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Monday, June 2, 1986

Enclosed is a rose for your birthday.  Now that we're 39, we stop counting, right?

Last week I made a quick trip to New York, where our company was supplying TV facilities for the Tony Awards.  The producers of the telecast wanted a certain size of Helvetica Bold lettering surrounded by flashing "marquee lights," a double oval of dots that twinkle between yellow and white.  I had already designed the double oval for them, sending the necessary data on a floppy disk.  But the Chyron operator they had hired in New York didn't know how to convert letters to non-standard sizes, nor did he know how to animate the marquee effect.

Our company had assured the producers that our equipment could give them what they wanted, so at 9:15 Thursday morning I got a call from my boss.  At 1:15 I was on a plane to New York.  At 3:15 I was in Times Square at the Minskoff Theatre, 200 West 45th Street.  Inside our TV truck, I converted the Helvetica Bold font, showed the operator how to do the flashing dots, and recorded some graphics on disk.  And by 6:30 I was on my way back home.

The show aired Sunday night on CBS.  This was the first time any of my work had gotten on one of the Big Three networks (although I have been on smaller networks like USA and ESPN).  And the episode gave my ego a boost.  I know there are dozens of people in the country who could have done what I did, but it's still nice to get a call saying "We're in New York, doing a big live telecast on Broadway for CBS, and we've got a problem and you're the only one who can solve it!"

I hope folks are reminding you this week of how important you are.


Pixel by Pixel

The Chyron character generators that I was using during the 1980s (models 4000 through 4200) could capture artwork from a camera and turn it into a logo.  This was a special symbol, such as a sponsor's trademark, that could be typed onto a page like any other character.  Unfortunately, the analog-to-digital conversion usually didn't work very well, resulting in such defects as ragged edges or stray pixels in solid-color areas.  So a "logo trim" program allowed the operator to go in and repair the captured video, pixel by pixel — a tedious process, of course.

It occurred to me that if most of the pixels had to be repaired, it would not be that much more effort to do all of the pixels.  I made an enlarged printout of the artwork, drew grid lines on it, and transferred its contours to a sheet of graph paper.  Each square on the graph paper represented three pixels on the Chyron.  Then I would go into the "logo trim" program and, starting from a blank page, reproduce my graph-paper layout, line by line and pixel by pixel.

This was a lot of work, but it gave the best results.  Horizontal and vertical lines were precisely square, no longer dependent on an exact alignment between artwork and camera.

And I could even maximize the apparent vertical resolution by using anti-aliasing techniques.  Here, on the right, a second shade of blue reduces the jaggedness of the final product when it's viewed from a distance.

I kept trying new possibilities.  Computers had recently become capable of "morphing" one image into another, for example distorting George Washington's face until it became Abraham Lincoln's face.  I decided to see whether I could do a simple morph with my pixel-by-pixel method.

Using a full sheet of graph paper for each frame, I plotted the TCS logo and the Penn State Nittany Lions logo and marked certain key points.  For each of three intermediate frames, I moved each key point one-quarter of the distance from its initial to its final position.

With colors added, the results are on the left.  I would have needed at least twice as many frames for smooth animation; each frame would have become a character, and the Chyron would display the characters in quick succession.  But this experiment never got beyond the graph-paper stage.


Friday, August 8, 1986 (commercial copy)

Own the tradition.  Feel the pride.

BRASS ET CETERA has captured the majestic beauty of our Nittany Lion.

The Lion Collection, distinctive in quality and design, is created by an individual casting process.  Hand finishing brings out the classic luster of solid brass.

For more information, call 814-237-2787.  Credit cards are accepted.

Or visit BRASS ET CETERA in historic Lemont, minutes from Beaver Stadium.  814-237-2787.


For the 1986 season and continuing through 1987, I became the producer of our Penn State football shows.

That might sound like a more important position than it really was.  I was a mid-level manager, writing scripts and formats and making such decisions as whether we should include a particular play in the highlights of that week's game.  Above me, an executive producer was hiring announcers and deciding what sort of features should be included in the shows, and a coordinating producer was making arrangements for equipment and crews and travel.  And all these decisions were turned into reality by a number of other TCS staffers.

