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WARPED IMAGINATION

Name                            Richard Linley, Sheffield                                    

Kit                                Toshiba 28MW7DB TV, Toshiba SD-3107 DVD, Panasonic NVNV-HD660 VCR

Problem                        Richard complains that when the Starship Voyager flies across his TV screen it leaves a trail behind it and if a bright light suddenly goes out in the picture a ghost image remains. He wants to know if this is a known side effect of his 100Hz double-scan TV? He phoned Toshiba and they told him that it wasn’t their fault. They blamed it on the DVD and Video. An engineer came to look at it and he said it was the 100Hz circuitry; who is right, he want to know?

 

Expert Reply                 Problems with Voyager are almost always caused by that computer generated holographic Doctor -- uninstall him Janeway, for heaven’s sake -- but this time the blame lies squarely with the Toshiba TV. It’s not a fault as such, but an inherent characteristic of digital processing circuitry, which has difficulty keeping up with fast moving objects and very rapid changes in brightness. To be fair it’s not as bad as it used to be on first generation 100Hz sets, some of which were horribly blurry, and some people don’t seem to mind the effects. Doubtless it will get better as the technology improves but it’s just something Richard will have to live with. 

 

HERTZ HYPE?

Name                            Geoff Jones, via email                                    

Kit                                considering buying a widescreen TV

Problem                        What are the advantages, if any, of a 100Hz TV, asks Geoff Jones? He is about to replace his faithful but ageing 29-inch Sony TV and is considering a widescreen model; the Panasonic TX32PF10 has caught his eye. Geoff says he has no immediate intentions to buy a DVD player and has been told by a knowledgeable friend that 50Hz sets are perfectly satisfactory, even if he subscribes to digital TV as the picture quality is such that 100Hz is unnecessary.

           

Expert Reply                 There’s a commonly held misconception, fuelled no doubt by advertising and marketing hype, that a 100Hz display has something to do with picture quality; it doesn’t! The purpose of a 100Hz display is to eliminate picture ‘flicker’, which some people are sensitive to. Flicker is caused by the way a PAL TV picture is ‘redrawn’ 50 times a second. As a matter of interest this figure is a throwback to the early days of TV when the mains supply was used as convenient source of stable synchronisation signals, it also happens to be at the lower limits of our eye’s persistence of vision. In other words when still images are flashed in front of our eyes fifty times a second we perceive it as a moving picture. Incidentally that’s why the American TV system has a 60Hz refresh rate, (the US has a 60Hz mains frequency), and flicker is much less of a concern (at least we haven’t yet come across any 120Hz NTSC TVs yet…). And whilst we’re on the subject, PC screens are flickerless, because the refresh rate is usually 75Hz or faster. Anyhoo, for the first 50 years of TV the 50Hz frame rate wasn’t considered a problem, when the average screen size was 21-inches but in the past ten years screen sizes have crept up and the flicker effect can become even more noticeable for some, especially on widescreen displays, 28-inches and above, particularly around the edges and during brightly lit scenes. Doubling the refresh rate on a TV is quite a tricky business, involving the use of digital processing circuitry and lots of microchip memory; the trade-off, as our previous questioner discovered, is that rapid movement can cause smearing and ghost images. In the end it’s down to personal taste, if flicker didn’t trouble Geoff on his 29-inch 4:3 TV then he probably won’t notice it on a 32-inch widescreen set. Nevertheless he should see a few in action, if it’s not a problem he can stick with a 50Hz display and maybe save himself a few bob.

 

IT’S ALL GREEK…

Name                            Paul Mason, via email               

Kit                                replacing an ageing TV

Problem                        The lack of SCART sockets or a video input on Paul’s old Sony TV, combined with an irresistible urge to get into DVD, has prompted him to replace his old goggle box, but there’s a problem. Paul may be moving to Greece in the near future and therefore he wants a TV that would be compatible with that country’s TV system. To his amazement the majority of the dealers and manufacturers he has contacted had little idea whether or not their sets would work abroad. He’s after a 28-inch widescreen model, preferably with NICAM stereo sound. He wonders if he could get a VCR to do the PAL conversion, or would he still need a compatible TV?

