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ABC and ESPN HD only 720P - Why not 1080I?

post #1 of 115
Thread Starter 
Probably a dumb question but I am wondering why ESPN and ABC only broadcast in 720P. The OTA broadcast of our local ABC affiliate is also only in 720P so it leads me to believe that it is not a D* bandwidth limitation but maybe rather the camera resolutions of ESPN and ABC. I certainly prefer the NBC and CBS 1080I broadcast which are much sharper. Just looking for a good answer. Thanks
post #2 of 115
720p is used by ABC, Fox Broadcasting Company and ESPN because the smoother image is desirable for fast-action sports telecasts

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/720p
post #3 of 115
The short answer is when ABC/Disney made the decision to broadcast HD in the late 90s, the major consideration then was for sports coverage, which ABC's tech guru's looking at the choice between 1080i and 720p (and the technology available at the time) decided that 720p, being a progressive scan format at 60fps would have a decided advantage in preserving resolution and detail especially at slow motion. It's also generally more bandwidth efficient, though requires a complete reworking of infrastructure. You'll also find people who vehemently argue 1080i is superior in all circumstances. What you call 'sharpness' is highly subjective to a number of variables, most of which have nothing to do with the format. I've seen some 720p images so sharp it makes you bleed (and overly edge enhanced) but I've also seen 1080i filtered to the point where it looks like SD.

Fast forward ten years and most of these arguments are mostly moot points as most cameras and processing equipment handle both formats just fine, and there is a remarkable amount of cross-conversion these days that happens before an image gets to your home. Many ABC affiliates are in fact 1080i, some PBS affiliates are 720p. In production trucks these days cameras like the HDC-1500 and LDK-8000 can produce both formats with no problem, so its common for a production truck to do a 1080i show one day and a 720p show the next (or in some cases both at the same time). Also when LCD TV's really started to boom in consumer households most of them were 1366x768 which is closer to 720p's native 1280x720. Flat panel displays are also natively progressive scan. Also 720p has become very common for digital cinematography acquisition (music videos, dramas, etc) where 1080p is not a viable option because (1) Sony F-900 series & Genesis cameras were way overpriced and Panasonic offered the VariCam which allowed over & undercranking and progressive scan that worked as a digital equivalent to film exposure.

In the beginning there were to two camps. Panasonic's 720p camp which only had ABC as its real major television backer, and everyone else. Today (other than Sony and even they are coming around) most manufacturers make terminal gear, switchers, DVE's, character generators, cameras, NLEs, recording media, etc that are cross compatible much of this being driven by a push toward 1080p as a uniform standard. At first for 720p it was having a major network's backing, along with the eventual addition of FOX and ESPN and their respective family of networks as major sports players in the 720p camp made it relevant to manufacturers, in what was initially a 1080i world.
post #4 of 115
In addition to the Disney family of HD networks, including ABC & ESPN, all of the News Corp HD nets are 720p, which include FOX, My Network TV, Fox Sports Net, Big Ten Network, and many others. Other 720p nets include A&E & History, Lifetime & Lifetime Movies.

See the AVS HDTV Programming Synopsis for all HD networks and HD formats: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=164671
post #5 of 115
The reason we don't have a single standard is the evil equipment manufacturers. In SD we had 525 and 625 variations of NTSC, PAL and SECAM in 50hz and 60hz. Life was good as converters and specialized equipment was sold. As composite video was phased out for component, it basically shrank down to 525/60i and 625/50i. When HD came along, these evil equipment manufacturers saw their opportunity for expanding the amount of standards again. They went to two US broadcast networks and sold them on one standard, and went to the other two and sold them on another one. We now have 720P and 1080i in both 50hz and 60hz along with other standards like 24P and 30P. Expensive converters are available in case you need to use a program in one standard in another.

You would think that they would be content, but no. Now they are working on 1080/60P, 1080/50P, 3Gb/s links and even Super HD for the future. Who knows what these evil equipment manufacturers have up their sleeve that we will need to buy in the future?

