From Broadcast Engineering - Looking beyond HD for sports - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 28 Old 10-10-2008, 05:32 PM - Thread Starter
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There's a lot of talk about new technologies that will add even more value to sports broadcasting, from a technical perspective. However, technologies such as 3-D and full-bandwidth HD (1080p/60) production and distribution the equipment for which is now becoming available from a variety of vendors are not financially practical and may not be deployed for some time.

To date, a number of trial events have offered the potential for live sports events shot in 3-D. The NBA staged an event in Las Vegas in 2007 for its 56th All-Star game at the Mandalay Bay Hotel that drew nearly 3000 people, who watched the event with special glasses. Inside the Thomas & Mack Center arena, six customized HD camera systems, each made up of two modified Sony HDC-F950 cameras with Canon HD lenses mounted side by side, were set up at different positions to capture the game action. The idea was that fans that couldn't get tickets to their favorite teams could see them on a big screen.

Likewise, ESPN is now installing 3Gb/s-compatible infrastructure (routers, modular, etc.) that can handle the 1080p format at 60fps. This will increase the resolution on most HDTV sets and make the picture look much more stunning. But to get this into people's homes requires the local cable and satellite TV operators to change their infrastructure as well while also replacing the set-top box in subscribers' homes with a newer model, the cost of which can be prohibitive.

At the recent HD Expo in New York City, the overall opinion was that the technology is certainly nice, but they can't make a business out of it. Representatives from ESPN and the new MLB Network said it's been hard enough (and expensive) getting HDTV into consumer homes. They said they don't see a model that would make 3-D or 1080p feasible to pursue on a continual basis or distribute it to the home.

Bryan Burns, VP of strategic planning and development for ESPN, said that it was six years ago that ESPN announced it was going HD. The sports network now produces about 1200 HDTV telecast per year, but there are still many games not yet in HD. And in the United States, ESPN HD is in only about 22 percent of the 95 million total ESPN homes.

I don't think it makes sense economically for ESPN to produce an event in 3-D, send it back to Bristol, then on through the local cable operator and on to the home, Burns said. As a business guy, I don't see it happening any time soon. I'm also not sure consumers are going to want to pay an extra fee for 3-D assuming they have the necessary TV to watch it. I'm not sure how this will all come together and make sense from a business perspective.

He added that consumers have already gone through a sea change in moving from analog TV to HDTV. The technology looks great, and I respect the work our producer and technical crews do, but I'm not sure consumers are willing to go through another sea change just to watch in 3-D.

Mark Haden, VP of engineering and IT at MLB Network, said that about 25 percent of U.S. homes have at least one HDTV set, and that about five percent have installed some type of surround-sound system. He sees this improved sound as a more practical upgrade for most people after they buy an HDTV set.

I think the real wow' effect is still emerging in audio, Haden said. This is an incremental step but one that we think consumers are more willing to invest in.

The MLB Network, which is set to launch in January, will try to provide multitrack audio whenever possible. That means setting up multiple mics within stadiums around the country.

ESPN is also experimenting with digital cinema events, but this is only in the test phase. Burns said he thinks it could have business revenue potential in larger markets but not across the country.

Where sports TV will make the transition is to full-screen (16:9) display. Larry Thorpe, national marketing manager for Canon Broadcast lenses, said that camera operators are protecting for 4:3 audiences. When most consumers have widescreen sets, sports and other events will be shot using the full picture width. This, he said, adds about six times more information than what we currently see on an SD set.

The wow' factor for me is when we use the full capability of today's lenses to see all of the field and anything else we might be missing now by cutting off the sides of the frame, he said. This limitation in aspect ratio can be remedied today (and is being done in some cases) without a lot of extra expense. That should be the focus of sports production in the near term.

Thorpe also mentioned the new generation of high-speed cameras, which are bringing new perspectives to sports telecasts. New cameras from Vision Research (which can show the effects of a golf ball being hit) and I-Movix have shot at 8000fps, and ARRI has cameras that can capture at 600fps. All of these cameras, along with models from Sony and Thomson Grass Valley (at about 120fps) make slow-motion replays possible.

Both ESPN and the MLB Network agree that innovative graphics and interactive applications that keep viewers engaged are the best way to upgrade a sports telecast without incurring a lot of cost.

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post #2 of 28 Old 10-10-2008, 07:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Ken H View Post

Where sports TV will make the transition is to full-screen (16:9) display. Larry Thorpe, national marketing manager for Canon Broadcast lenses, said that camera operators are protecting for 4:3 audiences. When most consumers have widescreen sets, sports and other events will be shot using the full picture width. This, he said, adds about six times more information than what we currently see on an SD set.

