As the Internet has become ubiquitous, especially in the television world, we have all discovered special websites that help us do our jobs on a regular basis. I wanted to share some sites my friends and I have found. We hope these sites are as much help to you as they have been to us.
Andrew Corp. (www.andrew.com) has a number of free programs on its website that are very useful for RF system designers. These tools range from the “Andrew Broadcast System Planner,” which helps specify everything from the feedline up to and including the antenna, to the “Radiation Hazard Analysis” program, which assists a designer in evaluating compliance with FCC guidelines on RF exposure. These free products can be found by following the “Free System Planning Software” link on the Andrew home page under “Solution Center,” or you can get to the software area directly at http://www.andrew.com/solutioncenter/systemplanningsoftware/default.asp.
My personal favorite DTV site is the ETV Cookbook at www.etvcookbook.org. This is an excellent site that combines humor with DTV. (How do they do that?) I understand that this site is run by a couple of engineering types who would prefer to remain anonymous. Congratulations to you, whoever you are, for putting together one of the best sites on the Internet. Visitors to this site will find information on everything from ACTV to XML. (I checked the glossary — there were no entries starting with Z.) But beyond the humor, you will find a solid site with down-to-earth information on DTV and ETV basics.
The website for SMPTE, at www.smpte.org, is a handy reference. This site has been completely redesigned over the last year. You can purchase standards and test materials, choose from a large number of technical books, find out about your local SMPTE section, and for those interested in participating in the standards process, the “Engineering Committee” link provides all the details of upcoming SMPTE engineering meetings.
The official website of the European Broadcast Union (www.ebu.ch) provides a wide range of information about EBU activities. One of the most useful areas of the site is the technical publications (http://www.ebu.ch/tech_texts.html). You can find a number of articles free for the asking on subjects ranging from compression to information on Broadcast WAV. You can also find information here on EBU technical conferences.
The Society of Broadcast Engineers website (www.sbe.org) provides lots of information on the SBE certification program, along with one of the most complete broadcast job listings available on the Web. The SBE provides a vital frequency-coordination service across the nation. If you are having interference problems, you can contact the SBE frequency coordinator in your area for help.
How many DTV stations are on the air now? Broadcast Counts (www.broadcastcounts.com) has the answer. This site does one thing, and does it very well. The next time the GM wants to know who is on the air with DTV in your market, point him to this site.
How about the number of conventional television stations currently on the air? The FCC has this information at www.fcc.gov/mmb. Scroll down to “Broadcast Station Totals” and follow the link.
The FCC has another excellent site for broadcasters — you just have to know where it is. If you follow this link: http://svartifoss2.fcc.gov/prod/cdbs/pubacc/prod/cdbs_pa.htm, you will find the FCC Mass Media Bureau CDBS database page. At this site, you can retrieve information about current station licenses, applications, EEO filings and more. This is an excellent page to use if you wonder whether your last application has been received and entered into the FCC database. Furthermore, you can download the entire MMB database if you need access to this information in the field.
If you need information on satellites, try www.lyngsat.com. This is a great site for “all things satellite.” How many times have you had a call come in for a last-minute satellite feed only to find out that some critical information on your “feed fact sheet” was missing? A search of this site yields quick answers. Information is arranged by three regions: America; Europe, Africa and the Middle East; and Asia and the South Pacific. Once you select the appropriate region, choose from the list of satellites arranged according to position in the satellite arc. Selecting a particular satellite leads to a list of transponders on the satellite, along with a link to technical information about the satellite, itself. If you are serious about satellites, this is the site for you.
One of the pesky problems posed by satellites is that twice a year, they manage to position themselves exactly between the earth and the sun. The sun is a continuous fusion reactor that produces radiation at all sorts of frequencies, including the C and Ku bands. If you direct your satellite dish to follow a satellite and the satellite's path across the sky crosses the sun's path, you will experience an outage during the time the dish is pointing directly at the sun. Fortunately, you can know precisely when these outages will occur. The “Sun Outage Calculator” found at http://www.panamsat.com/sat/outage/calc.asp is just one tool available on the Web to tell you when sun outages are going to occur.
If you do editing work, you may eventually run into 25-frame material. You will quickly be introduced to the pleasure of converting from 24-frame to 25-frame time code, and vice versa. Fortunately, Kay Sievert, an editor in Los Angeles, has a number of handy conversion utilities. You can find these utilities at http://home.socal.rr.com/sievert/tcsoft/index.html.
Since this column is about computers and networks, I couldn't resist throwing in a few general-purpose computer websites. Many people are familiar with the Google search site (www.google.com). But did you know about the commands “site:” and “link:”? If you type the command “DTV site: www.nab.org,” Google will search for all occurrences of the acronym DTV, but limit the search to the site www.nab.org. If you type “link: www.nab.org,” Google produces a list containing every page that has a link to www.nab.org. Google has a new image-search feature that just emerged from beta testing. If you click on “Image” at the Google home page and then type “broadcast,” Google will return images with the word “broadcast” in their filename.
The list of Linux reference sites is endless. For my money, one of the most interesting is the Open Source Development Network (www.osdn.org). Enter almost anything in the search field and you will find that someone, somewhere in the world, is writing software for it.
This month is the first of what I hope becomes an occasional, but regular part of my column. I would like to thank Mike Dolan, Jim Paulus and Merrill Weiss for their contributions. I hope you find that at least one of these sites is a useful addition to your toolbox. If you have a favorite site you would like to share, drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. If we get enough quality submissions, we may run an update sometime next year.
Brad Gilmer is president of Gilmer & Associates. He is also executive director of the AAF Association, and technical facilitator of the Video Services Forum.
Send questions and comments to: email@example.com
For conventional TV stations on the air:
For conversion utilities:
For DTV/ETV basics:
For DTV stations on the air:
For EBU reference:
For Linux reference (Open Source Development Network):
For the Mass Media Bureau CDBS database:
For RF system design tools:
For more on satellites:
For search features:
For SMPTE reference:
For SBE reference:
For a Sun Outage Calculator: