was pointed to one company V and E Antenna in the GTA area who advertises that they do it.

Where Do I Get Specific Canadian Information on HDTV Stations?

For the longest time I was trying to use  http://www.digitalhome.ca to get information but because its a long running forum I couldn’t find the consistency that I’d like to get information quickly. The Sensuz Media Inc. link provides one of the best concise pages on DTV for Canadians that I have found. In addition it provides the instructions on how Canadians can access the website called tvfool.com that will give you a list of transmitters in your area and which ones you should be able to pick up with an indoor and outdoor antenna. I found it to be spot on.  The details they provide are as follows:

http://www.tvfool.com – This is a great website tool that can help answer questions like:

Which broadcaster are transmitting locally?

  • How far are the transmitters from me?
  • Which direction should I point my antenna?
  • How strong are the signals in my area?
  • What analog and digital channels are available?

For Canadian users, just enter your address in the “Address” field, enter your City, Province in the “City” field, and enter your Postal Code in the “Zip” Field. Just ignore the “State” drop-down menu.

For me, living in Etobicoke I got the following map;

This is the information I got fron TV Fool. If you click on it and check it against the channels I'm receiving it is right on. Basically my stations cut off withing the yellow zone. For me to get more stations I'd have to put my antenna on the roof and employ a deep fringe antenna to have a chance at getting some of the stations in the grey area.

Well that’s if for now… Given that my Rogers Cable bill is approaching $800 per year I can tell you that expense is under serious review given the number and quality of channels that I can pick up on my antenna. I’m enjoying watching those crisp and clear non compressed images that my next challenge is to figure out how to make a DVR for it….

….brad….

From Blue-ray To 3D Interactive Walk Throughs – The Daunting Number Of Distribution Technologies At NAB 2009

This will be one of the larger posts that I’ll do about NAB 2009 and it will focus on a daunting number of technologies relating to distribution that I saw on the show floor.

NTT Ultra-Low Latency IP Based HD video transmission system and Ultra-High-Speed Video Server System for High-Resolution Video

http://www.i-visto.com

NTT Ultra-Low Latency IP Based HD Video Transmission System

NTT Ultra-Low Latency IP Based HD Video Transmission System

NTT’s technologies were able to transfer high-quality video through an IP network paving the way to an all IP broadcasting station. The HDTV-IP video server “XMS” is a PC-cluster-based ultra-high-speed video server. It can record and play back a number of high-quality video files, including  compressed HD, uncompressed HD, and uncompressed 4K-resolution and is able to do it through an IP network in real-time.The companies  HDTV-IP gateway “XG-2” is an ultra-low-latency video-transmission system through an IP network. It can convert an HD-SDI/SD-SDI signal from/to IP packets within one millisecond and transfer them through two gigabit-ethernet interfaces without compression.

NTT Ultra-High-Speed Video Server System

NTT Ultra-High-Speed Video Server System

It can record and play back video using legacy video equipment, such as an HD video camera and an HD monitor, and can transfer video as video files to/from PC based non-liner editing systems. The server can simultaneously record and play back up to 16 uncompressed HD videos. This performance is equivalent to about 200 HD-VCR quality videos or four uncompressed 4K-resolution videos.

Haivision Makito

http://www.haivision.com/products/makito/

Haivision Makito

Haivision Makito

We’ve been looking for a device that would deliver live H.264 at 1080p60 that is portable, compact and affordable. We needed it for our digital signage system so we were delighted to see the Haivision MAKITO which started shipping in the week prior to NAB. At under 10K it’s a fraction of the price of competing technology.

Digital Rapids – TouchStream

http://www.digital-rapids.com/News/Press%20Releases/2008TouchStream.aspx

Digital Rapids TouchStream

Digital Rapids TouchStream

In the same area of distribution we took a quick peek at TouchStream appliances that are developed for on-location live streaming of events. The appliances offer a choice of formats — including AVC/H.264 (including Adobe® Flash® Player 9), VC-1 (Windows Media), On2 VP6 (Adobe Flash 8), 3GPP and MPEG-2. The devices can target audiences and platforms from Internet TV to mobile phones.

Telestream

http://www.telestream.net

Pipeline HD Dual

Pipeline HD Dual

Telestream is another company that’s in the distribution and transcoding business. Of interest to me is Pipeline HD Dual which is a two-channel hardware encoder that captures HD video from SDI sources and encodes it in real time to HD editing formats. These formats  include Avid DNxHD, Apple ProRes 422 and Panasonic DVCPRO HD.

Episode Pro

Episode Pro

Telestream’s Episode multiformat encoders and transcoders allow for  cost-effective conversions of video and audio for on-demand delivery to the Web and portable media devices. New for NAB 2009 the Episode Desktop encoder is available for both Mac and PC. The software expands the types of transcodes Compressor can undertake on the Apple platform.

