The Engadget HD Interview: DirecTV's CTO on HD Lite. - AVS Forum
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Old 01-11-2007, 08:33 AM - Thread Starter
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From Engadget HD, by Ben Drawbaugh.

Quote:


After we finished covering the DirecTV press conference, we had a chance to catch up with Rômulo Pontual the Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of DirecTV and ask him some questions about HD Lite and DirecTV's HD locals distribution methods. We were very surprised that he would answer our questions considering the current pending lawsuit against DirecTV for HD Lite.

Ben Drawbaugh: Have you ever heard of the term HD Lite?
Rômulo Pontual: Yeah.

BD: What do you think of that term?
RP: I don't know what it means.

BD: HD Lite is when you take 1920x1080 and shave it down to 1280x1080i which is what many believe DirecTV does and some have actually confirmed it in different ways. Is there a reason why you cut down the resolution?
RP: We spend a huge amount of resources to optimize our transmission and the configuration we have today is the configuration that is the best video quality for the consumer, I don't want to tell you how, because it is a trade secret. Consumers should judge by the video quality.

BD: So you are saying to ignore the specs and look at the quality and that is where the proof is?
RP: Put the screens side by side and look at the quality.

BD: So you think that even if another provider has a higher bit rate and a higher resolution, your picture quality is better because your compression technology, despite the bit rate?
RP: Bit rate is not a good measure, if it was MPEG4 would be worse than MPEG2, you have to put them side by side and see the quality. Because we have generations of equipment and they improve with each generation, they improve motion sensing, pre-fusing, all of those improvement need to be accounted for, so put them side by side.

BD:You don't feel that DirecTV has sacrificed picture quality at all in order to deliver more HD channels?
RP: Everything in life is a balance, we are not contained in capacity with MPEG4, but we were in MPEG2. MPEG4 will be a leap better in in terms of quality. I could argue that our local MPEG4 transmission today is even better than a ATSC signal.

BD: Another question about your local HD delivery? My understanding is that in Tampa rather than installing an MPEG4 encoder at each local affiliate, DirecTV has a antenna in Tampa that they use to receive the local channels and then DirecTV transcodes the compressed MPEG2 signal to MPEG4 for delivery to subscribers. Is this accurate?
RP: We have multiple way of collecting the signal, it varies market to market, supplier by supplier. I don't know if that is how Tampa channels are done.

BD: Is that one of the scenarios?
RP: There are cases where we get the ATSC signal OTA.

BD: Is it DirecTV's goal to install the transcoders into the local affiliates so that you can encode the source, rather re-compress the ATSC signal?
RP: It is our goal to be a forfront of quality and in the case of this collection of ATSC which is MPEG2 it will be at a lower quality, and we will try to find a way to get the signal at a higher quality.

BD: Any time line on this goal? It seems interesting that you would want to set it up once and have to go back and redo it.
RP: It depends, the same suppliers may get better MPEG2 encoders and they may decide to dedicate more bandwidth to their HDTV channel.

BD: Either way with all multi-casting thats going on today with the local affiliates, wouldn't it always be better to grab the original source from the affiliate before it goes into the MPEG2 encoder?
RP: We have a process to do that, the supply isn't always ready to do that, how they operate, it's cost related, it's a case by case.

BD: Thanks for your time.

Endgadget HD DirecTV Interview

gamertag: cosmo
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Old 01-11-2007, 09:40 AM
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This is insane, the reason that the consumer is forced to have few choices is because local stations have more rights than consumers do. It's time to allow E* and D* to get their signals direct from the national broadcast network at a very high bit rate and send it off to the consumer. Wasting bandwidth so local stations can make a profit is not in the consumers best interest. The government did not make laws to protect ice salesman when the refrigerator was invented and did not protect the washboard industry when the cloths washer was invented, so why should they protect the outdated concept of a "local affiliate"?

