Test and measurement in digital television


Do we need to worry about test and measurement in digital television?
Let’s be clear about this. Test and measurement tools are not there to make life difficult for you, they are there to ensure that we get the best quality pictures and sound through the long path to the home within a required technical specification. So yes, simply put, checking that we are getting the best out of the technology – that black is black, white is white, and colours can be reproduced accurately within the tolerances broadcasters set– is vital.
It is true that digital systems are stable, so a signal can be passed from one device to another without degradation. But we need to consider the two primary areas, the first where changes through equipment can change the signal, the other where creative personnel can changes the signal parameters. So whenever a device has the capability of changing the quality of the signal we need to make sure that it is still operating within specification.
Once the electronic to electronic (E to E) path is established as being OK, it is the operational areas that we need to look at. Hamlet encourages production staff to think from first principles – to get it right in the can from the offset. We need to get the best out of the camera, obviously, obtaining the best contrast ratios making sure the black and whites have no colour bias. Indeed using the waveform monitor on a HD shoot can assist with focus! Every edit system today has colour correction facilities, which can put you out of gamut. Overlaying graphics onto a picture can do the same and possibly insert unsuitably sharp edges which under scrutiny will be rejected.
Good test equipment should be simple to use, and will make it obvious to you when something is wrong, guiding you to put it right before you sign off on it.
What happens if I just ignore the problem?
If you deliver a programme which has out of specification content, one of two things will happen.
First, the quality control pass of the broadcaster will reject the programme and send it back to you to put right. That means more work, more cost and a reputation for not caring about quality.
Alternatively, if it’s expedient to do so, the broadcaster will just push the content through a legaliser, which will electronically adjust the content to make it fit within the broadcaster’s specifications. Neither you nor more importantly the director, will have any control over what happens in this process, and nor will anyone else. In a commercial costing many hundreds of thousands of pounds, will the clients pack shot be the right colour! Colours may be all over the place, and there is a good chance that vital details in the picture will be lost. The director and client seeing it on screen will note that you do not care about their product or quality.
All right. I understand I have to do this. What key parameters should I check?
Bearing in mind both video and audio are actually originally analogue, we have to make the best interpretation into a digital domain, to reproduce these signals as close to reality as is technically feasible.
In vision, it is possible to check the synchronisation, video levels, tolerances, distortion, timing, active area period, end and start of active video, EYE pattern display and existence of audio embedded in the video - to name a few. You use a waveform monitor to check these.
You also need to check colour gamut. It may be hard to grasp, but there are some colours that cannot, when added together, be reproduced on television, because of the way we convert each colour to the three primaries: red, green and blue. If you push your colour correction system you can get outside that legal gamut of colours, which can be catastrophic.
With the aid of vectorscopes and other displays, gamut characteristics can be assessed with ease.
For sound, you need to know that levels are consistent through the programme, and are not so loud as to cause distortion, that the audio is where it is supposed to be in the embedded, AES/EBU or analogue domain.. In some countries it is common practice to utilise a high gain at the bottom of audio scales to assess the quietness of the audio achieved, is there unwanted noise there? In stereo you need to check the phase of the output, something which is even more important for surround sound. Substantial out of phase audio makes audiences feel uncomfortable at best and nauseous at worst.
It sounds like I need a huge number of screens
Traditionally each of these instruments would be a separate device; Hamlet was first to integrate both waveform and vectorscope into an instrument, adding audio later, then signal generation. Depending on the area of operation in some places in a broadcast facility they are still separately displayed on an instrument that can show many trace displays.
But for operational areas there are modern tools like the award winning Hamlet DigiScope DS900 and VidScope range, which puts up to multiple measurement and monitoring displays on a single computer monitor. VidScope is a particularly cost-effective buy, easy to use and understand, and as accurate as a traditional instrumentation.
On my checklist is something called PSE. What is this and what can I do about it?
About one in 5000 of the population suffers from something called photosensitive epilepsy, or PSE. Flashing lights, or certain colour combinations, can set off an epileptic episode which is devastating for the sufferer and those who have to offer care.
