Posted on September 3, 2018 in ATSC News
A Sweet Tooth for Radio
Merrill Weiss’s career in electronics is rooted in dentistry. His father was a dentist who brought a two-tube radio kit home from a dental convention, and the two built it together.
“A short time later, I saw a neighbor’s amateur (“ham”) radio station, and I was hooked,” said Weiss. “I started out as a “short wave listener” at nine and got my first ham license at 12. I got my Amateur Extra Class license at 15, followed the next day by First-Class Radiotelephone and Second-Class Radiotelegraph licenses.”
After a short stint in college, Weiss put his commercial operator’s license to work at WIP-AM and FM in Philadelphia. “It has been a continuous career since that time, with no breaks along the way,” he said.
Weiss went on to work at the Philadelphia-area public TV and radio stations, among others, and went back to school during the evenings at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he completed an eight-year evening program in six years, majoring in management.
While at Wharton, Weiss moved to KYW Radio, then KYW Television (Philadelphia) and, while there, received an invitation to participate in a new standards-development committee that the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) was starting – the Working Group on Digital Video Systems. He has been working on SMPTE standards now for more than 40 years, leading the development of several well-known technologies used industry-wide.
“Working on standards changed my life and gave me a whole new perspective on the development of technology – and at the bleeding edge, no less,” he said. “It also helped me to understand better how to work well with others and to manage group dynamics.” One example: While at KPIX in San Francisco, Weiss helped organize the tests that led to the first digital television standards, which were for studio use and were adopted worldwide, becoming the foundation for practically all digital video up through today.
Weiss became involved with ATSC standards over 30 years ago, while managing system engineering at NBC and before starting his own consulting business – Merrill Weiss Group LLC. Some of his early ATSC work was on what became the original ATSC Digital Television System (now called ATSC 1.0), for which, in 1990, he conceived the idea of Single-Frequency Networks (SFNs) for television broadcasting applications, later developing the technology for transmitter synchronization.
“Over the years, I have worked on improving the technology for synchronizing SFNs, and others have contributed to those improvements. ATSC has had four generations of technology for SFN transmitter synchronization and control in the ATSC 1.0 system,” he said. “Now, we’re working on really major improvements in SFN capabilities as part of the development of ATSC 3.0.”
Connecting and Securing the Standard
Merrill’s primary work on ATSC 3.0 has been on the Physical and Applications layers, and he currently chairs a Small Group on the Scheduler/Studio-to-Transmitter Link (STL) of the Specialist Group on the Physical Layer (S32). Publication of the first version of the A/324 document that it produced took place in January. A/324 describes what is needed to connect data sources to Transport-Layer packetizers and then, in turn, to a Broadcast Gateway, which prepares data for delivery over an STL to one or more transmitter Exciters. First-generation Broadcast Gateways and Exciters are in the marketplace, have been installed, and are in daily use in South Korea for its new ATSC 3.0 broadcast service.
Weiss also is working to ensure greater security of the physical layer, including adding a Security subsystem to the STL Transport Protocol (STLTP), which will provide signing of data sent to transmitters.
“The signing will help avoid a so-called ‘man-in-the-middle’ attack, in which someone substitutes other content for what a broadcaster sent to its transmitter(s) for delivery to the viewing public,” said Weiss.
Merrill has presented well over 100 technical papers and has written and/or edited several books plus chapters in the last two NAB Engineering Handbooks. He has been a Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) member since 1968 and has been certified by SBE at its highest level since 1980. He is an IEEE Broadcast Technology Society (BTS) member and has served on the BTS Administrative Committee (AdCom) since 2010. He is a member of the Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers (AFCCE). Merrill has been a SMPTE member since 1978 and Fellow since 1987. He received SMPTE’s David Sarnoff Gold Medal Award in 1995 and its Progress Medal in 2005. He also is the recipient of this year’s SMPTE Excellence in Standards Award. Merrill was the recipient of the NAB Television Engineering Achievement Award in 2006 and of ATSC’s Bernard J. Lechner Outstanding Contributor Award in 2012. He received the IEEE BTS Matti S. Siukola Award twice — in 2012 and 2013. He is a member of the Academy of Digital Television Pioneers. Merrill holds six patents – all related to broadcast television transmission.
Merrill and his wife Carol have known each other since they were 2½ and 1½, have been married for more than 48 years, and have two daughters, Liz and Judy. He has never lost touch with his roots, as he continues his interests in ham radio and classical music. “For neither of which I have had much time during the development of ATSC 3.0 and the FCC spectrum repack,” Weiss joked.
Posted in ATSC News
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The Advanced Television Systems Committee, Inc., is an international, non-profit organization developing voluntary standards and recommended practices for digital terrestrial broadcasting. ATSC member organizations represent the broadcast, broadcast equipment, motion picture, consumer electronics, computer, cable, satellite, and semiconductor industries. ATSC also develops digital terrestrial broadcasting implementation strategies and supports educational activities on ATSC standards.