If a local TV station can make money then great, if not then too bad. This is America, let the free market have it's winners and losers. Stop blame D* and E* for HD lite and start blaming the government for allowing scum like Sinclair to hold consumers hostage while brodcasting on the air owned by the people not a TV station.
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Old 01-11-2007, 10:48 AM
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Alas, the NAB will never let this happen. It is interesting to note that when this issue came up in Canada, Canadian law ruled that satellite subscribers could watch whatever feed of CBC or other Canadian network they felt like, yet in America we get the anti-consumer SHVERA. At the very least, Congress could have made some quality guidelines that local affiliates would have to meet yet no affiliate even after the cutoff date in 2009 will be required to broadcast anything in true HDTV, they can broadcast 4:3 480i on a digital transmitter and that is OK with the Feds. Not exactly consumer friendly...I'm not sure local affiliates should be eliminated but they should at least be held accountable to quality standards and required to at least broadcast any pre-empted network programs on a sub-channel (some affiliates already do this).
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Old 01-11-2007, 11:04 AM
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Don't eliminate affiliates but rather let them compete in the real market place. Let me decide which affiliate I want to view. Just like I can decide what newspaper I want to read.
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Old 01-11-2007, 11:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lokar View Post

Alas, the NAB will never let this happen. It is interesting to note that when this issue came up in Canada, Canadian law ruled that satellite subscribers could watch whatever feed of CBC or other Canadian network they felt like, yet in America we get the anti-consumer SHVERA. At the very least, Congress could have made some quality guidelines that local affiliates would have to meet yet no affiliate even after the cutoff date in 2009 will be required to broadcast anything in true HDTV, they can broadcast 4:3 480i on a digital transmitter and that is OK with the Feds. Not exactly consumer friendly...I'm not sure local affiliates should be eliminated but they should at least be held accountable to quality standards and required to at least broadcast any pre-empted network programs on a sub-channel (some affiliates already do this).

I never meant to imply that they should be eliminated, just that their monopoly on supplying national network content should be eliminated. A consumer should be able to watch the NBC, CBS etc national feed without sub channels etc and D* and E* should be allowed to carry it. This would eliminate the Sinclair problem as well as allow D* and E* to compete with cable fairly. If a consumer wants to watch D*'s ABC national coverage instead of their Local then thats their choice. If the local wants to be watched then they will have to insert compelling content that would get the consumer to choose cable or OTA.
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Old 01-11-2007, 12:20 PM
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I seem to remember reading this interview and the CTO said something like "we give the best picture to the consumer" but we will improve it later. That makes me laugh. If you are giving us the "best" now, how can you improve it later? I know it's all double-speak and doesn't really mean much. But, it is encouraging that D* will even allow someone to discuss these issues.
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Old 01-11-2007, 12:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tec1271 View Post

From Engadget (link below):
We spend a huge amount of resources to optimize our transmission and the configuration we have today is the configuration that is the best video quality for the consumer, I don't want to tell you how, because it is a trade secret. Consumers should judge by the video quality.

Link

I wish I knew what their "trade secret" was for pq. Too funny!
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Old 01-11-2007, 12:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by keeper View Post

I wish I knew what their "trade secret" was for pq. Too funny!


Shopping channels
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Old 01-11-2007, 12:49 PM
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Local channels are in the consumers best interest. The current arrangement allows people to get local news and information from their local channels, in exchange for providing that the local channels get some measure of exclusivity.

I am not saying that I agree with the value there, but that is the idea.
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Old 01-11-2007, 02:23 PM
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Consumers should be allowed a choice. Get the locals for free via OTA, or pay for a clean feed. And they wonder why piracy is rampant? Because they don't give consumers a choice (or enough choices).

There are problems with simply taking what the network sends, like local air time. Most networks sit in black during that time. Though I guess they could run network promos.

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Old 01-11-2007, 03:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CardiacArrest View Post

Local channels are in the consumers best interest. The current arrangement allows people to get local news and information from their local channels, in exchange for providing that the local channels get some measure of exclusivity.

This was the crux of the argument before the internet. The internet has made the whole relationship with local affiliates change. I can't watch KDKA on TV, broadcasting from Pittsburgh, but I can see the majority of their news content on the internet. And I do.
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Old 01-11-2007, 03:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stephenC View Post

I seem to remember reading this interview and the CTO said something like "we give the best picture to the consumer" but we will improve it later. That makes me laugh. If you are giving us the "best" now, how can you improve it later? I know it's all double-speak and doesn't really mean much. But, it is encouraging that D* will even allow someone to discuss these issues.

