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High definition TV is low on definitive standards agreements.

High Definition Television has become something of a political football in Europe, a matter of competition and scientific pride in Japan, and an issue of commercial and government concern in the U.S., where the FCC has yet to set official HDTV standards.

While Japan is already broadcasting daily programs with an incompatible HDTV system, and the U.S. and Europe are still in various development stages, a U.S. company -- Faroudja Research of California -- seems ahead of the pack.

Yves Faroudja has developed SuperNTSC, tested and intends to introduce it commercially within the next two years.

According to Isabell Faroudja, VP and Faroudja's wife, SuperNTSC is fully compatible, and therefore meets and FCC requirement which provides that any new HDTV system must be capable of being received on existing TV sets.

According to Faroudja, the broad-channel SuperNTSC is inexpensive to install at the broadcast end, and provides a 30 per cent image improvement when received on ordinary color TV sets. To get the full benefit of the system, a family would have to purchase a new TV set, equipped with SuperNTSC technology. The cost of such a set would be about $300 more than existing receivers.

A new book, HDTV, The Politics, Policies and Economics of Tomorrow's Television (Union Square Press), edited by John F. Rice, offers a wealth of technical and other details about HDTV, via a series of articles whose authors range from Rice himself to French and Japanese scientists, US government researchers and a variety of other experts.

Rice noted that HDTV "has practical uses in industry, at home, in art and medicine, as well as in entertainment." Acknowledging the current debates, Rice said the future at this moment seems rife only with "potential and good intentions."

In a letter to Peter Fannon, president of the Advanced Television Test Center, which has been set up to evaluate HDTV technologies and recommend standards to the FCC, Faroudja maintained that his compliance with FCC regulations made ATTC testing unnecessary.

Paul Polishuk, president of IGI Consulting, said the future of electronic communication will be determined by "the evolution of broadband networks of sufficient capacity to carry multiple video streams and the sophistication to provide advanced video services."

Polishuk noted the importance of emerging fiber optics technologies, which is free of bandwidth restrictions and will give a boost to digital HDTV, currently under investigation by Zenith, General Instrument, MIT and Columbia University.

Faroudja, in commenting on current Japanese HDTV telecasts being aired on a daily basis, noted that the Japanese HDTV system was in no way compatible with existing broadcast or reception units. She maintained that, "many Japanese aren't at all happy with it," due to the telecasts' costs. It was only the Japanese government which was pushing HDTV, she said, in the hopes of getting at least the Europeans to accept the Japanese system. Such an acceptance would be worth billions to the Japanese, but is seen highly unlikely in view of Europe's own ambitions to develop HDTV on the continent.

For the moment, the Sky-BSB merger in Britain has upset plans for the adoption of the D2-MAC standards for future HDTV transmissions. Sky-BSB apparently is sticking with the current PAL standard. The service no longer has an interest in HDTV.

This has greatly upset the French (Eureka) project and their partners in HDTV development. The Dutch (Philips) have already invested millions in the MAC-D2-MAC-HD-MAC progression. If the European Commission ditches MAC, - and there is no strong indication of this happening next year -- the Europeans would have to go straight from PAL to HDTV, which would upset others, like the Italians, the Norwegians, the Finns and the British, who are tied up in the Eureka development.

Faroudja acknowledged that, while HDTV provided significantly clearer and grain-free images, there were limits to its advantages since the eye also had limits in terms of the quality it could perceive from any given signal.

HDTV's basic aim is to achieve the quality of 35mm film and go even beyond, in its search for visual realism.

In the HDTV compendium, Fern Field, producer for Brookfield Productions, puts it very plainly. "While the debates rage," she writes, "the truth of the matter is that Hollywood couldn't care less. The feeling in Hollywood," she said, "is to shoot on film, with its "backward compatibility."
COPYRIGHT 1991 TV Trade Media, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Video Age International
Date:Apr 1, 1991
Words:719
Previous Article:Nothing to acquire, so agents and distributors become producers.
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