Local OTA stations that stretch 4x3 programs just to fill the screen - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 21 Old 03-27-2011, 06:26 AM - Thread Starter
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The PBS affiliate in Erie Pa. has been doing this for some time, now the 'this' affiliate in the Buffalo market has just started stretching their poor quality SD programming. I can't see why they bother on the assumption Joe SixPack thinks it looks better to fill a 16x9 display no matter what.

The question is for the broadcast engineers here, how expensive is it to transmit, correctly formatted (16x9) SD material vs doing this stretching gimmick? With the availability of widescreen DVD's on almost any type of programming (assuming the rights/permissions/legal crap/financial end is dealt with) that is something other than 4x3 TV shows, stretching would/should be out of the question.

One example came to mind; the excellent series "Hogans Heros" that was re-mastered in what appeared to be 15x9 (not completely filling up the width of the screen, but damn close) with no apparent stretching that ran on HDNet 5 or so years ago. Too bad more of this hasen't been done and released to local stations and smaller networks.

The other question is; for these small time, so called 'networks' (this & RTV for example), are they getting their material via the Internet and is is all real time feed?

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post #2 of 21 Old 03-27-2011, 06:31 AM
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I don't have an answer to your question, but it irks me to no end when a network (AMC, TBS) broadcasts a stretched version of a catalog title (Terminator, True Lies and such) when another network is able to show the same movie movie in "proper" widescreen format. I find it unwatchable. If all they have is a 4x3 copy of the movie, they should pillarbox the screen. The only network I know that always does it right is TCM.

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post #3 of 21 Old 03-27-2011, 06:34 AM - Thread Starter
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Without going too far OT, which CATV service(s) stretches their so called HD channel?

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post #4 of 21 Old 03-27-2011, 07:39 AM
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A couple of weeks ago, after installing about four or five dozen new TV sets here, my boss and I discussed the idea of getting all the local stations to start transmitting SD anthropomorphically, since we are finding that almost all the new TVs fail to recognize widescreen SDTV.
Every time you change channels, you have to burrow down through the menu to "fix" the aspect ratio. Only a very few have a decent "default" setting.

(Once again, I have to ask, "Why did we dissolve the ATSC Test Labs, instead of making them a Certification Group for the TV sets and equipment?" )

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post #5 of 21 Old 03-27-2011, 08:38 AM - Thread Starter
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I don't understand why Joe Sixpack seems to think a 16x9 TV's screen has to be filled with an image even though it is only 4x3 and why a stretched image doesn't bother him?

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post #6 of 21 Old 03-27-2011, 11:09 AM
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These days the cost to correctly aspect the final product (as long as everything stays in one aspect or the other) is about $3k.

As far as SD subchannels being 16:9, that appears to be catching on. Many stations have kept their SD subchannels in 4:3 because they had the equipment on hand to do it. Now with more and more stations going HD, it is becoming a hassle to not only downconvert but aspect ratio everything. When we added our .2 channel at the start of the year, it started out as anamorphic 4:3 with the AFC code set for center cut for those with converter boxes on 4:3 sets that didn't want letterbox and cablecos. It has worked out well. We treat the .2 path as if it is the .1 HD path and downconvert at the encoder. The picture looks better and the viewers seem to like that they don't have to do anything to their TV's to get it to fit the screen. We put bars on when needed and let the native 16:9 TV's display in 16:9.

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post #7 of 21 Old 03-27-2011, 11:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by videobruce View Post

I don't understand why Joe Sixpack seems to think a 16x9 TV's screen has to be filled with an image even though it is only 4x3 and why a stretched image doesn't bother him?

Don't know any better?

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post #8 of 21 Old 03-27-2011, 11:53 AM - Thread Starter
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Now with more and more stations going HD, it is becoming a hassle to not only downconvert but aspect ratio everything.

I think you really lost me here. Are you referring to MSO's or local broadcast stations themselves?
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When we added our .2 channel at the start of the year, it started out as anamorphic 4:3 with the AFC code set for center cut for those with converter boxes on 4:3 sets that didn't want letterbox and cablecos. It has worked out well. We treat the .2 path as if it is the .1 HD path and downconvert at the encoder.

Are you referring to a simulcast of the HD main channel especially for for older CRT TV's using your sub-channel tailored for those sets?
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to start transmitting SD anthropomorphically, since we are finding that almost all the new TVs fail to recognize widescreen SDTV.

Explain? I don't see the problem. If 4x3 material is 4x3 and 16x9 is 16x9, where is the problem??
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These days the cost to correctly aspect the final product (as long as everything stays in one aspect or the other) is about $3k.

Is this a one time station expense or is this at the source end, per program?

