How long will it take for HD stations/networks to work out screen formatting? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 27 Old 02-07-2009, 08:16 PM - Thread Starter
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Bad screen formatting seems to be a constant problem in HD broadcasts. The most common problems I see are:

- 16:9 content being played letterboxed in a 4:3 window (black border going all the way around)
- 4:3 content stretched to 16:9, making everyone look short and fat
- HD 16:9 programming played in 4:3, pillarboxed in standard definition (usually fixed after a commercial break)
- (less common, but I've seen it) 16:9 content pillarboxed and stretched vertically to 4:3, making everyone look tall and skinny
- 16:9 HD feed temporarily going 4:3 SD for a few seconds, then back to 16:9 HD


I'm sure there are other issues, but these are the most common. When I first saw them in HD broadcasts years ago, I figured broadcasters were just figuring stuff out, but we've had HD for years now and these mistakes are still constant.

What's the deal? Can someone in the know provide insight as to why it's taking so long to fix these issues?
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post #2 of 27 Old 02-08-2009, 05:34 AM
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...cause running a proper analog signal is still the first priority. Once that is out of the way they'll concentrate more on the digital version.
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post #3 of 27 Old 02-08-2009, 06:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zorinlynx View Post

What's the deal? Can someone in the know provide insight as to why it's taking so long to fix these issues?

Simple.. there's no demand for the fixes. Yeah, we go crazy looking at it, but we're the geeks about this stuff. The vast majority of Americans simply don't notice or don't care. Hence the number of people who have HDTV sets but no HD service. I still walk into restaurant after restaurant where they have installed all the newest state-of-the-art flat screen TVs ..and tuned them all to the analog ESPN channel. And everyone's fine with that.

The vast majority of viewers have grown accustomed to letterboxed shows on regular televisions and stretched, non-HD programming on their new sets. They're used to it, so it doesn't strike them as odd. They do like it when the picture fills the screen, but they don't seem to be terribly picky about it. I do hear the occasional comment, "I'd get an HDTV, but the ones I've seen make everybody look fat." They don't know.

There really is no incentive for broadcasters and cablecasters to have a perfect 16:9 picture every time. It's not yet a determining factor in the viewership of a program. Viewers will still watch the show. And, so long as the source material is mixed, you're going to get the issues that you listed. Eventually, it'll get there. But even when all the source stuff is 16:9, you'll still have it shot in such a way as to protect the 3:2 viewing area. So long as there are a significant number of 3:2 sets in use, that's the way they'll shoot it. And those network bugs will still be in the 3:2 "safe" zone.

You can expect Safe Zone shooting for a long time. Heck, it hasn't been that many years since they quit checking graphics and sets to make sure they looked ok in black-and-white. And, trust me, there are still black-and-white sets in use.

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post #4 of 27 Old 02-08-2009, 10:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrDon View Post

You can expect Safe Zone shooting for a long time. Heck, it hasn't been that many years since they quit checking graphics and sets to make sure they looked ok in black-and-white. And, trust me, there are still black-and-white sets in use.

Mono-ing your monitor to check graphics is still done in some places. I've done it recently - it's a good check if you aren't sure if something is easy to read.
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post #5 of 27 Old 02-08-2009, 12:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zorinlynx View Post

Bad screen formatting seems to be a constant problem in HD broadcasts.

What's the deal? Can someone in the know provide insight as to why it's taking so long to fix these issues?

The technology is poorly understood by some of the operators.
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post #6 of 27 Old 02-08-2009, 02:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zorinlynx View Post

Bad screen formatting seems to be a constant problem in HD broadcasts. The most common problems I see are:

- 16:9 content being played letterboxed in a 4:3 window (black border going all the way around)
- 4:3 content stretched to 16:9, making everyone look short and fat
- HD 16:9 programming played in 4:3, pillarboxed in standard definition (usually fixed after a commercial break)
- (less common, but I've seen it) 16:9 content pillarboxed and stretched vertically to 4:3, making everyone look tall and skinny
- 16:9 HD feed temporarily going 4:3 SD for a few seconds, then back to 16:9 HD


I'm sure there are other issues, but these are the most common. When I first saw them in HD broadcasts years ago, I figured broadcasters were just figuring stuff out, but we've had HD for years now and these mistakes are still constant.

