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Why is NBC requesting Betacam format from me? I'm all digital.

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Jeff BakerWhy is NBC requesting Betacam format from me? I'm all digital.
by on Apr 11, 2012 at 4:37:03 pm

Please send a beta video of Jane Lynch speaking at commencement along with any other picturesque commencement shots to ...

What? I shoot avchd in 16x9 and do not have a beta machine. I don't think there is betacam deck left at our school. There must be a digital alternative I can send them. What should I tell them?

Jeff Baker
Three Geese Productions



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Dave LaRondeRe: Why is NBC requesting Betacam format from me? I'm all digital.
by on Apr 11, 2012 at 5:18:26 pm

You tell them that you will be glad to have a local video production house transferred to Beta at their expense, and would they like your HD 16x9 video center-punched or letterboxed during the transfer to tape.

Then you describe the the codec, frame rate, field order plus horizontal & vertical resolution of the video you have in hand, and inquire if they would prefer a different delivery specification.

After that, the ball's in their court.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Jeff BakerRe: Why is NBC requesting Betacam format from me? I'm all digital.
by on Apr 11, 2012 at 8:15:12 pm

Ha, yeah that might help. There must be a way I can ftp or dropbox.com something to them right?

Jeff Baker
Three Geese Productions



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Dave LaRondeRe: Why is NBC requesting Betacam format from me? I'm all digital.
by on Apr 11, 2012 at 8:30:16 pm

[Jeff Baker] "There must be a way I can ftp or dropbox.com something to them right?"

Yeah, it's NBC, for heaven's sake. There's only one way to find out: write back, describe your video, and ask for delivery options.

Apparently they want your stuff, and since I've been told that NBC distributes its programs in new-fangled high definition, it would be a lot better to send them HD instead of SD.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Ann ClarkRe: Why is NBC requesting Betacam format from me? I'm all digital.
by on Apr 17, 2012 at 1:13:49 am

I understand that NBC uses DG Fastchannel (not a free FTP, but it's possibly faster than mailing a tape).

If you get a physical tape, be sure you are getting the right format. Likely NBC is asking for Sony Digital Betacam, and not Beta SP. :-) Then you can FTP your production to the dub house and have them make your tape.

But it's 100% certain that you should always ASK them what they want and then be very specific with your dub house.

MacPro 2 x 2.8 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon 14GB memory - OSX10.6.8 FCP7


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shawn BockovenRe: Why is NBC requesting Betacam format from me? I'm all digital.
by on Apr 24, 2012 at 5:48:42 am

We are covering a commencement with our HD truck at a UC in California. NBC also requested Beta SP from us--I am sure we had the same look on our face as you did. After a few phone calls to NBC, the UC is sending our ProRes truck recording and the AVC100 isolated guest speaker recording on a USB drive ($50+-). NBC informed us that they would not return tapes, DVD's or drives.


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Ann ClarkRe: Why is NBC requesting Betacam format from me? I'm all digital.
by on Apr 24, 2012 at 2:46:42 pm

Shawn, I hate to burst your bubble.

Actually, I wouldn't be surprised that they wanted Beta SP. I WOULD be surprised if they wanted a digital format, only.

Also, networks don't return your media -- so if you want to keep your $50 drive, roll the show onto a format that you don't mind giving them. Beta SP might be the best bet, there. Whatever you do, never, never give anybody your original material. The other thing is that this Beta might cost you as much, or more than your $50 drive -- always account for output in your production budget.

There's an assumption among the community of all-digital production houses that have sprung up in the last few years that the nets would jump at the chance to have the prodco's output in whatever glorious digital format they just happen to have. Trouble is, the "digital revolution" as brought chaos to technical standards. For this reason, Beta SP is still the dominant standard at just about every place I've sent material across the country.

Networks have many millions of dollars sunk into a system which was built on the Beta SP format, and they're not inclined toward ripping the whole thing out.

