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WFLD or FOX National?  

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
I was watching the Simpsons today on Ch. 31-1, remap 32-1 on WFLD-DT Chicago's FOX affiliate, and it was stretched 16:9 from 4:3 material. This is the national network feed, so it troubles me greatly that this material was stretched. Normally it is presented with black bars. Is this chicago local or national? Anyone in chicago know why this is happening (cue to Bob Olsen at WFLD).
post #2 of 6
Just read your message today 5/9. Can you give me exact time and day? Was it Sunday night? I'll have to check the schedule and see whether we were local or network when this happened.

We play some Simpsons shows off tape from here, and send all local stuff out as 4:3 now.

Network shows are usually sent in anamorphic 16:9, so we apply H-stretch to restore their look. I wonder what the network was doing on this night, if in deed it was during the network period.

Since I was not here, it'll be hard to diagnose what happened at this date. It's possible the MCR operator pulled a patch and allowed the "analog" 4:3 version to go out the DTV path, and the DTV path would have the 16:9 stretch on it, thereby making it look bad.

Best I can do for now.

Bob
post #3 of 6
Bob..
Silly question, but our FOX affiliate runs the anamorphic digital feed just the way it is and sees nothing wrong with it. Can you explain to someone such as myself how to apply the horizontal stretch. Is it a seperate box or a selection on the transmitter, itself? Is it part of the satellite receiver?

I ask because my conversations with WXIX, Cincinnati, always come out the same: "We're transmitting what FOX is sending. It's their problem." And "4:3 IS widescreen." I've also gotten "Fox hasn't transmitted anything in widescreen since the Super Bowl." It would help if I could say "Look, when it says 'widescreen' have the duty tech hit the H-EXT button on the left side of the Radyne box in the second rack on the left."

If it helps, I have a tiny broadcast TV background. Used to sell broadcast gear for Delcom between radio gigs in the 70s and 80s.

Thanks.

Doc
post #4 of 6
DrDon,

I recall getting some other e-mails about the Fox affiliate in Cincinnati. Tried reaching their engineering people, but only got to voicemail and nobody returned my call.

In Chicago, we have an upconvertrer box made by Faroudja, the model DFT, that cost us over $70,000 to handle scan and format conversion for DTV. Of course, that was 1999 pricing, and I'm sure they're cheaper now.

Anyway, we tell the box to take the incoming FOX Network feed and give it horizontal stretch to 16:9. This seems to restore OAR on most material.

Be aware that this evolution into digital TV is a learning curve for all and there is no one good answer to how to handle these AR issues during this transitional phase. 99% of the programs out there are 4:3 AR and in Chicago we have changed from sending them out as 14:9 to sending them out as 4:3 at the request of the viewers on this forum. FOX Network sends out a 16:9 feed for primetime in 480P30. SOmetimes the image is actually shot/transferred 16:9, sometimes the image is 4:3 on a 16:9 raster so there are black sidepanels on the image sides, and on Andy Richter they were doing a zoom-in/blowup and tilt to take a 4:3 image and make it 16:9. This causes a loss of detail (as if there is a lot of detail in 4:3 480i images to begin with) and loss of information across the top and bottom (i.e. lost lines). Compare the standard broadcast alongside the zoomed-in image and you'll see what I mean. I don't have any control over that decision, and it's probably more of that trial and experimentation everyone is doing with the medium.

And don't anyone flame me about going direct to 16:9 HDTV 720P or 1080I and this problem would be solved. There's not enough hours in the day to re-produce enough original content to feed all the broadcast timeslots 24 hours a day.

The cost to scrap our local facilities and rebuild them to full HDTV capability would cost us over 20 million dollars just in equipment and infrastructure changes alone. Unlike ABC, CBS and NBC, FOX only has 2 hours of network shows weekdays. The other 22 hours is filled with local newscasts and syndicated programming. We're at the mercy of what the syndicators are producing, and they're facing some of the same cost justifications we are. I personally wish we could just do it, but it's a business decision based on where the viewers are, and the cost justifications aren't there yet. Consumers are not rushing out to buy HDTV sets the same way they bought Nintendos and Furbys (yes there is a big cost difference). Consumers did not ask for HDTV/DTV either. The government mandated it, and we had to do it. Cost us over 6 mil just to put up the transmitter.

Thyis is getting too long. Sorry.
post #5 of 6
Bob..
Not at all. Your message coupled with my own observations and conversations with their street cameramen gives me a good idea of what they're doing/not doing at WXIX.

Assuming they have the same DFT box as you do, they are selecting the 14:9 AR mode and feeding it the station's NTSC program line 99% of the time.

For the last few months, they've had it in 4:3 AR and would occasionally punch up the anamorphic feed from FOX, but never leave it there past a local break nor select the 16:9 H-stretch when they did. Since FOX continutes to send anamorphic video even during 4:3 programming, this resulted in the 9:16 "weirdscreen" or vertical letterbox effect.

Prior to the Superbowl (which they got right) they DID run several 16:9 programs properly. They looked great. You knew you were getting the FOX widescreen network feed because there were no local commercials in the local avail slot. You got 2 minutes of the spinning FOX logo, instead. And, about 2 minutes into the local newscast, it would dawn on the tech to switch everything back to the 14:9 zoomed conversion of the NTSC feed.

I would bet lunch that that tech isn't there, anymore. I would further surmise that nobody at WXIX owns any DTV receiving gear. Calls to them are frequently met with the "watch the analog channel" responses.

Fortunately, the other DT broadcasters in town get it, especially the ABC and CBS guys, who are nearly as obsessed with HD as those of us on this forum. Must not be an active SBE chapter around here, or you'd think those guys would lunch with the WXIX guy and say, "Look, dude, if you need some help with that stuff..."

Doc
CBS ...radio
post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 
Bob,

Firstly, thanks for replying back. I just wanted to post this message as a heads up in case further problems might've come, but they didnt so I let it die. The night in question was the day of the post, 4/28 (Sunday). The shows were the Simpsons and King of the Hill. These were network shows, not the local reruns. The black bars that normally accompany the shows (with the Fox logo partially cut off) were gone and the image was stretched to 16:9 without filler bars. The problem was actually non-existant for the showing of the X-Files and Malcolm in the Middle. I was just posting to let u guys know what was going on that night. Everything's been perfect since then. Hope that helps Bob, thanks for looking out for the digital TV viewers and keep up the good work.
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