The Magic 8 Ball Speaks Out On 'FOX Next-Gen Splicer update'! - AVS Forum
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HDTV Programming > The Magic 8 Ball Speaks Out On 'FOX Next-Gen Splicer update'!
Ken H's Avatar Ken H 08:58 PM 11-02-2008
The Digital transition is quickly approaching and FOX is committed to ensuring a seamless transition as well as making all necessary changes to continue to operate with the best distribution system in the business.

FOX affiliates will soon receive information regarding a major upgrade to network equipment that will be deployed in 2009. An enhanced MPEG stream-splicer will include graphics overlay capability suitable for any emergency alerts. Other related components will also be upgraded to state of the art products.

The network will make these improvements to the equipment at no cost to the station.

sebenste's Avatar sebenste 09:50 PM 11-02-2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken H View Post

The Digital transition is quickly approaching and FOX is committed to ensuring a seamless transition as well as making all necessary changes to continue to operate with the best distribution system in the business.

FOX affiliates will soon receive information regarding a major upgrade to network equipment that will be deployed in 2009. An enhanced MPEG stream-splicer will include graphics overlay capability suitable for any emergency alerts. Other related components will also be upgraded to state of the art products.

The network will make these improvements to the equipment at no cost to the station.

Good! They have to drop to 4:3 for alerts, and it really hurts stations with local HD programming they want to air; they need a second system to do so. Hopefully, this will be an all-in-one to let stations do just that. Ken, do you know either way?
coyoteaz's Avatar coyoteaz 10:28 PM 11-02-2008
The splicer takes 720p on the local input, so it really doesn't care whether the station decides to run 100% upconverted analog SD or a full HD plant. The new setup isn't going to change anything with that; the station will still need to make the same upgrades as any other non-Fox station to do the news or syndicated programming in HD. The biggest change is that local stations will now be able to stay on the network side when overlaying weather warnings and such instead of switching to the local side (and upconverting the SD feed) when a storm rolls through.
TVOD's Avatar TVOD 02:24 AM 11-03-2008
Best distribution system in the business? While it has some advantages I don't think it can be considered the best considering the limitations. The network-local transition is a cut only and delaying network material is still problematic. There is no line output of the station containing the network feed unless the output stream is decoded, and that is only at ATSC quality and has the encoder delay. Still this is a significant step forward. The splicer system has also allowed FOX to implement AFD efficiently which hopefully will be utilized by the cable and satellite providers for their SD viewers. NBC will need to rely on their affiliates for implementing AFD support. I've read that CBS has no AFD plans and haven't heard if ABC does.
BeachComber's Avatar BeachComber 12:46 PM 11-03-2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by TVOD View Post

NBC will need to rely on their affiliates for implementing AFD support. I've read that CBS has no AFD plans and haven't heard if ABC does.


All future ABC transmission systems will be AFD capable enabling ABC to transport AFD information, when ABC workflow supports it. CBS is in favor of it, but proceeding in the short term with protecting content in the 4:3 window.

As for the current Fox Splicer, it clearly has plusses and a few negatives, but given that I have seen Network O&Os forgot to hit the HD button (or have 2.0 audio with no center channel mixed in) and the problems only got worse as you moved down in market size, I would tend to agree that it was probably the best END TO END (Network feed to Viewers Home) distribution system out there this decade.
nickdawg's Avatar nickdawg 01:17 PM 11-03-2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by BeachComber View Post

All future ABC transmission systems will be AFD capable enabling ABC to transport AFD information, when ABC workflow supports it. CBS is in favor of it, but proceeding in the short term with protecting content in the 4:3 window.

As for the current Fox Splicer, it clearly has plusses and a few negatives, but given that I have seen Network O&Os forgot to hit the HD button (or have 2.0 audio with no center channel mixed in) and the problems only got worse as you moved down in market size, I would tend to agree that it was probably the best END TO END (Network feed to Viewers Home) distribution system out there this decade.

