Dear Mr. Dick,
As President of the SMPTE, I'd like to respond to the letter from Paul McGoldrick published in the December 2000 issue of Broadcast Engineering. In this letter, Mr. McGoldrick takes the SMPTE to task over a few things, and at the end of his letter he tenders his resignation as a SMPTE member over his frustrations with the Society. Speaking for the entire Executive Committee of SMPTE, I can say I'm sorry that Mr. McGoldrick feels the way he does and we wish he would reconsider. No business or association likes to lose a good customer, and we all know how much harder it is to recapture dissatisfied customers than to find new ones.
Mr. McGoldrick's article challenges SMPTE's current viability and relevance as a professional and standards-setting organization. This is of concern to many of us within the organization as well. For most of the past year the Executive Committee, Board of Governors, and Headquarters Staff have participated in a Strategic Planning exercise facilitated by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, a preeminent business and organizational consulting firm. The purpose of this exercise has been to identify areas critical to the growth and general welfare of SMPTE and to re-energize the energies of its officers and members in pursuit of these worthwhile and value-enhancing goals to the benefit of the general membership and to the broader technical fields we serve.
One of the areas that Mr. McGoldrick gazes critically upon is the changing nature of SMPTE's standards work. He suggests that the standards making process today lacks some of the rigor and deliberateness of a more reflective time, and may be tainted by commercial interests. This perception must be addressed because standards work is central to what SMPTE has to offer current and future members. We need to remember that in 1999 the standards and engineering groups within SMPTE approved, reaffirmed, or revised 89 engineering documents, and an additional 11 were approved in January 2000 alone. There are now more than 226 SMPTE Standards, 161 Recommended Practices, 32 Engineering Guidelines, and literally dozens more in development. This high level of output is truly amazing considering the very changes and pressures Mr. McGoldrick cites as being counterproductive to the standards work of the Society.
Early in January 2000, the SMPTE formed yet another technology committee, DC.28, the Digital Cinema Technology group, to look into all phases of the digital distribution and exhibition of motion pictures. At early meetings, there were over 250 participants from 110 different companies. Many representatives were from the creative community and organizations representing end-users and practitioners, such as the MPAA, NATO, the ASC and ACVL. There is great relevance in this, and no chance for commercial bias.
Mr. McGoldrick notes that he spent a long tenure of service overseas in Nigeria and that when he returned the organization “had changed profoundly.” The suggestion is the Society had lost not only domestic relevance but had little to offer on the international front as well. The exact opposite is actually the case. As an example of heightened international credibility, I would point to the joint task force of the SMPTE and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). This entity was formed in 1996 to look into the challenges, roadblocks and standards issues as worldwide broadcasting transitioned from analog to digital. An advanced summary of this report was presented at NAB in April of 1998, and a final report was presented to an enthusiastic and appreciative overflow audience at IBC in Amsterdam in September 1999. This study involved the voluntary contributions of hundreds of people working on two continents and, given its impact on standards and broadcasting practice, was considered to be one of the most significant achievements ever of both groups.
There are several other points raised by Mr. McGoldrick that could be debated, but editorial space is limited. The critical point, as I mentioned at the outset, is the one about whether SMPTE is flat and unappealing to its audiences, or whether it has and is reaching out effectively to new audiences and to allied creative and technical associations. Let me close and address this with a recent quote from a respected technical writer, Debra Kaufman, writing in the January 2001 edition of American Cinematographer. In commenting about the 142nd Technical Conference and Exhibit in Pasadena in October, she writes, “and whereas past conferences have been the focus of arcane technological discussions that only an engineer could love, this year's event had much to offer the broader motion-picture and television community.”
Give us another shot, Mr. McGoldrick. We're ready when you are.
John L. Mason
Update on NEC
NEC takes exception to Dr. Digital's comments on product support. “We've always been here to support our customers,” says John Leahy, NEC America's Sales Manager, Broadcast Equipment Department. Readers should note that NEC has recently moved offices. Here are the new telephone numbers and address.
NEC America Inc. Broadcast Equipment Department
6535 N. State Highway 161
Irving, TX 75039-2402
888-383-4DTV message center
With all the hullabaloo on HDTV receivers, we've not had space to list the recent Freezeframe winners. Here are readers who will receive Broadcast Engineering T-shirts because of their correct answers to Freezeframe questions. This month's question is on page 8.
October question: In May 1970 Broadcast Engineering carried a story about a Panasonic prototype “high-speed video tape printer.” The system used a two-inch master tape and promised that “one day soon, [video tape recording] will become a practical home activity.” Name the Panasonic video recording device shown in the photo.
The device in question was a “High Speed Video Tape Printer.” It used a “contact process” between master and dup to generate the copy.
Karl Sargent, Director of Engineering
California Oregon Broadcasting
Patrick O'Brien, Chief Engineer
KATC-TV, Lafayette, LA
November question: Name the month, year and network that used the first tape-delayed (VTR) broadcast. The answer was “Douglas Edwards and the News,” CBS, Nov. 30, 1956.
KEPR-TV, Pasco, WA
KHQ-TV, Spokane, WA
Dan Barton, Sr. Antenna Engineer
Andrew Corp., Orland Park, IL
Adi Doron, Tel Aviv
Andrew Henry, A-Channel Engineering
Calgary Alberta, Canada
KNPB-TV, Reno, NV
(Tim even knew that playback was on an Ampex VRX-1000, one of only 16 hand-built machines. Readers may want to view his collection of VTR photos and information at: www.lionlmb.org/quadpark.html.)
WOSU-TV, Columbus, OH
Roger E. Wilcox
WJW-TV, Cleveland, OH
Albert Abramamson, Las Vegas
(Albert added that the program was 15 minutes long and taped at TV City in Hollywood. The operator was John Radis.)
KAET-TV, Phoenix, AZ
KGAN-TV, Marion, IA
KPTH-TV, Sioux City, IA
Lee Anderson, Dublin, VA
Matt McCullar, Arlington, TX