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post #9 of 21 Old 03-27-2011, 02:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by videobruce View Post

I think you really lost me here. Are you referring to MSO's or local broadcast stations themselves?

Local broadcast stations

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Are you referring to a simulcast of the HD main channel especially for for older CRT TV's using your sub-channel tailored for those sets?

A separately programmed channel that originates 16:9 SD. If you were to look at the "resolution of it" it would be 720x480i. But due to anamorphic technique, something that is used all the time in SD DVD's it will display in proper aspect ratio of 16:9 on a 16:9 screen. If a station has converted to HD, then all programming is 16:9. GEP (good engineering practice) dictates you don't have half a plant in one aspect ratio and the other half in another. Broadcast stations have already been down that path with analog 4:3 and digital HD RF channels. It duplicates equipment and then you find you are constantly converting or cross converting and all that converstion reduces PQ and the chances of getting the wrong aspect ratio on the air. It makes MUCH more sense to move everything around the plant in one aspect ratio and then at the final distribution point (station encoder) you convert only once. That is what we do at my station. We move everything around in 16:9 and only convert what we have to at the source to get it in the correct aspect ratio of 16:9.

Here is a TSReader read out of our subchannel. As you can see from it, it is clearly 720x480i but the display bit is clearly 16:9.



And actually most new TV's DO recognize the difference between 720x480 and 864x480 as well as the AFD code of 16:9 anamorphic SD when it sees the correct AFD 16:9 code and will display accordingly. Most stations do not use 864x480 nor the 16:9 AFD code for SD so the screen doesn't follow it. Most still don't use AFD for HD beyond the network passthrough. At my station we do use AFD very liberally with local programming. It works really well in HD or SD.

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Explain? I don't see the problem. If 4x3 material is 4x3 and 16x9 is 16x9, where is the problem??

See above.

Quote:


Is this a one time station expense or is this at the source end, per program?

One time expense. It is done per source, not program. Once the converter has been bought for the source, you can then adjust it for whatever aspect you need. There are still many SD non network syndicated programs out there. It is quickly changing though. The 2009-10 season, outside of network we only had 4 shows that were available in HD. This season only 4 shows we are airing are not available in HD and only one that is still fed in analog while the other SD programs are fed SD digital, but still in 4:3. Within 5 years I would suspect there will be no first run syndicated programming in SD 4:3 available. We air a total of 20 hours of programming a day in HD, including newscasts with next season, we may be 100%. If not, we will be pretty close.

News feeds are starting to be available in 16:9 and HD as well. About half of the stations that do news have converted to HD or 16:9 SD with more converting all the time. When we started 16:9 SD news in 2009, the only 16:9 news material we had was what we locally produced. Now, about 85% is 16:9 with about 50% of that shown in HD on our newscasts with all local material in HD. We converted to full HD news, including live field shots and our sat truck in September of last year. Being a FOX affiliate, the vast majority of our FOX national material is 16:9. CNN is behind on their affiliates in getting 16:9 material but they are offering more 16:9 SD material as well. The group that owns us has setup a HD IP link between stations for story swaps so if one of our stations is in LA, we can pull the story down and play it back on our air IN HD. Being a former FOX O & O we still have the O & O interstation fiber link that has been updated to HD so we can send HD material between the former and current FOX O & O stations. That is something that isn't available to the just plain FOX affiliates.

Due to all that, that is why it makes no sense to maintain two separate aspect ratio infrastructures within the station. We have hardly any SD 4:3 material that we deal with anymore so a 16:9 anamorphic SD makes the most sense with the final downconversion at the SD encoder input.

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post #10 of 21 Old 03-27-2011, 08:30 PM
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Here in Bakersfield only one station (KERO) can do syndicated shows or local commercials in HD (or 16:9 at all). All the others show syndicated shows in 4:3 pillarbox and HD commercials in letterbox in a pillarbox. Amazingly KGET, KBAK, and KBFX do HD local news and KERO does not.

How can we say "the digital transition is complete" when thousands of low power stations are still broadcasting in analog?
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post #11 of 21 Old 03-28-2011, 05:54 AM - Thread Starter
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It seems what should be simple (two aspect ratio formats) isn't. What gets me is using a sub-channel to duplicate the main channel w/ HD material in a 4x3 SD format that is anything but SD unless the 'S' stands fro 'smear'.

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post #12 of 21 Old 03-28-2011, 05:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by videobruce View Post

It seems what should be simple (two aspect ratio formats) isn't. What gets me is using a sub-channel to duplicate the main channel w/ HD material in a 4x3 SD format that is anything but SD unless the 'S' stands fro 'smear'.