 

Expert Reply                 Greece uses the SECAM B/H system, which has a slightly unusual arrangement with the sound subcarrier frequencies, and that makes them incompatible with most other SECAM countries, including France and parts of Eastern Europe. Moreover, Greece does not have NICAM stereo sound, so that feature would be useless to Paul whilst abroad. If Paul intends to stay for more than two or three years, say, our advice would be for him to buy a TV locally and sell it when he returns. There are multi standard sets – available in the UK from specialist companies -- that can do the job but it really wouldn’t be a cost effective solution when you take into account the higher price, shipping the thing back and forth and depreciation. For the same reasons it’s also a good idea to buy a VCR when he gets there, though he can use equipment brought in the UK to play PAL tapes but it will have to be connected to the TV using AV leads, rather than an aerial connection. The situation with DVD is different, some models can playback PAL NTSC and SECAM, and have their region locks disabled (the Samsung DVD-709 springs to mind), so that might be one thing that’s worth buying here since it will work just about anywhere (with a 220 – 240 VAC mains supply).

 

MAGNETIC PERSONALITY

Name                                        Peter Greenwood, via email

Kit                                            Toshiba 32W8DB

Problem                                    A ‘nicotine’ coloured stain in the top left hand corner of the screen of his Toshiba TV is causing Peter some annoyance. He has established that it is not caused by any speakers close to the TV. A visiting Toshiba engineer blamed it on the fact that he leaves the TV on in standby mode overnight, which doesn’t give it time to degauss. The engineer degaussed the TV with some sort of wand but Peter couldn’t see any real difference. He suggested Peter tried switching the set off at night; he says that like an idiot he let him get away with it and of course the problem persists.

 

Expert Reply                             The engineer was right in one respect, and that is the degauss circuitry in a lot of TVs normally only operates at switch-on from cold. In most cases it involves a coil around the outside of the tube and in the few seconds before a picture appears it’s fed with a rapidly reducing current that generates a collapsing magnetic field. This neutralises any light residual magnetism on the picture tube’s shadow mask or aperture grille. However, a TV’s own degaussing system can only cope with relatively weak magnetic contamination, caused by the Earth’s own magnetic field, or nearby metal objects that have become magnetised, like central heating radiators. A manual degauss usually gets rid of heavier contamination, so it’s possible the engineer didn’t do a very good job or something else close by is generating a magnetic field. Hidden pipes electrical cables or metal objects buried in the wall or other electrical appliances may be the problem. Peter should get the engineer back for another session and maybe move the TV to another location. If the staining won’t go away it’s just possible there might be a fault in the picture tube.

 

BAND PRACTICE

Name                            Peter Williams, Bangor                         

Kit                                Panasonic TXW28 TV, Panasonic NV-HD636 VCR, Nokia Mediamaster digital STB

Problem                        Broad bands moving across the screen whilst recording from his ONdigital set top box are driving Peter crazy. He says the problem only occurs when he’s recording digital but watching analogue off-air TV, when the TV is set to the recording channel the recording is fine. He has contacted ONdigital and they also admit to being baffled. Peter has replaced the SCART leads and at ONdigital’s suggestion, tried re-tuning the RF tuning on the VCR and TV, but without success. Do we have any ideas?