Telestream Wirecast

Telestream Wirecast

Wirecast ($495), is a unique product. It’s a real-time video production software product for Mac and PC users that allows users to capture live events and distribute content for real-time Web delivery.  They recently added built-in streaming service access to Mogulus and Ustream.

Livestream (formerly Mogulus)

http://www.mogulus.com/

http://www.livestream.com/

Mogulis - Broadcast Live For Free

Mogulus is amazing. As they advertise its the most powerful online video broadcast solution available. In just minutes you can create broadcasts as polished as any multi-million dollar traditional television network — with full capability to easily broadcast Live, 24/7 Linear, and On-Demand content and best of all its absolutely FREE.

Adobe Flash For the Digital Home – Flash embedded in TV Setup box

http://www.adobe.com

ADOBEs Flash In TV Setop Box

ADOBE's Flash In TV Setop Box

It seems ADOBE’s plan is to get Flash in every computer and to every television screen. Adobe’s big announcement at NAB seemed to be centered around the integration of Flash into settop boxes and bringing Flash Video  into the livingroom. According to FreshDV they also were showing a concept software product called Adobe Story.

Mobile DTV

http://www.openmobilevideo.com/

ATSC Mobile Devices

ATSC Mobile Devices

One of the big pushes from ATSC is the development of Mobile Digital Television (DTV) because it could represents a significant new revenue stream for the broadcasting industry as well as a new way to reach more customers. It can be achieved through transmission facility improvements and it will allow broadcasters to extend local programming to a vast audience of viewers with portable Mobile DTV devices.

To demonstrate the potential The Open Mobile Video Coalition had an area on the NAB floor where a number of mobile devices were shown picking up content from a nearby transmitter. The problem, none of the technology inthe area could be picked up (ie. it wasn’t mobile) and the nearby transmitter happened to be placed just above the booth. Nevertheless a number of technologies were displayed.

ATSC Mobile Device

ATSC Mobile Device

According to press releases 70 US stations in 28 markets have said they will be broadcasting in the format by the end of this year. The technology to broadcast in this format will cost each station about $100,000 and it  allows each station to broadcast up to eight simultaneous program streams.

Currently there are no devices available that can receive these signals, but there will be phones and other devices coming to market soon including Dell who has  announced it will make a laptop that could receive the broadcast signals. Another market will be viewers for cars.

ATSC Mobile Antennas On A PC

ATSC Mobile Antenna's On A PC

MobiTV’s mixTV is a new business concept that’s demonstrating a future delivery model for mobile television. It combines free Mobile DTV content with a subscription based 7-day window of on-demand programming. MixTV also supports interactivity, audience measurement and dynamic ad insertion.

More information can be found at the following links..

http://solsie.com/2009/04/mobitv-unveils-mixtv-a-future-delivery-model-for-mobile-television/

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/20/free-tv-broadcasting-comes-to-mobile-gadgets/?hp

http://www.informationweek.com/news/personal_tech/TV_theater/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=216900258&subSection=News

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/20/AR2009042001302.html?wprss=rss_technology

IBM Interactive Masters Golf Application

http://www.informationweek.com/news/internet/web2.0/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=208403450

http://www.masters.com/en_US/index.html

IBM Interactive Masters Golf Application

One of the more interesting content pieces I saw at NAB was the web based Masters Golf application that was made for the Masters Golf tournament by IBM Interactive. If technologies like Mobile DTV are going to become mainstream they are going to have to provide experiences that enhance traditional television in the same manner that this application did.

Along with providing the regular coverage that Broadcast TV viewers saw, the website offered more interactive and personalized features this year than it had in the past. Fans at the course were able to post messages online through a feedback application. Fans both on and off the course could track players through the Web site as well as watch on-demand videos of player highlights, course previews, and more. The site provided exclusive real-time scoring while a video console streamed footage of the championship game and allowed viewer to watch the 15th and 16th hole live at any time.

KDDI Viewpoint

http://www.crunchgear.com/2008/06/27/kddi-develops-the-worlds-first-free-viewpoint-video-technology-for-web-tv/

KDDI Viewpoint

KDDI Viewpoint

This was another one of those technologies that’s 3D and interactive and I just didn’t know where to place it within my blog postings. Tokyo-based KDDI R&D Laboratories have developed and were showing a technology that makes it possible to distribute free viewpoint video through the web. Users could actually walk through a group of cheerleaders as they danced viewing the scene from various angles. The media is created when the video material is filmed with multiple cameras and future appliucations will allow viewers to “watch the action in a soccer game not only from a stadium/bird’s perspective” and from the position of the players.

In press reports KDDI says they will improve the system for use in on-demand television services over the web by 2013. The company will employ data compression systems to deliver their service to Japanese homes via the Internet with 300 mbps data transfer rates.

