The What, When, Why, and How of HDTV

Update: December 7th, 2009

The What, When, Why, and How of HDTV

by Ed McNichol


If I could travel through time, I would love to be able to record color television pictures before color TV was widely available. Knowing that there will be a great demand for color material once color TV is available, one could really corner the market by having pre-produced programs ready to roll.

We now find ourselves at a very similar junction again in broadcasting. What if you could produce digital HDTV programs, BEFORE this was widely available. Well, thanks to the pioneering efforts we’re making here at APS, you now can.

In the most exciting development in recent years, APS is installing a state of the art digital High Definition editing facility! There are a great number of questions about this powerful technology, and I hope to provide a rich body of information for you. Let’s start by answering some basic questions.

What is HDTV?

So, just what is this new standard and why all the hub-hub? I mean, isn’t high def still years away for the home user?

The Basics

High Definition basically refers to an improved way of transmitting audio and video information through the air. The end result looks much better than current television, and has some very noticeable differences from NTSC. The change is akin to when Color Television was introduced. Digital HDTV looks better than 16mm film to me, with better resolution and less grain. And the most obvious difference between HDTV and current NTSC is the aspect ratio.

When is HDTV?

The FCC has mandated that broadcasters must start DTV broadcasting by xxx. The Federal Communication Commission has mandated commercial stations in the 10 largest U.S. markets activate their digital signals by May 1, 1999. Seattle, the 12th-largest market, has until November 1999 to begin digital transmission. Public stations aren’t required to convert until 2003.

The Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association conservatively estimates 30 percent of U.S. households will have digital sets by 2006.


So, with actual transmission to a majority of household still a little ways off in the future, why in the world would I want to produce in High Definition?

Well, just as with the introduction of color television, there will be a great demand for native HDTV programming. When color came out, viewers did not want to see older B&W shows broadcast anymore, they wanted the new technology color shows. So we ended up with Gilligan’s Island and The Beverly Hillbilly’s as our most popular shows. The same trend will be seen with HDTV. I anticipate that there will be a tremendous demand for high quality HDTV programming.

Protect production investment

Producing today in HDTV allows you to future protect your investment. It will add years of shelf life and sales possibilities to your programs.

Added impact

And aside form broadcasting, HDTV offers tremendous impact when viewed by those used to analog NTSC. From a sales presentation to a trade show, HDTV offers tremendous advantages to the producer.

How can we use it today?

So, how can I start using HDTV to benefit me today?

A film shoot without film

You can currently switch to HDTV as your acquisition format with little trouble.

Currently is being used

KCTS has been one of the early adopters of HDTV, having shot analog HD with a Sony camera since 1989. In that time, the station has become renowned for producing aerial footage from around the world for such programs as Over(R) America, Over(R) Ireland
and many others.

Snell & Wilcox

You can convert from HDTV to NTSC and vice versa. However, NTSC tends to look WORSE on HDTV. This is because analog NTSC hides all of the inherent noise in the signal. However, when that signal gets upconverted to HDTV, that noise is easily viewable.

Is there a HDTV distribution format?

There currently is not a consumer format for mass distribution of HDTV content. That must initially be accompished over the air.

Who’s ever going to use that room?

We’ve heard that a lot at APS. Who’s ever going to use a Scenaria? Why would I need a component digital editing suite? And time after time, we’ve been proven to be right. By correctly anticipating the needs of the market, we’ve been here when you’ve needed us. And we have no intention of not being your choice for HDTV production services!


This is the absolutely perfect time to get into HDTV

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