 

Expert Reply                 These types of connection and interaction problem are not uncommon and they can be real swine’s to solve, but let’s look at it logically. When the TV is set to the digital channel the recording is okay, but when receiving an analogue broadcast the recording deteriorates. That suggests that interference from the TV – almost certainly a video or possibly an audio signal present on the TV’s SCART socket -- is making its way back from the TV to the VCR or STB. Peter has to do some detective work and work through the problem by a process of elimination. Step one is to try a different configuration for the SCART cables, if the VCR is connected between the STB and the TV try it the other way around, i.e. with the STB connected to the TV by SCART, and the VCR connected to the STB’s second SCART socket, then repeat the exercise. It might be worth trying a Type ‘V’ SCART cable for the TV connection, these are only wired for composite video and line-level audio signals, as opposed to a fully wired Type ‘U’ cable, which also carries RGB, S-VIDEO and control signals. If that makes no difference he should try bypassing the VCR’s aerial input, in other words, take the aerial lead from the STB directly to the TV, then make a recording and see what happens. I doubt very much that this will make a difference, but if it does it suggests that the return path is via the aerial cable and further re-tuning the VCR channels on the TV and VCR may help. Finally, try a one-way SCART connection between the TV and the VCR or STB. The easiest way to do that is to use a pair of switchable SCART to phono modules – obtainable from companies like Maplin Electronics (part no. VA12N). The two modules are connected together by a three way phono cable, one module is set to input, the other to output, so that AV signals can only travel in one direction. Failing that wait a month or two for us to compile a list of suggestions from HE readers, or engage the services of a good exorcist…

 

REGIONAL NEWS

Name                            Jonathan Davies, via email               

Kit                                Proline 1000 DVD

Problem                        Reviews and reports in various magazines concerning the Proline 1000 DVD player suggest that it is possible to hack this machine for all-region playback, says Jonathan. He’s looked everywhere for information but drawn a complete blank, so naturally he has turned to us to put him out of his misery, can we oblige?

 

Expert Reply                 Of course we can, it is not a secret and the hack codes and mods for dozens of players are freely available from lots of sites on the Internet for anyone who cares to search. The Proline 1000 is a budget player, available from Comet, MVC and Woolies and it is indeed capable of all region playback. By the way, this was one of the machines that had trouble with mixed media DVDs like The Matrix, so before fiddling with his machine Jonathan should make sure his machine has the necessary updated firmware, the shop or dealer should be able to tell him from the serial number, though if he brought it within the last few months it should be okay. And so to that hack. Step one, switch on and press Open on the remote handset. Step two, load an R1 disc but do not close the drawer just yet. Step three; press the following sequence of buttons on the remote 0, 1, 2, 3. Step 4, press Play on the remote and the deed is done. As a matter of interest this doesn’t disable Macrovision protection, so you still can’t record from DVD, not that Jonathan would do such a thing.

 

STANDARD RESPONSE

Name                            David Akers, via email                        

Kit                                Goodmans 28-inch NICAM TV, Aiwa VCR, Samsung DVD

Problem                        Six months ago David managed to get a good deal on his 28-inch TV, he was a happy man, then whilst browsing the Internet he came across a tip whereby the region lock on his Samsung DVD player could be disabled using the remote from an Aiwa mini hi-fi system. He tried it, and it worked on the sound on a couple of American DVDs he borrowed from a friend. However, the picture was unwatchable. He looked through the TV’s setup menu and discovered that it was locked to PAL only, so now he’s trying to come up with other ways of using his DVD with the TV. David’s first thought was some sort of NTSC to PAL converter, but he’s never seen any reviews or heard if they’re any good or not. He says he doesn’t want to spend out on something that isn’t guaranteed to work; do we have any alternative solutions?

 

Expert Reply                 Unfortunately not, apart from buying a new TV that’s capable of displaying an NTSC picture. David didn’t say which model TV he has but we’re fairly sure it is a PAL only model. The Samsung player (again no model number) is almost certainly outputting a raw NTSC signal when replaying US Region 1 discs. Some Samsung models, like the DVD-709 do have a switchable output, but presumably David has another model, if not he should change the setting using the switch on the back panel. We’ve had a little experience of standards converters and devices like multi-standard VCRs but so far, we haven’t been impressed by anything costing less that £500 or so.   