Matrox – CompressHD

http://www.matrox.com/video/en/products/compresshd/

We’ve now hit the Blu-ray area of my blog posts. If you’re a professional content creator delivering H.264 files for Blu-ray, the web, and mobile devices Matrox CompressHD is somethng you might want to look at.  Its an affordable H.264 accelerator card that plugs into a PC or MAC and accelerates the creation of H.264 files for resolutions ranging from iPod to HD, in faster than real time. One nice thing is that it works directly with Apple’s Compressor and multiple cards can be “farmed” together using Apples Q-Master render farm. Let’s hope it’ll work on live vide sources some day….

BluStreak Premaster

http://blustreak.dvdafteredit.com/

BluStreak Premaster was premiered at the FCPUG NAB 2009 SuperMeet. It allows the correct formatting of Blu-ray output from any authoring application when large-scale manufacturing or replication –including full AACS copy protection support– is required. Prior to its unveiling at NAB no simple software solution was available for the MAC to prepare Blu-ray disks for commercial replication. In a nutshell the software;

  • Formats Blu-ray output for commercial manufacturing
  • Straightforward, reliable operation
  • Accepts input from any authoring application
  • Supports AACS & dual-layer (BD-50) format
  • Automatic checksum generation to ensure data integrity

BluStreak Premaster is both easy to use and robust accepting Blu-ray authoring applications running on any platform, including Adobe Encore CS4, DVDIt Pro HD, Toast, and others.

MCE Technologies – Blu-ray Writer for Mac

http://www.mcetech.com/

MCE Mac Ready Blu-ray Writer

MCE Mac Ready Blu-ray Writer

For those one off Blu-ray jobs, MCE Technologies was  at NAB showing their latest Blu-ray writer that’s specifically designed for the Mac. They indicated that it was 400% faster than their previous offering and it comes completely pre-configured for easy installation. It writes 25GB single-layer and 50GB dual-layer Blu-ray at up to 8X speed and is compatible with all DVD and CD recordable media including DVD±R/RW + Dual/Double Layer, DVD-RAM, and CD-R and CD-RW. The drive has a 4MB buffer for writing Blu-ray Disc and DVD media as well as  built-in Buffer Underrun protection.

Network Appliance Blu-ray Burners

If you prefer to do your own Blu-ray runs of a larger scale, these network appliance Blu-ray Burner systems might be of help.

Rimage Network Appliance Blu-ray Burner

Rimage Network Appliance Blu-ray Burner

BravoPro (Blu-ray) Disc Publisher

BravoPro (Blu-ray) Disc Publisher

Brother Document Viewer Prototype

Brother Document Viewer Prototype

Brother Document Viewer Prototype

Don’t forget paper! Brother has joined recent announcements from iriver, Neolux, and Plastic Logic with its SV-100B Document Viewer. On display at NAB Brothers Document Viewer featured a 9.7-inch, 1200 x 825 display which is larger and twice the pixels of the Kindle 2. However, it’s market is not to be a Kindle-killer. Instead its aimed at business users who will employ Bluetooth with PCs to keep its microSD card filled with content. The content must be run through a converter app prior to display.  Its expected to ship in June.

TeamCast 8-VSB Modulator

http://www.teamcast.com/en/maj-e/c2a2i14383/products/modulators/8-vsb-modulator.htm

TeamCast 8-VSB Modulator

TeamCast 8-VSB Modulator

After years of searching for an inexpensive 8-VSB transmitter I finally came accross TeamCasts MUS-1000/2000 8-VSB modulator. Its an integrated and cost effective 8-VSB modulator that can be adapted to transmit DTV over short distances. hehehe……

DVEO eyecatcher HDTV Modulator

http:/ www.dveo.com

DVEO eyeCatcher HDTV Modulator

DVEO eyeCatcher HDTV Modulator

We’ve been wondering for some time how we’re going to insert HDTV channels on our in-house cable TV systems inexpensivly. We had a chance to look at DVEO eYe Catcher system and it looks like it can do the job. The company’s new digital HDTV modulator takes live or recorded video streams, sending them to multiple HD monitors via RF over coax. It can even duplicate what the broadcasters are doing. One 8VSB RF channel can feed up to one HD and one SD stream or three SD streams.

Pico Macom DSP806

http://yhst-18278607509093.stores.yahoo.net/pico-0089.html

Pico Macom DSP806

Pico Macom DSP806

While on the topic of cable distribution, just in case I want to move channels the Pico Macom DSP806 should do the job. It’s a frequency agile, microprocessor-controlled, professional re-broadcast grade double-heterodyne channel processor that converts one 6MHz Digital (ATSC, 8VSB, 64 QAM) or Analog (NTSC) channel to a different frequency without need to demodulate and re-modulate the signal.

liveedge.tv

http://www.liveedge.tv/

LiveEdge.tv Interface

LiveEdge.tv Interface

I came across this company at NAB because the were showing live video connectivity using WiMAX. The product they were selling was live news field production without microwave? It thurns out the company offers live connections in the field via;

  • 3G Networks
  • Wireless or Wired Broadband Networks
  • WiMAX (using Airspan products)

The interconnect is bi-directional transmitting and receiving NTSC, SDI, HD, Video and Audio. The technology also connects the field to station studio technologies such as IFB , Studio Intercom and Return Video. The service  also has a high speed data connection for studio workflow. The high speed connection can connect iNews and ENPS newsroom systems.