What's the deal? Can someone in the know provide insight as to why it's taking so long to fix these issues?


Right now you are in a transistion period. You have 2 competing standards - analog and digital. In a compromise, no one gets everything they want.

When analog is finally retired later this year, that will be a giant step forward, however, most TV Stations do NOT have a 100% HD capable infrastructure. So you will continue to see SD local Commercials and possible screw ups going back into programming until those systems are all completely replaced.
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post #7 of 27 Old 02-08-2009, 03:30 PM
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Until the TV stations replace all of their SD cameras with HD cameras you will see HD resolution broadcasts with black side pillers because an SD camera is used or a recording of an older SD broadcast is being replayed.
And until all or almost all 4:3 ratio SD TVs are gone from home you will continue to see HD broadcasts with no meaningfull content on the sides in order to provide for the image to be center cut for display on a 4:3 aspect ration display without distortion.
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post #8 of 27 Old 02-08-2009, 05:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by walford View Post

Until the TV stations replace all of their SD cameras with HD cameras you will see HD resolution broadcasts with black side pillers because an SD camera is used or a recording of an older SD broadcast is being replayed.

Not true.

Most every Professional SD camera produced over the past 5+ years can do 16:9 480.
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post #9 of 27 Old 02-08-2009, 05:48 PM
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But the broadcasters still have a very large inventory of 4:3 aspect ratio 480i cameras and very few broadcasters if any actually broadcast 16:9 480i even though it is a legitimate ATSC resolution
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post #10 of 27 Old 02-08-2009, 09:32 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrDon View Post

You can expect Safe Zone shooting for a long time.

You'd think at some point they would just start letterboxing 16:9 content for 4:3 feeds, so they wouldn't have to do this.

FOX does this with King of the Hill; I was very impressed to see the show formatted properly for 16:9 screens tonight, with action and characters outside the safe area.

Maybe others will follow. We can hope.
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post #11 of 27 Old 02-09-2009, 08:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by walford View Post

But the broadcasters still have a very large inventory of 4:3 aspect ratio 480i cameras and very few broadcasters if any actually broadcast 16:9 480i even though it is a legitimate ATSC resolution

Do they?

Most decent broadcast SD cameras sold over the last 10+ years have been available in a 4:3/16:9 switchable variant. I'd have imagined any broadcaster or high-end facility would have bought the switchable variant for future-proofing. (Even if you aren't going HD, going SD 16:9 is a major improvement) The main US facility I worked in in NY 4 years ago was a 16:9/4:3 SD switchable operation.

If you have 16:9 SD cameras (all the other SD digital stuff - routers, mixers, VTRs, servers etc. are either agnostic or switchable) you can produce in 16:9 SD for upconversion to 16:9 HD without pillarboxes.

16:9 SD production has been possible for at least the last 12 years - the BBC's UK news channel launched in 16:9 SD (internally) using LDK 100 4:3/16:9 switchable cameras in 1997... Any cameras bought since this time (and a bit before) have been available in switchable format. It was difficult to buy 4:3 SD only kit latterly.

Of course some broadcasters may still be running early CCD cameras that WERE 4:3, and some broadcasters may still have a composite set-up (not good for 16:9 production) - but surely there can't be THAT many now...

(Some broadcasters may not even be aware how easy it would be to switch from 4:3 to 16:9 SD production...)
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post #12 of 27 Old 02-09-2009, 01:00 PM
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I was referring to the inventory of "crt" scanning cameras maybe those are what are more properly to as composite cameras.
I recognize that your experience is far more then mine in these areas so value you inputs.
When you worked in the US were you aware of any station that was broadcasters that were actually broadcasting 16:9 aspect ratio 480i programs over their analog channels.
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post #13 of 27 Old 02-09-2009, 01:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by walford View Post

I was referring to the inventory of "crt" scanning cameras maybe those are what are more properly to as composite cameras.
I recognize that your experience is far more then mine in these areas so value you inputs.
When you worked in the US were you aware of any station that was broadcasters that were actually broadcasting 16:9 aspect ratio 480i programs over their analog channels.

