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Questions about delivering 16x9 TV spots to stations that can't broadcast an alternate 4x3 version

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Clay Showalter
Questions about delivering 16x9 TV spots to stations that can't broadcast an alternate 4x3 version
on Nov 1, 2011 at 6:09:19 pm

How do you folks deal with TV stations (think super-small markets) that broadcast in both HD and SD, but can only handle a single version of a spot? I have a 16x9 finished spot. If I deliver an HD version, it will get center-cut on their SD feeds. If I letterbox it and send it as a 4x3 spot, it will get stretched on their HD feed.

So, I can either have my entire image on screen, but it might get stretched (think 4x3 image on 16x9 tv), or I might have a center-cut version of my spot (16x9 center cut to fit on 4x3 screen) that has correct proportions. Neither is a perfect solution, and from what the stations tell me, they can't (or won't spend the money to upgrade their systems) take a native 16x9 version for their HD feed and an alternate 4x3 version for their SD feed and broadcast each version when appropriate, ensuring that aspect is preserved, and my entire image is shown. We've got to choose which we prefer, and we're screwed either way.

I'd rather not shoot everything in 16x9 with center-cut in mind, because the spot then looks ridiculous when viewed in HD (tons of space on either side). Neither of the stations we're dealing with can give us viewership numbers in terms of HD vs. SD, but they do tell us that there are significant numbers of viewers on both HD and SD, so we can't ignore the other one.

I know that there have to be some others out there that are experiencing the same issue. I'd love to hear what you're doing to mitigate this.


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Andrew Rendell
Re: Questions about delivering 16x9 TV spots to stations that can't broadcast an alternate 4x3 version
on Nov 2, 2011 at 6:26:11 am

Plan for the edges of the 16:9 frame to be cut off for the 4:3 transmission. Over here we call it "shoot and protect". Then use the 4:3 markers in your safe area of choice for lining up the text/graphics.

I agree it's awkward for framing, but it's usually possible to get a shot framing in the camera that works for both (as long as you plan for it at the shooting stage), so very often it's only the text/ packshot/ graphics being rather central on 16:9 version that looks a little odd.


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Gary Hazen
Re: Center cut safe
on Nov 2, 2011 at 4:28:02 pm

You're at the mercy of the broadcasters. Make sure everything is center cut safe, deliver in HD and move on. This awkward transition period will end within the next 5 years when HD market penetration is deep enough that the broadcasters no longer care about the customers that have SD only.


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Len Schwartz
Re: Center cut safe
on Nov 2, 2011 at 4:33:04 pm

Well that will be a good thing, because the prices will go down and TV's and such won't be as pricey as they are now since, it's still in the newish phase.


To Your Success,

Dr. Len Schwartz
Pres/CEO of Pro2Pro Network
http://www.Pro2ProNetwork.com


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John Grote, Jr.
Re: Center cut safe
on Nov 2, 2011 at 5:59:31 pm

The awkward transition? Deliver in HD? What version of HD do you want? What file type? What file size? Do want the spot with or without a slate? should there a 2 pop?

Hell we are almost 3 full years into this HD delivery world. Every Tom, Dick and Harry can now shoot and produce a spot in full HD (even if some of it is one the prosumer/non professional side). Discovery Channel has done away with the whole 4x3 graphics thing now and they are a cable outlet. These stations no matter how small need to get on board. There cheap way of getting around this whole HD world was and still is to up convert everything.

Honestly it doesn't confront me any that the view who either did get a converter box or hasn't bought a newer TV sees the text get cut off. BTY I guarantee that over 80% or better don't even know how to set their newer TVs up anyway. So stations please stop, stop sending me outdated specs and also stop sending me what it will look like on those older TVs. Just broadcast the spot!!!

J. Grote, Jr.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Center cut safe
on Nov 2, 2011 at 7:50:05 pm

This is probably a stupid idea, but you sound desperate, so maybe try sending them an anamorphic 16:9 on a 4:3 SD master.

