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Why do Local TV spots look so bad?

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Brian Foote
Why do Local TV spots look so bad?
on Aug 30, 2010 at 9:37:03 pm

Ok, so i noticed that spots airing locally via comcast spotlight and other local cable affiliates look GOD AWFUL. So bad in fact that text and graphics aren't even readable. Everything looks pixelated as hell. What do they do compress them at 10:1 to save space or something. It makes me ill looking at something that was originally HD looking like DV or worse.

Anyway around this or should media planners and buyers just avoid these services if possible? Local affiliate (ABC, FOX, NBC etc.) broadcasts of the same spot look a lot better. Most of them accept HD and even the SD versions are at least readable and don't look to horrible.

All my spots are sent to stations via DGfastchannel.

Thoughts?

Brian Foote
Editorial | Motion Design

http://www.brianfoote.tv


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Dave LaRonde
Re: Why do Local TV spots look so bad?
on Aug 30, 2010 at 10:17:33 pm

There are so many ways that a spot can get screwed up, from lighting and image acquisition right up to encoding for delivery, that there is no way to tell how a spot from a specific company was dragged through the mud.

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


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Bob Zelin
Re: Why do Local TV spots look so bad?
on Aug 31, 2010 at 2:34:19 am

what a great post to be transfered to the Creative Cow DIGITAL DELIVERY FORUM.

There is a one word answer to your question - COMPRESSION.

I have recently learned that many (most) on air playback servers will only accept MPEG-2 and some will even take DV, so many people who deliver a .mov file to a station will have their spot transcoded to a .dv file (no joke) so it can be sent to their on air playout servers.

You should post this again on DIGITAL DELIVERY.

Bob Zelin



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Mark Suszko
Re: Why do Local TV spots look so bad?
on Aug 31, 2010 at 11:06:32 pm

Many of the smallest broadcast and cable company shops are not fully upgraded yet, and their physical plant relies on some pretty scary kludges. It is not unheard of to have your stuff bumped to analog betacam and then fed into whatever server system is on hand.

Typically, this work is done on the night shift, assigned either to a disaffected young guy who is getting overworked and underpaid and has not been trained on all the ins and outs of the house system...

... or it is the task of the last old greenie-wielding codger, who would have been laid off long ago, except that all the critical station engineering and wiring documentation is carried only in his head, as blackmail, and he's the last one in the place with an actual FCC ticket. He's twice as sullen and disaffected as the young guy, because they won't budget to let him upgrade the shop properly, and are letting his life work corrode and rust away before him... or, he's one of the ones that has decided not to bother learning new stuff so close to retirement.

Either way, your carefully crafted spot is being uploaded by one of these two guys, and the niceties of field order, compression level, or aspect ratio are low on their list of priorities. They are just trying to keep their eyes propped open until sign-off time.

Maybe you luck out, and they give the task to the teenage intern.


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Chuck Pullen
Re: Why do Local TV spots look so bad?
on Sep 1, 2010 at 3:25:43 pm

I think Mark is dead on with this one, but I wanted to add a couple more possibilities to his first two.

In Chicago land I am seeing the same issues with the local spots on Comcast you are (wherever you are) Bottom-line Comcast has consolidated head ends, and eliminated any sort of Quality Control. I honestly believe that at this point there is literally one or two guys in Colorado who monitor all of the hundreds of channels around the country on the Comcast machine. I have literally seen channels off the air for days because of transponder or other satellite failures with a slate that reads “please switch to such and such transponder” and just try to call the 800 number and try explaining that to the guy in India. Hell CNBC had a major lip sync issue for 2 years! (It was fine on the dishes)

The other possibility is that I have heard that the production departments in the head ends only perform QC on spots produced in house by them. So that means the terrible used car spot they produced ends up looking better on air then the one your client actually spent some money having you produce. Good luck explaining that one to your client!

Comcast blows and I really hope they disappear soon, I don’t feel to bad though since they never bothered to unhook the cable at my new house when I moved in 5 years ago or even bother to do an audit of the neighborhood!


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Brian Foote
Re: Why do Local TV spots look so bad?
on Sep 2, 2010 at 4:09:28 pm

I figured as much. I was talking to a guy at comcast and he acted like this never happens. So he passed me the on air logs for the "drop-ins". It is now my goal to watch every single one and complain ever further.

Bottom line and lesson here is. DONT buy comcast spotlight airtime.

Mark, nice touch on the old school curmudgeon. No offense to anyone older...but GOD DAMN those guys are annoying an bitter.

Brian Foote
Editorial | Motion Design

http://www.brianfoote.tv


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Mark Suszko
Re: Why do Local TV spots look so bad?
on Sep 2, 2010 at 5:07:20 pm

.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Why do Local TV spots look so bad?
on Sep 2, 2010 at 5:08:00 pm

Well, to be fair, you might catch them on an off day. Curmudgeons have to be worked, you have to play to their residual pride in their knowledge, give them a little of the deserved recognition that has gone into short supply. Like any person who's been burned, it takes a while to re-establish trust and rapport, more so if there's a huge age differential. I experienced both ends of this: in my early career, I got put in charge of guys 20 years senior, and it took a while to earn respect and trust and work as functional equals. now I'm often on the other end of the telescope, having to work with people 20-30 years junior and trying to keep straight which ones are the interns I get to boss around a little and train, and which are my temporary bosses I have to please and defer to. You can get a little whiplash from this:-) So, anyhow, cultivate the codger, get him on your side, and he'll make the extra effort because you're one of the people that matter. He's still an excellent resource, you just have to break the ice, and give him the same respect anybody else expects.


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Fred Jodry
Re: Why do Local TV spots look so bad?
on Sep 2, 2010 at 5:35:48 pm

I agree with you guys completely (May the pixellated artifacts of a thousand bad commercials glaze the own eyeballs of the compression makers!), except why do you all refer to this as a "local TV spot" problem? I find cable distributors and maybe network sattelite uploaders to be the usual offenders.


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