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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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Dave LaRonde
Re: Explaining HD -> SD to Clients & Producers?
on Feb 25, 2010 at 4:39:33 pm

[Teddy Smith] "All of our local stations still only accept 4:3 SD spots.... Lately, my producer/boss has been insisting I edit "everything" in HD.... His eyes glazed over then insisted he has seen "plenty" of local 16x9 spots fill his screen at home and I was wrong...."

Two terms come to mind: "Dilbert" and "Pointy-Haired Boss".

Give this yahoo irrefutable proof -- request that the local stations give you specifications for spot delivery on station letterhead.

Then ask your boss again -- "letterbox or center punch?"

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


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Teddy Smith
Re: Explaining HD -> SD to Clients & Producers?
on Feb 25, 2010 at 4:43:09 pm

Actually I sat with the director to edit yesterday and I showed him my three version demo on the plasma (HD, SD Center punch, SD letterbox). He said "Are you SURE they don't take HD spots? All the local news is in HD!" I decided to end this once and for all and made him call the biggest station in our town (The ABC affiliate) and speak to someone in traffic direct. Much to my satisfaction, they said the exact same thing I have been saying for two years.

After that phone call he turned to me and said "Do whatever you think is best."

I think center punching is best.


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Joey Burnham
Re: Explaining HD -> SD to Clients & Producers?
on Feb 25, 2010 at 6:55:29 pm

Why not 16x9 anamorphic?
Joey



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Dave LaRonde
Re: Explaining HD -> SD to Clients & Producers?
on Feb 25, 2010 at 7:00:45 pm

[Joey Burnham] "Why not 16x9 anamorphic?"

Because when TV stations say, "Standard Definition", they ALSO mean, "4x3 Screen Aspect Ratio".

In TV Broadcaster-Land, 16x9 is for HD. Not SD.

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


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Teddy Smith
Re: Explaining HD -> SD to Clients & Producers?
on Feb 25, 2010 at 8:09:14 pm

Yeah man, there is no flag in the stream to tell your TV that it is anamorphic. You could make an anamorphic spot if you wanted but if the stations accepted the spot it would either run letterboxed 4x3 or, more likely, run stretched 4x3.

It's interesting how many people in this industry around me don't notice the local spots running in 4x3 or letterboxed. I have quizzed quite a few people I work with and they ALL claim to have seen local HD spots. I've started to carry around a $100 bill just to pull out and say "Wanna bet?"

I see all this stuff when I watch TV. I even noticed a national spot that ran right before the Superbowl in 4x3 SD which kinda blew my mind.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Explaining HD -> SD to Clients & Producers?
on Feb 25, 2010 at 8:52:06 pm

""Then ask your boss again -- "letterbox or center punch?"

We're still talking about the master and not the producer, right?:-)

I sympathize with your plight: we make HD spots that sometimes ship out on betaSP or DVC pro, or on SD DVD's. It is very hard to explain to people that a letterbox 16:9 picture inside a 4:3 SD frame is not HD, because according to them, "anything wide screen with a 24 frame pulldown look is HD". They also think that because the local station passes along an HD network feed, that all the locally originated program material magically is HD now as well. We all know this is not so, especially the guys that sell upconverters:-)

If this was my project, I would go ahead and edit a reel piece for it in HD, off the clock, since that's really more about self-promotion than doing what the client wants and needs.

But for the client's needs, If they are one of these wide-screen lovers that can't understand the SD/HD distinction, I would put a letterbox in a 4:3. Then I would use some of the blank "real estate" in the top and bottom of the letterboxed frame of the 4:3 for supplemental graphics and things, maybe some subtle motion backs. This will look great on a 4:3 TV,very slick and modern, and will either be stretched like a silly putty cartoon on an HD-capable wide screen set, or pillarboxed, that depends on the individual owners' TV set preferences, you can't do anything about it. Hell, most bars and restaurants I go to still haven't figured out how to set the wideness of their newfangled TV's, and some have actually become accustomed to the picture being "wrong", and will resist your well-reasoned and informed pleas about changing it... if they can even find the remote. Their attitude is commonly: "I paid for all that screen space, by God I want every pixel I paid for lit UP!" They usually buy their sets at Wal-Mart, I think:-) In any case, you can't reason with them.

But if the dead area of your SD box with the letterboxed spot inside has a lot of things going on in it, like the motion backs or whatever, the pillar boxing won't be as obvious or annoying. That's my impression anyhow. Have enough going on inside the frame that's attention-grabbing, and they won't notice the pillars. Much:-)

Don't forget to really treat the sound well; great sound takes the overall quality perception up to the next level. Your audio may be more "HD" than your pictures!



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David Shulkin
Re: Explaining HD -> SD to Clients & Producers?
on Mar 2, 2010 at 1:44:22 pm

I even noticed a national spot that ran right before the Superbowl in 4x3 SD which kinda blew my mind.
Teddy is so right, I couldn't believe my eyes the other day to see a Disney spot on NBC Olympic coverage that was postage stamped and looked horrible!



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Chad Brewer
Re: Explaining HD -> SD to Clients & Producers?
on Mar 4, 2010 at 1:28:06 am

[David Shulkin] "postage stamped"
In broadcast video, it's referred to as "center cut."
If you use your rogue terminology, you may start confusing the vast number of postal workers that visit the Creative Cow ;-)


Chad Brewer
Senior Tape Operator/Engineer
TeleVersions


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David Shulkin
Re: Explaining HD -> SD to Clients & Producers?
on Mar 4, 2010 at 1:35:39 am

Actually I really did mean "postage stamp" (or windowboxed) and not center cut. The beautiful situation where you have HD material, then downconverted & letterboxed it for SD, but then it was upconverted to HD and added the nice pillars. Nice workflow! Yikes!





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Chad Brewer
Re: Explaining HD -> SD to Clients & Producers?
on Mar 4, 2010 at 2:09:57 am

I hear ya David.
Those truly are the "44 cent" workflows.


Chad Brewer
Senior Tape Operator/Engineer
TeleVersions


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Carly Smith
Re: Explaining HD -> SD to Clients & Producers?
on Mar 13, 2010 at 2:09:40 pm

makes your head explode, doesn't it?
:)


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