James Careless /
01.23.2013 04:03 PM
HPA Retreat Reaches Across Centuries of Technology
From UHDTV to 19th century remote sports viewing, annual confab covers all the bases
 HPA 2013123
A crowd watches the 1911 World Series on a “playograph” at the Herald Building in New York.  Click on the Image to Enlarge
INDIAN WELLS, CALIF.—On Feb. 18-22, engineers, content creators and tech gurus will gather at the Hyatt Regency here for the 2013 HPA Tech Retreat. Hosted by the Hollywood Post Alliance, the event will cover a diversity of cutting-edge subjects, including Fox’s successful deployment of mobile DTV, NHK’s experimental 8K-UHDTV coverage of the London Olympics, the status of ATSC 3.0, and how our ancestors gathered to watch remote baseball games before the advent of television.

You read that last one right: Remote baseball game viewing was a hit in the late 19th century!

“This year’s HPA Tech Retreat offers an eclectic mix of topics,” said Mark Schubin, noted DTV expert and the conference’s “program maestro.” Schubin’s personal must-see list includes “the presentation and demo by Sarah Pearson of the 1-3-9 Media Lab in the U.K.,” he said. “With permission, they spy on viewers in their homes as they use TV and second and third screens. She’s shown me a preview, and the results are frightening and enlightening.”

Also on Schubin’s list are a presentation by the EBU’s Hans Hoffmann, “who might put the last nail in the coffin of 3DTV—or perhaps not,” he said. “I’m also looking forward to, among others, ‘What Comes After File-Based Workflows?’, ‘The Design of a Lightfield Camera,’ and the REDRAY 4K player. And I think the idea that people watched live remote baseball games for 50 years before TV is pretty cool.”

FUTURE OF BROADCAST

Schubin has acted as the HPA Tech retreat’s program maestro since 1996. For this year, the lineup he’s assembled touches all the “hot spots” of broadcast engineering, including mobile DTV, UHDTV, and ATSC 3.0.

Thomas Edwards, vice president of engineering for Fox Network Engineering and Operations, will explain the network’s success in deploying and testing mobile DTV. As part of the Dyle Mobile TV service group that includes Fox, NBC, among other broadcasters, the network has been operating Larcan mobile DTV transmitters at 15 of its O&Os. These transmitters output 640 x 386 line digital signals, which work well with mobile devices. “My message is simple: Mobile DTV works, and has arrived today,” Edwards said. “Affordable receiver add-ons for iPhones and standalone receivers are now available. As well, requiring viewers to access our signals through the free registration with the Dyle service allows us to quantify our viewership, which is key to attracting advertisers.”

Masayuki Sugawara, an executive research engineer with NHK Science and Technology Research Laboratories will present the “Operational Experience of Providing 8K-UHDTV Coverage of the London Olympics.” The session will detail the London Olympics Super Hi-Vision (SHV) coverage, which used 7,680 x 4,320 pixel ultra-high-definition video and 22.2 multichannel sound system. The content was displayed at various venues in Japan, the U.K., and Washington, D.C. during the games.

Sugawara will describe the end-to-end 8K-UHDTV production process used at the London Games, which produced stunning video and audio that wowed viewers. “One of the challenges in program production was the lack of the picture monitor with the same size and resolution as used in the final presentation sites [public viewing theaters],” he said. “The producers and video engineers made efforts to fill this ‘gap’ in their mind during the operation.”

Jim Kutzner, PBS’s senior director of advanced technology, will provide an update on the progress being made in developing the ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard. Joined by Skip Pizzi, NAB’s director of digital strategies, the pair will delve into the reasons for moving towards ATSC 3.0 while broadcasters and consumers are still getting accustomed to ATSC 1.0. The pair will discuss the process and progress to date.

Mark Schubin
“ATSC 1.0’s key components, MPEG-2 and the AAC audio standard, have been around for about 20 years,” Kutzner said. “In this time, a lot has changed in video and audio technology. If broadcasters intend to stay relevant, and be able to implement 4K or 8K video and other advanced systems in the future, we have to keep moving ahead. That’s what ATSC 3.0 is all about.” The current timetable is to achieve an ATSC 3.0 candidate standard by the end of 2015.

REMOTE BASEBAL SANS TV

The icing on the HPA Tech Retreat’s proverbial cake will be Schubin’s “Post-Retreat Treat: Watching Remote Baseball Games Live Before Television” which will take place the afternoon of Feb. 22, when the Retreat has officially wrapped up. “We wanted a reward for those people who stay around to the end,” he said.

The story Schubin has to tell about pre-TV remote baseball is frankly astounding. Using a combination of telegraphed live reports, display screens in theaters, and event actors dressed as players, sports fans were able to “see” baseball games at a distance.

“The first system in 1884 used a diagram of the ball field with holes for posting the names of the players on the field to allow the action to be followed via telegraph messages,” said Schubin. Over the years, moving figures and lights were used to show the action in as close to real-time as possible, attracting huge crowds to theaters and outdoor venues.

“In 1911, New York’s ‘Evening Telegram’ estimated the crowd watching the World Series on their ‘playograph’ in Herald Square at 70,000,” Schubin said. “That was about 20,000 more than were watching in the stadium, and sufficiently disruptive to motivate local merchants to sue the newspaper for damages due to lost business.” These pre-TV systems held sway until TV itself began to broadcast games in 1939.

All of the above events are just some of the highlights at the 2013 HPA Tech Retreat. The full agenda can be seen online.



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