Originally Posted by Bryan_CoxPHX
What is going on at KSAZ Fox 10? Looks like every commercial and many non Prime Time programming is not in HD, and a very poor quality SD. I haven't watched Fox in a while so not sure how long it has been going on...
Although you posted originally around Labor Day, I've been exceptionally busy and therefore off the boards for a while and haven't had a chance to check in, so I apologize for the late reply, but I might have a a source with a bit of inside information that can answer your concerns.
This summer all of the 27 FOX owned and operated stations (KSAZ and KUTP are the only network owned stations in the PHX market) moved from antiquated SD equipment to new HD equipment. Yes, they have had HD news and HD prime and sports from FOX and MyTV for years, but the way that is done technically (until the full HD transition can be done) is to basically switch around the core equipment, which while not easy, is much easier than replacing the core equipment. Now that about a third of commercials and over two thirds of syndicated programs are in HD, the time is probably right for them to make this change, as difficult and expensive as it may be.
If you can equate adding HD news or adding HD prime to getting a hip replacement or installing a pacemaker, you can think of replacing the core equipment as the equivalent of ripping out your entire skeleton and replacing that with a new and better one (without the down time of a hospital stay); it is something all stations do sooner or later, and it allows them to move to HD commercials, promos, and syndicated programs.
But it is also a wholesale change that brings with it lots of quirks and bumps and growing pains, and it takes time to iron these out. It also means that stations are shifting from a linear capture record of real-time video feeds to file-based delivery, which is the technical equivalent of viewers moving from VCRs to NetFlix and iTunes downloads, except on a massive scale with no allowed down time. That brings complications of its own, because we are trying to move a mature established technical industry from their old ways into a world where everything is completely different. And doing this is a little like replacing your fan belt without pulling the car over to the side of the road and turning off the engine, which implies a lot of inventive choreography; stations can't simply go off the air for construction for a couple of weeks. So what goes on the air during the transition is the equivalent of "Pardon our dust". There is just no way around that.
FOX also opted to go with a very new system just available that itself is still having issues, and that is because it is very cutting edge and advanced beyond what the normal HD equipment is even for the typical station making a similar move in 2011-2012. It holds much promise, however, and it will have advantages that current HD equipment will not have, including that it is based in software rather than in hardware and is built from Enterprise servers instead of proprietary media servers, which means it will not be mired in the era it was built but will be able to evolve as the technology moves forward, which that seems to be doing rapidly.
What you were seeing in September was the result of unintended but typical and unavoidable fallout from all of those changes. Fox, ABC and MyTV stations face a particular challenge in that they are 720p sites and much of the commercial and syndicated content they acquire is 1080i or 480i. That implies transcoding artifacts and re-compression stages at a low bit rate, which create unacceptable jaggies and deinterlacing artifacts either until the source material is available in 720p HD or the compressionists learn how to minimize those artifacts more effectively, which they eventually do. If you are a 1080i station this is much easier to do without the artifacts that 720p sites experience. And there is no road map here; every station has to figure it out on their own because the technology is both complex and so very new and different from the existing technology.
I'd like to think that FOX/MyTV have come a very long way in the last 3 months, however. Their transition is about 95% complete, and of the HD content available to them, about 95% of that is now brought to the viewers in HD. I also think that most of the visual problems are behind them, although you may see a commercial now and then that was coded during those dark days of late summer that may sneak through and remind us just how bad things could be.
And they are not done; it will take another couple of months to ensure that all of the quality issues are behind them and that 100% of what is available in HD will reach the customers in HD. I know there are a lot of very bright folks over there that have been working tirelessly to put this all together for you, and that the end result will be well worth the intermediate glitches that may occur. Stay tuned.