So basically, they're not concerned about your investment in a slick all-digital system. The nets know that it's entirely possible to transfer your material to a compatible format. So, I'd suggest you find a good dub house. Dunno which UC you're at, but Los Angeles has a ton of dub houses, so if you're in the biz of sending out trucks to shoots, I'd strongly recommend you hook up with one of these places. It'll be indispensable during this long, long digital transition. :-)

That said, welcome to the big leagues. Hope this gig leads you to many more. :-)

MacPro 2 x 2.8 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon 14GB memory - OSX10.6.8 FCP7


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shawn BockovenRe: Why is NBC requesting Betacam format from me? I'm all digital.
by on Apr 24, 2012 at 4:37:32 pm

I've been doing television for thirty years and was just passin' on the same information as you. I have never asked to have media returned. The UC wanted to maintain the highest quality, so we made a few phone calls. I have found that more times than not, the producer is not up to speed. We send out programming to networks on a regular basis and this is the first time in years we have been asked to provide an analogue format. We FTP or use hard drives drives to deliver most of our HD footage.

Our station also has most flavors of analogue VCR's around for just this purpose, but we have not made a dub to Beta SP in a decade.

No bubble bursted. ;-)


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Ann ClarkRe: Why is NBC requesting Betacam format from me? I'm all digital.
by on Apr 24, 2012 at 5:17:50 pm

Shawn, re-reading your note in the context of 30 yrs. experience, I see what you're driving at. My comments about making dubs are actually meant for general consumption. 'Pologies for not being more clear on that. :-)

Still, I'd think that after 30 years, there's nothing the nets could say that would surprise you.

When it comes to TV commercials, the local nets have been flamingly Beta SP across the board, with the occasional footnote of "accepting" HD format with a boatload of format restrictions. For national nets, the story is somewhat different, with both being accepted, but 4x3 still the norm. A few nets take only HD for spots - notably the sports nets are big on HD. Everybody seems to want their HD center-cut ready, not letter-boxed, which means a lot of planning, at least for creating spots.

Our company also places air time, and what I've seen from nearly 100% of the advertisers who present our media buyers with their commercials, nobody these days has caught on to how to format an ad for broadcast. So pardon my knee-jerk, soap-box proclamations. I've seen a lot of crap come through the door lately. Even simple stuff like keeping the logo in the text-safe zone is ignored -- and the "pro" who did the spot gets furious at the suggestion.

I think the nets are more liberated when it comes to intaking complete shows and B-roll. But not too much. ;-o

MacPro 2 x 2.8 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon 14GB memory - OSX10.6.8 FCP7


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Jeff BakerRe: Why is NBC requesting Betacam format from me? I'm all digital.
by on Apr 25, 2012 at 1:50:00 pm

Thanks Shawn, I think this is exactly what we will do, but I will call NBC to confirm. Here at a college, we are no longer willing to pay for a dub house to provide this kind of service when we could just upload a file, or in this case, send a usb drive. We just don't need to do that anymore and broadcasters need to accept that in my opinion. For people that work with networks for more frequently their may be another argument, but really, NBC is aware of dropbox and ftp just like the rest of the world.

Jeff Baker
Three Geese Productions



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Ann ClarkRe: Why is NBC requesting Betacam format from me? I'm all digital.
by on Apr 25, 2012 at 3:33:37 pm

Jeff - yes, just ask them for their upload options. Someone at NBC may be either used to asking for a Beta, or figured that your school had ONLY old equipment. Most likely they were being lazy. Your facility does mostly instructional DVDs, then? This is your first broadcast shoot?

When I asked NBC for specs they sent me a 48-page PDF on the topic. Buried in there, they say that they go through DG Fastchannel. You have to sign up for DG through someone like Treehouse Media, and there's a fee. So maybe handing them a drive is really the most expedient, if they'll take it. :-)

Of course, if you're talking about a local NBC affiliate, they may offer you access to an FTP site that they run themselves. That's always the easiest, fastest (and often free) option, IMO.

That said --

I vastly prefer uploads, too - but once in a while there's some local broadcaster or cable system that is still very limited in its hardware, so we keep in touch with a guy with a Beta machine. :-) Also, no matter what network, they'll pretty much always take a Beta SP tape. Old and reliable. We'll see what the next 5 years brings - hopefully universal FTP.

