Smart antennas

Dear Aldo Cugnini:
I just read your “Smart antennas” article in the March issue. Any idea how much these antennas cost? Because of the three-pronged locations of broadcast transmitters in this area, we are frequently hearing about problems with the traditional directional antennas. This could be an important solution for our area.
Sandra Session-Robertson
President and CEO
KSMQ Public Television
Austin, MN

Aldo Cugnini responds:
To my knowledge, there are three vendors of antennas, none of which are currently available. Funai/DX, RCA/Audiovox and GE/Jasco each has a smart antenna, but they have not announced availability. The price will probably be around $40 to $50. As I mentioned in the article, retailers are not too enthusiastic, as antennas are slow movers. That means it's hard to get the price down to the $10 to $20 that would really make them sell.

STBs for resale

Dear Aldo Cugnini:
Great article on off-air digital STBs. (See “Smart antennas” in the March issue.) Our company just made the deadline today and will be accepting coupons for the cutover.

We are mainly a satellite, satellite master antenna TV (SMATV) and RF signal distribution design company located in New Jersey. We hope to see a good amount of commercial establishments that need to be converted — hospitals, nursing homes, car dealerships, etc.

Can you provide me with any information on where I can get STBs for resale?
Greg Frasca
Tinton Falls, NJ

Aldo Cugnini responds:
You can go to the NTIA Web site at to get a full list of certified converter boxes. While the coupons are intended for consumers, the same boxes can be sold to anyone, such as your commercial customers. I will also forward your e-mail to a client of mine that makes the boxes.

Can't hear the dialogue

Dear editor:
We've recently upgraded our DIRECTV to HD. Since then, we've noticed that background sounds — music, traffic noise, previously indistinct conversations, etc. — are so loud that they make the dialogue faint. As a result, we have to use closed captioning.

This highly irritating situation is most obvious on two shows, “CSI:NY” and “Cold Case.” When we watch or record WINK-TV (the CBS-affiliated television station for southwest Florida) on our non-HD DIRECTV box, there is no problem at all with the audio on these two programs.

The DIRECTV technical staff attributes this problem, which has been frequently reported from this area (Port Charlotte), as a “broadcast problem of which the station should be well aware.” I gave WINK a call, hoping to identify the problem's source. After all, it could be that all DIRECTV viewers going to the WINK signal have the same problem.

I was able to talk with an engineer at WINK on my first try. Wow! He was most helpful and told us to turn off any surround-sound features in our TV. Our old DIRECTV box didn't handle 5.1, and the new HD box does, and therein was the clue to the problem. Apparently our three-year-old TV is not compatible with 5.1 sound. Hopefully, the problem will go away now.
Edward and Margaret Barry

Standards conversion

Dear editor:
In a worldwide company, standards conversion becomes a major issue. What are automation providers doing to minimize concatenation problems?

Sid Guel responds:
On the world stage, standards such as PAL, NTSC and one-offs are still an issue. As for DTV and HDTV, the trend is automation systems with built-in transcoders. This lessens the need for external third-party transcoders. Research shows that built-in transcoders are more popular with combo and hybrid systems.

Test Your Knowledge!

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