 

DODGY ‘DALE

Name                K. Blakeley, Wednesbury, W. Midlands                             

Kit                    Wharfedale DVD-750 DVD player       

Problem            A region one copy of Tomorrow Never Dies (Special Edition) is causing problems on K. Blakeley’s Wharfedale DVD player. He says the machine’s Angle icon is triggered by the disc’s special play options, even when all options are switched off in the menu. He has tried the same disc in other players without incident, what’s to do?    

 

Expert Reply                 That’s a new one, but it’s not the first in what is turning out to be quite a long list of foibles reported on this machine. Some of them seem to be concerned with discs that have a mixed media (i.e. DVD and PC data) content, so it is possible that more recent machines with updated firmware are okay. The good news is that none of them are very serious but we suspect they can be quite irritating. Here are some of the other’s we’ve heard about. Menu operation can be erratic on region 2 copies of The Matrix, L.A. Confidential, The Lost Boys and the Shawshank Redemption. Subtitles appear by themselves on Mask of Zorro or when changing audio tracks and Saving Private Ryan sometimes has trouble loading. If anyone else has experienced problems with this machine and particular discs we would be interested to hear about it.

 

HAD YOUR CHIPS?

Name                Simon Reid, via email                                      

Kit                    Sony KV-32FC60 TV, ‘chipped’ Sony DVP-7700 DVD player  

Problem            Simon begins by saying that he expected we get a lot of questions like this one – he’s not wrong there – it concerns playback quality on his chipped DVD player. PAL discs play okay but when playing NTSC recordings the TV shows a bright blue/green line, which is more noticeable in dark areas of the picture. Simon has contacted the suppliers of the TV and DVD player and both blame each other’s equipment. Which one could be faulty Simon wants to know?

           

Expert Reply                 Quite frankly Simon has got a bit of a cheek inferring there’s some kind of ‘fault’ since by his own admission both the TV and DVD player are both performing perfectly well, doing what they were designed to do, namely replaying region 2 PAL discs. The DVD player has been chipped and there’s no way of knowing what kind of half-assed hack job was done on it. It’s clear the supplier of the DVD isn’t going to take any responsibility for it and there’s no way Sony will touch it with a bargepole now that its insides have been fiddled with, thus voiding the warranty. Simon can count himself lucky, at least his machine still works properly on R2 discs; we have heard of plenty of people with amateurishly hacked players that have given up the ghost completely, leaving their owners with no redress and several hundred pounds out of pocket. And before anyone accuses us of double standards, let us say that we’ve got no qualms about players that can have their region locks disabled with software codes. The facility is built-in and it can be reversed just as easily without any damage to the machine.

 

TILTING TOSH

Name                            Alan Poole, Hertford              

Kit                                Toshiba 28W8DB TV

Problem                        Picture and sound quality on Alan’s Toshiba TV are fine but he does have one or two problems… He describes the geometry as ‘terrible’, straight lines appear bent and text looks bowed. The picture tails off to the right hand side of the screen. He had an engineer in to look at it and it was put right, according to the service report ‘the deflection circuit was misaligned/jammed mechanical alignment internal circuit’. The engineer said that they had had a lot of problems with alignment on widescreen TVs. The other problem is that when Alan moves the TV from one part of the room, where it faced West, to another position, where it faces North, the picture tilts from left to right, so he had to put it back. Alan wonders if these events are in any way connected?

 

Expert Reply                 Spooky! We’ve had a couple of other eerily similar queries from dismayed Toshiba TV owners this month. Were it not for the fact that they concerned different models, and Toshiba sells one helluva lot of widescreen TVs in the UK, we might become ever so slight suspicious about its factory alignment and quality control procedures... In fact over the last few weeks we’ve had quite a few letters and emails about 16:9 TVs with wonky pictures. This highlights the fact that much greater care manufacturers need to take with picture geometry as even minor errors become much more noticeable on a widescreen image. However, as Alan’s letter indicates, a competent engineer can usually resolve the problem and get the picture back into shape. The question is why should the picture tilt when he moves the TV across the room? The only answer than makes any sense is that it is being affected by a strong but not necessarily localised magnetic field.  If the field were concentrated – such as would emanate from an unshielded loudspeaker -- it would produce characteristic colour ‘staining’ rather than affect the whole picture. The Earth’s own magnetic field has been known to influence picture geometry. Indeed in some TV factories TVs and video monitors destined for export to other countries are set up in specially designed rooms that mimic the alignment of the Earth’s magnetic field locally. But we digress. Such a noticeable change in picture orientation is very unusual indeed and we doubt that it is a natural phenomenon (though Hertfordshire can be a very strange place…). It is more likely to be caused by the influence of a large metal structure, possibly the framework of the building he’s in, underground pipe work or power cables.  

