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HDTV on world stage.

The Japanese are ow at the third, or digital, stage of evolution: their first two attempts have turned into a production standard (1125/60) and a transmission standard (Muse). Financed by NHK, the standards have now reached their final stages, with the availability of a complete range of production equipment for broadcasters, post production equipment, and transmission equipment for satellite. In its third stage, the HDTV video signal is now being recorded digitally. Digital video recording has become more reliable, despite the fact that the equipment is still too big and the tape used is too large to become the real future standard production tool for HDTV. Anyway, it's working well, and allows multigenerational production at a very high quality. The second generation of compact Muse decoders and the availability of small satellite dishes have made the production of HDTV receivers possible for the consumer market. Prices are still high, limiting the market penetration of HDTV sets to a very small percentage, but NHK's HDTV daily satellite broadcasting is today a reality. Another approach, supported by Japanese commercial television networks, is to accelerate the evolution of EDTV, started in that country about a year ago. The second step, expected in the upcoming months, is the introduction of the 16/9 aspect ratio in the terrestrial broadcasting, together with a higher resolution of an NTSC enhanced picture.

Act II: Focus on Europe

The Eureka program has changed the television future of Europe. It started to counterbalance the excessive penetration of Japanese TV equipment and technology into the European market. The European-originated HDTV system has to be ready by 1995. Based on a compatible approach with the present 625/50 system, the European HDMac is a brand new transmission standard, aimed at reaching homes via satellite. On the production side, the equipment is now in the second generation. The video recording is still analog in the fullband approach. At the last Montreux Symposium, new proposals were made to improve the actual digital video recording format D1 to double or more its information content, and make it available also for HDTV purposes. On the consumer side, the first 16/9 receivers are already on the market, but they still don't have the HDMac decoder, expected to be available to consumers in 1993. At the 1991 IFA exhibition in Berlin, the new, advanced transmission system Pal-Plus was shown, which will allow the introduction of the 16/9 display format via terrestrial broadcasting, and give European viewers their enhanced terrestrial television format.

Act III: North America

In the U.S. and Canada, HDTV is already used in advertising, music videos or some special sporting events on closed circuit. For these purposes, the Japanese 1125/60 standard is being used. In the U.S, ATSC is now studying different proposals, among which will be chosen the future American broadcasting standard, expected to be approved by 1993. The inclination is towards an all digital standard. The production standard should be compatible with NTSC, thus allowing the simulcast of the new HDTV program and its NTSC version. At the same time, there are several proposals for a direct-to-home HDTV satellite broadcast, but plans are slowing down awaiting the FCC final decision on the terrestrial standard. An advanced NTSC compatible standard is also considered. If accepted, it will allow NTSC broadcasting to use the 16/9 display format and a better quality picture.
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Title Annotation:high definition television
Author:Bargauan, Stefano
Publication:Video Age International
Date:Oct 1, 1991
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