It's not that the nets haven't come around to "accepting" the idea of digital. They have a burdensome obligation, if you really think about it, though. The real world - from the TV station to the home viewer - does not yet truly revolve around digital. National nets have cash for new equipment and training, but local stations across the country limp along with old equipment they can't afford to upgrade - nor can they afford to hire new talent. A veritable explosion of new producers are trained only in digital, and a great many are coming out of school with very few clues about the low-tech real world they are about to enter. Honestly, acceptance has to go both directions.

It would be easier for everybody if there weren't a.) old standards that are expensive to upgrade from, and b.) way too many new standards to choose from.

MacPro 2 x 2.8 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon 14GB memory - OSX10.6.8 FCP7


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Todd TerryRe: Why is NBC requesting Betacam format from me? I'm all digital.
by on Apr 25, 2012 at 8:30:52 pm

[Ann Clark] "When it comes to TV commercials, the local nets have been flamingly Beta SP across the board, with the occasional footnote of "accepting" HD format with a boatload of format restrictions."

Maybe it's different in different parts of the country. I'm in the southeast US. We produce almost nothing but broadcast commercials, and were the first in this market a few years ago to produce an HD commercial that actually aired on a local station in HD (previously they were all downconverted).

Now, of the several dozen television stations and cable systems that we send commercials to daily, all except one of them will now accept (and prefer) commercials delivered in HD. Some have 1080i specs and some are 720p, but all but one of them request HD. The lone holdout in our market is the NBC affiliate which still requests standard-def (and strangely enough, they were they first station in this market to broadcast network programming in HD, and the first with their local newscasts in HD, so I'm not sure why their commercial side has not caught up with that)..

Standard-def or HD, it's all uploads now. I can't remember the last time we made a tape dub for anyone. The racks of Beta decks at our place are sitting silent, and there are boxes of unused tape stock in storage that we will probably never need. Many of the television stations no longer have (or maintain) their Beta decks.


[Ann Clark] "For national nets, the story is somewhat different, with both being accepted, but 4x3 still the norm."

I haven't actually counted the ratio (I probably should), but being in my business I do pay a lot of attention to national commercials. Today the vast majority of them are 16:9. The ratio is probably three-to-one, maybe even higher.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Ann ClarkRe: Why is NBC requesting Betacam format from me? I'm all digital.
by on Apr 25, 2012 at 10:05:40 pm

What are you getting at, Terry?

I know of at least one major cable operation in the Southeast who, strangely, insists on 100% SD. They love to brag on their HD capabilities, and then they refuse HD ads.

National nets all accept HD, but they do still run SD as well.

I think it's best to be be prepared for varying requirements. Your HD ad should be designed so it can be center-cut, because many stations run both SD and HD, and will want to have the flexibility to crop for their SD broadcasts.

MacPro 2 x 2.8 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon 14GB memory - OSX10.6.8 FCP7


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Todd TerryRe: Why is NBC requesting Betacam format from me? I'm all digital.
by on Apr 26, 2012 at 4:54:18 am

[Ann Clark] "What are you getting at, Terry?"

Huh? I'm not "getting at" anything, or trying to stir the pot... just observing that maybe there are regional differences, since virtually all the broadcast and cable outlets that my company delivers to request (and prefer) commercial spots in HD. We're not huge nor everywhere... but do deliver regularly to a few dozen outlets in a few southeastern and midwestern states. Maybe on a national scale the preference for SD is at a higher ratio.

As for network spots, earlier it was noted that "national nets, the story is somewhat different, with both being accepted, but 4x3 still the norm." I was fortunate enough to have a semi-rare free evening tonight and there was a lot of TV watching in my household... ABC and NBC during primetime, and CBS late night... so I sort of kept a mental running tally of the national spots. I wouldn't go as far to say "virtually all" spots were HD, but pretty close. HD/16:9 spots outnumbered the SD/4:3 spots by about 7-to-1. The local breaks had more SD spots but were still predominantly HD... the local spots I counted were about 4-to-1 HD.

[Ann Clark] " Your HD ad should be designed so it can be center-cut"

Yeah, they always are, although sometimes when we do productions where our outside advertising agency clients provide graphics and art cards we have to gently educate them about that. For the rare outlet that requests SD 4x3, we usually give them a letterboxed version for that usage.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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