To broadcast 16:9 over analog it would have to be anamorphic and most of the 4:3 sets would not be able to reformat it properly.
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post #14 of 27 Old 02-09-2009, 01:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by walford View Post

I was referring to the inventory of "crt" scanning cameras maybe those are what are more properly to as composite cameras.

Think you're confused - composite/composite and CCD/tubed are independent

Tubed cameras (effectively CRTs in reverse - electron scanning tube sensors) are totally obsolete - it is almost impossible to buy spare tubes and has been for many years. They were expensive to maintain, and CCDs (which used a pixel-based sensor rather than scanning electron beams) quickly replaced them from the late 80s. Totally out of use by the early-to-mid 90s - as CCDs were much cheaper to run and required less line-up.

Composite vs Component is different.

Some of the late (albeit not many) tubed camera studio builds used component infrastructure (BSB's facility in Battersea in London - later QVC UK - used Sony 360s - their last tubed camera - in a 4:3 component analogue set-up)

Conversely - many of the first gen CCD cameras were used in composite studios (though the cameras often had component outputs - which were used in composite studios for chroma key generation but not much else)

Many composite installations used CCD (component capable) cameras. Composite vs Component is the format the video signal uses (composite mixes the luma and chroma - component keeps them separate)

Analogue component infrastructure required either 3 cables instead of 1 for each signal OR expensive (and not widespread) Component MAC (multiplexed analogue components) studio gear that routed analogue component down a single cable. It came and went very quickly.

In Europe component 16:9 production arrived with SDI (serial digital) infrastructure in the early-to-mid 90s - digital component over a single cable. Any mainstream production (or even decent news) studio built or refurbed since around 1995 will be SDI component.

Quote:


I recognize that your experience is far more then mine in these areas so value you inputs.
When you worked in the US were you aware of any station that was broadcasters that were actually broadcasting 16:9 aspect ratio 480i programs over their analog channels.

No - but I was under the impression that 16:9 SD was being used by some domestic broadcasters for later upconversion to 16:9 HD.

The guys at the studio I worked in were running their facility in 4:3 SD for almost everything they did for US network customers - but they were used to switching to 16:9 SD for European customers. When I asked why they had 4:3 / 16:9 switchable cameras - they said there was no reason not to have them - and these weren't brand new devices 4 years ago. (I wouldn't be surprised if the facility had since upgraded to HD)
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post #15 of 27 Old 02-09-2009, 04:55 PM
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Thanks Sneals,
I understand the differece betweein component and composite but I was totally unaware the digital technology cameras had totally replaced tubed cameras years ago.
I am aware that UK is far ahead of the US in many TV technologies and always enjoy what you desribe is going on over the pond.
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post #16 of 27 Old 02-10-2009, 12:14 AM
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They may have a switch on in house cameras to go 16:9, but the in studio paths don't support 16:9.

They can show network feeds through a newer Master Control switcher, but all their production tape, dvr, chyrons and switchers are all still 4:3.

Small markets can't just totally redo their studio all at once. I worked at a 160 market station and we were lucky to replace a piece of equipment in 5 years, often longer.

There will be a lot of 4:3 around a long time. It took years before there was very little BW on TV, same thing again.

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post #17 of 27 Old 02-10-2009, 03:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by walford View Post

Thanks Sneals,
I understand the differece betweein component and composite but I was totally unaware the digital technology cameras had totally replaced tubed cameras years ago.

CCD cameras aren't neccessarily digital cameras either. CCDs, whilst based on a pixel-matrix based sensor array, are analogue sampling devices not digital. To digitally process the image you need to put an A/D converter on the output of the CCD - though whether you do this before or after knee/gamma processing will dictate how good an A/D you need (as sampling pre-knee/gamma will require a much greater dynamic range in the A/D conversion) It is entirely possible to build a CCD camera with entirely analogue picture processing - and many were!

