by Walt McGinn
HD Online Editor
American Production Services
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The following information has
been compiled from various sources including: Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc., Dale
Cripps, Sony, John Alonzo ASC, Steve Wiedemann, Douglas Munro CSC., American Production
Services, and Broadcasting & Cable.
What is it?
HDTV is an acronym for High Definition Television, which is
Digital TV in its highest and best form. The current NTSC television signal is made up of
525 lines that are scanned horizontally with 480 lines being dedicated to the actual
picture information. HDTV pictures are created by scanning 1,125 lines with 1080 lines of
picture. Adding twice the lines multiplies the amount of pixels (the small dots that
create a clearer and more detailed picture). The screens of the older analog sets
contained about 300,000 pixels, while the wider HDTV screen is composed of more than 2
million pixels. The movie theater-like format (16x9 versus 4x3 like on today's sets) and
separate surround sound channels more closely resemble your vision and hearing, thus
drawing you deeper into the experience and enhancing your viewing pleasure. The pictures
are clearer, crisper and more detailed, involving the viewer in an almost
How can I as a Producer integrate HDTV into my productions today?
HDTV can be used at each stage of production depending on your
projects needs and budget. You may choose to shoot in HD only, edit in HD, or
display your production using an HD video projector or monitor.
The most common use of HD is in the initial shooting stage.
Producers who wish to futurize and give longevity to their original material prefer to
shoot in HDTV. They like the 16x9 wider aspect ratio and the higher resolution. Other
producers appreciate the greater latitude and quality of the image that is similar
to 35mm origination. Through the use of HDTV recording, their clients obtain the highest
quality electronic digital imaging available today.
There are several options in the editing stage.
1) You may choose to downconvert the high definition (HDCAM or HD-D5) camera originals to
4x3 or 16x9 NTSC(525) VHS w/time-code dubs for viewing or offline editing.
2) You can downconvert to Digital Betacam or Betacam (SP) dubs for online 4x3 or 16x9
NTSC(525) final editing.
3) You can downconvert into an AVID or other nonlinear edit suite and work in either
offline or online mode for a finished 4x3 or 16x9 NTSC(525) finish.
4) Once offlined using VHS or nonlinear you can online HD edit at a high definition
facility. There are suites in Seattle, Dallas, New York, Los Angeles, and Tokyo.
The final high definition show can be projected on large-size
screens yielding excellent results using readily available HD projectors. HD Flat-panel
television displays and HD monitors are now available . You may also downconvert your
final HD program to DVD or other formats for distribution.
Does crew size change when using HDTV?
For documentary, corporate, sports, promotional programming your
camera crew size remains the same as common Betacam shooting. If your method of working
includes, for instance, a camera assistant/focus-puller then the same applies for HD
For dramatic and high-end work the HD camera system can include
follow-focus, extended eyepiece, and a remote electronic control unit for the camera
operator and camera assistants. Unlike in film origination a film loader assistant is not
Audio can be recorded directly onto the HD camera from the audio mixer or can be
syncd to a DAT or Nagra-type sound recorder.
How do I budget for HDTV?
The camera equipment cost is approximately double the cost of
current Betacam equipment for a similar package. HD camera gear is more expensive than its
16mm equivalent, but remember the cost of tape is significantly less than film including
developing and transfer to tape. Compared to 35mm, HD camera equipment is about 1/3 less.
The advantages are you can see exactly what you have shot on set no surprises.
The costs for offline dubbing and transferring into a nonlinear
suite are increased by approximately 2 to 3 times that of Betacam equivalent. This is due
to the need for the HDCAM player/recorder use for downconversion.
Offline editing remains the same, here are some points to remember:
The key to any edit is a clean list!
Plan ahead and allow time in your edit session for graphic effect building as well
as title placement
High definition online editing is currently $700./hr and up.
HDTV editing in a linear edit suite is the same as editing in a digital beta suite.
You have a/b roll options and preread capabilities for single roll dissolves. Most HD
suites have dves for image movement on screen in real time. Color correction is an
option in most edit suites. Our edit suite uses the Sony full range color correction
system incorporated in the switcher. This allows color correction during the edit that
goes into the edit list in case of later show changes.