Recently doctors and engineers have collaborated to determine the precise causes of a PSE episode. From this we have been able to develop algorithms to measure for this and to trap potentially dangerous sequences before the programme is transmitted. So when you are looking for new test and measurement tools, make sure you check that PSE, to the agreed international standard (ITU recommendation 1702) is included.
And if you think that one in 5000 sounds like long odds, remember that a moderately successful programme might have an audience of five million, which means a thousand people could be made to suffer because of it.
Do I need to worry about audio?
You certainly need to keep an eye on all levels, amplitude, frequency response, channel separation, noise, balance between stereo or surround channels, and phase. Some of these are performed in the engineering domain.
There is a new issue to be considered, too, or rather there is finally a solution to a very old issue. Level metering is not actually very good at measuring the actual perceived loudness of sound, which depends upon the content and duration of sounds. Audiences are all too aware of the issue of relative loudness, and have been complaining about it – and particularly that commercials always seem louder than the programmes – for decades.
Broadcasters and international bodies have finally taken action, an accurate means of measuring perceived loudness developed, and specifications laid down. Everyone is more or less agreed that ITU recommendations 1770 and 1771 are the world standard.
So when choosing your test and measurement suite, whether you go for discrete instruments or a PC-based software suite in you audio post area or not, you should make sure loudness monitoring is included.
I’m shooting in stereoscopic 3D. Do I need to worry about test and measurement?
There are two issues here. First, you have to get the best out of both the cameras, of course, because you are working on a premium production. More important, you have to ensure that the two cameras match precisely, because any differences in level and colour will impair the 3D illusion for the viewer.
Second, there is a need to measure the stereoscopic effect on set, because fixing it in post is difficult, time-consuming and extremely costly. Setting the inter-axial distance and convergence on the rig is a critical step because it is largely fixed. A good test tool can then take the video outputs of both cameras and compare them to give the stereographer a numerical measurement of the depth budget.
Getting it right on set is always a good rule to live by, but in stereoscopic 3D production it is absolutely vital. Here VidScope-3D is the ideal solution.
People tell me I need to check the eye. Do I?
If you are an engineer responsible for a digital infrastructure, you need to be sure that the cables and core equipment are delivering a good, clean signal throughout the signal's path, as there are many transmitting and receiving points through the chain!
In simple terms, digital transmission converts the video and audio signals to measured values, which are expressed in bits and bytes. These are then sent as binary data: a one is a high voltage and a zero is a low voltage. Provided that the receiving equipment can tell the difference between a high voltage and a low voltage the signal is reproduced perfectly.
So you need to tell that there is a clear distinction between high and low voltages. Now you can spend many thousands of pounds on dedicated data analysers which will give you vast amounts of measurements and generally keep the geek in you happy.
Or you can use a simple display which shows the digital signal as it passes. If there is a good distinction between high and low voltages you will see on the screen a clear space in the middle, which looks like an eye. If the signals are getting corrupted the eye will close and you know you have problems. The eye pattern test is simple, direct and accurate enough for practical engineering.
I’m a busy engineer. How do I check these things without pushing a trolley full of equipment around?
The problem is actually more acute than the inconvenience of pushing a trolley around: pulling cables out to connect to large instruments can actually change what you are trying to monitor.
Digital high definition television uses a data rate of 1.5Gb/s, which is very fast. 1080p, or stereoscopic 3D, needs 3Gb/s data transmission, which is a very tall order. At that speed the signals in the cable are running at radio frequencies, which means the co-axial cable needs to be carefully handled. Sharp bends or indentations from too-tight cable ties will spell death – or at least extreme sickness – to the signal.
So pulling a cable out of a rack and leading it, probably in a nice straight line, to a big device on a trolley may not tell you how it is performing inside its cable loom, formed to plug into the back of the device. You need to get the measuring device to the end of the cable, not take the cable out to the measuring device.
That is one of the reasons we at Hamlet developed MicroFlex, a handheld instrument which uses our bespoke digital patented measuring platform and modular architecture. It is easy to get it to the end of the cable, where it will measure all sorts of things including the eye pattern.
The other reason is that we know engineers are fed up with pushing a trolley full of equipment around.
How do I find out more about the best test and measurement tools for my requirements?
Talk to a manufacturer who is dedicated solely to broadcast technology, who listens to the market, and who has invested in developing innovative tools to meet the real needs of both operational and engineering staff. I look forward to hearing from you.