You mean if you are the best, you shouldn't try to get better? You are confusing best with perfect.

If you finish first in your class but have something less than a perfect report card, you should stop improving?
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Old 01-11-2007, 03:41 PM
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Local affiliates are a hindrance to quality and sometimes to content. I would pay to subscribe to the actual network feeds, if I had the option. (Assuming the quality proved worth it.)

A.L.a.E.o.t.U.S., as proven 3/21 - never forget.
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Old 01-11-2007, 04:03 PM
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op, can you edit the post to bold the actual questions by the guy from engadget? It's kinda hard to read currently. There are also some comments starting here

My comments:
I've actually been waiting for that interview to show up. Probably the best hard hitting interviews I've seen in a while. But then again, he answered like an officer level would to questions that call into play deficiences in the PQ. He doesn't want to tell us the trade secret because he would then say they do do HD-Lite. Which I'm pretty sure he would know about.

There are a couple of points from what the CTO says that can be argued, and laughed at.

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Old 01-11-2007, 04:03 PM
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There's still nothing to explain why nationals look like "&#!+" too.
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Old 01-11-2007, 04:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steverobertson View Post

Shopping channels


Now that's funny

I've got to admit, that I was really blown away with how dumb this D* executive came across. I mean if this is an example of who is running the company and making "technology" decisions, no wonder Murdoch was in such a rush to dump the company. I mean take his "side by side" comparison example. What does he think we are all blind? I happen to have both cable and D*. Believe me, in a side by side, D* loses.

I've been a D* customer since they went online. They have really been declining in recent years. I look forward to the possibility of more HD programming. But, if the quality continues to decline like it has, I will move to the side that won the "side by side" comparison.

Know your role and shut your hole!
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Old 01-11-2007, 04:19 PM
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I have put D*'s MPEG4 locals side-by-side with my OTA locals, and its no contest. OTA blows the MPEG4-delivered channels out of the water, even with a sub-channel on every network 'cept FOX.
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Old 01-11-2007, 04:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tfelker View Post

Now that's funny

I've got to admit, that I was really blown away with how dumb this D* executive came across. I mean if this is an example of who is running the company and making "technology" decisions, no wonder Murdoch was in such a rush to dump the company. I mean take his "side by side" comparison example. What does he think we are all blind? I happen to have both cable and D*. Believe me, in a side by side, D* loses.

I've been a D* customer since they went online. They have really been declining in recent years. I look forward to the possibility of more HD programming. But, if the quality continues to decline like it has, I will move to the side that won the "side by side" comparison.

I keep thinking 2 things:

1. I'd like to know if he's actually done a side by side comparison.

2. What makes him think anybody who isn't happy with D* PQ is going to spend several thousand more dollars for a matching display? Seriously though, I'm personally not in a position to test against any other HD source since I'm in a market that has one(which might as well be none) affiliate broadcasting HD OTA. I'm out of range. Heck I'm not even in the same state as the broadcasters in my market. I have to watch local news for another state and have no idea what's going on in mine.

I thought that whole interview was very George-like.
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Old 01-11-2007, 04:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Lumpy View Post

There's still nothing to explain why nationals look like "&#!+" too.

And that is the real point.

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Old 01-11-2007, 05:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tec1271 View Post

From Engadget (link below):

I could argue that our local MPEG4 transmission today is even better than a ATSC signal.

There are cases where we get the ATSC signal OTA.

I sure hope they licenses their trade secrets soon. It seems they have come up with a way to make their transmission better than the actual source!
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Old 01-11-2007, 05:19 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mx6bfast View Post

My comments:
I've actually been waiting for that interview to show up. Probably the best hard hitting interviews I've seen in a while. But then again, he answered like an officer level would to questions that call into play deficiences in the PQ.

You mean you because someone had a brain to ask questions that people really wanted answered and at least followed up (sometimes multiple times) to try and get an answer until it became obvious the interviewee was not going to answer - making him look even worse?

BSwanni should take a lesson.....oh wait, if BS made him look bad, BS might not be hired as a "consultant"
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Old 01-11-2007, 05:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mx6bfast View Post

op, can you edit the post to bold the actual questions by the guy from engadget? It's kinda hard to read currently.

Fixed.