“The ‘wow’ factor for me is when we use the full capability of today’s lenses to see all of the field and anything else we might be missing now by cutting off the sides of the frame,” he said. “This limitation in aspect ratio can be remedied today (and is being done in some cases) without a lot of extra expense. That should be the focus of sports production in the near term.”


Amen to this part. I've been whining about sports not being framed 16x9 for two years now.

Regarding HD broadcasts, IMHO framing sports (especially football, soccer and hockey) 16x9 has ALMOST as much impact on the presentation as the increase in resolution.

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post #3 of 28 Old 10-10-2008, 07:56 PM
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Originally Posted by DB2 View Post

Amen to this part. I've been whining about sports not being framed 16x9 for two years now.

Regarding HD broadcasts, IMHO framing sports (especially football, soccer and hockey) 16x9 has ALMOST as much impact on the presentation as the increase in resolution.

Agreed, but I don't find the 4:3 protected framing as obnoxious in football, basketball, hockey and basketball simply because the field of play is generally rectangular. Since conventional framing places the action at the center of the screen the real gain for the viewer is in the enhanced representation of horizontal space (essential for watching plays develop in football for example), it also allows the director to loosen up shots, though this is more of a function of display size than aspect ratio.
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post #4 of 28 Old 10-10-2008, 10:36 PM
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ABCTV99, I can't say that I agree with you entirely. I think that it is important to compose sporting events properly for a 16:9 frame. That means showing the line of scrimmage about 1/3 from the edge of the screen and then showing the secondary as the play develops. This would be a marked contrast from having the line of scrimmage in the center of the screen and having empty grass outside the 4:3 safe area on the left and right of the screen.

Then again, I think ESPN could take a giant leap into the future (or the late 1990's) by ditching SRS Circle Surround and finally adopting the limited bandwidth discrete Dolby Digital sound that has been standard on conventional DVD's since the late 1990's. It is humorous to listen to ESPN's tech gurus debate the merits of 3D broadcasting while the network still has not moved beyond lackluster matrixed sound.

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post #5 of 28 Old 10-10-2008, 10:46 PM
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I baseball I think 4:3 protected doesn't make much a difference due to the width of the field in most shots, and in most others you want the play in the middle. I have to agree with Jimbo, though with regards to football. I also find it a little annoying in hockey. When the puck is on the boards you see a ton of fans, rather than where the defensemen are positioning, so a 16:9 framing would have a solid improvement.
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post #6 of 28 Old 10-10-2008, 11:34 PM
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Most importantly, a shift to a full 16:9 presentation should effectively mean the death of horizontal, screen-length scorebox graphics.
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post #7 of 28 Old 10-11-2008, 04:05 AM
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With respect to 3Gbs 1080/60p capable infrastructure - Sky in the UK have just announced that their new 8 HD studio complex, due to open in 2011, will be based on 3Gbs technology, so capable of 1080/50p production. They may stipulate a 1080/50p upgrade path for their long-term OB production deals.

There is still no suggestion of 1080/50p transmission being adopted - though it should improve quality through the chain a bit (and it also improves standards conversion AIUI as you don't have to worry about de-interlacing)
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post #8 of 28 Old 10-11-2008, 04:12 AM
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If 720p and 1080i with 60 fields per second MPEG-2 are being delivered at 19.2Mbps, it seems like 1080p60 could be done with MPEG-4 or VC-1 at around the same amount and would still be an improvement. Or maybe somewhat higher bitrate, but they shouldn't need double from there if they go to a better codec (especially if they make the move to a more advanced codec earlier in the chain to avoid having to fix up problems that are in the MPEG-2 version). I'm not sure if there are enough people who would be willing to pay for the improvement though.

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post #9 of 28 Old 10-11-2008, 06:09 AM
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Quote:


There’s a lot of talk about new technologies that will add even more value to sports broadcasting, from a technical perspective. However, technologies such as 3-D and full-bandwidth HD (1080p/60) production and distribution — the equipment for which is now becoming available from a variety of vendors — are not financially practical and may not be deployed for some time.