Server Technology Inc – PDU’s

http://www.servertech.com

I came accross Server Technology’s rackmount power distribution units (PDU’s)  at NAB. These  PDU’s  provide per outlet power sensing which allows remote reboot via IP. One of the interesting features of theor product includes metered pdus for  power monitoring at the individual outlet level.

iBOOT – Remote Reboot via Web Browser

http://dataprobe.com/iboot-remote-reboot.html

iBoot

iBoot

A competing product to Server Technology’s products on the reboot side is iBoot. Boot is a 10/100 Ethernet network attached, IP addressed, Web Controlled power switch. Using a web browser iBoot can perform power On, Off or Reboot. iBoot is password protected for security.

Other Products In This Category

HNTT Electronics VE9100 H264 AND MPEG II ENCODER

NTT Electronics VE9100 H264 AND MPEG II ENCODER

Cavium Networks - Low Latency Full-HD H.264 Micro-Module for Real-Time A/V Applications

Cavium Networks - Low Latency Full-HD H.264 Micro-Module for Real-Time A/V Applications

How To Build An Inexpensive HDTV Antenna

Below is a great video on how you build a great and inexpensive HDTV antenna. It has complete instructions and even shows you the tools you need. According to the author the one demonstrated in the video operates better than store bought amplified antennas.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “How To Build An Inexpensive HDTV Antenna“, posted with vodpod

If you like this video you can also check out a video by this link where Jim Lipka makes them for refugees.

….brad….

Intel Announces World’s First Embedded Balanced Antenna for Digital TV on Your Laptop

Intels Embedded DTV Antenna Concept

Intel's Embedded DTV Antenna Concept

Intel researchers announced that they have developed the world’s first embedded balanced antenna for digital TV. According to the annoucment, which provided minimal information, this patent-pending “Intel innovation” will allow on-the-go users to watch digital television on their laptop without the need for an external antenna. The announcement notes that the elimination of the external antenna reduces the number of items to purchase, carry and keep track of.

There are no other details.

….brad….

Rogers Cable, Shaw Cable, Bell TV (formerly Bell ExpressVu) and Star Choice – Beware of the Killer Internet

Is Future More Local? More Free?

Is Future More Local? More Free?

Whenever I start to think about the future of media technology, production and distribution I tend to look for analogies that can be mapped onto emerging and future scenarios. Amongst the mess created from the two satellites that collided over Siberia and the internet talk relating to space junk, a post titled “Satellite Diss” by By Farhad Manjoo on slate.com almost got lost in the debris. However after reviewing it this morning it provides an analogous base that supports my own personal viewpoint on the future of media and its distribution.

“Satellite Diss” is an article on Sirius XM Satellite radio and its current business problems. After reading it I can’t help but think it provides some fodder that can be mapped to other distribution media. It’s also something that we as consumers and the Canadian Cable and Satellite TV providers need to consider as it appears that consumers are speaking about what they are willing to pay for in a changing world related to new and networked based media devices.

According to the “Satellite Diss” Sirius XM has some business challenges. The company is unable to meet a $175 million debt payment due at the end of the month, the company has more than $3 billion of debt and it has hired bankruptcy advisers at the same time its been talking to satellite TV companies about a possible takeover.

The report goes on to note that “Like print newspapers, travel agencies, and record shops, Sirius XM offers what seems like a pretty great service—the world’s best radio programming for just a small monthly fee—that has, in practice, been eclipsed by something far cheaper and more convenient: the Internet.”

Napster, Internet and iPods Have Changed Everything

Napster, Internet and iPods Have Changed Everything

Farhad Manjoo’s article goes on to point out that with the advent of Napster people got used to getting every song on demand. While Sirius and XM offer a multitude of specialty music stations, much of their business model was also tied to  exclusive acts such as Howard Stern. Personalities were used to convince customers to pay $10 or more a month for their radio service. However when Apple released their iPod MP3 player, and MP3 playes became mainstream, they proved to be the killer app that worked against Sirius XM. Even though the iPod itself couldn’t receive any radio signals, it could connect to a home computer and access a wealth of free radio content from the Internet. With the combination of Napster and Apple’s iStore, Consumers got used to downloading their content and the Dye was cast against subscription radio services.