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Old 01-11-2007, 05:45 PM
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Quote:
BD: So you are saying to ignore the specs and look at the quality and that is where the proof is?
RP: Put the screens side by side and look at the quality.

RP: Bit rate is not a good measure, if it was MPEG4 would be worse than MPEG2, you have to put them side by side and see the quality. Because we have generations of equipment and they improve with each generation, they improve motion sensing, pre-fusing, all of those improvement need to be accounted for, so put them side by side.

I've seen DirecTV, Dish Network, and Comcast in direct A/B/C comparisons, and I can tell you at times DirecTV is the worst of the three. At best, it can look as good as the other two. This is directly due to the real time multiplexing used.

Quote:
RP: .........MPEG4 will be a leap better in in terms of quality. I could argue that our local MPEG4 transmission today is even better than a ATSC signal.

If they are getting an HD signal before MPEG2 encoding, and if they deliver it in MPEG4 without altering bandwidth or resolution, this could be correct.

'Better Living Through Modern, Expensive, Electronic Devices'

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Old 01-11-2007, 05:53 PM
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Originally Posted by rclifton View Post

I sure hope they licenses their trade secrets soon. It seems they have come up with a way to make their transmission better than the actual source!

I just hope they patent their process - and pray they don't share it with anybody. It's definitely a "secret" I don't want to get out.
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Old 01-11-2007, 05:55 PM
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A big tip of the AVS hat to our own bdraw, aka Ben Drawbaugh, for getting a great scoop.

'Better Living Through Modern, Expensive, Electronic Devices'

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Old 01-11-2007, 07:01 PM
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It is unfortunate that the CTO has to use marketing spin (aka lies, lies, and more lies). Please. The Chief Technical Officer can't be that technically inept, can he? I now can understand why Murdoch was so frustrated with D* to call it a T*B*.

Directv, you have a once in a lifetime opportunity this year with the two sats going up. Don't blow it. I call for Chase to remove this guy and get someone in there to give us 60 high video quality national HD channels instead of 150 HD-Lite ones.

Don
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Old 01-11-2007, 07:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HDTVFanAtic View Post

You mean you because someone had a brain to ask questions that people really wanted answered and at least followed up (sometimes multiple times) to try and get an answer until it became obvious the interviewee was not going to answer - making him look even worse?


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Old 01-11-2007, 07:18 PM
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Originally Posted by CPanther95 View Post

I just hope they patent their process - and pray they don't share it with anybody. It's definitely a "secret" I don't want to get out.


You got that right. I get sick just reading that interview
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Old 01-11-2007, 07:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tec1271 View Post

From Engadget HD, by Ben Drawbaugh.



Endgadget HD DirecTV Interview


Wow!!! This interview convinces me I made the right decision in leaving D*. Not sure I've ever read so much B.S. in such a short interview. Scary. Don't you love that their MPEG4 local transmissions are actually better than the source? Wonder how they do that?
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Old 01-12-2007, 01:58 AM
 
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The way I wish this interview had gone:

After we finished covering the DirecTV press conference, we had a chance to catch up with Rômulo Pontual the Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of DirecTV and ask him some questions about HD Lite and DirecTV's HD locals distribution methods. We were very surprised that he would answer our questions considering the current pending lawsuit against DirecTV for HD Lite.

Ben Drawbaugh: Have you ever heard of the term HD Lite?
Rômulo Pontual: Yeah.

BD: What do you think of that term?
RP: I don't know what it means.

BD: You are telling me that you are the Chief Technolgy Officer of Directv, who has pegged their entire future on HD Delivery, spent literally Billions over the past few years getting ready for it, yet, although you are the CTO, you hear a term called HD-LITE and you don't take 60 seconds to investigate what it means, a term that has been in HDTV stories about Directv in the New York Times, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal? This sounds especially strange and irresponsible given your Company is spending Billions on HD. With that I can only conclude one of 3 things, 1) this is just a sign that you are overpaid and really are not interested in the technology your company is invested so heavy into, 2) a failure of Directv to care about their product or 3) your secret desire to cause Directv to fail in their HD Venture. Which of the three is it?

.....

BD: Thanks for your time. Your lack of knowledge of the technical aspects of your Company in your role of CTO speak louder about the future of Directv than any of your answers...
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