You must have also seen WJW Cleveland. They "forget" to flip the switch many times. A few Saturdays last month Cops was never shown in HD and AMW had the "splicer bug" in the sidebar next to the network SD bug. And it continued all night into MAd TV. They even forget to flip the switch(or have other problems) with local news. That's been passed SD only many times.

And I identify most with CBS on their methods of downconversion. They seem to be taking the most logical(and cost effective) approach right now. There's not much need for affiliates to spend even more money(on top of the money already spent) on broadcast equipment for something like AFD that will be a moot point in a few years anyway. HDTV sets will eventually become the majority. And even before that, I see cable and satellite moving in a way similar to the OTA converters where aspect ratio controls are user-defined.
bdfox18doe's Avatar bdfox18doe 01:24 PM 11-03-2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by coyoteaz View Post

The splicer takes 720p on the local input, .

Actually, it takes720p after encoding to ASI on the input. There is a bit of a difference.
bdfox18doe's Avatar bdfox18doe 01:28 PM 11-03-2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by BeachComber View Post

As for the current Fox Splicer, it clearly has plusses and a few negatives, but given that I have seen Network O&Os forgot to hit the HD button .

That's not a splicer issue, that's a local integration issue.
If the splicer is tallied off the Network "button" from the SD master control switcher (as it should be), there is no "switch to flip" nor "forget to flip". Since FOX always provides programming whether HD or upconverted SD during network time, there's no reason not to do so.
grittree's Avatar grittree 03:53 PM 11-03-2008
Would someone translate "AFD" to English?

Thanks homcon
homcom's Avatar homcom 03:58 PM 11-03-2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by grittree View Post

Would someone translate "AFD" to English?

Active Format Description

Metedata that descibes how to handle different aspect ratio formats (letterbox, center cut, etc..).
TVOD's Avatar TVOD 04:02 PM 11-03-2008
A major advantage of the splicer is the single encode. However, that advantage can be diminished with subsequent re-encoding by the satellite providers, or rate shaping by a cable service or even possibly the station itself.

AF
BeachComber's Avatar BeachComber 05:22 PM 11-03-2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by bdfox18doe View Post

That's not a splicer issue, that's a local integration issue.
If the splicer is tallied off the Network "button" from the SD master control switcher (as it should be), there is no "switch to flip" nor "forget to flip". Since FOX always provides programming whether HD or upconverted SD during network time, there's no reason not to do so.

I agree its a local issue, which I qualified it as:

Quote:
Originally Posted by BeachComber View Post

probably the best END TO END (Network feed to Viewers Home) distribution system out there this decade.


Quote:
Originally Posted by nickdawg View Post

You must have also seen WJW Cleveland. They "forget" to flip the switch many times. A few Saturdays last month Cops was never shown in HD and AMW had the "splicer bug" in the sidebar next to the network SD bug. And it continued all night into MAd TV. They even forget to flip the switch(or have other problems) with local news. That's been passed SD only many times.

As splicer bug is controlled by the data stream, it sounds like WJW has other issues - such as data errors or just a bad receive site. I have never (which is a pretty big statement considering the stations I've viewed) seen a Fox station not be in HD when they were supposed to be. I have on ONE occassion seen a splicer bug remain on screen for 1 entire program.

Also, seems that WJW had to try very hard to get the SD instead of HD programming on the air as denoted by:

Quote:
Originally Posted by bdfox18doe View Post

If the splicer is tallied off the Network "button" from the SD master control switcher (as it should be), there is no "switch to flip" nor "forget to flip". Since FOX always provides programming whether HD or upconverted SD during network time, there's no reason not to do so.


foxeng's Avatar foxeng 07:14 PM 11-03-2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by BeachComber View Post

Also, seems that WJW had to try very hard to get the SD instead of HD programming on the air as denoted by:

It is easier than you think. I know that WJW is automated. I am not sure which system they have, but I do know that depending on how it is configured, some systems require SEPARATE commands for SD and HD while others, like the one at my station will trigger both tallies off of one command. The second command gets dropped and the splicer never goes on line. The bug on the other hand is triggered by network via the program stream. If the stream has an issue, the bug will not switch in and out correctly. WJW having been an O & O until this past July, has the best the industry has to offer and they don't have satellite issues like a small mom and pop UHF affiliate out in say Montana may have. That is just the way it is.