I have to say that I have to agree with Mr. Manjoo’s assessment. In my case I just purchased a Hyundai Sonata. It came a three month free subscription to Sirius XM and an auxiliary input port to the cars radio system. The auxiliary input is built with an iPod interface as well as a stereo mini connector that will accept any other MP3 player’s output. When my wife and I saw that the subscription rate was $14.99 per month for the XM service we immediately saw much more value with the MP3 player interconnect. We can purchase an awful lot of MP3 players vs the $180.00 a year XM subscription cost.

The Power Of Radio Is Local

The Power Of Radio Is Local

But its not really the money. Like a lot of people I feel the real value in radio is with local news and information. In Canada free over the air Radio has made a real financial comeback based primarily on a local, local, local –almost narrowcast– mantra. And for me, while driving and listening to radio I tend to stick with information based Radio stations longer than music based stations.

“Satellite Diss” goes on to point out that the Internet doesn’t have to be the death of Sirius XM. It assumes that the company can get its debt in order and that if it does, the company might actually discover that the Internet can be its savior. Given that Howard Stern’s radio show is one of the most pirated programs on the internet, Manjoo’s advice is for Sirius XM to figure out a way to get it to the largest possible audience at very low prices. He asks the company to forget about their specialized hardware and move to making the service available  to every Internet-connected device on the market. Given the companies current situation this seems like sound advice.

In my Rogers Cable – Beware of the Killer Rabbit (Ears) For Free Over-the-air Digital HDTV post to this blog I pointed out one aspect about the free over-the-air experience. Jeffrey Breen’s positive experience reinstalling an over-the-air TV antenna system in his mothers home surprised him. Once it was completed and he saw the results, he started to question the value of a basic cable subscription. This is similar to XM’s subscription based model, its competition with free over-the-air local radio and free downloadable Internet content. In the case of the “Satellite Diss” post, not only does it question the viability of a subscription based business model but it questions the long term viability of “exclusive content” through closed channels being the savior of big media.

Internet Connected Home Media Centres

Internet Connected Home Media Centre

I contend that given the pervasiveness of home based IT networking, it wont be long before we see the Media Center equivalent of the iPod delivering Internet sourced visual media on a mass scale. In fact it’s my belief that this kind of content will soon hit mainstream, if it hasn’t done so already. After all how long will it be before we see cable and satellite TV subscription packages like newspapers, travel agencies, and record shops are now viewed in the Internet age.

All of this activity plays to my belief that free over-the-air media, coupled with Internet delivery, is the future of media delivery. Hence it’s despicable to me personally that free over-the-air TV gets such a rough treatment in Canada. It comes from everywhere including the companies that own the stations broadcast stations themselves. There is almost no public discussion from them on picking up free Digital HDTV television over the air and they even dance around the issue of updating their analogue transmitters which is the basis of their business model.  In light of an August 2011 shut off date of  analogue TV in Canada, I can only attribute the lack of public debate to the fact that a growing number of Canada’s free TV stations are owned by the same companies that own our countries Satellite and Cable TV distribution companies. Given that those BDU’s business model is based on charging for TV delivery one has to wonder how committed they are to the concept of free over-the-air TV. I’ve yet to see any champion among them.

To conclude I invite you read an article by Michael McEwen. It’s in February’s Broadcast Dialogue and its titled In Search of the Holy Grail. In it McEwen talks of the sad state of of Canada’s conversion to free over-the-air HDTV and the lack of its focus on Canadian consumers. While the article speaks of a lack of Government leadership and on some aspects of Canadian Content, I can’t help but think it’s also missing the points I outlined in this post. That being the strength of free over-the-air HDTV coupled with the strength of Internet delivery, over that of subscription services touted by Canadian “big media”, is the cornerstone  for future media delivery.

Whatever you believe I feel McEwan is correct about one thing. The consumer is missing in whatever little debate is going on in Canada on this crucial subject. Given that the future of our television system appears to be driven by the Marketplace –a big point in McEwan’s article– I guess in the end we’ll have to vote with our wallets… And we’ll probably have to vote against this through the various BDU’s by simply saying no to their subscription plans. Isn’t that a great way to define Canadian social policy…..

….brad….

Rogers Cable – Beware of the Killer Rabbit (Ears) For Free Over-the-air Digital HDTV

Jeffrey Breen Yankee Group

Jeffrey Breen Yankee Group

Jeffrey Breen who oversees the development and operation of the Yankee Group’s client–facing systems and its internal infrastructure and support systems makes a couple of interesting observations about over-the-air ATSC television in a blog post titled Cable and Satellite Providers: Beware the Killer Rabbit (Ears) .

He talks of how he was pleasantly surprised when he hooked up a Zenith DTT901 digital converter box to his mothers older NTSC LCD TV set. It was not only the quality of the reception from the Boston area TV stations that caught his attention but the additional sub channels that the broadcasters  are able to broadcast using their single ATSC channel frequency.