The idea here is that it *should* un-squeeze for a 16:9 SD picture in an HD space, and look like full screen on the 4:3. In any case, this is one thing you have not tried yet, and maybe, just maybe, Jethro in the MC room will find a switch setting for his deck that will properly unsqueeze and fit both signals?

The other strategy is to find novel ways to center-protect the content for both screen formats, then put something visually appealing in the pillar boxes. In the case of your spots, that could be a repeating wallpaper of the client name/logo, even a simple animated texture loop of the logo. Maybe you make a triptych of the spot, three 3:4 identical frames across a letterbox?;-)

In any case, your duty is to provide whatever the station demands. It is the duty of the ADVERTISER to monitor his spots for compliance, and raise holy hell with the sales department for "make-good" free repeat airplays, if they are technically messing up his paid-for spots. The sales departmnet guy will then yell at the traffic and MC guys, thru memos to the GM, to quit playing ping-pong and make the spots work properly.

Nobody at the station cares what YOU think. They WILL care somewhat what an ADVERTISER thinks. IF that advertiser happens to get a bunch of mail from average viewers complaining about his spots, he will learn 2 things: people watch his spots enough to remark how bad they are, and 2, he's paying good money for bad playbacks.


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John Grote, Jr.
Re: Center cut safe
on Nov 2, 2011 at 8:45:10 pm

Well they do care when you are placing a $250,000 dollar buy or more on their network for a week or so. In my case I am placing media on New York broadcast television and also in the Philadelphia broadcast markets.

Why Mark should we have to take it? I've been sent specs from a station in Philly that were pre Law going into effect. That is not my problem. I demand that the station adhere to the law and broadcast my spot in HD as it was meant to be broadcast. Not pre Law bull crap that someone that doesn't have a clue will fall for hook, line and sinker. There used to be and still should be a universal standard for all broadcast stations. Our industry has radically changed over that past 5 years and it has seemed to be a vast wasteland of misinformation and a whole lot of people not only content providers but at the network level who don't have a damn clue. It gets really old having to make something six ways of Sunday, because no one can agree on a standard format for deliverables.

J. Grote, Jr.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Center cut safe
on Nov 2, 2011 at 10:48:16 pm

John, the TV station has zero interest in the guy that puts the master tapes together. Particularly small stations that can't afford to own the right gear, as in the example in this thread. TV stations are creatures of capitalism, and respond only to money. The advertiser that has contracted with them to run the spots has their undivided attention, because that's who sends the TV station a check. You are a minor annoyance, as the guy at the production company providing the masters. They do not get money from you. They get the advertiser's tape. If you want to get these people's undivided attention, you must work thru the channel they respect and defer to, and that is the advertiser making the time buys.

You don't have to like it. We all have to live with it. They will not pay any attention to your rant for standards and following broadcast legal limits, unless you flash an ID that says you are from the FCC.


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John Grote, Jr.
Re: Center cut safe
on Nov 2, 2011 at 11:13:49 pm

Mark, you are missing the point, the company that i work for, i.e. the production company as you are calling it, is also the company in this case, the media firm who is buying the time and spending the money to air the spots. So in my case the company I am working for is purchasing the media buy at the station. So we are spending the $250,000 to $500,000 to have the commercial air on their station.

You'd be surprised that I got all the way up to the VP of operations, so trust me I was able to rattle some cages. Also, I had to inform DG that the Pdfs that they were sending out were incorrect, because the tech people would rather have a ProRes (HQ) file and not an H.264. I found this out because the TE people at DG had rejected the spot because of the text being soft. After a conversation with their tech people, no wonder it was soft, they were up-converting to a ProRes (HQ) file.

J. Grote, Jr.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Center cut safe
on Nov 3, 2011 at 12:36:14 am

Your story indicates that money indeed talks. I did not put it together earlier that you were the client as well as the production company.


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