Penn State football took a lot of work, on practically a year-round basis.  By 1986 many of the games were on live network television, and we could use their video feed.  For the other games, we set up our own cameras.

Either way, we recorded the game with commentary by Stan Savran and Joe Paterno's brother George, including the "edit cues" like this one.  Then we'd edit and re-edit the tapes in as many ways as we could think of.

First we'd cut the game down to about 30 minutes of action and package it with commercials and features in a one-hour highlights show that many stations aired the next day, Sunday.

It was not convenient for stations in certain markets to air our one-hour show, but they could clear half an hour.  So Dennis Galloway re-edited the show to 30 minutes for them, including about seven minutes of action.

Then in midweek we'd interview Joe Paterno for a half-hour coach's show called Paterno, which included some highlights from the previous game.

This routine of highlights shows and Paterno shows continued throughout the season.  If Penn State had a bye week, we still felt we owed the stations a program, so we'd pare the highlights some more to come up with a season-to-date show for that week, including just a few minutes of each game.

Once the season was finished, we kept on going.  There were shows reviewing the regular season, previewing the bowl game, reviewing the bowl game, and reviewing the entire season, with a corresponding Paterno for each.  Then over the summer we'd add some new material to the entire-season show to make the first show for our next season, which would air six days before the opening game.

An outstanding play in Game 3 might thus be seen in six one-hour shows and several Paterno shows by the time we were done with the year.  And then we started thinking about other ways of wringing revenue from this footage, including multi-volume home videos covering as much as a decade.  We got sick of seeing some of these plays.

The 1986 season happened to mark the 100th anniversary of football at Penn State, so we turned that occasion into another profit center, celebrating "A Century of Excellence." 

We sold merchandise with the official logo, and we invited alumni to a banquet in late July — actually three banquets, held in central, western, and eastern Pennsylvania on consecutive nights.  Joe Paterno was there, of course, and even Bob Hope.  

I typed up the full-screen title graphic, and Hope and Paterno put on their official Century of Excellence sweatshirts to pose for this picture on the Road to Philadelphia.

And, of course, we taped the galas — one was telecast live — so that we could edit them into more shows.

And we still weren't done.  On top of all this, Penn State won the 1986 national championship, defeating Miami in the Fiesta Bowl on January 2, 1987.  We went on an editing frenzy.  We put together special shows for broadcast syndication, reformatted them to air on ESPN, and reformatted them again for the home video market.  There would be two preseason shows in August 1987, one "National Championship Show" celebrating 1986 and the other doing the same but also looking ahead.  And we also put all of this into a three-hour extravaganza for home video called "The Hundredth Year."


Tuesday, October 7, 1986

As we discussed last week, I'd like to plan on Thursday, October 16 (prior to the Syracuse game) as a day when Jack Sedlak and I could use the Hitachi machines in the field shop Media Center to put together the highlights of the first five games for our post-season shows.

Not only would this give us better technical quality than editing from 3/4" cassettes, it should be rather efficient because we already have the time-code numbers of the plays we want to use.

One bed will be for the post-season Paterno show, the pre-bowl one-hour show, and the 1987 pre-season show.  It will consist of silent footage at about one minute per game (four plays).

The other will be for the post-season one-hour show and the home-video year in review.  It will consist of about two minutes of footage per game (eight plays), with Stan's play-by-play audio on a couple of the plays.  In addition, we'll add about thirty seconds of Joe's remarks from the following week's Paterno show.

By the end of the season, the first bed will be in two parts (six games and five games), or about 6 minutes each.  The second bed will be in four parts (three games each), of about 7½ minutes each.

We'll need a one-hour tape (or at least 45 minutes) to build these beds.

Most TV crews working away from home get a per diem allowance (around $40 a day) to defray the cost of their meals.  We didn't.  Instead, we received these Long John Silver's certificates, which our company obtained very cheaply because Long John's was a sponsor.  Don't like seafood?  Too bad.


Saturday, October 25, 1986

Detailed schedule for Penn State at Alabama

This particular show was not edited at the site of the game.  We sent our announcers with a producer and a camera to Tuscaloosa, but our production truck stayed in the field shop in Pittsburgh.  We had constructed a "media center" in the field shop, where two VTRs recorded ABC's feed of the game with our announcers on the audio track.  When each reel was finished, we took them to the production truck, where (in order to meet our deadlines) we started editing at our usual 4:30 pm even though the game was only in the second quarter.  We left space so that later we could insert the announcers introducing the game and each quarter.

