SDTV, HDTV, and Sony at NAB '98

At the upcoming National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show, Sony Electronics will be showing a full line of professional products to enable DTV implementation in 1998. The company's Business and Professional Group recently unveiled its strategy and plans, which include interfacing SDTV and HDTV formats for all DTV applications through an MPEG2 environment, the industry's global standard for DTV broadcasting.

"For many broadcasters, 1998 will be the first year they transmit digital pictures to their viewers," says Charles Steinberg, president of Sony Electronics' Business and Professional Group. "DTV will bring a high-quality video and audio experience to the home with multichannel broadcast and multimedia services."According to Steinberg, the rapid progress of digital technology in the DTV era makes it possible to build an open-network system in which current technology can co-exist with new digital systems and interconnect via control interfaces. "That brings efficiency in networked operations," he says.

With respect to program production, Sony currently provides a range of 480i SDTV and 1080i HDTV acquisition and post-production equipment. This includes digital acquisition systems, digital switchers, digital effects, and audio and editing equipment to support DTV program creation. The HDTV equipment will be made multipurpose by including optional downconverters that simultaneously output SDTV at either 480i or 480p in cameras and VTRs.

With the onset of digital programming and FCC deadlines on the horizon, broadcasters need a clear path to digital conversion. To meet the demands of multiformat DTV environments, Sony says it will support all ATSC transmission formats and offer digital solutions, including video file servers and digital routing and processing equipment. Sony will offer a comprehensive line of distribution solutions through SDTI and satellite.

According to Larry Kaplan, senior vice president of Broadcast and Production Systems for Sony Electronics' Business and Professional Group, "Soon, we will respond to the US demand for 480p production equipment through a migration path that complements current product models. Additionally, we will support the industry's technology goal toward a 1080p production format within the next five years." Sony's vision centers on open-network systems. "Under this concept," he continues, "MPEG2 is the backbone compression scheme of choice for broadcast and production houses. The MPEG2 standard utilizes a flexible compression standard that produces a defined bitstream, thereby forming a complete network in which different content can easily be transcoded when required through advanced digital technology and products."

For consumers, Sony and others are developing DTV receivers that will accept all ATSC transmission formats, including current analog NTSC broadcasts. This will allow viewers the choice of selecting any desired combination of digital TV signals and services, including HDTV and multiple channels of SDTV. DTV receivers will be available with the capability to display DTV programs regardless of the scanning format of the transmission or production. At the recent Consumer Electronics Show, Sony announced that its first such receivers will include a 16:9 widescreen display.