There is not one size fits all even though the splicer is designed to be triggered off the network tally of switchers.
BeachComber's Avatar BeachComber 08:41 PM 11-03-2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by foxeng View Post

It is easier than you think. I know that WJW is automated. I am not sure which system they have, but I do know that depending on how it is configured, some systems require SEPARATE commands for SD and HD while others, like the one at my station will trigger both tallies off of one command. The second command gets dropped and the splicer never goes on line. The bug on the other hand is triggered by network via the program stream. If the stream has an issue, the bug will not switch in and out correctly. WJW having been an O & O until this past July, has the best the industry has to offer and they don't have satellite issues like a small mom and pop UHF affiliate out in say Montana may have. That is just the way it is.

There is not one size fits all even though the splicer is designed to be triggered off the network tally of switchers.

That would make it harder, not EASIER for WJW to screw it up - which I believe was the point????

As noted, the splicer never got the second command to take the bug down, which would seem to be caused by a data error.

All I am doing is speculating that apparently they are also having other data errors in their feed that are forcing them to go SD because otherwise, it would be VERY HARD for them to screw it up otherwise for the reasons you posted. I know that Fox had specific requirements for everything from the Dish to the electronics for the receive path, but there could certainly be some type of issue that is causing all these errors to be occurring, regardless of the equipment (again, all either of us can do is speculate, but you must admit that to have the number of issues noted in the original post about WJW is not normal).
bdfox18doe's Avatar bdfox18doe 09:35 PM 11-03-2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by BeachComber View Post

I I have never (which is a pretty big statement considering the stations I've viewed) seen a Fox station not be in HD when they were supposed to be.


Then you need to take a look at WCOV and WACH occasionally
nickdawg's Avatar nickdawg 10:07 PM 11-03-2008
I don't know what was going on, but I know it had to be local. The same day, others were commenting on the HD episode of Cops. Not HD on WJW. Plus the news after it was not in HD. I've seen that happen independent of the network programming. It has been discussed on our local thread and I think someone emailed the station. I'm not sure if they heard back yet.

Even tonight, Prison Break briefly dropped to SD mid-show then went back to HD a few seconds later.

I can't wait until the splicer updates are complete and weather graphics, etc can be inserted and digital becomes the main feed.
mrvideo's Avatar mrvideo 11:08 PM 11-03-2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by TVOD View Post

Best distribution system in the business? While it has some advantages I don't think it can be considered the best considering the limitations.

I agree with you. Other problems:

1) Bitrate is too low. For example, tonight's Terminator averaged only 11 Mbps. Have you carefully looked at the fades? Horrible. I never see that with what ABC provides to the affiliates. ABC affiliates can determine the bitrate that they will broadcast, i.e., if they do not have a seconday stream, they can use all of the available bandwidth. Fox affiliates do not have that option.

2) What Fox provides is bitrate limited in order for the station to "potentially" add a secondary stream. A total waste of what limited bitrate is available with ATSC.

Since I do not have the necessary expensive equipment to receive Fox, I can't run the complete mux of a typical night through TSReader to verify the following statement. I've only done some simple math, so someone like bdfox18doe will have to comment on my thoughts.

With each transponder's mux supporting four SD streams and four HD streams, even at 79 Mbps (or whatever it is in the 70s), there aren't enough bits to go around. If, for example, the four HD streams needed 17 Mbps, that is 68 Mbps. Not much left over for the SD streams and audio and other data. I know that is extreme. I hope you get my point, The mux is jammed packed. IMHO, the quality of the HD video could be better. On the bright side, once SD goes away, the bits that were being used for SD can now be applied to HD. Will anything improve with the video quality? Don't know. Won't know until the SD feed goes away.