Until relatively recently (last 10 years?) the picture processing - or at least a chunk of it - in CCD cameras was still in the analogue domain - certainly first, second and even third gen CCDs were pretty much analogue in the actual picture processing stakes - before DSP processing started to be introduced.

Even with today's DSP cameras most SD triax systems (the RF-based cable system that allows multiple audio/comms, video and data feeds, as well as power to go up and down a triaxial - think coax with an extra sleeve - cable) are also analogue based. So in a modern SD system you may have a camera head that is using extensive DSP processing to generate an SDI digital signal (available in SDI at the camera head - and if docked with a recorder potentially able to record digitally as a camcorder) but this is then D/Ad and carried over the triax cable using analogue component RF techniques before being A/Ded again in the CCU (camera control unit) at the other end of the triax cable, for further SDI digital routing and processing.

FYI The same is true of most HD triax systems for that matter - so even HD cameras can have an analogue link in the production chain.

There ARE digital triax systems - but they aren't widespread (mainly because they have historically been associated with dreadful cameras)

Quote:


I am aware that UK is far ahead of the US in many TV technologies and always enjoy what you desribe is going on over the pond.

Not sure that the UK - and Europe - is always that far ahead of the US - I just think that there is a much wider (because the TV industry is much larger) spread of technology in the US.

The US was massively ahead of the UK when it came to the SD to HD switch - until relatively recently (less than 5 years?) there were NO HD studios in the UK for example.
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post #18 of 27 Old 02-10-2009, 07:47 AM
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Thank you again.
Are there any sites that are a good source of Whitepapers for a lot of the information on different aspects of TV processing from camera to broadcast to tuner to display.
I give the UK and Europe credit for being ahead not because they are first but because they see ways to improve on technologies launched in the US before setting their own standards.
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post #19 of 27 Old 02-11-2009, 03:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zorinlynx View Post

You'd think at some point they would just start letterboxing 16:9 content for 4:3 feeds, so they wouldn't have to do this.

FOX does this with King of the Hill; I was very impressed to see the show formatted properly for 16:9 screens tonight, with action and characters outside the safe area.

Maybe others will follow. We can hope.

Unfortunately most of us broadcasters are swinging towards a 4:3 cut. It seems to be becoming the "standard".

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post #20 of 27 Old 02-11-2009, 04:09 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by hvs10trk View Post

Unfortunately most of us broadcasters are swinging towards a 4:3 cut. It seems to be becoming the "standard".

Why would you be swinging *towards* 4:3, when viewers are moving *away* from 4:3 by buying new TVs?

That makes no sense. o.O

If anything we should see more true 16:9 content as time goes on, not less...
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post #21 of 27 Old 02-11-2009, 04:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hvs10trk View Post

Unfortunately most of us broadcasters are swinging towards a 4:3 cut. It seems to be becoming the "standard".

Quote:
Originally Posted by zorinlynx View Post

Why would you be swinging *towards* 4:3, when viewers are moving *away* from 4:3 by buying new TVs?

That makes no sense. o.O

If anything we should see more true 16:9 content as time goes on, not less...

Going towards 4:3 because of downconversion for SDTV.

I think we're going to start seeing more and more funky cropped pictures on SDTV sets.
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post #22 of 27 Old 02-11-2009, 05:16 PM
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I believe that there are far more 4:3 aspect ratio TVs in use in American homes then there are 16:9 aspect ratio TVs in use.
For example in my home I have 1 16:9 HD wide screen unit in the family room and 4 4:3
TVs in other locations and I certainly do not want to watch any program letterboxed in the other locations especially since my cable analog channels are still available in 4:3.
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post #23 of 27 Old 02-11-2009, 06:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by walford View Post

I believe that there are far more 4:3 aspect ratio TVs in use in American homes then there are 16:9 aspect ratio TVs in use.
For example in my home I have 1 16:9 HD wide screen unit in the family room and 4 4:3
TVs in other locations and I certainly do not want to watch any program letterboxed in the other locations especially since my cable analog channels are still available in 4:3.

id

Why not? You would be getting more of the entire pic on your older 4x3 sets. wider field of vision, etc...