There's a special place in hell for the evil equipment manufacturers.

post #6 of 115
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken H View Post

In addition to the Disney family of HD networks, including ABC & ESPN, all of the News Corp HD nets are 720p, which include FOX, My Network TV, Fox Sports Net, Big Ten Network, and many others. Other 720p nets include A&E & History, Lifetime & Lifetime Movies.

Only the US News Corp HD Nets are 720p.

News Corp owns a significant chunk (39%?) of the BSkyB digital satellite platform and channel operation in the UK - where Sky (Sky Sports, Sky 1, Sky Movies etc.) are entirely 1080i. (Sky is still seen as a "Murdoch" operation)
post #7 of 115
Quote:
Originally Posted by TVOD View Post

The reason we don't have a single standard is the evil equipment manufacturers.

If Joel Brinkley was right in his book 'Defining Vision', it was the computer industry that pushed for, and got, progressive scan in the ATSC standards, and the TV industry that wanted 1080i.
post #8 of 115
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken H View Post

If Joel Brinkley was right in his book 'Defining Vision', it was the computer industry that pushed for, and got, progressive scan in the ATSC standards, and the TV industry that wanted 1080i.

That sounds about right - though I think some broadcast research centres had been looking at progressive scanning.

All the broadcaster HD test services and trials in the late 80s and early 90s were based on interlaced scanning - 1050/60i in the US, 1250/50i in Europe and 1125/60i in Japan. Both Japan and Europe were doing quite large scale productions in their respective formats - though Europe shelved 1250/50i when it became clear that their proposed digitally assisted, component analogue format (HD-MAC) was going to be out of date before it launched as MPEG digital compression research demonstrated a different solution could be achieved with higher quality results.

In the early 90s - no broadcaster was that seriously considering progressive HD production ISTR - and apart from the KCH-1000 (a BTS tubed camera with customizable scanning standards) there was no progressive production gear available?

All displays at that point were CRT based (either direct view or 3 tube projection) and interlaced pretty much. Progressive displays were the province of computer VDUs.

I'm sure that once digital compression came along the PC world lobbying for progressive, and square pixel, (which suited PC VDUs and removed the de-interlacing requirement which is still computationally intensive) was a major reason it was adopted.

ISTR that the 640x480 interlaced format was only added to the ATSC suggested resolution tables because Microsoft et al wanted a square pixel resolution for SD stuff.

Of course, nearly all new HD displays are now progressive, so it may not have been THAT stupid a move.

Sadly it just wasn't feasible to include 1080/50p and 1080/60p in the HD standards of 10+ years ago - though it is a real pity. Neither 720p nor 1080i are compromise free, and 1080/50p or 1080/60p would have delivered a real "best of both worlds" format. However if it is going to be adopted for broadcast now, it will require a new range of gear throughout the broadcast chain, from cameras, to routers, to switchers, to servers, to VTRs, to encoders, to distribution links, to domestic consumer set top boxes.

About the only things currently in the chain that are 1080/50p and 1080/60p compatible are TVs - which have it primarily for 1080p connection to games consoles and Blu-ray players...
post #9 of 115
Quote:
Originally Posted by rpgibbs View Post

Probably a dumb question but I am wondering why ESPN and ABC only broadcast in 720P. The OTA broadcast of our local ABC affiliate is also only in 720P so it leads me to believe that it is not a D* bandwidth limitation but maybe rather the camera resolutions of ESPN and ABC. I certainly prefer the NBC and CBS 1080I broadcast which are much sharper. Just looking for a good answer. Thanks