As I understand it, the idea of Fox doing the end-to-end is to reduce problems with stations doing a decode-encode with the MPEG-2 video, as well as being able to deliver DD5.1 audio to viewers. From what I've seen, my local affiliate's MPEG-2, after a decode-encode, is better than the Fox delivered MPEG-2.

Don't even get me started with the stupid idea of letting the affiliates design their own bug to place on the screen. Way to many of them are opaque, including the one used at my local affiliate. Horrible. The new Fox HD bug that appears after breaks would be perfect if it stayed on the screen, as it is really translucent. I prefer ZERO screen clutter.

Quote:


The network-local transition is a cut only.

That is a problem? In many cases, the affiliates do not have the time to do a fade to net. Fade what, black to black? The last thing I want to happen is for the program to be transitioned into. NBC, provides very little time for local breaks. There are plenty of times that the local NBC affiliate doesn't get back to net in time, and there wasn't a real screwup. There is no way they could do a fade transition from local to net and not screw up the network program. As far as I am concerned, cuts are perfect.
mrvideo's Avatar mrvideo 11:20 PM 11-03-2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by TVOD View Post

A major advantage of the splicer is the single encode. However, that advantage can be diminished with subsequent re-encoding by the satellite providers, or rate shaping by a cable service or even possibly the station itself.

How is that different than any other station the provider places on their system. Does anyone actually get anything but the off-air feed, even if it is the ASI output that goes to the transmitter? Under most conditions, aren't providers only getting ATSC streams. Who is going to provide a system with the raw bitrate, that say ABC/CBS/CW/NBC provides their affiliates, only to have it look better via the provider that it does OTA, because the station was dumb enough to place SD streams along side their HD stream, stealing bits from the HD to feed the SD, where the provider would be able to fill the total available bitrate with a decode-encode that would look better than OTA.

The better providers, would take the MPEG-2 video stream and directly apply it to their stream, without a decode-encode. I know, better provider is an oxymoron.
mrvideo's Avatar mrvideo 11:31 PM 11-03-2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by BeachComber View Post

That would make it harder, not EASIER for WJW to screw it up - which I believe was the point????

How do you figure that? By having separate entries in the computer controlled setup, it would be easy for the $2/hr entry person to program the SD and fail to program the HD, thereby causing the HD to be equal to the SD.

What appears to also suck, in this case, is that no one in master control appears to be watching the off-air HD and noticing that it is wrong, or be dumb enough to believe that what is programmed into the system is correct. It is something that should be able to be overridden manually and have the ability to go into the system and correct the mistakes.

If the system was designed so that whenever it went to net, it automatically selected the net HD input to the splicer for HD and the SD input for the SD side. As I understand it, the way Fox does it, there is zero reason to not have the splicer select the Fox net input whenever net is selected.

While I'm a computer guy and believe that letting the computers do the work, because if you give a human a chance to frak it up, it will be frak'd up. Only give the "programmer" a single choice.
mrvideo's Avatar mrvideo 11:36 PM 11-03-2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by BeachComber View Post

All I am doing is speculating that apparently they are also having other data errors in their feed that are forcing them to go SD because otherwise, it would be VERY HARD for them to screw it up otherwise for the reasons you posted.

That is why Fox has the modem connection into each station. That way they can monitor the logged reception errors. Fox has a very strict spec. If the station goes out-of-spec, someone will be sent out there to find out why.
mrvideo's Avatar mrvideo 11:39 PM 11-03-2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by nickdawg View Post

Even tonight, Prison Break briefly dropped to SD mid-show then went back to HD a few seconds later.

That derfinately doesn't sound like a programming error of the automation control computer.

That being said, not being physically at the station and watching things while an "event" occurs, just means we are all backseat drivers. We can only guess.
nickdawg's Avatar nickdawg 12:19 AM 11-04-2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrvideo View Post


Don't even get me started with the stupid idea of letting the affiliates design their own bug to place on the screen. Way to many of them are opaque, including the one used at my local affiliate. Horrible. The new Fox HD bug that appears after breaks would be perfect if it stayed on the screen, as it is really translucent. I prefer ZERO screen clutter.

