My previous post was aimed at you, when you said you have done installations which were not line of sight.
Antenna installer are not the only ones who need to know about the characteristics of TV propagation. The broadcasters need to know what the likely coverage areas are for any transmitter. These are all predicted using geographic and altitude data, the typical losses are then calculated. It is not possible to measure every possible location using a digital field strength meters. The ACMA is currently surveying all analog switchover areas to do spot verifications of field strengths ahead of switchoffs.
You keep going on about using a digital field strength meter. I have always recommended them in all my "Get the best reception" posts. When I first started posting in 2003 these were very uncommon.
The measurement of the signal strength will just tell you if there is enough signal when connected to the antenna being used.
The digital field strength reading should be used with simple calculations to work out how much gain is required and an amplifier selected to match this value. As far as losses go, I have calculated and graphed the losses for 3 types of cables Cable losses
Amplifiers should be selected for the filter matching the frequency range of the transmissions to be received, gain and noise figure.
"antenna receiving area" of phased arrays is a common misconception. The reason why phased arrays are used for long distance (blocked paths due to the horizon) and other blocked paths is not the receiving area. For horizontally polarised signals a phased array is directional in the vertical direction and is not very directional in the horizontal direction. When a signal comes over the horizon it acts the same as light in a sunrise. The strongest signal is right on the horizon and is much wider than it is high. This matches the characteristics of a phased array. A high gain Yagi-Uda or a Log Periodic antenna is very directional in the horizontal plane but is not very directional in the vertical direction. This is good for rejecting reflected signals in strong signal areas but will give poor results in the over the horizon reception.
For vertically polarised signals the characteristics swap over, so phased arrays are best in the strong signal areas because they can reject reflected signals either side of the antenna. Yagi-Uda antennas are best for over the horizon reception.
As far as Sydney's northern beaches goes, the Bouddi transmitters are a low powered 1.25 kW each and are vertically polarised UHF. The terrain in the area has a lot of hills. So there is a choice of Bouddi and the Artarmon/Willoughby triangle of around 50 kW VHF or 200 kW UHF each. This is an area where the digital field strength meter comes into its own. Not only to measure the signal strength and error rates but also to determining the timing and strength of reflected signals.
As for analog vs digital. I am well known for opposing antennas designed for channels 0 - 5A which are commonly still installed in Sydney. As far as band 3 - 5 digital goes, the RF propagation is unchanged, the main change is that the reception criteria is more critical. Where viewers may have put up with some dots of noise or some ghosting, digital will not show these effects until the digital cliff has been reached. Then the customers complain because the error correction in the receiver is unable to stop the pixellation and the sound breakups.
Some of the above information is in Antenna design Basics and amplifications
I wrote in 2004. The "Get the best reception" post were commenced around then and has been kept updated.
This topic is more appropriately discussed in "Antenna & Distribution" systems strand