ƒ Curious Travelers Television: Why All Travel Shows Should Shoot in Hi-Definition?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Why All Travel Shows Should Shoot in Hi-Definition?

In five years digital TV will be the standard worldwide. Already it is the standard in Japan.

In the united States the FCC mandate requires all television manufacturers to equip their products, except those smaller than 13 inches, with digital television (DTV) tuners by 2007. Digital tuners allow TVs to receive digital broadcasts from over-the-air signals, that is, when not hooked up to cable or satellite. The FCC claims that implementing its rule is necessary for all TV sets to be digitally compatible, thereby facilitating the transition from analog to digital signals and allowing consumers to watch TV in digital mode.

That means that all programs currently produced in standard definition analog format will have a limited shelf life, possibly less than five years, maybe as little as two years. This is bad news for travel television producers such as Globe Trekker, who has over one hundred hours of travel programmer in their inventory. The value of this huge library may be seriously diminished.

This is good news for all travel program producers who now produce in HI-Definition today, as their programs will have evergreen status.

Up until last year there was only one way to produce in Hi- Definition, the expense way with uncompressed hi-definition and using camera such as the $100,000 Sony HD-Cam.

Now several inexpensive HDV cameras are on the market, from Sony and JVC and soon from Panasonic and the going has been rocky up until now with their acceptance by networks such as the Discovery Travel Channel although that seems about to change.

When the first camera came to market the JY-HD10U. a one CCD chip with the progressive 720/30P (MPEG2) standard the engineers of the network forbid it's use, claiming that this highly compressed Hi Definition was not of sufficient quality to
go up on the satellite and would produce artifacts, the word for tiny markings on the screen caused by missing pixels.

When Sony came out with HVRZIU 3CCD 1080i camera and now the amazingly compact HDR-HC1 with a CMOS imaging chip, the engineers also complained about artifacts and banned any footage from this camera as a deliverable.

Of course I suspect that many producers use these HDV camera at times and convert (upconverted?) to Sony HD-Cam, the required deliverable, just as in the past they shot in DV and DVCAM and transferred to Digibeta format as the required deliveable. Can the engineer's spot the difference? Maybe? Do the programmers take this in consideration? Probably only if the content and technical quality are not up to standard ie poor focus, exposures, color correction, etc.

Is there a reason for the networks reluctance to accept HDV camera originated footage? Is it possible this is about raising the barrier to entry, as it use to be with the AVID for editing before FCP became widespread?

The barrier to entry has just gotten considerably lower with all these inexpensive broadcast quality cameras.
Are the networks afraid of being flooded with thousands of "amateur" filmmakers and having to deal with all this rather than relying on it's exclusive cadre of well funded and well equipped albeit often with legacy equipment, producers?

It's really difficult to know and this prejudice against HDV may be changing. One of the first programs that Pat Younger greenlighted when he took his position in the Travel Channel was "Five Takes Europe", shoot with the HVRZIU and the Panasonic AG-DVX100A, a mini DV 24p camera. The footage was all converted to a common DV standard and the program broadcast in standard definition and the standard 4:3 aspect ratio.

Anthony Bourdain's "No reservations" was also shoot with the Panasonic AG-DVX100A.

Both look great, no artifacts that I can see.

Is DV and HDV now an acceptable format for the Discovery Travel Channel?

It seems that it is, and that the producers have won out over the engineers or who ever is behind the prohibition of new video formats such as DV and HDV