Doesn't seem clear that "full-bandwidth" production and distribution at 1080p60 (compressed 3-Gbps vs current 1.5 Gbps) will really add a tremendous wow factor. From a resolution viewpoint there might not be that much difference with current 1080/60i (1080i30). Vertical resolution, however, could benefit with 1080p60, since the anti-twitter vertical resolution filtering currently used for 1080i wouldn't be necessary. STBs, while interlacing 1080p60 for CRT viewers, might add vertical filtering. (A new startup firm delivering 1080/24p over the Internet says it adds vertical filtering with its STBs for SD delivery but not for 1080/24p movies.)

Assuming MPEG-4-type codecs would be necessary for 1080p60 delivery, as this 3 page pdf from MPEG-chip-maker Ambarella outlines, for full-resolution 1080p60 it seems like oversampling with 4k hardware and downconversion to 1080p60 would be needed (resolution and frequency oversampling). 1080p60's 3 Gbps uses 148-Mbps sampling, double that of standard 1.5-Gbps ~74-Mhz HD sampling.

Arri's Hans Kiening, in his April SMPTE article (~7 MB unedited version), points out the importance of oversampling (from p20):
Quote:


Three simple concepts can be used to describe what is important for a natural and sharp image, listed here in descending order of importance:
1. Image information is not compromised with alias artifacts.
2. Low spatial frequencies are showing high modulation.
3. High spatial frequencies are still visible.
This implicitly means that an alias-affected image is much more annoying than one with pure resolution. Further, it would be completely wrong to conclude that one could generate a naturally sharp image by using low resolution and just push it with a filter. Alias free images and high sharpness can be achieved only if oversampling and the right filters for downscaling to the final format have been used.

Earlier diagrams in the article illustrate the results of aliasing from inadequate oversampling/downconversion. --John
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post #10 of 28 Old 10-11-2008, 09:48 AM
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Originally Posted by darinp2 View Post

If 720p and 1080i with 60 fields per second MPEG-2 are being delivered at 19.2Mbps, it seems like 1080p60 could be done with MPEG-4 or VC-1 at around the same amount and would still be an improvement.

The question is if they changed all the infrastructure to somehow get 1080p into people's homes, how many could tell the difference? The deinterlacers in HDTVs have improved to the point where it's difficult to notice interlacing artifacts these days especially since the average 1080i video is so full of compression artifacts to begin with.

There are lots of test loops designed to fool deinterlacers into screwing up. The bob-deinterlacer in my four year old HDTV fails every single one of them but the HDTV I got a couple of months ago is only partially fooled by one of them (a series of thin lines will sometimes disappear).

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post #11 of 28 Old 10-11-2008, 11:08 AM
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None of this will matter if local affiliates continue to botch up the direct feeds with antiquated Codecs, incorrect settings, bit-stealing, and sub-channels.

The whole chain right to the end user has to be factored into any "wow" factor.
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post #12 of 28 Old 10-11-2008, 11:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Erik Tracy View Post

None of this will matter if local affiliates continue to botch up the direct feeds with antiquated Codecs, incorrect settings, bit-stealing, and sub-channels.

The whole chain right to the end user has to be factored into any "wow" factor.

ATSC is pretty well written in stone with MPEG2. Use of newer codecs with 1080/60P will involve other means of distribution such as cable/sat, internet and media such as Blu-Ray. I think ATSC subchannels can use other codecs, but what's the point if the decoders are only capable of MPEG2?

As 3Gbs becomes common I can see 1080/60P becoming a production standard.
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post #13 of 28 Old 10-11-2008, 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by acs12798 View Post

I baseball I think 4:3 protected doesn't make much a difference due to the width of the field in most shots, and in most others you want the play in the middle. ...

My take on baseball is that they need to totally re-think how they compose the screen. My big complaint about watching baseball on TV has always been that I can never see how the fielders are shifting and what the baserunners are doing because all they ever show is "two guys playing catch".

But with wide screens, they could crop the "two guys playing catch" shot really tight and then put it in an inset over a wideshot of the infield and outfield.

So depending on what's happening with baserunners, you might have a wideshot from the 1st or 3rd base dugout or from behind home plate and then have an inset of the pitching cover the least interesting part of the wideshot.