Tags: iss054 | test and measurement | pse | ask the experts | levels | amplitude | frequency response | channel separation | noise | balance | stereo | surround channels | phase | N/A
Contributing Author N/A

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Contributing Author Daniel Harker Barnes Click to read or download PDF
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Tags: iss130 | freemantlemedia | core | wazee | Chad Hamilton
Contributing Author Chad Hamilton Click to read or download PDF
TV Futures, Tales on Location
Georgia Thirtle If I think back to last May, I was just finishing my second year at the University of Portsmouth, studying Television and Broadcasting, and winding down for the summer. Then out of the blue I got a message from my course leader, saying I might be getting a call from someone who was a location manager working for Raider productions, you know, the production company behind the upcoming Tomb Raider film, I mean, what!?
Tags: iss130 | portsmouth university | tomb raider | cci tv | ccitv | Georgia Thirtle
Contributing Author Georgia Thirtle Click to read or download PDF
Grand slam IPTV and digital signage platform
Joe Walsh Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, is home to major league baseball’s Kansas City Royals. Built in 1973, “The K” has a proud baseball legacy, and goes down in history for winning two World Series championship titles; one in 1985 and another in 2015 — exactly 20 years apart. The most recent win brought a resurgence of baseball fever to the stadium, hosting more than 2.7 million fans during its 2015 winning season.
Tags: iss130 | iptv | vitec | eztv | Joe Walsh
Contributing Author Joe Walsh Click to read or download PDF
The shining star of Dancing On Ice
Rod Aaron Gammons Lighting is an incredibly important part of any TV production, and it can make a huge difference to what is seen on-screen. If the right lights are used in the right way, it can create a mood, set a tone and convey a certain atmosphere.
Tags: iss130 | rotolight | led lighting | anova pro 2 | chris yacoubian | Rod Aaron Gammons
Contributing Author Rod Aaron Gammons Click to read or download PDF
Out of the box: Sennheiser Ambeo VR microphone
Jon Pratchett 2 The use of 360 video, especially on platforms like Facebook and YouTube is really starting to take off. Gone are the days when you needed to buy multiple GoPros and rigs in order to get something decent looking. Now players like Insta360 and even GoPro with their fusion 360 camera are providing single camera, high quality solutions, enabling the masses to put out reasonable quality, certainly watchable, 360 video.
Tags: iss130 | vr | virtual reality | audio | ambiosonic | Jon Pratchett 2
Contributing Author Jon Pratchett 2 Click to read or download PDF
Technological advances in the broadcast industry
Alan Wheable Since it is Omnitek’s 20th anniversary this year, I thought it would be interesting to look back over the technological advances in the broadcast industry over the last few decades and look at the similarities between then and now.
Tags: iss130 | omnitek | test and measurement | smpte 2110 | untra tq | 2022 | sdi 2022-6 | Alan Wheable
Contributing Author Alan Wheable Click to read or download PDF
NAB is all about people
John Smith -new The relative success of NAB is down to people. The individuals we meet, the relationships we make and renew with customers and the desire to work together to develop a technology solution to any given challenge.
Tags: iss130 | media links | nab | mdp 3020 | md8000 | John Smith -new
Contributing Author John Smith -new Click to read or download PDF
Interview with Peter Rowsell, Polar Graphics
Polar If you don’t recognise the name Peter Rowsell instantly you no doubt would recognise him in person, from the famous ‘Pink Coconut’ parties during IBC (Brighton) in the 80s or the name ‘Polar Video or Polar Graphics’ both companies which he’s built up over the years.
Tags: iss130 | polar graphics | apantac | bluefish | cinedeck | focalpoint | mediaproxy | stardom | storagedna | Polar
Contributing Author Polar Click to read or download PDF
Why OTT needs multicast ABR
Damien Lucas Last year, Netflix’s global revenue reached $11 billion, with 24 million new names added to its subscribers’ list. Viewers are certainly making their preferences heard – and voting with their remote controls to show that over-the-top (OTT) content is here to stay.
Tags: iss130 | ott | abr | adaptive bit rate | cdn | dsl | lte | Damien Lucas
Contributing Author Damien Lucas Click to read or download PDF
Reliable back-up at the Music City Bowl
Sam Gordon WLEX – LEX18 – is the NBC affiliate in Lexington, Kentucky, and part of the Cordillera Communications Group. As a very popular local station with a broadcast area that covers 40 counties across central Kentucky we have a big commitment to news, broadcasting more than seven hours of live programming on a typical day.
Tags: iss130 | wlex-tv | dejero | engo | gobox | cellsat | Sam Gordon
Contributing Author Sam Gordon Click to read or download PDF
State of the Nation
Dick Hobbs - new