"Only 720p" is probably not the right phrase to use. Neither 1080i nor 720p is better than the other in all ways. They both have advantages. For some reason most consumers think that because 1080i is a higher number it must be better.
post #10 of 115
Just from a end users prospective I prefer CBS first and next NBC followed by ABC and FOX. I use events like the live presidential debates and the occasional live sporting event that's covered on multiple networks.
People have told me CBS is the best because not only are they 1080i but they also allocate more room for the broadcast as well as their backhall (I think that's the word) anyway it's the way they handle the signal before it gets to my local station.
If 1080i isn't any better I guess it must just be coincidence that both my 1080i OTA stations look better that my 720p ones. Or else they handle the signal better before it gets broadcast.
Again I'm talking about live HD events not upconverted material which doesn't look that good on any networks.
post #11 of 115
This morning found that HDNet, bless 'em, provided its usual crisp images to confirm how good well-produced 1080i looks. CBS's 1080i, since locally there's no subchannels, is good, too, especially when there's a live sports broadcast; 24p-based dramas are okay, too, but image resolution is reduced for 'artistic' filtering/lighting reasons, and I also prefer 60i/p snapshot-per-second capture, with its smoother motion, to 24 fps. CBS, AFAIK, is still the only broadcast source, 5 days a week, of a 1080/60i-recorded drama ("The Young and the Restless".)

Anyway, tuning HDnet's show today about a nature-preserve island off New Zealand, with stunning PQ, quickly dispelled doubts about whether my display/setup was going bad; just added RCN cable to my TWC and wasn't sure about overall system PQ recently. While researching RCN's STB, came across a previous post that may still be relevant here:
Quote:


Quote:
Originally Posted by deconvolver
The true vertical resolution of 1080i is currently less than 800 lines but this could increase in the future after CRTs disappear. Interlaced images also don't compress as well as progressive images so when bandwidth is starved 720p can definitely surpass 1080i for image quality.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mason View Post

Missed this in my earlier comment above. Can't really agree that 720p, with half the spatial resolution of 1080i/p (both formats fully exploited), can surpass 1080i in image quality. You might doctor (dumb down) 1080i enough so this is true, but both 720p and 1080i, after MPEG-2 decoding and Nyquist filtering, are reduced similarly in effective resolution (resolvable detail). This link shows both estimated limiting resolutions for both formats, and a sublink for measured resolutions shows what the ATSC approval committee found ( table 2.3 ) for both formats for both static and moving test patterns (5 rpm). The double effective resolution of 1080i over 720p remains about the same with either static or motion images because of 1080i's higher spatial resolution.

Also, claiming that 720p is usually downconverted 1080, thus boosting its effective resolution closer to its format resolution, might be considered doctoring a comparison with 1080, too. And how often this 1080-to-720 downconversion occurs during production hasn't been clearly established. It likely takes place with 1080/24p telecined master tapes downconverted for 720p delivery, although virtually all the 1080i movies I've seen during 5+ years [in '06] of comparisons still appear superior to 720p-delivered movies.

Newer multiformat cameras, such as Sony's 1080/60p-capable 1500 series, have apparently been used, with downconversions, for some 720p sports events. They appear excellent on my 9"-CRT 64" RPTV screen at an 8' viewing distance (sideconverted to 1080i). But 1080i sporting events still almost always appear sharper and better because 720p is permanently limited to 1280 line horizontal resolution. 1080i's 60-field-per-second capture, while only half frame (540 lines), appears quite similar to 720p's 60-frame-per-second motion capture when it reaches home screens. [1080/720p cameras may both 'snap' 60p images, while progressive frames must be downscaled within cameras for 1080i delivery.] That is, sports action captured at 1080i appears fine here. No doubt you can 'doctor' delivery comparisons and create MPEG motion artifacts by using inadequate bit rates for 1080i.

But to avoid a doctored 720p/1080i comparison, downconverted 720p images (from 1080) should also be compared with downconverted 1080i/p images. In theory, that's possible with 4k-resolution digital-intermediate scans/files used in movie production, although how much of full-resolution 1920X1080 survives compression to <17 Mbps (video payload) for typical home delivery seems unknown. Likely, though, full 1080i/p resolution could survive with encoding on 1080 DVD BluRay discs at up to 40 Mbps, [or current MPEG-4 non-OTA delivery.]. And some digital-cinema cameras, while designed mostly for 24p work, convert their ~4k images internally to supposedly true 1920X1080, and might be adapted, with further signal processing (or new 1080/60i modes), to live 1080 TV. -- John
post #12 of 115
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken H View Post

it was the computer industry that pushed for, and got, progressive scan in the ATSC standards

More evil manufactures, maybe the most evil. Digital is the devil's workshop.
post #13 of 115
1080i vs 720p is a moot point these days as far as I am concerned...

the issue these days is the over-compression of both formats, although 720p in this regard certainly holds up better.

