Amateur Television: Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to be a member of HOTARC to watch ATV?
What are typical ATV projects and activities in HOTARC?
What do I need to get started in Amateur Television?
Do I need to be a member of HOTARC to watch ATV?No, all you need to do is tune into the TV channels for our ATV signals to see our pictures. However, by being a HOTARC member, we'll allow you to control our Skycam with your 2-meter radio. And, of course, we'll help you get on the air and send your own ATV pictures!
What are typical ATV projects and activities in HOTARC?Some past projects and activities are:
What do I need to get started in Amateur Television?The first thing is tune into the nightly ATV "show" almost every evening, usually starting around 8:00 pm. Here's how:
1) Connect an outside (UHF) antenna to the cable input on your TV (or VCR).
2) Point the antenna towards the Hillcrest Medical Tower in Waco (the ATV repeater location). If you're within a few miles of the Tower, simple rabbit ears may do!
3) Tune your TV (or VCR) to cable channel 57. (Note: This is NOT the same as UHF station 57.)
The quality of picture and audio will largely depend on your proximity to the repeater when using this simple setup. If you are a ham, check-in on 2-meter FM using the W5NCD repeater on 147.24 MHz (tone 97.4) and let us know you're watching!
The next thing you'll want to do is improve your antenna system. Invest in an ATV yagi antenna and good quality coax. Mount your antenna outside, as high as possible, horizontally polarized, where you can get as clear a view as possible towards the repeater, yet as close to your TV (i.e., short length of coax) as possible. Buildings and trees definitely degrade the signal, so again: get as clear a view as possible in the direction of the repeater site. Use high quality coax, such as Belden 9913 (not just RG-8). Note that your received pictures will not be as good as they can be, until you amplify your received signal...that can come later.
The third thing is to begin planning for a transmit capability. First, get a video camera with A/V out jacks. Most old camcorders, security cameras, desktop cameras (for PCs), and such, will work just fine.
The fourth thing: you must invest in an ATV transmitter or transceiver. The transceiver will have a built-in downconverter and pre-amp to really improve the received signal. You can often find these at hamfests or from hams who have lost interest in ATV. Or you can buy a new one from a dealer. One of our favorites is P.C. Electronics.
The last thing you might want to pursue is portability. It's pretty fun to send a video picture from a remote site, for example, during a special event. Primarily, you'll need 1) a source of power for your camera and transmitter, and 2) a quick, portable antenna setup. Of course, your transmitter, camera, and cabling must follow. This takes planning and practice, but will give a real sense of accomplishment when you can pull it off! How many folks do you know who can transmit a video signal from a portable station?
For all of these steps, HOTARC members are eager to give advice, lend a hand, and maybe even share/loan/give/sell some equipment to get you started. Give us a call!