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post #24 of 27 Old 02-11-2009, 10:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by walford View Post

I believe that there are far more 4:3 aspect ratio TVs in use in American homes then there are 16:9 aspect ratio TVs in use.
For example in my home I have 1 16:9 HD wide screen unit in the family room and 4 4:3
TVs in other locations and I certainly do not want to watch any program letterboxed in the other locations especially since my cable analog channels are still available in 4:3.

I agree. Even after understanding the different aspect ratios, I still prefer full frame 4:3 on my 4:3 sets. It's really a matter of "filling the screen". When yuo consider 4:3 CRT sets, they're usually 19-27 inches, it's especially painful with programs like news or sports where text would be microscopic looking. Just try watching ESPN HD or your local HD news output in letterbox on a 4:3 set. It just doesn't look "right".
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post #25 of 27 Old 02-12-2009, 01:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zorinlynx View Post

Why would you be swinging *towards* 4:3, when viewers are moving *away* from 4:3 by buying new TVs?

That makes no sense. o.O

If anything we should see more true 16:9 content as time goes on, not less...

You will see more 16:9 content - but also more of it will be shot 4:3 centre-cut safe.

Whilst there is an analogue 4:3 SD station to broadcast, the networks have had 4:3 SD network feeds for their affiliates. This means that 16:9 HD originated (and 16:9 SD stuff upconverted) can be converted to 4:3 by the network in different ways for different genres - 4:3 centre-cut for sport, but 16:9 letterbox for drama for instance.

However, once the 4:3 SD analogue OTA broadcasts finish, the networks will no longer distribute 4:3 SD network feeds.

This means that most 4:3 TVs will now be fed directly from the HD network feed (via CECBs) or indirectly (via conversions upstream). Without AFDs driving this conversion - or some other method of dynamically switching the 16:9 to 4:3 conversion - then 4:3 TVs will either be fed a permanent 16:9 letterbox or a permanent 4:3 centre-cut.

This means that shows that could previously be formatted in the knowledge that they would always be viewed such that their entire 16:9 frame would be visible on all outlets (because the 4:3 SD feed was derived as a letterbox by the networks) can no longer be sure of this - as CECBs and cable head-ends could be doing a 4:3 centre cut.

Thus more shows are likely to be formatted 4:3 safe than previously...

AFDs are really the best way of dealing with this situation - as they allow broadcasters to signal the optimum 4:3 presentation mode for a 16:9 show. However if they aren't being used - then assuming 4:3 centre-cut is likely.

If you assume 4:3 centre-cut then you are always safe - however your show is displayed. If you assume letterboxing, then you aren't.

This is particularly true of commercials (where on-screen text has legal implications - so allowing any of it to be cropped could be an issue) and news shows (imagine a graphic where the "NOT" of "NOT GUILTY" was cropped from a graphic in a 4:3 centre cut process...)
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post #26 of 27 Old 02-12-2009, 12:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nickdawg View Post

I agree. Even after understanding the different aspect ratios, I still prefer full frame 4:3 on my 4:3 sets. It's really a matter of "filling the screen". When yuo consider 4:3 CRT sets, they're usually 19-27 inches, it's especially painful with programs like news or sports where text would be microscopic looking. Just try watching ESPN HD or your local HD news output in letterbox on a 4:3 set. It just doesn't look "right".

NBC has been showing prime time drama shows letterboxed for a few years on the 4.3 broadcast. They look fine.

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post #27 of 27 Old 02-12-2009, 03:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by McDonoughDawg View Post

NBC has been showing prime time drama shows letterboxed for a few years on the 4.3 broadcast. They look fine.

Yep - but whilst 4:3 shows are still made and aired in 4:3 pillarbox on HD stations - you can't do a permanent 16:9 letterbox on all shows as you'd end up with postage-stamp on 4:3 shows displayed on 4:3 TVs (small 4:3 picture surrounded by bars in a larger 4:3 frame)

If there are no AFDs - or similar aspect ratio signalling systems - you can't dynamically switch receivers between ratios - so the only permanent aspect ratio conversion that works for all broadcasts (albeit in a flawed and constricting manner for framing in some genres) is a permanent 4:3 centre cut.

AFDs really are the solution...
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