From local affiliates who multi-cast, to cable and sat companies who try and squeeze every last drop of bandwidth.

My local CBS, WVLT in Knoxville, TN, is such an over-compressed joke it is unwatchable. Any sporting event is filled with macro-blocking so bad that at times it is like watching digital snow.

I will be praising the Lord the day that OTA legacy MPEG-2 transmission at the final distribution stage is upgraded to something more efficient, but I imagine that will be a real pipe dream since we are now just getting all those MPEG-2 STB decoders out there for the rabbit ear folks, to go along with the myriad of installed MPEG-2 legacy equipment that has been rolling out for the last decade or so....






Quote:
Originally Posted by ABCTV99 View Post

The short answer is when ABC/Disney made the decision to broadcast HD in the late 90s, the major consideration then was for sports coverage, which ABC's tech guru's looking at the choice between 1080i and 720p (and the technology available at the time) decided that 720p, being a progressive scan format at 60fps would have a decided advantage in preserving resolution and detail especially at slow motion. It's also generally more bandwidth efficient, though requires a complete reworking of infrastructure. You'll also find people who vehemently argue 1080i is superior in all circumstances. What you call 'sharpness' is highly subjective to a number of variables, most of which have nothing to do with the format. I've seen some 720p images so sharp it makes you bleed (and overly edge enhanced) but I've also seen 1080i filtered to the point where it looks like SD.

Fast forward ten years and most of these arguments are mostly moot points as most cameras and processing equipment handle both formats just fine, and there is a remarkable amount of cross-conversion these days that happens before an image gets to your home. Many ABC affiliates are in fact 1080i, some PBS affiliates are 720p. In production trucks these days cameras like the HDC-1500 and LDK-8000 can produce both formats with no problem, so its common for a production truck to do a 1080i show one day and a 720p show the next (or in some cases both at the same time). Also when LCD TV's really started to boom in consumer households most of them were 1366x768 which is closer to 720p's native 1280x720. Flat panel displays are also natively progressive scan. Also 720p has become very common for digital cinematography acquisition (music videos, dramas, etc) where 1080p is not a viable option because (1) Sony F-900 series & Genesis cameras were way overpriced and Panasonic offered the VariCam which allowed over & undercranking and progressive scan that worked as a digital equivalent to film exposure.

In the beginning there were to two camps. Panasonic's 720p camp which only had ABC as its real major television backer, and everyone else. Today (other than Sony and even they are coming around) most manufacturers make terminal gear, switchers, DVE's, character generators, cameras, NLEs, recording media, etc that are cross compatible much of this being driven by a push toward 1080p as a uniform standard. At first for 720p it was having a major network's backing, along with the eventual addition of FOX and ESPN and their respective family of networks as major sports players in the 720p camp made it relevant to manufacturers, in what was initially a 1080i world.
post #14 of 115
Except for formats such as BlueRay that don't have much bandwidth constraints MPEG4 will be necessary for 1080p and if MPEG4 is used in that way overcompression probably isn't going away anytime soon. Theoretically whether 1080i is better than 720p depends on how much motion there is with 1080i degrading to as low as 540p.
post #15 of 115
I've found as a general rule 1080i is better for nature shows or "talking head" shots, where the displayed image is fairly static. 720p is better for sports and fast moving shots.

