1993 - 1995 Digital HDTV Grand Alliance Development
Formation of the Grand Alliance
Jan-April 1993 – Competitive activities proceed at NAB 93 as each proponent makes system improvements and contemplates re-testing of improved systems
March 1993 – With FCC Advisory Committee (ACATS) encouragement, discussions begin amidst Industry speculation
April 12, 1993 – Plans are finalized for Technical discussions
April 14-15, 1993 Grand Alliance Technical Meetings are held
May 20, 1993 - Final discussions take place
June 2, 1993 - A first explanation of the Grand Alliance agreement and working process
Designing and Building the "Best-of-the Best"
Oct 21, 1993 – Key technical decisions are announced. MPEG compression (including B-frames), MPEG packet transport. Comparative testing results in the selection of Dolby’s AC-3 audio subsystem
Jan 1994 – Comparative laboratory testing of Zenith's VSB hardware and General Instrument's QAM hardware results in the selection of Zenith’s VSB transmission subsystem
The Grand Alliance organization chart shows the key role of the Technical Oversight Group (TOG) and the various Technical Experts Groups on Format, Compression, Transport, Transmission, Audio, Systems and Interoperability.
Technical decisions often had ramifications across multiple Expert Groups and they were adjudicated by the TOG, which came to a consensus on all key technical decisions
The Public Relations Group became the Communications Strategy Group (CSG), which charted the course of the alliance and its drive to establish a digital HDTV standard. The CSG was chaired by Bruce Allan (Thomson) and included Robert Graves (AT&T), Glenn Reitmeier (Sarnoff), John Taylor (Zenith) and Alan Schlosser (consultant).
1994 – Design and construction of Grand Alliance prototype hardware begins: Video Compression Encoder (AT&T), Data Packet Encoder (Sarnoff), Data Packet decoder (Thomson), Video Decoder (Philips) and Video Format Converter (AT&T and Sarnoff). System Integration will be performed at Sarnoff.
March 20, 1994 - The Grand Alliance reports on its progress at NAB (the National Association of Broadcasters annual convention
Interoperability Aspects of the Grand Alliance HDTV System, Glenn Reitmeier, Sarnoff
Grand Alliance HDTV Audio Subsystem - Dolby AC-3, Craig Todd (Dolby)
Grand Alliance Transmission System - VSB, Wayne Luplow (Zenith)
Grand Alliance HDTV Video Formats, Bob Keeler (AT&T)
The Press Releases provide excellent background and context. They optimistically predict that the standard will be set in 1995 and that receivers could go on sale as early as late 1996. [The ATSC standard was indeed set in Sept 1995; Controversy and politics delayed FCC approval until late 1996 and consequently the first consumer receivers became available in early 1998]
April 14, 1994 - Grand Alliance System Description v1 documentation is completed and submitted to ACATS
April 19, 1994 - The ACATS Technical Subgroup Master Calender is revised. Testing of the Grand Alliance prototype system was targeted for Nov. 1994 and the completion of all testing and reports by Mar 31, 1995 [Ironically, this was the date that the Grand Alliance actually shipped its two prototypes for testing and to it's world premiere demonstration at NAB 95]
May 10-11, 1994 – NIST Digital Video Workshop is held to "highlight technical issues for industry and government decision makers with respect to advanced digital video (ADV) in the National Information Infrastructure (NII)…" The Grand Alliance system is a key element of the workshop. The Workshop Report states that "The Grand Alliance proposal for digital, terrestrial broadcast of HDTV incorporates several features to achieve interoperability with NII-type services..." but it marked the beginning of growing opposition from the computer industry
July 1-14, 1994 - Work is in progress among Grand Alliance members to lock down the prototype hardware construction schedule. As the hardware architecture and interfaces become more defined, more realistic planning moves the estimated start of testing from mid-November 1994 to late January 1995. The additional requirement of a very high quality 1080i to/from 720 format converter (by AT&T and Sarnoff) had been a previously unplanned task.
Sept 23, 1994 - After a period of conceptualization and planning its key messages for various industry and government stakeholders, the final version of the Grand Alliance Washington Demonstration script is agreed upon, and production begins.
Dec 7, 1994 - Grand Alliance System Description v2 documentation is completed and submitted to ACATS. This document became the basis for the ATSC Digital Television standard
Dec 1994 - John Taylor (Zenith) reports the Grand Alliance's progress in the IEEE Consumer Electronics Society Newsletter
Jan - March 1995 – Ongoing system integration at Sarnoff’s Field Lab.
Sarnoff leads system integration of the subsystems built by various Grand Alliance member and partner companies:
- Video Format Converter (Sarnoff and AT&T)
- Video Compression Encoder (AT&T and General Instrument)
- Audio Compression Encoder (Dolby)
- Packet Data Encoder (Sarnoff)
- 8-VSB Transmission and Reception (Zenith)
- Packet Data Receiver (Thomson)
- Video Decoder (Philips)
- Audio Decoder (Dolby)
March 30, 1995 – System integration at Sarnoff’s Field Lab is completed.
March 31, 1995 - the two prototype hardware systems are shipped. One was delivered to the Advanced Television Test Center and the other was sent to the Grand Alliance booth at the NAB convention for its world premiere demonstration.
