Originally Posted by DSperber
In my opinion regardless of whether or not the studio transfer that gets aired is "true HD" or not, one principle should be depended on:
when broadcasting on a 16:9-capable digital channel the OAR presentation should use 100% of either the horizontal or vertical dimension, whichever is appropriate.
So OAR 4:3 transfers (or 1.37:1, etc.) should always use all vertical real estate and have black bars of appropriate width on left and right.
And OAR 16:9 transfers (including 1.85:1, 2.20:1, 2:35:1, 2:40:1, etc.) should always use all horizontal real estate with black bars of appropriate height on top and bottom.
No matter what the underlying inherent HD or not-quite-HD quality of the digital transfer itself, there is simply no excuse for broadcasting a 16:9-appropriate film inside of a postage stamp with black bars on all four sides. That is just technical incompetence at the broadcaster's end, and is inexcusable... especially when showing films in OAR is one of the claims-to-fame of the channel.
Not flipping a switch to make sure the film appears as best as it can, using as much of the 16:9 screen as it can on what's defined as an HD channel... either horizontally or vertically... well that's just grounds for firing the technician responsible for supposedly monitoring what's going out over "the air". Don't they have a monitor in the control room to see what's being transmitted?
There is no reasonable explanation for this. There's no explanation I would accept to rationalize why 2.35:1 "The Way We Were" occupies full width of the 16:9 screen (appearing as letterboxed on a 4:3 screen with black bars on top and bottom) as it should look for both screen sizes, but 2.20:1 "Funny Girl" is aired immediately following as a postage stamp letterboxed inside of 4:3 real estate on the 16:9 screen (and further miniaturized postage stamp letterboxed on a 4:3 screen), as it shouldn't look for either screen size. This is plain and simple a technical screwup that has nothing to do with the transfer itself.
To make it worse, when they do present something mis-displayed, as if they were broadcasting a 4:3 SD version on the HD channel, I often see the horizontal white/black additional data crawling from left to right at the top of the frame (is that closed-captioning data, or something? can't recall what it is). This is stuff that is usually overscanned-out on a CRT (at typically 2-4% or higher), though if you reduce overscan to near-zero you will often reveal this stuff. So how does this crap appear on an HD channel, unless they themselves are actually broadcasting the SD channel content by mistake???
All in all, TCM is to blame here, in my opinion. It's not the cable companies doing anything to cause this. They're just retransmitting what TCM sends them.
I spent an hour on the phone (three separate calls, actually) with TCM the other day... never getting past their "first line of defense" customer service people who are trained simply to say NO to anything you suggest. They are NOT helpful or responsive, which is very odd for a Customer Service Department representative at a network. They refused to pass me on to "someone in Engineering" (I was told "there's no one in Engineering I'm allowed to talk to"), and insisted that letterboxing and the transfer comes from the provider studio (isn't that Turner itself??)... seemingly not even listening to me or understanding what I was saying, that my comment didn't have to do with the transfer and whether it was OAR or letterboxed or not (and in fact I WANTED OAR), but rather with the airing of that transfer by their Engineering department that was purely a screwup.
Maybe if more people actually phone them and complain, they'll get the point.