My local CBS (1080i) has some of the worst looking HD sports I've ever seen. In football, as soon as the ball is snapped and players start moving, the screen becomes a mass of blocking artifacts.
post #16 of 115
Does your local CBS channel have any sub channels?
Mine doesn't and the PQ is great, whether football or more static images.
My station has no subs.
post #17 of 115
The place where 720p looks great is pans that are slow enough not to cause too much motion blur but enough to cause interlace blur. The huge sweeping crane shots during the performances at the end of American Idol's season are the best examples of this. Any motion that's faster than this tends to create motion blur that looks pretty much identical in both formats.
post #18 of 115
I just got my HD this past weekend for the Superbowl. And I have cable (Brighthouse, Orlando FL)

I thought 1080i was higher (or better) than 720p.

My HD DVR has the option to "Auto Select" the output resolution. ESPN channels (ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU) changes to 720p, while almost all remining HD channels are 1080i.

It's a little annoying everytime you change HD channels and cable box "searches" for the best output (it doesn't take long, but is still annoying)

I will leave it like that because 720p on ESPN channels look absolute stunning.
post #19 of 115
I realize this is an old thread, but I didn't want to make a whole new thread to discuss this issue, especially given the wealth of good information in this thread.

My question is: is it possible for broadcasters to switch resolutions on the fly? It seems asinine to me that ABC and Fox are 720p 24/7 just because it may be better during the 8hrs/week they broadcast sports. Is there any reason they can't switch to 1080i during non-sports programming?

I ask because I really do notice when it's 720p, and it does bother me. Not enough to annoy me or prevent me from watching, but certainly enough that I will seek 1080i alternatives where possible. For example, I watched much of the recent FIFA World Cup on Univision because it was 1080i as opposed to 720p on ESPN. And given that ESPN was getting its feeds from South Africa in 1080i/25, bumping it up to 60fps provided no benefit to compensate for them chopping down the resolution to 1280x720.

Things like football games look a lot better on CBS (1080i) than on Fox (720p). And I really notice how soft things like dramas look on Fox and ABC.

So do they really need to be 720p all the time, when the vast majority of the time it provides no real benefit?
post #20 of 115
Quote:
Originally Posted by UnnDunn View Post


My question is: is it possible for broadcasters to switch resolutions on the fly? It seems asinine to me that ABC and Fox are 720p 24/7 just because it may be better during the 8hrs/week they broadcast sports. Is there any reason they can't switch to 1080i during non-sports programming?


Nope.. not easily..broadcast equipment is either or..and usually requires a reboot once resolution is changed..not to mention the ripple effect of everything downstream that receives and decodes the signal like cable and satellite whose equipment would P all over themselves with the change.

As to no real benefit, that's your opinion..many would not agree with your statement that 720p provides no real benefit and that it is an asinine choice..Some research on your part as to why they chose 720p would be a good thing.
post #21 of 115
Quote:
Originally Posted by bdfox18doe View Post

Nope.. not easily..broadcast equipment is either or..and usually requires a reboot once resolution is changed..not to mention the ripple effect of everything downstream that receives and decodes the signal like cable and satellite whose equipment would P all over themselves with the change.

As to no real benefit, that's your opinion..many would not agree with your statement that 720p provides no real benefit and that it is an asinine choice..Some research on your part as to why they chose 720p would be a good thing.

Dare I ask what the chances are of this situation changing any time soon?

I know what the benefits of 720p are. My contention is that for the vast majority of the content these broadcasters put out (ie. everything that isn't sports or high-action TV shows), the benefits of 720p do not offset the disadvantages, which is why I believe choosing to go 720p full time is asinine.
post #22 of 115
Quote:
Originally Posted by UnnDunn View Post

Dare I ask what the chances are of this situation changing any time soon?

I know what the benefits of 720p are. My contention is that for the vast majority of the content these broadcasters put out (ie. everything that isn't sports or high-action TV shows), the benefits of 720p do not offset the disadvantages, which is why I believe choosing to go 720p full time is asinine.

Millions of dollars in research was done between ABC and FOX to determine what was best for them to do in HD. This decision wasn't made in a vacuum. You may see it as asinine, but to the research, these were the best choices.