My crew sometimes called me a "slave driver" because as soon as one edit was made, I was giving instructions for the next one.  But as this schedule shows, we had to keep moving.




Pre-production:  Edit open, add shot to scouting report


Start recording first reel in Media Center


Truck engineers leave


Second quarter begins; start recording second reel


When all first-quarter edit cues have been sent, remove first reel and send to truck


Start editing first quarter


When all second-quarter edit cues have been sent, remove second reel and send to truck


Third quarter begins; start recording third reel


Start editing second quarter


Fourth quarter begins; start recording fourth reel


When all third-quarter edit cues have been sent, remove third reel and send to truck


Jan Stief arrives


Add the pre-edited halftime "Paterno Way" interview to the show


Start editing third quarter


Game over; remove fourth reel and send to truck


 On fifth reel, record ENG feeds of announcers on camera (postgame comments, lead to each quarter)


Remove fifth reel and send to truck


Start editing fourth quarter


Go for pizza


Reconfigure Media Center for making dubs




Edit Defensive Player of Game


Edit Offensive Player of Game


Edit Scouting Report and close


Re-insert quarter leads into show


Re-edit open including announcers to dub reel


Re-insert open into show


Pack up truck


Start making dubs


Start second set of dubs


Make special 3/4" dub for Dean Jordan




Autumn, 1986

Notes to Chyron operators for Raycom college basketball telecasts:

In order to keep the Raycom "look" consistent, please adhere to this style unless you get subsequent instructions from Charlotte.  There were midseason changes last year, and different dialects developed in various conferences.  The style described here is basically the one in use at the Metro Conference Tournament in March, 1986; we'd like to use it in all conferences this season.

Font 6:  Your choice of team logos.
Font id 16 (autoload 1): Pac-10 Conference
Font id 24 (autoload 2): Metro Conference
Font id 28 (autoload 3): Big 8 Conference
Font id 34 (autoload 4): Southwest Conference

The numbers in font 3 have been adjusted so that they're all the same width, making it easier to line up scores and stats with each other.  Two other characters in this font are also that same width:  @ is a leading one, and * is a leading space.  If you type *9 over 29, the nines will line up.  If you type 19 over 29, the nines will line up, but the space between the 1 and the 9 will appear too great; so type @9 instead of 19.

If you don't already have a favorite layout, you can use the one on our message disk.  It's a little quirky, but it is fast.  The statistician tells you, "Foul on 23 white, his fourth"; you enter 235 read 4 read, and you have it on the screen.

We put player names at address XNNT, where

X is 0 for class/height/weight/position/average, or
       1 for high school/home town
NN is the uniform number
T is 0 for the visiting team, or
      5 for the home team (usually wearing white)

In rare cases, a player wears 0 or 00.  But we don't want to record him at 0000 or 0005; those low addresses are too valuable for autodisplays.  So pretend he's really wearing the number 2.

For convenience, pretend the coach is wearing the number 56.  (College players are not allowed to wear digits higher than 5, because a referee's hand has only five fingers.)

Incidentally, on the halftime stats panels, HALFTIME STATS appears to be on two rows, one above the other; but the one-piece logos require us to put everything on one row.

The trick is to type HSATLAFTTSIME, shift every other character down, and then shift all the characters left.

You can change the palette as needed for team logos, but the standard colors should be Red 700, Blue 072, Cyan 275, Yellow 707, White 777.  These are referred to as R, B, C, Y, and W in the printed examples that follow; so 2W/ will mean font 2, white, italic.

Page 2125:

4R       ---------------------------
3YW/   MEMPHIS STATE             0    [larger, italic]
3YW/   LOUISVILLE                    0
1Y                   1st Half

Team in 3Y/ and points in 3W/.


I wrote a program for my TRS-80 Model 100 mini-laptop computer that I called "Avprod."  It was a specialized spreadsheet that allowed me to adjust SEGment times and TOTal running times to make the show come out to the correct length.  I even used this program to track live shows like the Miss Ohio and Miss New York pageants; in the former, it became obvious that we were gradually falling behind schedule, and eventually the decision had to be made to cut a production number.  But mostly I used it for editing sessions.  Here's what I calculated the night before the November 26, 1986, taping of Paterno.










