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Prepare for digital TV

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The switch over to digital TV has been in the pipeline for nearly a decade and many viewers are still in the dark as to what they need to prepare themselves for the change. MUZI MAKHAYE, CEO of ABT Africa sheds some light on the benefits of digital TV

The switchover from analogue to digital television has been in the pipeline for nearly a decade but, as the ITU deadline draws nearer, many viewers are still unsure about why migration is happening, what they will need to do in order to receive the digital signal on their existing television sets and what the benefits of digital television will be for them as consumers.

ABT Africa, one of the providers of the set-top boxes that will be required for viewers to receive the new digital signal on their existing TV sets, is committed to providing more than just the necessary technology. It is also committed to informing viewers about the switchover process so they can enjoy uninterrupted television viewing.

Communication about the switch to digital has been patchy and, as a result, many viewers are still uncertain about how this process will affect them.

Our objective as we move closer to the switchover date is threefold. Firstly, we will provide the very best, high-quality digital terrestrial transmission or DTT set-top boxes that will be needed in order to receive digital signal for existing television sets. We will also ensure that stocks of these STBs are available at all of the necessary points during the roll-out, and will provide post-sales support for customers through a national DTT call centre. Finally, through our communications, we will keep viewers fully informed about the roll-out process.

One of the questions most frequently asked about the change to digital broadcast is why is it necessary. The answer is that the new technology will bring many benefits to viewers across all LSMs, the broadcasters and government.

To start with, the digital television signal will provide viewers with CD-quality audio and crystal-clear picture quality, which will make an immediate difference to their viewing experience. It will avail an increased number of channels, offer greater broadcasting flexibility, and enable more free-to-air operators to enter the broadcast market.

The DTT technology also has the capability to deliver information services directly to the user’s TV. For example, local government could, through an e-government services network, notify targeted households about such issues as planned water and or electricity disruptions at specific times.

While these benefits may seem clear, consumers are still uncertain about whether everyone will need a set-top box and, if so, what the cost of these STBs will be.

Everyone with an existing television set that is not digitally enabled will need an STB. This includes owners of wide-screen or plasma TV sets that aren’t enabled to receive a digital signal as in the iDTVs, for instance.

Similarly, DSTV subscribers will need a DTT set-top box (MNet) if they would like to receive the full bouquet of free-to-air television channels. This is because the satellite technology used by DSTV and the digital terrestrial technology that will be used in broadcast television are incompatible and they offer different broadcast services. More importantly, DTT will be a non-subscription service as opposed to the subscription-based DSTV service.

As for cost, government has recently announced that recipients of social grants will qualify for a 100% subsidy when acquiring an STB, although this benefit will be limited to one set-top box per household. Retail prices have not yet been set, and will depend not only on government guidelines, but also on the model of set-top box the consumer chooses.

ABT will be offering two models, an entry-level model called the ABT Zapper and a top model that offers more features and benefits, such as access to the internet, which is called the ABT Zapper Plus. Both are equipped with advanced security features which will enable them to be deactivated should they be stolen. A PVR-enabling dongle, which will be sold separately, will enable recording, rewinding and fast-forwarding applications to users of both models.

As the switchover to digital will be rolled out progressively, ABT will track the roll-out schedule once it has been announced and will ensure that STBs are available in retail stores in the designated areas.

The change to digital will offer an entirely new viewing experience, and ABT is fully prepared to make the switchover an easy and trouble-free experience for our customers.

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Planet Radio TV tune in on any device

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Planet Radio TV plans to be Africa’s first online broadcaster that allows its listeners to watch via Internet and satellite TV as well as listen via FM or Internet radio. SEAN BACHER visits its studios.

Planet Radio TV (PRTV) is broadcast much like any other terrestrial radio station, allowing its users to tune into it with a standard FM tuner. But its owner, Planet Image Productions, is about to launch two other means of tuning into the station.

In the coming month, MultiChoice will place a new satellite in orbit that will, by the new year, allow Planet to broadcast to subscribers via the satellite. Planet has also announced the PRTV app, which can be downloaded to Apple, BlackBerry, Android and Windows Mobile devices, allowing users to stream the content to their phones and tablets.

‚”What makes this unique though is that our systems will automatically detect a user’s connection speed and stream content in a format that suits that speed, says Planet Image CEO Wale Akinlabi. ‚”For example, someone connecting through 3G will be able to view high-definition video and hear high-definition audio. A user with a slower connection will still be able to view and listen to the station, but at a lower quality.‚”

This, he believes, will eliminate the buffering issue which discourages many users from streaming video and audio to their devices.

The radio station comprises 80% African music, with the remainder being international, and is targeted at Africa’s youth.

