NewTek’s new waveform monitor graticule… and more

NewTek has solved a half-century video problem, and has made it easier to match camera sources properly with your TriCaster.

In April 2013, you probably read how delighted I was to announce that NewTek had committed to adding scopes (both waveform monitor and vectorscope) to the entry-level TriCaster 40. Now I am just as happy to announce that NewTek is also making a fundamental change in the way it labels the waveform monitor’s graticule. NewTek’s new method completely solves a problem that has existed for over half a century. Ahead you’ll learn about NewTek’s new graticule labeling, plus get access to a full White Paper I wrote about it.

To summarize a half-century video problem

During the history of analog and digital video (and analog and digital television broadcasting), there have been multiple norms for the standard black level. Here’s a quick summary:

  • Analog NTSC video in the Americas: 7.5 IRE
  • Analog NTSC video in Japan: 0 IRE
  • Analog PAL video: 0 IRE
  • Digital SD 8-bit video derived from NTSC standards in the Americas: 16
  • Digital SD 8-bit video derived from NTSC standards in Japan: 16
  • Digital SD 8-bit video derived from PAL standards: 16
  • Digital SD 10-bit video derived from NTSC standards in the Americas: 64
  • Digital SD 10-bit video derived from NTSC standards in Japan: 64
  • Digital SD 10-bit video derived from PAL standards: 64
  • Digital HD 8-bit video of any framerate, anywhere: 16
  • Digital HD 10-bit video of any framerate, anywhere: 64

For decades, video producers have needed to understand these multiple norms in order to adjust the standard black level properly. They have also had the responsibility to map the standard black level properly when making a conversion from analog to digital, digital to analog, or between PAL and one other the other type of NTSC. Despite my Los negros todavía no tienen igualdad article in Producción & Distribución magazine about this issue in 2002, together with Adam Wilt’s We’ve Been Setup! article in DV magazine and JVC’s Dirty Little Secrets video in the same year, many video producers are still confused about this, and some have still been attempting to set their black level (incorrectly) to 7.5 in a digital video environment, which inadvertently has often caused inappropriate black levels of 32 digital (in an 8-bit digital system) or 15 IRE in analog. What has made things worse is that sometimes, a digital device (i.e. TriCasters up until now) has properly shown a 7.5 IRE marker on digital device only to simulate an analog output, and sometimes not (in the case of some other devices).

Up until recently, devices like TriCasters and computer based non-linear video editing systems have been digital accessories in a hybrid analog/digital environment. However, more recently it has become rare to record video on an analog recorder, and in 2009 in the US, all but certain LPTV (low power television) stations were required to cease analog transmissions in favor of digital (DTV). The latest info I have indicates that even those who got temporary exceptions will have to cease analog transmissions by September 1, 2015. It is now time to allow TriCasters and non-linear video editing systems to act as digital devices in a digital world, without feeling the need to simulate the analog output, since that is no longer the norm. Of course, all TriCasters currently sold still have analog outputs, just in case.

NewTek’s 2013 solution: a new foolproof graticule

As you’ll see in the above image, NewTek has completely eliminated the confusion. Even brainwashed users who have previously (and incorrectly) believed that they must set their levels to 7.5 in a digital environment are now forced to wake up and realize that they are no longer in Kansas, and that new rules apply here in the digital video world. The lowest number on the scale is 16, so it’s impossible for them to adjust their black level to 7.5, since there is no number even close to 7.5 on the graticule! These are digital levels, not analog levels. With NewTek’s new graticule, the standard black is simultaneously 16 and 64, and the standard white is simultaneously 235 and 940. Ahead you’ll see why there is a dual scale.

(I actually thought about the “not in Kansas anymore” analogy before I recalled that NewTek was born in that US State in 1985, although it now resides in Texas. I suppose now the analogy is even more appropriate…)

Why is there a dual scale?

At least one other manufacturer previously labeled the graticule starting with 64, but to my knowledge, NewTek is the first to label it starting at 64 and 16 simultaneously. There is a dual scale in order to represent both 8-bit and 10- bit simultaneously, since you could export either type of file from your TriCaster. I wouldn’t be surprised if NewTek’s innovation with the dual label begins to appear in other manufacturers’ waveform monitors, since it makes so much sense.

Will the analog video output of the TriCaster contain setup at 7.5 IRE?

If the TriCaster session you choose to create is NTSC (which refers to Pan-American NTSC), the standard definition analog video output will contain setup at 7.5 IRE. If your TriCaster session is NTSC-J, PAL, or any HD format, the HD component analog video output will not include 7.5 IRE setup, since those formats don’t use it. The standard black will be output as 0 IRE on the analog component output with those sessions. (Note that standard TriCasters sold in the US do not include the option for NTSC-J or PAL sessions. They only include Pan-American NTSC and HD format sessions.)

Do TriCasters support superblack and superwhite?

Yes, TriCasters support superblack and superwhite. However, standard black and standard white should be set as indicated.

Table of contents of the White Paper

For those of you who want all of the technical background (and a guide to matching cameras using the vectorscope and new waveform monitor), here is the table of contents for the White Paper called NewTek’s new scopes: Why and How?

  • Preface
  • 1 – What are scopes?
  • 2 – What’s a vectorscope?
  • 3 – What’s a video waveform monitor?
  • 4 – Original video waveform monitor labeling
  • 5 – Digital video levels
  • 6 – Challenges to match black levels between analog & digital
  • 7 – Traditional labeling in a hybrid environment
  • 8 – Presenting NewTek’s new graticule
  • 9 – Best camera connection and basic settings
  • 10 – How to match cameras with NewTek’s new scopes
  • About the author

Here are the links for the Kindle ebook version in English in worldwide.

However, you don’t have to own a Kindle device to read it, since Amazon fortunately offers the for Kindle app for your computer, phone, or tablet. Soon there will be a free PDF version of the White Paper too, which will be available on the NewTek website. When it becomes available. I am also pitching for there to be a Castilian (aka “Spanish”) version of the White Paper and will announce it if and when it becomes available.

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FTC disclosure

After Allan Tépper’s proposal to NewTek, NewTek sponsored the mentioned White Paper. Allan Tépper’s words and opinions in this article and in the White Paper are his own.

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Born in Connecticut, United States, Allan Tépper is an award-winning broadcaster & podcaster, bilingual consultant, multi-title author, tech journalist, translator, and language activist who has been working with professional video since the eighties. Since 1994,…

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