Photos (more below) | Behind-the Scenes Video
Grand Alliance Technical Leaders Complete System Integration at Sarnoff's Field Lab - March 30, 1995
Wayne Luplow (Zenith), Glenn Reitmeier (Sarnoff),
Bob Rast (GI), Terry Smith (Sarnoff)
Ralph Cerbone (AT&T), Jae Lim (MIT), Aldo Cugnini (Philips)
World Premiere at NAB 95
April 9, 1995 - NAB Engineering conference features a special session with Grand Alliance, ATSC and ACATS speakers
Richard Wiley (ACATS Chairman) | audio
Jae Lim (GA/MIT) | audio
Wayne Luplow (GA/Zenith) | audio
Glenn Reitmeier (GA/Sarnoff) presentation | audio
Peter Symes (Grass Valley) | audio
Peter Fannon (ATTC) | audio
Q&A part 1 |audio
Bob Hopkins (ATSC) | audio
John Abel (NAB) | audio
Joe Flaherty (ACATS) presentation | audio
Saul Shapiro (FCC) presentation | audio
Mike Sherlock (Broadcasters' Caucus / NBC) | audio
Q&A part 2 audio
April 10, 1995 – The Grand Alliance HDTV system makes its world premiere demonstration at NAB95
The Grand Alliance Booth at NAB95
The Digital HDTV Grand Alliance Booth at NAB95 featured an inner theater with large-screen projection display. A demonstration video was shown, processed by the prototype hardware system in real-time. There were also four demonstration kiosks in the outside area.
The booth's "eye candy" was a 1934 Packard
(quite a paradox for the ultimate in TV technology)
The booth showcased the Grand Alliance prototype hardware (behind glass - note the power cables)
Carlo Basile, Aldo Cugnini and Tom Patton (Philips) with the Grand Alliance prototype MPEG-2 decoder
The four "kiosk" areas demonstrated key features and capabilities of the Grand Alliance HDTV system
Digital HDTV Picture Quality | Digital HD and SD Picture Quality | Packetized Data Flexible Use | Interactive Advertising
Pallavi Shah (Sarnoff)
The World Premiere Demonstration and Press Conference
The Grand Alliance World Premiere Demonstration Audience
Press Conference Part 1 - Jim Carnes (Sarnoff)
Press Conference Part 2 - Jerry Pearlman (Zenith)
Grand Alliance Q&A Session
Jae Lim (MIT), Glenn Reitmeier (Sarnoff), Carlo Basile (Philips), Ralph Cerbone (AT&T), Bruce Allan (Thomson), Bob Rast (GI), Jerry Pearlman (Zenith), Jim Carnes (Sarnoff)
Demonstration and Booth Tour for FCC Chairman Hundt
Demo for FCC Chairman Hundt, with Reitmeier, Carnes and Basile
Glenn Reitmeier, Reed Hundt, Saul Shapiro,
Blair Levin, Bob Rast, Jerry Pearlman
Bruce Allan, Reed Hundt, Glenn Reitmeier, Joel Brinkley
Jim Carnes, Jerry Pearlman, Reed Hundt, Glenn Reitmeier
April 10, 1995 - More Photos of the Grand Alliance HDTV System at NAB 1995
Grand Alliance Debuts Digital HDTV System
Grand Alliance Interactive Advertising Demo
Grand Alliance Nearing the Finish Line
Toward A New Era of Television in North America
Grand Alliance HDTV A Key Enabling Technology for the NII
Grand Alliance Supported By Transmitter Manufacturers
Key Technical Elements of the Grand Alliance HDTV System
Testing and Evaluation
April - August, 1995 – The Grand Alliance HDTV system is tested at the ATTC (Advanced Television Test Center) and ATEL (Advanced Television Evaluation Laboratory)
July 19, 1995 - With the goal to finalize a complete digital HDTV standard based on the Grand Alliance system, ACATS and ATSC start to make technical decisions on issues that are outside the scope of the Grand Alliance itself, such as standard definition video formats.
April - September, 1995 – It becomes obvious that Standard Definition video formats can and should be added to the Grand Alliance System. Considered "out of scope" by MIT, Grand Alliance members work with other industry representative in the ATSC to debate the merits of various proposed formats and to reach consensus
Sept. 16, 1995 – the A/53 ATSC Digital Television Standard is completed. ATSC standardizes the 1080i and 720p square pixel HDTV formats of the Grand Alliance and also includes standard definition 480p and 480i formats, including both square and rectangular pixel options.
Oct 4, 1995 - ATSC also publishes a companion A/54 Guide to the Use of the ATSC Digital Television Standard
Oct 31, 1995 – ACATS Technical Subcommittee meets for a final review of test results for the Grand Alliance system
The ACATS Technical Subcommittee issues its Final Technical Report, concluding:
"1. the Grand Alliance system meets the Committee’s performance objectives and is better than any of the four original digital ATV systems
2. the Grand Alliance system is superior to any known alternative system; and
3. the ATSC Digital Television Standard, based on the Advisory Committee design specifications and Grand Alliance system, fulfills the requirements for the U.S. ATV broadcasting standard.
Accordingly, the Technical Subgroup recommends that the ATSC Standard be adopted as the U.S. ATV broadcasting standard."
Nov. 11, 1995 – In response to rising objections from the computer industry about interoperability between HDTV and computers, the Grand Alliance stages an extensive interoperability demonstration of live video from camera and computer sources over ATM network links, satellite and terrestrial broadcast at the MSTV Advanced Television Update. Although low power, this is the world's first live broadcast of an ATSC signal.
Nov 1995 – The Grand Alliance also sets up an HDTV demonstration center in Washington, featuring this video that highlights the importance of a digital HDTV standard, forecasting digital convergence and the rise of video on the future broadband internet (referred to as the National Information Infrastructure by government policymakers at the time).
Nov 28, 1995 – ACATS issues its Final Report and Recommendation that the FCC adopt the ATSC standard. (ACATS Press Release)
Dec 20, 1995 – ATSC approves the A/52 standard that documents the Dolby AC-3 audio system