Free Over The Air TV Is Worth Considering

He noted that the $50 to $70 set-top box provided digital-perfect reception of Boston’s network affiliates and more with several additional sub-channels to boot. The box provided automatic scaling, zooming, and cropping of HD and SD programming and it even included an on-screen program guide.

One thing Breen noted was “With DTV so easily available, of such high quality, and with such advanced features — for free — why would anyone in the city or suburbs ever pay a $9 or $10 monthly fee for a barebones “local TV” package again?”

Time To Reconsider Free TV

Time To Dust Off Those Old Misconceptions Around Free TV

Great question Jeff. I wish we had basic cable packages in Toronto at that price. I just checked Rogers Cable TV pricing in Toronto –note Rogers has the cable monopoly for the City–and it’s advertising its cable TV rates as low as: $32.97 /mo. That’s quite the difference. Jeff would also be interested to know that I just got a letter from Rogers noting that there will be (yet) another rate increase in the next few months. My initial calculation is that my cable will rise at least $3 per month from $61 to $64.  Yikes….

The solution that Jeffery Breen writes about is certainly worth considering. Especialy here in the Toronto area where we have the benefit of both the Canadian and American free over-the-air broadcasters. For Canadians interested in making the switch (or switching back) a good place to start is the Canadian Over-the-Air (OTA) Television Forums.

….brad….

Samsung demos 82” 2160p HDTV

I first came across these 2160p TV sets at NAB 2008 this year and didn’t quite realize that a standard had been built around this kind of display. I saw them in the SONY booth where they were calling it QFHD. According to Wikipedia “2160p is also called “Quad HDTV” since it displays four times the number of pixels of the highest HDTV standard resolution, 1080p.” According to the manufacturer, the TV integrates a red/green/blue LED backlight, which raises the color saturation to 150%. The image refresh rate is 120 Hz. Boy, just when I was seriously thinking about purchasing a 65″ 1080p set, I had to find out about this. 😦

More later….

Over The Air HDTV, Internet and Children, Working On The Subway, Microsoft and HP.

More People Discovering Free Over The Air HDTV

I’m reading more stories everyday about people discovering the quality of free “Over The Air” HDTV.  The Globe ran this story over the weekend of Eryn Smit of Chatham, who hooked up his TV antenna and was so pleased with the results he canceled his cable service. http://tinyurl.com/2encz2. Likewise the Media Awareness Network on their blog (http://tinyurl.com/38h99p) ran an entry called  “Air For Sale”. Their blog pointed to this story (http://tinyurl.com/2b7xjx) in New York City where Dale Hazelton hooked up a new antenna to his TV and had an experience similar to Eryn Smit of Chatham.

Perhaps what’s been lost after years of over the air analogue television delivery, is that if you get the digital channel, it’s going to be pristine. Digital works that way! ATSC was designed specifically for fixed rooftop antenna’s. And when the a TV channel is received via the antenna it comes without compression distortions that may be added by satellite or cable companies who try to squeeze down the channels signal so they can offer more stations as subscription channels.

From my point of view, I don’t understand how so many people believe that they must subscribe to a cable or satellite service for HDTV. It’s even worse when they pay a monthly premium to get the HDTV channels that they can get for free . To my way of thinking it’s borderline criminal when the company that they purchase it from, compresses the image to the point where they are adding image distortion on high action scenes. I believe most people purchase services from these companies because they believe that they are getting the best images possible for their HDTV television sets… With 52″ LCD sets now hitting mainstream prices, I think the practice of image compression distortion will become a lot more apparent and some of the companies supplying the signals will have to adjust their practices.  

How Dangerous Is the Internet for Children

I read with great interest David Pouge’s the NY Times article How Dangerous Is the Internet for Children. (http://tinyurl.com/38zfk7) I thought it was one of the better articles written on the subject as most of them I’ve read are somewhat alarmist or written from the point of view that the Internet is inherently bad. He notes in his article that despite his editors insistence that the article must have something sensational, Pouge notes that “I could not find a single example of a preteen getting abducted and murdered by an Internet predator.”

The article goes on to talk about all of the things children can do on the net that is considered harmful and the article speculates that at times the parents reactions an actions are potentially more damaging to children than the materials that they come across on-line. The article points to a PBS Frontline documentary on the subject that’s available online to watch. It’s interesting that Pouge and the Frontline Documentary point to Cyber Bullying as the number one issue that parents should be worried about relating to their children. It just so happens that Cyber Bullying is being highlighted on CTV this week as part of their news coverage. http://tinyurl.com/yotpea

My Soapbox – Working On The Subway

I readily admit there are not a lot of reasons to love the subway in Toronto if you have to take it to work every day. Fortunately I’m in a position where I don’t have to take it regularly during peak rush hours so for me it beats driving. One are in which I thing the TTC sadly lacks is cellular and wireless service while riding the train. If you ever have to take the train across the city mid-day it’s crazy how many times during a trip that a train might stop waiting for drivers to come and go from breaks. I’ve experienced as many as three of these five minute intervals on my 22 minute ride into the city which adds 15 minutes to my trip time. It’s actually very annoying.

However my trip would be a lot more productive if they would add cellular service in the tunnels. That travel time would be good for me to catch up on my telephone calls and get some e-mail done. I often wonder if the lack of cellular service is one of the many factors that keep people in their cars as they travel about the city. Of course in the case of the TTC they have a long way to go to modernize. The fact that you have to line up and use cash in most instances to purchase tickets is just so outdated. Even the parking meters in Toronto have gone to credit cards…. It does appear that a train line that serves Boston has caught on to this. http://tinyurl.com/29mosz

What interesting things can one do with cellular service on the subway?

My Gads is something that might be useful. Its a simple way to ping all of that information that one never seems to be able to remember. Collections of information can be built collaboratively. Watch the video at http://www.mygads.com. TeleFlip will automatically forward e-mail from people you specify, as SMS messages to your cell phone. https://www2.teleflip.com.

Once can also retrieve one’s PC’s files using your phone and a service such as WebEx PCNow. It allows you to view and access files residing on your Windows-based PC or Mac via a mobile Web browser such as those on Treos, BlackBerry devices, and iPhones. http://tinyurl.com/2auasn

You can track expenses on the go with Intuit’s new Quicken Online that can be accessed from any mobile Web browser. http://tinyurl.com/ysqykn. A service called myHours.com provides time-tracking tools, that are accessible on any computer via a Web browser. You can define projects, tasks, charge hourly rates, generate reports and export them to Excel. http://myhours.com. So there is a lot I could be doing, if only we had a service on the subway in Toronto. In the meantime I’ll have to keep using the JiWire Wi-Fi finder at http://www.jiwire.com

More On Microsoft E-mails And This Time Its Relates To HP

mercurynews.com has picked up on the story that I noted in my last blog posting relating to lowering Vista’s standards to accommodate Intel. In their story they indicate that the Microsoft e-mail documents that were opened in Seattle show “Microsoft ‘botched’ dealings with Intel, HP”. Apparently there was and is a lot of consumer confusion around “Vista Capable” and “Premium Ready”. Only “Premium Ready” computers contained the Intel 945 chip that could fully operate Vista’s features, such as Aero graphics. The article is not clear on how HP was affected by this but apparently their are some e-mail comments on record that suggest their was a problem of some sort relating to HP. The mercurynews.com article can be found at http://origin.mercurynews.com/businessheadlines/ci_8417811?nclick_check=1. I don’t know if its connected but I understand that Microsoft has dropped the pricing on VISTA. http://tinyurl.com/29d393

More soon….

IPTV, HDTV, YouTube and Virtualization

IPTV In Canada

In the CRTC hearings relating to new ownership, it came to light that Bell Canada is reviewing the competitive landscape before deciding to add Internet Protocol TV service (IPTV). http://tiny.cc/te4YV To my way of thinking IPTV would be welcome in my household if I didn’t have to purchase a basic service and I would seriously consider dropping my cable service. Since I live in TO my switch to HDTV will include getting my local service for free using an HDTV over the air antenna. I’ll use a MythTV system to handle all of my household media.

That said I’d welcome a service that complements free over the air television by offering non broadcast stations such as the sports and specialty channels. I trust the CRTC won’t put in regulations that forces me to buy a basic package when all of the basic services can be delivered via ATSC. On another front it’s looking like a lot of the sports teams I watch such as the Blue Jays, Raptors, Toronto FC, Argo’s etc may be –or are– starting offering streaming services that bypass traditional broadcasters to deliver their product anyway. Without an IPTV service available, I wonder if the trend toward downloading bittorrent content will continue to grow? I think so….

Michael Geist Digital Pioneer

It’s great to see that University of Ottawa Professor Michael Geist will be honoured as a digital pioneer by the US-based Electronic Frontier Foundation. Last year, Geist led the public protest to proposed Canadian copyright law changes that would have devastated consumers’ technology rights. His blog makes for great reading at http://www.michaelgeist.ca

Corus Entertainment Building

I found out today that the Corus Entertainment building, which will house 1,300 media and entertainment sector workers, is expected to be completed by 2010. It’s being built on waterfront property a kilometer east of the Sugar refinery located at Cooper Street. The stretch of beach between the two locations is going to be called Sugar Beach.

W hat most Torontonian’s don’t know is that Cooper Street was once Cooper’s Wharf. In its day Cooper’s Wharf Toronto’s main transportation and shopping hub. Everything that came into Toronto came through Cooper’s Wharf. Toronto’s first general store and a shipbuilding slip was once located there. It was the place dock where passenger ships arrived and sailed away to far-flung destinations. Cooper’s Wharf was no more by 1845 and all that remains of this once historic landmark is Cooper Street. More info at http://tinyurl.com/2nf2tx

Using Twitter To Assist With My Blog

I found it very useful today to tweet my Twitter account with ideas that popped into my head today as fodder for my blog. It got me thinking that it would be very useful if I could tweet to an address and get related images and a different one to get links for the research I do… One thing I did discover in my exploration was Jason Theodor’s tweet sheet at http://jasontheodor.com/2008/02/15/twitter-tweet-sheet/ . Hmmm… I wonder what these cheats actually do?

Best Social Network

After opening a Facebook account last, reactivating my Twitter account and getting it interacting with this blog this article “Facebook, Ning or LibraryThing? – Plugging into the best social network for you“‘ was another article that I read today that I found of interest. If I get a little time later on tonight I’ll take a look at some of the other services it notes. http://tinyurl.com/2u8fvh

Virtualizing Computer Desktops

I’m in the process of arranging a Toronto Section SMPTE Evening. One of the topics will be ”
Virtualized Media Production Desktops – Looking Into The Future “. It looks like HP might confirm as one of the speakers they have Remote Graphics Software that is proprietary. http://tinyurl.com/32yce9 One person who has confirmed is Dr. Michael Murphy, Principal Investigator and Lead Research, Accessfabrik Lab, here at Ryerson. His group have done a lot ow work Virtualizing Desktops in industrial environments using Open Source software and tools. http://accessfabrik.rcc.ryerson.ca. Should be an interesting evening.

Eran Frank On Server Virtualization

Another presentation at the Toronto Section SMPTE meeting that I’m arranging for March 11 is a presentation based on the work of Eran Frank of Ryerson. It’s an amazing story of what he’s done for the University. If you’re at Ryerson on Wed. Feb. 27, Eran Frank will present info on Ryerson’s Virtual Server Technology from 10 -11 am, in RBB 2-021. If you’re not in the Toronto area or are just interested download this (http://tinyurl.com/33kkl4). Or you can come and watch me deliver a paper on server virtualization that will outline Eran Franks work at the SMPTE meeting. Details at www.smpte.ca.

Hacking the 2008 SMPTE Technical Conference and Exhibition

Speaking of SMPTE I got an e-mail today from them noting that the 2008 SMPTE Technical Conference and Exhibition has put out a Call for Papers. This year its in Hollywood. http://tinyurl.com/2zu6xf

Random Thoughts

YouTube Getting Better For Technology Research and Learning

I gather in trying to block domestic access, Pakistan’s government blocked YouTube for several hours on Sunday. (http://tinyurl.com/ys9mrg) I’ve not been a big YouTube fan but I’ve been finding it useful for research. For the SMPTE presentation I mentioned above I plan to show 3 YouTube videos on Virtualization. It’s a lot easier to play them then arrange for speakers. The three I’m planning to play are VMWare What Is Virtualization http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnNX13yBzAU, Virtualization…What’s the Big Deal? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDiM19KShAA&feature=related and Multicore and Virtualization http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TiEbHsC5d0&feature=related. Lets hope no-one else tries to take the service down during my presentation.

iBand – The Future Of Music Instrumentation

iBand… Is it the future of bands. You tell me. http://tinyurl.com/3exeyr.

Ryerson University’s New Media Gallery

It’s worth noting that Ryerson’s New Media School will be launching its New Media Gallery this Thursday at 6:30 pm. If you’re interested celebration is planned from 6 to 7pm at IMA323 around the event. I think I’ll drop in.

Taking Risks

I read this article today titled Taking risks may be the smartest way to advance your IT career. The story cites several examples from a number of management types who talk about where and how they have taken risks. I really relate to the line in the story that says “Their stories show that taking risks, even those that don’t pan out, can have big payoffs.” I’ve often found that one can recover from mistakes. The most important thing about mistakes is to learn from them. http://tinyurl.com/2tp2b2

Telephone Teleconferences
Yesterday I sat through a telephone teleconference that had lots of holes in it because it was called in a rush to deal with a problem we were having at work. I think the most important thing a teleconference has to have is an agenda and someone moderating the call. Hence I found this article on Tips and tools was timely. http://tinyurl.com/3da87u

What’s Making These Social Media Press Releases So Hot?

After seeing Collin Douma’s Social Media Press Release session at the Toronto Podcamp 2008, I get this; http://tinyurl.com/2ddvgh

Roger Waters Has New Song

If your an old Pink Floyd fan like I am you may be interested to know that Roger Waters new song To Kill The Child will be on the Body Of War soundtrack. It will be released March 18. http://tinyurl.com/yp9zg2 . I also heard that Roger Waters will be back on tout this summer and Pollstar confirms it (http://tinyurl.com/28zeo5) and their were rumours of a new album. I’ll purchase tickets to see him anytime and anywhere I can make it too. His show last year at the Rogers Centre was amongst the best I saw last year and the best sounding arena shows of the hundreds that I’ve seen.