To maintain two aspect ratios demands two separate infrastructures. That costs money. That is why many stations did scretch-o-vision pre-transition. Their facilities were 4:3, not 16:9. Stations are now reversing that and you are seeing that in reverse by some stations while others are just staying 16:9 all the way through the system out to the encoder. That only requires one infrastructure and can be modified pre-encoder easily with one converter by either letterbox or center cut.

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post #13 of 21 Old 03-29-2011, 04:44 AM - Thread Starter
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Admittedly, I'm having a hard time understanding why two paths are needed. Say you have a 4x3 program that I assume is delivered via the Internet (assuming this is now the accepted delivery method these days). You also have a 16x9 program delivered the same way. Can I assume it is via the same pipeline (assuming it is from the same source)? If so, I don't understand why there is a problem.

Let me ask this, the unused area on each side of a 4x3 program (sidebars, or whatever you want to call them), does that have to be made up of something (data) to keep the system happy? Similar to null packets for a xmitter?

Lastly, how about commercials that are just 4x3? Those aren't stretched (usually). Stations that are stretching program material are not stretching those commercials.

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post #14 of 21 Old 03-29-2011, 05:58 AM
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I see stretched commercials all the time, though not so much as a year ago. Also see the opposite sometimes... WS commercials that are squeezed so everyone looks like matchstick people.

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post #15 of 21 Old 03-29-2011, 12:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kenglish View Post

..., since we are finding that almost all the new TVs fail to recognize widescreen SDTV.
Every time you change channels, you have to burrow down through the menu to "fix" the aspect ratio. Only a very few have a decent "default" setting.
...

Thank you for answering a question I had about this very phenomenon. Both my LCD Sony from 2008 and newer LED / LCD from 2010 fail to properly display the broadcast SD 16 x 9 sub-channels. Nice to know it's not specific to my televisions.

Ironically, my OCT 2008 Zenith DTT-901 converter boxes render all channels in their proper aspect ratio. One would think that a cheap converter box would have troubles, not the expensive televisions - but no.
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post #16 of 21 Old 03-29-2011, 05:06 PM
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Hmm - what about AFDs?

We've been using them in the UK for a decade or so now since we went 16:9 on our digital networks (SD) and remained broadcasting a 4:3 analogue equivalent. We couldn't afford to duplicate the full transmission chain to handle both - but we knew analogue 4:3 viewers (who were the huge majority at the time) wouldn't be happy with permanent centre-cut or permanent letterbox (and permanent letterbox isn't an option if you pillarbox 4:3 content)

So - at the BBC - this is how stuff worked when we were only SD :

4:3 content was pillarboxed to 12P16 (aka 4:3 pillarbox in a 16:9 frame) This was broadcast with an AFD indicating that the 4:3 central portion was active, and a 4:3 centre-cut should be used when feeding a 4:3 display (aka 12F12 presentation of the 12P16 source) In fact some 16:9 configured set-top boxes will also have output a 4:3 centre cut image along with 4:3 signalling (either SCART pin 8 or Line 23 WSS) to allow viewers to chose how to handle the 4:3 content (zoom & crop 16:9, stretch, or pillarbox to 4:3/12:9 - or a compromise zoom/crop/pillarbox to 14:9)

16:9 content was sent as is, but with AFDs indicating the correct method of presentation of this 16:9 material on a 4:3 display.

The BBC commissiong 16:9 content to three different safe-areas :
Sport is 4:3 safe - and would be sent with an AFD triggering a 4:3 centre-cut on a 4:3 display (i.e. displayed 12F12) though still indicating that the source is 16:9 active (so not the same as would be carried for 4:3 content).
Most general programming is commissioned 14:9 safe, and this was sent with an AFD that triggered a 14:9 letterbox on a 4:3 display (i.e. displayed 14L12). Some arts programmes and movies are 16:9 safe, and the AFDs that accompanied these broadcasts triggered a 16:9 letterbox on a 4:3 display (i.e. displayed 16L12).

The BBC network playout area ensures that the correct AFDs are programmed into the playout system for each show.

On digital OTA outlets the AFDs are broadcast as part of the digital stream (which itself is running in permanent 16:9 mode) - and suitable receivers, when configured for 4:3 output, will follow the AFD's indicated display mode on a show-by-show basis (though often also allow a force centre-cut or force-letterbox option) These AFDs also pass through regional stations when they are passing network.

For analogue 4:3 SD outlets, the analogue network feed is derived from an ARC which also detects the AFDs.

One playout system, one ingest, playout, master control operation, with separate outputs properly optimised for each destination. No duplication, but no compromises for either 16:9 or 4:3 viewers.