And no, no one sees ABC or FOX changing resolutions. That isn't even on the radar. The only way they would consider a resolution change at this point would be if it became practical to broadcast OTA 1080p and as of now, it is not. 1080p requires more bandwidth than is available OTA.

Nothing has changed before the last post and you restarted this thread.
post #23 of 115
Quote:
Originally Posted by UnnDunn View Post

I realize this is an old thread, but I didn't want to make a whole new thread to discuss this issue, especially given the wealth of good information in this thread.

My question is: is it possible for broadcasters to switch resolutions on the fly? It seems asinine to me that ABC and Fox are 720p 24/7 just because it may be better during the 8hrs/week they broadcast sports. Is there any reason they can't switch to 1080i during non-sports programming?

I ask because I really do notice when it's 720p, and it does bother me. Not enough to annoy me or prevent me from watching, but certainly enough that I will seek 1080i alternatives where possible. For example, I watched much of the recent FIFA World Cup on Univision because it was 1080i as opposed to 720p on ESPN. And given that ESPN was getting its feeds from South Africa in 1080i/25, bumping it up to 60fps provided no benefit to compensate for them chopping down the resolution to 1280x720.

Things like football games look a lot better on CBS (1080i) than on Fox (720p). And I really notice how soft things like dramas look on Fox and ABC.

So do they really need to be 720p all the time, when the vast majority of the time it provides no real benefit?

Let me spin around 180 degrees and say how much better college football looks on ESPN and ABC than it looks on CBS and especially CBS College Sports and Vs.. The vast majority of my sports viewing is college football, so I can't vouch for Fox. CBS = distortion city during any kind of action. It looks like CBS College Sports and Vs. suffer from overcompression on my E* feed, but the difference between ESPN and CBS (OTA by the way) is pretty noticeable. The crowd shots on CBS are nice, but when it comes down to actually watching the game, it's no contest. In fact the difference is big enough that I can't believe that there is any question which format is better for football or basketball.
post #24 of 115
if the channels that broadcast in 720p were to make a switch it would only be to 1080p...switching from 720p to 1080i would not be worth it
post #25 of 115
Quote:
Originally Posted by UnnDunn View Post

which is why I believe choosing to go 720p full time is asinine.

You can believe that if you want..But as others have said..don't expect ABC-Disney-ESPN and FOX to change any time soon.
post #26 of 115
Quote:
Originally Posted by bdfox18doe View Post

You can believe that if you want..But as others have said..don't expect ABC-Disney-ESPN and FOX to change any time soon.

ABC especially isn't gonna go 1080i, because 8 of their 10 O&O stations carry Livewell HD in 720p as well (supposedly, WTVG Toledo, OH & WJRT Flint, MI are the only 2 that claim to not have enough bandwidth to run 2 720p channels).
post #27 of 115
WTVD in Durham NC is running Primary and Livewell in 720P, and and SD news/weather subchannel
post #28 of 115
Quote:
Originally Posted by dave73 View Post

ABC especially isn't gonna go 1080i, because 8 of their 10 O&O stations carry Livewell HD in 720p as well (supposedly, WTVG Toledo, OH & WJRT Flint, MI are the only 2 that claim to not have enough bandwidth to run 2 720p channels).

With Detroit right in the middle.

I don't know that either station 'claims not to have enough bandwidth to run 2 720p channels'. All we know is they don't.

All stations get exactly the same bandwidth, it's just a question of what they want to do with it.
post #29 of 115
Quote:
Originally Posted by dave73 View Post

(supposedly, WTVG Toledo, OH & WJRT Flint, MI are the only 2 that claim to not have enough bandwidth to run 2 720p channels).

I imagine the real explanation is that they didn't want to spend the money on the encoders in those two markets. I heard rumors they're up for sale if someone offers ABC the right price.

- Trip
post #30 of 115
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scooper View Post

WTVD in Durham NC is running Primary and Livewell in 720P, and and SD news/weather subchannel

And the main channel looks horrible. They may have bandwidth, but the PQ definitely takes a huge hit.
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