#1 Bumper






Welcome back



Pitt review



Wrap comments



#2 Bumper






Vignette: Gil Wetzel



Players of game



Thomas/Milk Can



Throw to break



#3 Bumper






PSU Institutional Ad



General talk



#4 Bumper






Vignette: Suhey family









Credits (43 to 103 seconds)



End break


I wrote another little program to allow me to print out a script in three columns, for video, running time, and audio.  Here's the middle segment of that November 26 show, as read by Paterno host Bill Wilson.



The offensive player of the game is brought to you exclusively by the Bell of Pennsylvania Yellow Pages.  We wrote the book.


An academic scholarship award, presented by Bell of Pennsylvania, will be donated to Penn State in the name of the offensive player of the Pitt game,

Dozier mug shot


D.J. Dozier.  Playing in the final home game of his four-year career as a Penn State tailback,

Dozier footage


D.J. caught two passes and led the Lion rushers with 77 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.  That brought his career rushing total to three thousand 227 yards, second only to Curt Warner in Penn State history.



The defensive player of the game is brought to you by Meister Bräu, the beer that only tastes expensive.  The Meister Bräu defensive player

Giftopoulos mug shot


for the second straight week in linebacker Pete Giftopoulos.

Giftopoulos footage


Against Pitt, he had 2 solo tackles, 2 assists, deflected 2 passes, and made an interception that set up a field goal.


Congratulations to our offensive and defensive players of the game!


And there was an overall player of the game, as well.  Stan Savran has that for us.

Blair Thomas mug and play, plus Milk Can Trophy check presentation


(sound on tape)

Bill on camera


It's been another great year for Penn State, the second undefeated regular season in a row.  On next week's show, we're going to be recapping the highlights of those eleven victories one more time.


And we'll have our Player of the Year presentations.  So be sure to join us for that, next week here on "Paterno."


In just a few moments, Joe will be back to talk with us about _____.  We'll be right back.



While a Penn State game was being played, we kept a log so that later we could see at a glance what should be included in our condensed highlights version:  plays, replays, color shots.  I wrote a program to do this on my computer, as well.

However, it turned out that a handwritten log could give us more information.  Each preprinted page, numbered with minutes and seconds, represented ten minutes.

This page comes from the January 2, 1987, Fiesta Bowl, from 11:00:00 to 11:09:58 pm.  (The national championship was clinched at 11:30:52 when Penn State's Pete Giftopoulos intercepted a fourth-down pass by Miami's Vinny Testaverde.)


Sunday, February 1, 1987

I talked Thursday with Bob Hunter, our resident expert on the engineering of systems to encode home video cassettes so they can't be copied.

He reports that so far he's seen demonstrations of four such systems, but has been satisfied with none of them.

The system that Bob came closest to liking adds to the audio a very loud tone that is very high-pitched, so high (18 kHz) that it can be heard only by the family dog — or by a second VCR that's trying to record a copy.  This VCR adjusts to the tone by turning down its volume, which of course also turns down the volume on the real program audio to a point where it can't be heard on the copy.

Any copy-protection scheme can be defeated, at least in theory.  Most of the rest of them rely not on audio tones but on video signals to confuse the second VCR; devices on the market called "video stabilizers" are designed to remove the extra signals.

Such products are necessary because not only can copy-protected tapes not be copied, they often cannot be viewed.  The non-standard signals that are designed to confuse copying VCRs also are capable of confusing some TV sets, resulting in unwatchable pictures.  Letters in Video Review tell of customers who have returned to the store to exchange movie cassettes numerous times until they could get a cassette they could watch, usually a version that was not copy-protected.

Bob suggests that the problem is so bad that copy protection might gain us less in increased sales than it would cost us in postage for mailing non-encoded replacement cassettes to complaining customers.


Wednesday, February 4, 1987

Contrary to our fears Monday [when the national champion Penn State football team visited Washington, D.C.], we do have good footage of the White House event.  There are sufficient cutaway shots to edit this footage into various packages.  The technical quality is excellent.


. . . End of
3rd Quarter