I think some clever director could come up with a whole bunch of similar compositions that would make baseball on TV much more interesting.
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post #14 of 28 Old 10-11-2008, 01:21 PM
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Regarding baseball, there should be more of an effort to shoot the game from the radio or TV booth behind home plate like HD Net experimented with when they had MLB. It was a spectacular way to watch the game although it really requires a set over 42" to fully appreciate it. On really large screens, like 60", it is really like watching a game from the press box. Doing it this way, there is minimal camera movement. IMHO, minimal camera movement is where we should be going. Our eyes should be the ones following the action, not the camera jerking from side to side, just like in real life.
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post #15 of 28 Old 10-11-2008, 05:24 PM
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Originally Posted by darinp2 View Post

If 720p and 1080i with 60 fields per second MPEG-2 are being delivered at 19.2Mbps, it seems like 1080p60 could be done with MPEG-4 or VC-1 at around the same amount and would still be an improvement. Or maybe somewhat higher bitrate, but they shouldn't need double from there if they go to a better codec (especially if they make the move to a more advanced codec earlier in the chain to avoid having to fix up problems that are in the MPEG-2 version). I'm not sure if there are enough people who would be willing to pay for the improvement though.

--Darin

Harmonic were demoing pretty watchable 1080/50p at IBC 2008 at 15Mbs in H264.

The question isn't whether you can do it - but whether you can afford to do it. The US is still switching over to MPEG2 ATSC 8VSB - it can't really switch formats mid-switch without suffering a huge consumer backlash can it? The only outlets likely to offer 1080/60p in the US in the short-to-mid term are cable and satellite - who provide the receiver for their own broadcasts, and can thus chose the format they broadcast in?
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post #16 of 28 Old 10-11-2008, 06:29 PM
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If our current MPEG-4 STB's can do 1080p VOD, why would we need new ones?

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post #17 of 28 Old 10-11-2008, 07:38 PM
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Originally Posted by mp3trojan View Post

If our current MPEG-4 STB's can do 1080p VOD, why would we need new ones?

1080P at what frame rate?
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post #18 of 28 Old 10-11-2008, 07:45 PM
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Originally Posted by sneals2000 View Post

The only outlets likely to offer 1080/60p in the US in the short-to-mid term are cable and satellite - who provide the receiver for their own broadcasts, and can thus chose the format they broadcast in?

I think so. I was thinking of ESPN and the like on those, or maybe DIRECTV with a special channel they run. As somebody said, the broadcast stations are basically locked into MPEG-2 and 720p or 1080i as the max. I don't think they would be that likely to pursue 1080p60 and/or codecs beyond MPEG-2 anytime soon.

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post #19 of 28 Old 10-11-2008, 07:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sneals2000 View Post

Harmonic were demoing pretty watchable 1080/50p at IBC 2008 at 15Mbs in H264.

The question isn't whether you can do it - but whether you can afford to do it. The US is still switching over to MPEG2 ATSC 8VSB - it can't really switch formats mid-switch without suffering a huge consumer backlash can it? The only outlets likely to offer 1080/60p in the US in the short-to-mid term are cable and satellite - who provide the receiver for their own broadcasts, and can thus chose the format they broadcast in?

Until there is any material produced in 1080/50P or 60P there won't be much incentive to broadcast it. But I think that day is coming. It will give Sony and Panasonic a reason to sell new recording formats (as if they need a reason).
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post #20 of 28 Old 10-11-2008, 07:47 PM
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Originally Posted by JWhip View Post

IMHO, minimal camera movement is where we should be going. Our eyes should be the ones following the action, not the camera jerking from side to side, just like in real life.

Excellent point and I agree. HDNet hockey, soccer and the few NCAA football games they did are good examples of this as well.

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post #21 of 28 Old 10-11-2008, 07:54 PM
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Originally Posted by mp3trojan View Post

If our current MPEG-4 STB's can do 1080p VOD, why would we need new ones?


Whose?
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post #22 of 28 Old 10-11-2008, 08:13 PM
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DishNetwork's 622/722 receivers, at 24p. I think D* can do the same. But those are VOD downloads and not broadcast.
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post #23 of 28 Old 10-12-2008, 02:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mp3trojan View Post

If our current MPEG-4 STB's can do 1080p VOD, why would we need new ones?

Don't they just do 1080/24p for VOD? That is a "current" standard - in that it can - and is - produced using regular 1.5Gbs HD-SDI infrastructure, and doesn't require huge changes to transmission infrastructure.

However 1080/24p is not a suitable format for network playout (commercials for a start aren't likely to be delivered in 24p) - you need to go for a 60Hz format.

1080/24p is not a million miles from 1080/60i - however for a network to go 1080p it really needs 1080/60p capable gear. AIUI no current STBs have 1080/60p capabilities (at least for live broadcasts)
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post #24 of 28 Old 10-12-2008, 02:59 AM
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Originally Posted by TVOD View Post

Until there is any material produced in 1080/50P or 60P there won't be much incentive to broadcast it. But I think that day is coming. It will give Sony and Panasonic a reason to sell new recording formats (as if they need a reason).

