For the last few years, and this year as well, test-equipment manufacturers concentrated on introducing products that analyze digital TV streams. But one outstanding difference between 2003 and past shows is the much larger number of new products introduced this year.
One of the most exciting products in test gear comes from Leader Instruments. This Pick Hit award winner, the FS3018, is a portable monitor that works in conjunction with the company's lab-benchtop model LV5700 multi-SDI monitor. A display small enough to carry in one's hand shows what the benchtop monitor is measuring. Users can read the FS3018 lightning monitor on a PDA while walking around a set, changing lights or shading cameras. (Prediction: this is the start of a trend to send all kinds of displays via a wireless link to PDAs for remote analysis.) In addition to this introduction, Leader has upgraded many of its existing products with new features, software or both.
Videotek also has a long list of new product entries, including an HD/SD on-screen monitor, plus several others that display on-screen data. The company also has a logging and alarm-reporting system upgrade for the SQM-LT in the form of new software that provides increased signal monitoring. Videotek's product-development people have put a lot of work into the SQM-series, and have greatly increased the flexibility of this line.
Tektronix introduced a host of new products and substantial improvements to some of its existing ones. The long-time favorite WFM700 has undergone several changes this year. The addition of audio measurement capability makes the unit more flexible and useful, and has earned it a Pick Hit award. In the confidence-monitoring area, the model WVR600 rasterizer is a 1RU unit that allows an output to an external display and shows as many as four waveforms simultaneously.
Triveni Digital also has jumped into the multiformat monitoring arena with the introduction of its StreamScope products. These products allow users to monitor the condition of high-level DTV streams on an SVGA-compliant monitor, and their analysis capabilities are considerable. If there's a DTV-related parameter users need information about, the StreamScope will likely provide a way to monitor it. Triveni Digital has cut deals with Harris and Rhode & Schwarz to market its products.
And, speaking of Rohde and Schwarz, its MPEG-2 DVM 100 base unit allows simultaneous control of two, three or four transport streams. By adding the DVM 120, it is possible to set up a scaleable monitoring system with a maximum of 20 transport-stream inputs.
Hamlet has a reputation for its unique on-screen monitoring products. In addition to having added DTV test capability to some products, it has something that no one else seems to have: a combined signal generator/signal analyzer. This Pick Hit award winner, dubbed the Adept, can feed a signal through a system and analyze the result. With it, users can generate and analyze composite, component, Y/C and even SDI video, along with digital and analog audio. This company specializes in unusual products not available from other manufacturers.
As always, Sencore's offering of test items run the gamut from just simple NTSC test boxes to 8-VSB demodulators and testers, and SDI/DTV/MPEG testers and generators. Sencore was one of the early players in DTV analysis and, a few years ago, it had one of the earliest digital-television test units on the market. The company's products are mature and proven, and it is proud of its technical-support people. This bodes well for the field engineer who may need a little hand holding when testing the HDTV side of the house.
Modulation Sciences, being devoted to audio, introduced a new monitor to help the broadcaster deal with multichannel sound. Dubbed SpiderVision, it uses a display that has a roughly triangular shape, and is of very high resolution. The name comes from the fact that the display lines are very fine, like a spider's web. Even a quick glance at this display will tell an operator if everything in the audio is in place and working correctly.
RTW won a Pick Hit award for its multichannel/surround-sound audio monitor.
Finally, here's a quick nod of the head to two companies that are not normally considered TM vendors, but that have unique items.
PatchAmp, a manufacturer of patching systems and distribution amplifiers, now has monitoring capability built into their DAs. If someone pulls the wrong patch and causes signal loss somewhere, an alarm rings. The operator can customize the GUI on the monitoring computer to meet the needs of a particular control room's display requirement.
Ward-Beck Systems introduced a little box called a Video Buddy. Housed in a can about the size of two Tektronix Pathfinders sitting back to back, the unit has an LCD color display and a headphone output for audio. The unit will accept NTSC or SDI video, and AES/EBU or analog audio. Since it's battery-powered, users can carry it around and use it to confirm the presence of audio and video.
If you've had trouble in the past finding a TM product to test or measure a particular parameter or signal, this could be the year that someone introduced what you need. Take a good look at the offerings; there are many new items available.
Paul Black is owner of Media Technical Consulting.
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