‚”At PRTV we intend to change the way consumers view, listen and interact with television, radio and Internet mediums,‚” says Mabel Mabaso, chief operations officer and director at Planet Image. ‚”It is an exciting platform that synchronises three mediums, providing opportunities for consumers and advertisers alike.‚”

Planet RadioTV differentiates itself from other local broadcasters with its clever use of software and hardware. Planet Image uses a high-definition video-graphics (HDVG) rendering program, designed by Orad, an Israeli company specialising in TV production software. This software suite, combined with four Panasonic high-definition cameras, is able to detect and focus on a person’s voice. When the camera fixes on a voice, that camera is automatically activated and begins broadcasting. Should someone else begin talking, a separate camera will detect the voice and focus on that person.

The software controlling the cameras also performs basic video editing. Mabaso says that, although the initial cost of the equipment was more than that of standard cameras, it will prove well worth it, as it eliminates the need for a dedicated cameraman filming the show in the studio.

‚”Another payoff is that we don’t need that much office space,‚” she says.

Based in Randburg in Johannesburg, the studio is small in comparison to most others and the control room is just big enough for one person.

‚”The control room merely serves as a back-up should one of the cameras fail. It also allows us to control when and where visual adverts appear.‚”

The system is also tightly integrated with applications like Skype.

‚”We can interview someone overseas without having to send a crew there to perform recording. We simply communicate via Skype, making the interviewee’s Internet camera an extension of our own in-studio cameras.‚”

Besides featuring local and international music, the station has regular fashion, food and cooking, music and culture segments, which are broadcast to around 30 000 listeners around Africa.

Rounding up the technology aspect, PRTV has integrated Twitter and Facebook, allowing its listeners to interact with DJs.

Listeners can tune into Planet Radio TV by logging onto www.planetradio.co.za

* Follow Sean Bacher on Twitter on @SeanBacher

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Canon EOS M – small and simple

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Canon has extended the EOS range with the EOS M, its first compact system camera. Although not yet available in South Africa, the EOS M offers DSLR quality images and full HD recording in a compact, easy to use device.

Canon has expanded the EOS range with the launch of the EOS M. The company’s first ever compact system camera (CSC), the EOS M offers DSLR-quality imaging and full HD movie creation in a compact and easy-to-use model.

The EOS M is available in sleek black, glossy white, stylish silver or bold red colours, and condenses Canon’s EOS imaging heritage into a stylish, compact design. The model launches alongside two new lenses, the EF-M 22mm f/2 STM pancake and the EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM standard zoom, as well as a new compact EX Speedlite the Speedlite 90EX. For those who want to push their images even further, the EOS M can also use Canon’s range of EF lenses with the new Mount Adapter EF-EOS M, for even more creative freedom.

The quality of a Canon DSLR

The EOS M’s high-resolution, 18 megapixel APS-C hybrid CMOS sensor also allows you to blur the background for beautiful portraits, or for close-ups with impact.

With the inclusion of Canon’s DIGIC 5 processor, colours ‚’pop’ and skin tones are beautifully natural, while a super-fast shutter allows you to capture split-second action.

Shoot what you see and easily express your creative vision

Every aspect of the EOS M has been designed to make it simple to capture high-quality images. With the high-resolution, 7.7cm (3.0‚”), Clear View LCD II Touch screen, the EOS M gives you as much or as little control over your photos as desired. Simply select different shooting modes and settings via the on-screen icons, or let Scene Intelligent Auto adjust the camera settings according to the subject and shooting conditions, leaving you free to focus on composition and selecting the perfect moment to hit the shutter release button.

Turn film-maker with EOS Movie and Video Snapshot

When a moment calls for more than a still image, the EOS M lets you switch to Full HD video with stereo sound.

Extending the EOS System with dedicated accessories

In addition to compatibility with Canon’s existing EF lenses, accessories and Speedlites, the EOS M launches with its own range of accessories. Two new EF-M lenses offer portability and high performance when using the new model the EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM standard zoom and the EF-M 22mm f/2 STM pancake lens. Both feature new stepper motor technology for exceptionally smooth AF performance, as well as precision Canon optics, while their compact designs offer the perfect form-factor to complement the camera’s pocket-sized body.

Additionally, the EOS M will ship with the new Speedlite 90EX flash unit as standard. Lightweight and highly-compact, it offers a maximum guide number of nine and supports wide-angle lenses, making it an ideal general-purpose flash for everyday use. A wireless master function also allows the control of multiple flash guns wirelessly, allowing more advanced users to experiment with a range of creative lighting effects.

EOS M key features

· The quality of a digital SLR in a compact body

· Scene Intelligent Auto

· Be versatile with interchangeable lenses

· Create out-of-focus backgrounds for high impact

· Easy-to-use touch-screen

· Atmospheric photos in low light

· Full-HD video with Video Snapshot Mode

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