AIUI HD Cam SR will already record 1080/50p and 1080/60p 4:2:2 - it can also do 1080/50i and 60i at 4:4:4 or dual 1080/50i and 60i (for 3D) at 4:2:2.

3Gbs 1080/50p and 60p routers are now being deployed in quite a widespread manner (most new facilities and trucks are using them in the UK AIUI), and now 3Gbs HD-SDI seems to be the standard, we'll be seeing vision switchers and EVS-type devices with that capability very soon (if we're not already).

The current sticking point is the camera cable technology - but AIUI Sony and ThomsonGrassValleyPhilips both have fibre solutions "coming soon". (Currently the cameras can output 1080/50p and 1080/60p at the camera head using the older HD-SDI Dual Link system, but not at the other end of the cable on the output of their CCU)
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post #25 of 28 Old 10-12-2008, 01:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JWhip View Post

Regarding baseball, there should be more of an effort to shoot the game from the radio or TV booth behind home plate like HD Net experimented with when they had MLB. It was a spectacular way to watch the game although it really requires a set over 42" to fully appreciate it. On really large screens, like 60", it is really like watching a game from the press box. Doing it this way, there is minimal camera movement. IMHO, minimal camera movement is where we should be going. Our eyes should be the ones following the action, not the camera jerking from side to side, just like in real life.

Yes that's essentially what I had in mind in my original post, but with the addition of an inset of the pitching since everybody is always going to want a good shot of the pitch so that they can bitch about the bad calls.
The inset would fade away after the pitch in case a ball was hit to that area of the screen.

I think most of the time the game would be shot from behind home plate unless there was a really fast baserunner on first then it would switch to a first base dugout shot. And then throw in a third base dugout shot occassionally, just to add a little variety. BTW, in this widescreen case, I would want the dugout shots to cover from home plate all the way to the center fielder. So you'd see everything except one of the outfielders.
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post #26 of 28 Old 10-12-2008, 03:28 PM
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Originally Posted by sneals2000 View Post

AIUI HD Cam SR will already record 1080/50p and 1080/60p 4:2:2 - it can also do 1080/50i and 60i at 4:4:4 or dual 1080/50i and 60i (for 3D) at 4:2:2.

Yeah I'm a bit behind. I guess it still uses twice as much tape. Instead of 1080/60P, how about 1530/60i (2720 x 1530)? This would also work as 1530/24P & 1530/30P.
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post #27 of 28 Old 10-12-2008, 05:01 PM
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Originally Posted by JWhip View Post

Regarding baseball, there should be more of an effort to shoot the game from the radio or TV booth behind home plate like HD Net experimented with when they had MLB. It was a spectacular way to watch the game although it really requires a set over 42" to fully appreciate it. On really large screens, like 60", it is really like watching a game from the press box. Doing it this way, there is minimal camera movement. IMHO, minimal camera movement is where we should be going. Our eyes should be the ones following the action, not the camera jerking from side to side, just like in real life.

This is so important, and even should be worked on before moving to 16:9 framing (which will probably still be awhile). This was extremely evident last night for me. I was watching hockey on FSN Pittsburgh HD and also Hockey Night in Canada on CBC HD.

The Pittsburgh broadcast was miserable. The main camera was doing jerky pans and was really trigger happy on zoom-in and zoom-out. It was like watching the Bourne Ultimatum version of a hockey broadcast. Things were also framed too tight (which contributed to the camera man going on frantic searches for the pick) and you couldn't see things develop.

Contrast this with the CBC broadcast. The framing wasn't as tight and you could see the full offensive/defensive zone at any given time. There was little to no zooming on the main camera, and when there was it was very smooth and not jerky. Basically the main camera would just smoothly and steadily pan up and down the ice.

Now, that's a bit of an unfair comparison because FSN Pittsburgh is a smaller operation than, say, comparing CBC to NBC (which I haven't done this year). That said, improvement with the camera operation could make a huge difference right now while we wait for the suits to decide to frame for 16x9 or make other modifications to the broadcasts.
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post #28 of 28 Old 10-12-2008, 05:10 PM
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Originally Posted by TVOD View Post

Yeah I'm a bit behind. I guess it still uses twice as much tape. Instead of 1080/60P, how about 1530/60i (2720 x 1530)? This would also work as 1530/24P & 1530/30P.

Bite your tongue. Interlacing as a acquisition/production/distribution/broadcast technology should have been second on the list of things dying on 2/17/09.
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