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Explaining HD -> SD to Clients & Producers?

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Teddy Smith
Explaining HD -> SD to Clients & Producers?
on Feb 24, 2010 at 8:03:58 pm

All of our local stations still only accept 4:3 SD spots. In the past I have always edited broadcast spots on a 4:3 SD timeline without any issues.

Lately, my producer/boss has been insisting I edit "everything" in HD. I tried to explain that we'll either have to letterbox the spots for broadcast, resulting in a double letterbox on HD televisions (left, right, bottom, top), or we can crop the spots to full frame in which case we'll need to be careful when we shoot it. His eyes glazed over then insisted he has seen "plenty" of local 16x9 spots fill his screen at home and I was wrong. OK, guess he is watching different local stations than me.. I stopped arguing.

Now we have a high end spot we just finished shooting that I would like to edit in HD because it is going to be a good looking one for our reels. Plus I know he's going to insist we edit it in HD. I'm dreading asking the question "So... do y'all want to crop it or letterbox it for broadcast?"

One issue, is the producer really wanted it to be "conceptual" which means there are a few shots he insisted be framed to the extreme left or right. Cropped, these shots are going to cut off. I could refinish the spot and crop it correctly for 4:3, but I REALLY don't want to end up with multiple timelines that I need to keep track of.

What do you guys do for SD dubs? Crop or letterbox? How do you explain it clients? I was considering exporting a sample in the three different formats (HD, SD full frame, SD letterbox) and displaying them on the plasma screen to the producer and client. I am certain it's just going to end up with the questions "Why can't it just fill the screen?? And why does the standard def version look like crap???"


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Chad Brewer
Re: Explaining HD -> SD to Clients & Producers?
on Feb 25, 2010 at 12:50:19 am

Tell your producer that if he wants to work in broadcast video that this is how the game is currently being played. If the stations that our airing your material are still only in SD, then yes, it's either letterboxing or centercutting..It's the individual stations requests that dictate which one you do...If you acquired your new stuff in HD and want to edit it in HD and maintain that quality for your reel/archive, whatever, then do so. You are going to have to have HD and SD versions - SD for your current airing purposes and HD for the longevity of your project. As far as worrying about managing two timelines - one in HD and one in SD, just cut the whole thing in HD if the sources has been acquired in HD, show your producer how great it looks and then downconvert the finished piece to SD with hardware, NOT software! for the local stations. One timeline with associated media, two outputs.
As far as "schooling" your producer on the various aspect ratios, show him SD content on an SD monitor. Don't freak him out by showing him SD on a big fat plasma screen. It won't look like he wants it to. Show him your HD edit on the plasma, the SD downconverts on an SD monitor.
If your producer has a problem with letterboxing or centercutting and how it looks on local SD broadcast, there is nothing he can do until the station moves into airing in HD. These are the things EVERYONE shooting for broadcast need to keep in mind while shooting as far as framing, etc.
It sounds like you have much more technical knowledge than your producer (shocking with "producers," I know).
Educate him.
If you need really great hardware based downconversions from your HD edit, our company name is listed in my signature.

Chad Brewer
Senior Tape Operator/Engineer
TeleVersions


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Teddy Smith
Re: Explaining HD -> SD to Clients & Producers?
on Feb 25, 2010 at 4:17:07 pm

OK so what's the difference between a hardware and software downconvert? My workflow has been to export Quicktime conversion at maximum quality settings. My local stations take H.264 Quicktime files.


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Chad Brewer
Re: Explaining HD -> SD to Clients & Producers?
on Feb 26, 2010 at 1:28:52 am

[Teddy Smith] "OK so what's the difference between a hardware and software downconvert?"

Hardware conversions provide MUCH better quality, usually real-time processing, and of course cost more money.
Hardware conversions are for the jobs where quality dictates the budget, not the other way around.

Chad Brewer
Senior Tape Operator/Engineer
TeleVersions


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