Font generation is accomplished with the Chyron Duet HD, Collage
Graphics Clarity HD, or other HD character generator. With font generation comes a new
concern- real estate on screen and where do I put the graphics? You need to consider how
the end product is to be released: 4x3 edge crop, letterboxed or HD. These affect
character placement on the screen. Also your standard 30 or 40 point size font looks small
on screen with the larger 16x9 screen size. You can create graphic looks in Adobe
Photoshop in the 1920 x 1080 format and transfer into the CG, making graphic challenges a
HD has 4 discrete audio channels available and makes separate
tracks for audio sweetening a breeze.
HDCAM videotape cost is approximately 3 times that of Betacam SP.
Compared to either 16mm or 35mm film, HDCAM is far less.
How do I have to think differently when shooting in HDTV?
The HD format is much sharper than the current system so greater
attention must be given to small details. You are more likely see flaws in the set or in
the wardrobe in high definition. Good make-up is essential. The finer detail of HD imaging
is immediately apparent.
HDTV is a wider format. Set design and staging may need to be
made slightly larger in the horizontal plane to accommodate the wider angle of view. A
wide shot can now hold much more interest than before so you may in certain instances wish
to rely less on close-ups to tell your story. Your camera operator will have to be
concerned with both the 16x9 and 4x3 frameline indications on the viewfinder depending on
your end market. The 4x3 image can easily be panned & scanned from the 16x9 giving
flexibility in post.
How do I have to think differently when editing in HDTV?
Current nonlinear edit systems like AVID allow for 16x9 or 4x3
formats. If you choose to offline and then conform in an HD online suite you need to be
very organized to be cost effective. The edit decision list needs to be clean and correct.
Most high-end effects and graphics can be accomplished
beautifully in high definition. The cost however can be high. Render time for effects on
computers are longer due to the increased pixel size per frame. Color correction and
enhancement in post is similar to film transfer technology wherein extreme changes can be
made quickly and effectively.
Can I upconvert SDTV to HDTV?
Technically, standard resolution television images can be
converted to HDTV images with the use of an upconvertor. This device is a television
standards converter that will interpolate, or "line double" standard resolution
images to effectively be HDTV. If elements of current video tape libraries are to be
included in HDTV product, upconversion is the only answer. Decisions about aspect ratio
and re-framing will be encountered during upconversion of 4:3 programs. During the
production of the 1999 National Desk series in HDTV, we put curtains on each side of the
4:3 image to make it look like a theater. Other innovative solutions to this format
problem will be interesting to watch as others confront it in the future. Programming
finished as 16:9 SDTV video may be upconverted without regard to aspect ratio decisions.
There will be a strong budgetary temptation to use upconversion
as a means to create HDTV masters using standard component digital editing equipment. A
Digital Betacam master can be upconverted for delivery as an HDTV program. Even though
high quality upconversions subjectively look appealing on an HDTV monitor, the upconvertor
cannot manufacture resolution that does not exist in the original material. The television
picture may be HDTV in an electrical sense, but not in image quality.
The issues of upconversion relate to image quality. A standard
definition image will turn into a standard definition image with more scan lines.
Increasing the scan line count will reduce some of the problems associated with our
current television system. The image, however, is still short on the high frequency detail
that makes a higher resolution image. Also, a standard image with 350,000 pixels
upconverted to a two million pixel image will challenge the DTV encoder unnecessarily and
degrade the image further at the home DTV receiver. Since the DTV standards allow for
broadcast of what is essentially our current television resolution, the image will look
better if it is transmitted as SDTV and not upconverted to an artificially high pixel
HDTV video production may rival or exceed the image quality of
35mm film and allows for downconversion to any lesser video standard. Any video image
standard will become a limiting factor for future use of the product. The resolution, bit
depth and aspect ratio become frozen in the video product and cannot be changed without
some compromise. The compromise may indeed be slight however with 1080i HDTV. In
particular, the subject of interlace versus progressive scan image formats may become a
factor in judging the future value of an image asset. Products are being designed and
tested that will capture live images at 1080 lines with progressive scanning. (1080/24p)
The equipment, particularly the recorders, will have to bear enormous data rates to store
these images. They will be the direct rival of 35mm film capture when available.
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