Happy 46th Birthday U-Matic!

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Happy 46th Birthday U-Matic!

Color VideoplayerFrom the Winter 1970 Sony® Dealer Newsletter: “Exciting the world!… Sony Demonstrates Color Video Videoplayer” says the headline. “The Color Videoplayer is considered the next home entertainment product that will win wide acceptance.” Well of course they were a bit wrong about that, as it was not what came to be known as the U-matic cassette player but the smaller and cheaper Betamax and its rival’s VHS players that became ubiquitous in peoples homes. But the U-matic VTR saw many professional applications (such as replacing news film with videotape) and the machines persisted in advertising agency offices well into the early 2000’s.

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We Don’t Need No Stinking MSM

We Don’t Need No Stinking MSM

HouseSit-InThe forces of democracy have managed to harness social media’s new live video tools to televise their own 70’s style sit-in for gun control legislation in the House.

In the late 1960’s and early ’70s, the Videofreex, TVTV, Global Village and other local groups with portapacks tried to present “the peoples TV”. Unfortunately they were stymied by underwhelming Public Access channels and no good way of presenting their work live. As someone who accompanied “Ray Notredos” to many protest rallies in New York and Washington so they could be presented on his New York City Public Access show Relevance, the dreams of all us long-haired media freaks have now come true.

And CSPAN is carrying the feed live…

The FM Stereo System That Lost

The FM Stereo System That Lost

Remember Betamax, HD DVD, Cinerama? How about the Crosby FM Stereo system?

murray_g_crosby150In the late 1950’s, former RCA engineer Murray G. Crosby invented a method of broadcasting FM stereo that worked (and sounded) better in fringe areas than the Zenith/GE system under consideration at the time. Only one problem though – it was not compatible with the subsidiary communications authorization (SCA) services (think Muzak) that some FM stations were experimenting with to bolster their bottom lines. (Remember that this was before the FCC Report and Order requiring licensees to broadcast separate programming on their AM and FM outlets.)

Finally on April 19, 1961, after lobbying by the background music industry and the FM stations who held special experimental authorizations for SCA services, the FCC selected the Zenith/GE system as the FM stereo standard. Which is why to this day your car radio reception degrades to AM-type static as a station goes out of range.

(For details, see Broadcasting Magazine, 10/06/1958, page 64.)

Cronkite Replaced by Zuckerberg ?

Cronkite Replaced by Zuckerberg ?

Walter CronkiteJust a mere 10 years ago Yahoo was the number one source of news on the net. (Even though at the time it gathered no news of its own.) Today (as you probably are aware) Facebook is the nets’ undisputed leader.

Just two generations ago CBS News Anchor and Managing Editor Walter Cronkite (pic) was known as “the most trusted man in America.” And as Cronkite said himself: “Certainly no words go out that I haven’t seen, and most of which I’ve written.”

I bring all this up because of this week’s controversy about Facebook’s news feed (and whether or not some conservative views were “blacklisted” from the “TRENDING” news module.) So why are editors important and why can’t we just have an algorithm do the choosing? As CNNMoney’s Brian Stelter reports: “Editors weed out spam, scams, hoaxes, and duplicative stories. But this week’s controversy reinforces the uncomfortable feeling that Facebook is a “black box.” But those of us who grew up thinking that journalists had a commitment to fairness and balance only have to look back to the days of Hearst and Pulitzer and their fight for click-thoroughs er, circulation.

So surfer beware as you waste your time on Facebook – don’t unquestionably believe any news you see there. Perhaps your time would be better served by streaming “The Social Network.”

(“A black box is a device, object, or system whose inner workings are unknown…” – Wikipedia)

We’ve Discovered 10-Bit Video!

We’ve Discovered 10-Bit Video!

8bit150

At home there are some 10-bit TVs and displays that can display HDR video.” – Mark Walton in Ars Techina

Well, my 1984 Zenith color TV could display 10-bit video quality. Not when watching an OTA broadcaster like the Almost Broadcasting Company, (who used 8-bit D-2 videotape,) but most likely when watching Discovery Channel (they used 10-bit Digital Betacam) and definitely when watching my 12 inch analog videodiscs. (I know because my post facility mastered some of those discs.)

Now I know that my Zenith had maybe 350 lines of resolution (if I was lucky), but it didn’t have just 256 steps (8 bits) of brightness. In fact, because it (and the whole transmission chain at the time) was analog, it had no steps at all. Brightness flowed smoothly from 0.339 volts (black) to exactly one volt (white). None of this stair-step stuff you see at the end of some commercials where the finely-graduated background color looks more like van Gogh’s “Starry Night“. So in this 4K and HDR world we now live in, its CRAZY to have newly produced specs (like the NABA-DPP Common Technical Specs) that call for delivery of 8-bit files instead of 10-bit files. What a rip-off for consumers who purchase HDR sets expecting to get better OTA and cable TV pictures.