Did I just hear mrvideo say he "likes" a bug?

I also like the network FOX HD bug. I'm making my prediction now: as we get closer to 2/17/09 we'll see more of that bug. It appears to be two things in one. A HD network bug and a regular old "FOX" bug for a center cut SD channel. It looks like FOX really thought that one through.

Quote:


That is a problem? In many cases, the affiliates do not have the time to do a fade to net. Fade what, black to black? The last thing I want to happen is for the program to be transitioned into. NBC, provides very little time for local breaks. There are plenty of times that the local NBC affiliate doesn't get back to net in time, and there wasn't a real screwup. There is no way they could do a fade transition from local to net and not screw up the network program. As far as I am concerned, cuts are perfect.

FOX was kinda sloppy tonight with the local-to-network cuts. Although I get the feeling it is because of political ad season. With one day left, they're trying to cram in as many as they can. That's really funny when you see commercials for issues with FOR and AGAINST ads back to back.
videojanitor's Avatar videojanitor 01:29 AM 11-04-2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrvideo View Post

That is a problem? In many cases, the affiliates do not have the time to do a fade to net. Fade what, black to black? [...] As far as I am concerned, cuts are perfect.

I wish I'd had you in my corner when they were installing our automation system several years back. The guy who set it up programmed it to do a "fade out/fade in" at every transition. I said "what the h*ll do we need a fade for? The video on both sides of the transition is in BLACK -- just do a CUT!" He was adamant that the fade was better. As soon as he left, I edited the config file and made it a cut.
videojanitor's Avatar videojanitor 01:33 AM 11-04-2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by nickdawg View Post

FOX was kinda sloppy tonight with the local-to-network cuts. Although I get the feeling it is because of political ad season.

That sounds like another local problem, as FOX does not control when the local switching occurs -- the simply provide a format sheet that shows the clock time when the affiliates will get their breaks. It's up the station to insert their material into the available space, and at the right time.
mrvideo's Avatar mrvideo 01:40 AM 11-04-2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by nickdawg View Post

Did I just hear mrvideo say he "likes" a bug?

No, I said it was better than many local designed bugs. THe very next sentence said that I prefer zero screen clutter. I'll never like bugs.

To me, it is like presidental elections (or pretty much any election candidate)... you are always voting for the lesser of two evils.
mrvideo's Avatar mrvideo 01:43 AM 11-04-2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by videojanitor View Post

I wish I'd had you in my corner when they were installing our automation system several years back. The guy who set it up programmed it to do a "fade out/fade in" at every transition. I said "what the h*ll do we need a fade for? The video on both sides of the transition is in BLACK -- just do a CUT!" He was adamant that the fade was better. As soon as he left, I edited the config file and made it a cut.

It wasn't even a cross-fade transition? Doing a fade out and then a fade in takes time. Precious time that you don't have during commercial breaks. When you do cuts, you can butt them up against each other and actually have a chance of getting back to net on time.

What the hell was wrong with that guy!
coyoteaz's Avatar coyoteaz 03:01 AM 11-04-2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrvideo View Post

I agree with you. Other problems:

1) Bitrate is too low. For example, tonight's Terminator averaged only 11 Mbps. Have you carefully looked at the fades? Horrible. I never see that with what ABC provides to the affiliates. ABC affiliates can determine the bitrate that they will broadcast, i.e., if they do not have a seconday stream, they can use all of the available bandwidth. Fox affiliates do not have that option.

Also means the affiliate doesn't have the option to run all their HD at 9Mb/s or less all the time (ABC O&Os I'm looking at you). Effectively forcing the station to keep 15.5Mb/s available for HD allows for the potential of excellent-looking HD across all affiliates, at least when Fox decides they want to do it.

Quote:


2) What Fox provides is bitrate limited in order for the station to "potentially" add a secondary stream. A total waste of what limited bitrate is available with ATSC.

