Originally Posted by ABCTV99
But just playing devil's advocate shouldn't it be on the content distributors to develop better transmission and distribution means rather than on the content producers. If for example I was making an Amy Winehouse album and wanted a gritty, scratchy vinyl sound, I as a producer should be free to do that even if the record company uses a jack-leg mastering company at least I started with a product that met my needs and aesthetic. it's like making a line of clothing and then complaining that retailers place them on some hidden back rack under bad lighting. Not much as the manufacturer you can do about that other than make your entire clothing line bright and flashy to catch people's attention.
Even if L&O is skimping on the budget, a grainy 16mm master is still gonna look pretty damn good. It's highly exceptional to get deliverables from a production company that are unacceptable quality (it happens occasionally, more commonly though I find it happening with audio quality not picture quality and if it is PQ i'll find sometimes there isnt a proper attention to detail concerning video levels from the post house). If you're going to bother to go through all the trouble and expense of shooting on film, using a color timing lab/DI, telecine, etc, you might as well put a good product out there. I've found most of the time the HD downconvert of the aircheck usually ends up being delivered to the network looking pretty pristine. If Law & Order is deliberately just putting crap on the air (which given the resumes of the people who produce that show I doubt) then they are the exception. There are some episodics out there that are lower budget and noticeably skimp (a la the shows on CW MYtV) but this is much less common on the big network shows that have million dollar budgets. Given the amount of effort that goes into the post process, if they were that concerned the could just say 'screw the look and texture' and shoot the show in bland 720p 24p HD like "Rescue Me" or some of the CW shows.
Unfortunately, the content distributors have nothing to do with developing and defining better distribution and compression methods. The broadcast formats were defined by the US Congressional Subcommitee on Digital Television. The NAB and the Hollywood and the Satellite networks and the Cable TV folks all got to make inputs.
Which is why we have the same 6Mhz channel bandwidth that used to hold one analog channel under NTSC, and now we have crammed the following into it in the ATSC specification (because anybody who crossed a Congressional palm with silver got his way) :
1) One HD channel with 1080i60 or 720p60 content.
2) Up to four SD subchannels with 480i content.
3) Alternate language audio tracks.
4) Multichannel audio.
5) Text Data broadcasts.
All this stuff is input as digital data and then compressed with a lossy compression scheme called MPEG2. If the main HD feed has a high bitrate due to poor compression due to film grain or shakeycam, then the maximum channel bandwidth is exceeded, and the ATSC digital encoder introduces "compression artifacts" which include macroblocking (visible pixel blocks of 4x4 or 16x16 pixels all one color and clustered about moving objects).
If the local broadcaster refrains from the maximum number of subchannels or other permissible services, the only artifacts the home viewer sees will be those introduced by the network encoder - since the nature of digital broadcasting is the home video signal would be a perfect copy of the network signal. If the local broadcaster inserts additional data streams, further degradation can occur in the local broadcast.
We are probably stuck with ATSC and it's limitations for 5+ decades. The prior NTSC system was defined in the late 1930's and lasted perhaps 75 years. Unfortunately the market forces do not determine the ATSC specification, the US Congress and the FCC do so - or already did so in the late 1980's.
Given the fact that the system has limitations, and that these limitations will exist for the life of the ATSC standard, then IMHO the Cinematographer/Photographer needs to monitor the output of the digital ATSC encoder, not the film dailies. Video degradation should not be present from episode to episode or season to season in the main ATSC distribution medium, or IMHO a lack of skill is being demonstrated.