 

 

---end---

Ó R. Maybury 2000 2704

 

HOME ENTERTAINMENT                                                        TEXT 2…00

 

GETTING STARTED BOX-COPY ADD-ONS FOR HIONTS & TIPS 79

 

MAINTINAING STANDARDS

Paul Mason’s question about taking a TV brought in the UK abroad and in particular his reference to NICAM sound raises an interesting question about the stereo TV sound systems used in other far off lands. In fact most countries around the world still have mono sound, however the most common stereo sound system by far is good old NICAM, which is currently used in 14 countries (and counting). NICAM was developed by the IBA and BBC in the early 1970s, moreover it’s far and away the best in terms of quality, and lest we forget, the first example of digital broadcasting anywhere in the world when regular transmissions began in 1979. For the record countries with NICAM sound include the UK of course, plus Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Hong Kong, Hungary (but only in Budapest apparently), Ireland, Israel, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal. Spain and Sweden. Incidentally NICAM is only used in countries that also use the PAL system, however, the only places that use the same PAL/I system as us, where you could use a British brought TV, are The Gambia, Ireland, The Seychelles and South Africa

 

The next most widely used system is dual carrier FM, which is basically two mono channels transmitted on slightly different frequencies. It’s used in around half a dozen countries (all PAL regions), namely Australia, Austria, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and Switzerland. The quality is okay, a little better than FM radio but being analogue it’s hissy and not as robust as NICAM, when it comes to reduced signal strength. The third most widely used system with a tally of five NTSC countries is MTS or Multichannel Television Sound. It’s the one our US cousins use and the least good in terms of audio quality since it’s very similar to regular stereo FM radio, with two sound channels combined on one sub-carrier frequency. The MTS system also has provision for a secondary audio programme or ‘SAP’ which can carry a second audio soundtrack of programme information. Principal MTS users are America, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and Uruguay; Japan uses an indigenous variation on the MTS system.

 

WONKY WIDESCREEN

One of the clearest signs that widescreen is really taking off in the UK is the number of complaints we’re getting about picture geometry faults on 16:9 TVs. Our suspicion is that the percentage of widescreen sets leaving TV factories with maladjusted pictures is no more than it is with 4:3 sets, but an off-bonk picture shows up much more clearly on a widescreen display. The first thing to say is that any dealers who says you can’t get a properly aligned picture on a 16:9 picture tube is simply wrong. You can, though we accept that it’s easier to achieve on some models than others, and on some sets it may be necessary to make a number of relatively small compromises, that hopefully will go unnoticed on a normal moving picture.

 

One of the main reasons dealers try to fob off customers with excuses, is that it can be difficult and on some models, a very long-winded business. Sending out an engineer on a lengthy home visit adds to the dealer’s cost and with many operating on wafer thin margins it’s a very unwelcome burden. To make matters worse the set-up procedure is different for every make and there can be variations within a model range. Engineers have to learn to cope with a variety of configuration methods and on some models it’s a real juggling act. A tweak to correct an aberration in one corner of the picture can throw the alignment out on another part of the screen. You can spend an hour fiddling with some sets, and still be no better off at the end of it, and it’s even harder with the customer/owner watching the proceedings, especially the really critical ones, many of whom seem to be Home Entertainment readers…

 

 

 

 

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