Since I do not have the necessary expensive equipment to receive Fox, I can't run the complete mux of a typical night through TSReader to verify the following statement. I've only done some simple math, so someone like bdfox18doe will have to comment on my thoughts.

With each transponder's mux supporting four SD streams and four HD streams, even at 79 Mbps (or whatever it is in the 70s), there aren't enough bits to go around. If, for example, the four HD streams needed 17 Mbps, that is 68 Mbps. Not much left over for the SD streams and audio and other data. I know that is extreme. I hope you get my point, The mux is jammed packed. IMHO, the quality of the HD video could be better. On the bright side, once SD goes away, the bits that were being used for SD can now be applied to HD. Will anything improve with the video quality? Don't know. Won't know until the SD feed goes away.

73. 4*13.5 + 4*4 + audio puts that right around 73. Statmux as desired to balance out as needed, primarily during football. I agree that the fades could use a bit more on the bitrate, but statmuxing a program against 2 or 3 other copies of itself doesn't really work like doing it with 4 separate football games.

Quote:


As I understand it, the idea of Fox doing the end-to-end is to reduce problems with stations doing a decode-encode with the MPEG-2 video, as well as being able to deliver DD5.1 audio to viewers. From what I've seen, my local affiliate's MPEG-2, after a decode-encode, is better than the Fox delivered MPEG-2.

The splicer setup has allowed Fox to run separate feeds for separate regions, allowing more HD football games and better regionalization of promos and ads, equating to more money. DD5.1 and fewer encode generations are just fringe benefits. In general, Fox stations have suffered from far fewer switching screwups than affiliates of other networks, especially when you look back to when Fox first started HD and most stations were still using first-gen equipment. It's not so much of an advantage anymore as affiliates of other networks have made huge improvements as they transition to digital/HD plants. However, I imagine there are probably still plenty of problems out beyond DMA 50 where upgrade money doesn't flow quite so freely. The splicer still holds a pretty big advantage in the lesser markets when you consider that all an affiliate needs to do to carry Fox HD programming is tack on an upconverter and encoder to the end of their fully analog plant. Fox will pretty much take care of the rest. It's about as close to a turn-key solution as there is in the TV world.
Marcus Carr's Avatar Marcus Carr 04:44 AM 11-04-2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by BeachComber View Post

I have never (which is a pretty big statement considering the stations I've viewed) seen a Fox station not be in HD when they were supposed to be.

WBFF was in SD last night after ten minutes of HD.
foxeng's Avatar foxeng 05:47 AM 11-04-2008
I have no idea if this has anything to do with the situation or not, but the current crop of splicers has a known issue of premature cooling fan failure that is aggressively being addressed by net and also the service company contracted to keep these things running. Stations have been told what to do to identify if their splicer is in danger of overheating and what to do to request a replacement splicer. Again, I have no idea if this has anything to do with this issue or not. Even though WJW is a sister station of my station, the CE that was there in the FOX days has moved on to Speed Channel in Charlotte so I am not sure what is going on there anymore.
foxeng's Avatar foxeng 06:00 AM 11-04-2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrvideo View Post

As I understand it, the idea of Fox doing the end-to-end is to reduce problems with stations doing a decode-encode with the MPEG-2 video, as well as being able to deliver DD5.1 audio to viewers.

The purpose of the splicer was to get an overwhelming number of stations to pass network HD programming with as little cost to the station as possible (remember FOX was going from widescreen SD to 98% HD on football so it was a big deal for advertisers to know that most stations would pass the HD programming) since most FOX affiliates are smaller stations with limited budgets and are mostly analog plants and would be for some years to come, unlike the Big 3 network affiliates who have more money to spend for capital upgrade. And it worked. The minimum required equipment to use the splicer is a 480i to 720p upconverter and a HD encoder. That is all that is required to pass FOX network HD unlike the other networks that require either a HD switcher of some type and a way to route HD-SDI signals from the receivers to the switcher to the encoder. In effect setting up two separate signal paths, which was how it was done in 2004.
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