(In fact because the Sky Digital satellite platform doesn't support AFDs, the BBC have a different approach for satellite distribution. Rather than a permanent 16:9 feed with receivers optionally centre-cutting 12P16 content, the BBC have to have an ARC in their DSat digital network feeds that sits in bypass for 16:9 content, but that does a 12F12 centre-cut of 12P16 content AND which switches the MPEG2 header to indicate that the video is now 4:3 full-width full-height. This ARC is, itself, driven by AFDs I believe.)
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post #17 of 21 Old 03-29-2011, 05:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by videobruce View Post

Admittedly, I'm having a hard time understanding why two paths are needed. Say you have a 4x3 program that I assume is delivered via the Internet (assuming this is now the accepted delivery method these days). You also have a 16x9 program delivered the same way. Can I assume it is via the same pipeline (assuming it is from the same source)? If so, I don't understand why there is a problem.

Many programs are now delivered to on site servers (ie Pathfire, Pitch Blue, DG Systems, etc) either via a sat link or via the Internet. The servers put out either SD or HD depending on what a station requests. If it is a SD server, the aspect ratio is always 4:3 full screen no matter what the source was originally. The HD server will put out SD 4:3 programs upconverted with side bars on then already so the station either linearly records the program into their servers at HD resolution or what happens most often is the file is just ftp'ed from the program server straight into the playback server and again, the file is already HD either natively or upconverted with sidebars added depending on the original resolution of the program. Stations are getting away from separate SD and HD infrastructures as fast as possible and more and more are moving towards an IP based infrastructure and just move files around instead of linearly recording. For those times that a station needs to move material linearly, it will more than likely be in HD, not SD or both. More and more programs are NOT being sent in both formats. Most are now sent in HD and the server will handle the needed format.

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Let me ask this, the unused area on each side of a 4x3 program (sidebars, or whatever you want to call them), does that have to be made up of something (data) to keep the system happy? Similar to null packets for a xmitter?

Side bars are actually part of the video picture and are inserted after the 4:3 content to create the 16:9 image. They are not null packets.

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Lastly, how about commercials that are just 4x3? Those aren't stretched (usually). Stations that are stretching program material are not stretching those commercials.

Many of the program distribution servers also distribute commercials and are handled the same way as programs. For those instances where an old fashion tape shows up, it is played back via a tape deck linearly into a server and as it is ingested into the server, it is upconverted and/or back bars inserted as needed depending on the server system.

Again, it is all converted to a single format and used accordingly.

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post #18 of 21 Old 03-29-2011, 05:48 PM
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Originally Posted by sneals2000 View Post

Hmm - what about AFDs?

It was an afterthought in the US ATSC system so nothing before 2008 even had the capability. Only FOX has totally embraced AFD with NBC giving a good faith effort, but nowhere near the level FOX is. CBS has totally rejected AFD and ABC is hit and miss.

Some converter boxes do use AFD and some don't. The better boxes do, the cheaper boxes don't and it is getting harder and harder to find a 4:3 display with the overwhelming majority being 16:9 displays.

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post #19 of 21 Old 03-29-2011, 09:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by foxeng View Post

CBS has totally rejected AFD.

For about the last month or two, my local CBS station, an O&O, has seemingly been using AFD for commercials. My local cable company (Charter) has also apparently been passing the AFD information on to the SD feed of CBS, just like it does with the SD feeds of the local NBC and Fox stations. I think it's only being used for commercials at this time, though, because when programming comes back from a commercial break, it'll be "stuck" in the same aspect ratio as whatever the last commercial was flagged for. Thus, if you're watching on the SD cable channel or through a converter box that understands AFD, it's not all that uncommon for a show to, let's say, start off letterboxed, go center-cut after the first commercial break, go back to letterbox after the second break, and end being center-cut. Thankfully, I only watch in SD frequently enough to have noticed this occurring but not enough for it to become an annoyance.
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post #20 of 21 Old 03-30-2011, 05:11 AM
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The big problem with AFD is non of the syndicated programming has embraced it so if any syndicated program is being AFD, the local station is doing it, not the distributor.

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post #21 of 21 Old 03-30-2011, 02:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by foxeng View Post

Some converter boxes do use AFD and some don't. The better boxes do, the cheaper boxes don't and it is getting harder and harder to find a 4:3 display with the overwhelming majority being 16:9 displays.

The last 4:3 CRT I ever saw being sold in the US that was of a halfway decent size was a really inexpensive, crappy, 27" Sansui model (I know people that had them, and believe me, they are crappy. I think the last B&M store I ever saw them in was Aldi Grocers, if that tells you anything).
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