Fred's DTV notes for Minneapolis-St Paul

March 9, 2010 UPDATE
It's been about 9 months since the switch over and DTV has worked well for most people that I
am aware of.  I know one person who stopped watching TV instead of switching (more power to
them - a lot of the TV I watch is not worth the time but I do...).  Recently Mpls Public TV
upgraded and moved their second transmitter (old Chan 17's).  They publicized the change
extensively and rescanning was fairly easy.  I am unaware of Ch 41 having upgraded.  I did see
it at a friends house recently when I was rearranging their use of DTV convertors.

In conjunction with the switch to DTV, Twin Cities Public TV (TPT)
adjusted how they use 4 different channels (one of the few stations that is really using the
added channels significantly.  In addition to a mix of local, archived and less 'prime'
programming they broadcast many programs multiple times. This includes Chan 2-1 primetime 6
hours later which I use occasionally to record something.  I like the way they handle filling
small gaps to resyncronise with the clock.  When a program starts on the hour but they have a
few minutes before the hour, they often have a fairly fixed screen describing the upcoming
program briefly and a count down to the start.

Finding 2-1  2-2  2-3  2-4 with a convertor and in Yahoo schedules works fine. Unfortunately on
cable the channels are harder to find - different places on different systems.  This means
telling someone on a different cable system 'be sure to watch ... on channel 2-2 does not work
very well.  There is a Chart of TPT channels on 6 Twin CIties cable systems

June 13, 2009 UPDATE
Analog broadcast of regular programming was turned off last night at midnight on stations that had
not already turned it off.  In the Twin Cities, two analog stations are still broadcasting for now
- DTV conversion information only.  Ch 13 is still analog (see below).

In addition some DTV stations changed the frequency on which they broadcast so a "rescan" was
needed. This function is usually accessed via the "menu" function of the DTV converter.

All channels listed below are available after the rescan.  In addition 25-1, 25-2 25-3 25-4 25-5
are available with a strong solid signal. These appear to be related to the TBN network.
Curiously only 2-1 has audio for me this morning.

Channel 9 which moved back to VHF has an unusable signal with the coathanger antenna. With the
rooftop vhf/uhf antenna it's fine.  Channel 11 which also is now on vhf has a fair signal.  The
The coathanger antenna is a UHF only antenna.

In about Jan-March channel 41 had a fairly usable signal with the coathanger antenna with a
reflector in the nw window of our house. I watched some reruns of "Quantum Leap" on it. The last
few months the signal has been marginal. I wonder if it is seasonal (leaves?) Ch 41-1, 41-2,
41-3 showed up after the scan but with a marginal signal with the coathanger antenna. With my
rooftop antenna they again were not found by the scan.  I understand Chan 41 is moving to it's
transmitter to Shoreview so I expect that will solve it's reception problem for me.

-- end 6/13/09 update ---

From Nov 2008 to this update in Feb 2009 I have been using DTV ( Digital TV) converter boxes
in near north Minneapolis, MN with an old roof top antenna. It works fine virtually all the time
in my experience.  In most ways, it's better than the analog reception we previously watched.

I get all local digital channels fine: (Feb 18,2009) 2-1, 2-2, 2-3, 2-4, 4-1, 5-1, 5-2, 9-1, 9-2,
11-1, 11-2, 23-1, 23-2, 29-1, 29-2, 45-1 That is all subchannels of 2,4,5,9,11,23,29 & 45.
These are all transmitted from towers in Shoreview north of St Paul.
Note that "Ch 17" DTV no longer exists; replaced by 2-3 and 2-4.
For other locations, consult TV Fool for predicted reception.

I also made a "coathanger" antenna shown below.  It's an indoor antenna that performs better
than "rabbit ears" tho not as well and as the rooftop antenna. The signal it produces is not
quite as strong and sometimes the signal fades. With the "coathanger" indoor antenna, depending
on location, I sometimes get the channels: 41-1, 41-2, 41-3, 41-4. I never got the analog 41
since it is a different direction and more distant. I can usually get 41 when the coathanger
antenna with an improvised reflector is in the window in nw corner of the house pointing nw.
Ch 41 is transmitted from northwest of the Twin Cities.

Note that of the 16 channels, some of the subchannels have the same content in different formats
(HD, SD) at present so there is not nearly as much more content available as the list of all
subschannels suggests tho there is some more.  See also DTV Content below.

If you are not getting all channels well, you probably need to improve your antenna.

In my opinion "rabbit ears" antennas seldom provide a good enough signal for DTV (depends on
where you live , kind of house etc). Fortunately one can make a "coathanger" antenna for a few
dollars that does a fair to good job. Here's a picture of the coathanger UHF antenna I made;
it's about 22" high.