On the most recent occasion I was trimmed, my hairdresser had just returned from a holiday in Hawaii.

Where she thought she was going to die. She thought this because the state’s emergency alert system was triggered, sending messages across all available platforms, for 38 minutes, that a ballistic missile was about to strike. That, I suspect, is the sort of thing that casts a pall across your holiday.

Why did it happen? Essentially it happened because an operator selected the wrong menu item. “I feel very badly from what’s happened,” he is quoted as saying, in a somewhat mangled version of English which may at least in part explain his difficulties with menu items.

Tags: iss130 | alertsense | Dick Hobbs - new
Contributing Author Dick Hobbs - new Click to read or download PDF
Six steps for award winning sound design with Jungle Studios
Chris Turner Few can argue that great sound design is one of the most important elements to any moving picture. Mute most horrors, and the difference in fear factor will be enormous. Visualize Jaws or Star Wars, and John Williams’s iconic score will instantly come to mind.
Tags: iss130 | jungle studios | fairlight | blackmagic design | davinci | Chris Turner
Contributing Author Chris Turner Click to read or download PDF
Tried and tested: DPA d:vice
KitPlus KitPlus recently took delivery of an interesting piece of equipment for review. We like our iPhone gadgets here. For us, useful iPhone gadgets started when the Olloclip lens gave us a wide angle adaptor. This was a good start, finally evolving into a proper tool when Ziess produced the Exolens system for the 5,6 & 7 series iPhones. Around the same time as the Olloclip came out we were testing the Fostex AR4i which was a very exciting development at the time. You have a portable device, that you carry everywhere with you, connected to the world but with very limited audio capabilities. A stereo interface with decent microphones was a real boon!
Tags: iss130 | dpa | dvice | iphone | journalist mic | filmic | ios | microdot | KitPlus
Contributing Author KitPlus Click to read or download PDF
VR and the importance of tracking
KitPlus I would like to begin this article by clarifying what we at Shotoku mean when we talk about VR in live production. It’s not the production of immersive, 360 content where you need to wear a headset; we are talking about virtual studio (VS) and augmented reality (AR) work, such as placing graphics into a green screen environment or physical set. The technology used for this work is entirely different, though equally specialist – therefore it is important to understand the challenges of this kind of production in order to make informed kit choices.
Tags: iss130 | shotoku | vr | live production | KitPlus
Contributing Author KitPlus Click to read or download PDF
How IP-based KVM can improve workflow in broadcast control rooms
John Halksworth One of the most significant shifts the broadcast industry has seen over recent years is the adoption of IP technology as a standard infrastructure across the entire broadcast workflow. IP provides a network suitable for routing audio, video and control around a broadcast facility and is providing the answers to many industry challenges.
Tags: iss130 | kvm | adder | adderlink | alif100t | John Halksworth
Contributing Author John Halksworth Click to read or download PDF
The Outlook for 2018
Duncan Payne January has arrived…and the New Year promises great opportunities for those prepared to seek them out, with the one certainty that change is constant.
Tags: iss129 | adamantean | finance | cvp | netflix | amazon | arri | hdr | sadie groom | rise | Duncan Payne
Contributing Author Duncan Payne Click to read