Youtube video Instructions for building the coathanger UHF antenna
"Coathanger" antenna notes

 12 gauge wire (wire from 6 coathangers works)
 8 "V" shaped elements - each leg 7" long **
   Mouth of V is 3" wide
 2 20" pieces of 12 gauge wire to connect the
   elements.  Note the crossover pattern of
   connections   and insulation where they
   cross. Connections held together with
   screws and washers into wood.
 Wood: 24" long, 3" ( 2.5" to 3.5" wide 3/4"
   thick   ("1x4" works fine, "2x2" can work)
   First elements are mounted 2" (or more) from
   the end of wood. Other elements at 5.75"
   apart.  Screws are about 5/8" from edge.

 A "balun" (balanced to unbalanced transformer)
 is used to connect the antenna to coax cable
 to the converter box. Baluns are available
 for about $2 where TV components are sold.
 I got one at a local building supply.
 The balun is mounted between the
 connectors in the middle.

 ** The Public Television show Make made a very
 similar antenna with elements with 8" legs. Link
 All of these are based on the Hoverman
 antenna design link link

The basic coathanger antenna has minimal directionality (it does not matter much how it is
oriented). There are instructions for building a very similar antenna that has a "reflector"
which improves reception from one direction: coathanger antenna w/ reflector I have not yet
tried a reflector on my coathanger antenna. Note that if a directional antenna is used to
receive stations in different directions, it needs to be turned. My rooftop antenna is
directional but does not turn (which is why it does not receive channel 41 very well.)

The  DTV Content Available in the Twin Cities  table has a more detailed
listing of DTV channels.  It is on John Week's Twin Cities DTV Cheat Sheet
Note: The table listing for TC Public TV ( TPT ): 2-1, 2-2 KTCA   and  2-3, 2-4 KTCI
is for after Feb 17. (This change will still happen Feb 18 despite the postponed deadline.)
As of Jan 2009 the TPT DTV channels were: 2-1, 2-2  and 17-1, 17-2, 17-3, 17-4, 17-5
As of Feb 18, 2009 TPT DTV channels are 2-1, 2-2, 2-3 1nd 2-4 These showed up and 17-x disappeared
without rescaning the RCA STB7766G1 Converter Box (below).
See TC Public TV DTV channels
When evaluating DTV performance, be sure to be systematic in checking that all expected
stations/channels are being received - it's easy to not notice a totally missing station
due to the all or nothing nature of DTV.
Also channels 41-1, 41-2, 41-3, 41-4 require a particularly good antenna
from most Twin Cities locations aimed Northwest.

Post transition notes
After analog transmitters are turned off (the deadline has been postponed to June 12, 2009) some
stations including channel 9 and 11 in Minneapolis will move their DTV transmissions back to
the "vhf" frequencies where their analog transmissions have been.  Some other stations will be
moving to different "uhf" frequencies.  This means that DTV converters will need to be
reconfigured.  Usually this means using the scan function from the menu.

The vhf transmissions ( 9 and 11 after transition in Minneapolis) should have a vhf antenna.
The coathanger antenna may not work well for them.  I'll be exploring this more.
(See 6/13/09 update at top of page)

Minneapolis Ch 23 stopped broadcasting regular programming at midnight on Feb 17,2009, instead
they seem to be broadcasting DTV information continually (as of 11:00 am 2/18/09)

Converter box recommendation
I suggest the $49.95 minus $40 converter sold by Target:
RCA model STB7766G1 "Digital-to-Analog Converter Box"
It comes in a blue and white box. It's features include:
o Energy Star rated
o has the "pass-through" feature (see explanation below)
o The channel setup is editable (you can change the result of the channel scan)
o the remote is easy to use
o it is $10 cheaper (with coupon, half the cost) of a model that was less
  satisfactory. (I tried two models at Target.)

We've been using this model since mid Nov 2008 exclusively (that is we seldom go back to watch
the analog version of stations).  My son says he sometimes goes back to analog so he can
channel surf faster. DTV takes a few seconds to tune in a new channel.  I do not claim this is
the best, I have no vested interest in it, I just find it to be a good choice.  One last time,
the big factor on performance is your antenna.

The "pass-through" feature which allows easily watching analog channels as long as they exist.
Some low power stations will continue to broadcast in analog -- religious tv, sales tv and the
Spanish channel (ch 13).

As of 1/26/09 there are two DTV-assistance centers to assist Minneapolis residents.
They are located at:

Main Street Project
2104 Stevens Ave. S.

Lao Assistance Center
503 Irving Ave. N., Suite 100A.
Note that this is in Harrison Park wing of Harrison School (near the Harrison Neighborhood offices).

fholson {at}    Fred H. Olson's link page