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The following news item was posted on NBC's Media Village web site today. This makes two NBC prime-time shows that are being filmed to protect a 16x9 aspect ratio. The question is, why not present both "West Wing" and "ER" in 1080i as well?


There is no advantage to staying with an analog letterbox presentation for 4x3 broadcasts - it throws away screen resolution. One would suspect NBc is getting ready to launch some prime-time shows in 1080i - hopefully, this fall season.


KC


**************************************


NBC’S 'THE WEST WING' JOINS 'ER' AS

NETWORK'S SECOND QUALITY DRAMA TO

EXPAND TO WIDE-SCREEN FORMAT

Published: July 19, 2001


BURBANK –- July 19, 2001 -- NBC next season will

broadcast its popular, critically acclaimed and Emmy

Award-winning “The West Wing†(Wednesdays, 9-10

p.m. ET) in a special format – “Presented in Wide

Screen†– just as the network has done with television’s

top-rated drama, “ER,†last season.


NBC started employing the innovative process on “ERâ€

(Thursdays, 10-11 p.m. ET) last fall and will continue

with it on that series in the 2001-2002 season.


The audience-friendly process will feature a 1.78:1

aspect ratio (or more commonly known as “16x9â€) as

opposed to the basic 1.33:1 (or “4x3â€) ratio that is

standard on almost all television programs. Because

the more rectangular picture encompasses a wider

swath of action, a narrow black strip will appear at the

top and bottom of the screen that is a form of the

letterbox format often used to present feature films on

television.


The end credits will be presented in the standard 4x3

aspect ratio.


“The West Wing†is from John Wells Productions in

association with Warner Bros. Television. Aaron Sorkin

is the series creator/executive producer. Director

Thomas Schlamme and John Wells are executive

producers.


“ER†is from Constant c Productions and Amblin

Television in association with Warner Bros. Television.

Michael Crichton, John Wells and Jack Orman are the

executive producers.

 

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SDTV Letterbox sucks on a HDTV. The picture is just framed and smaller, unless you blow up the screen and than the "LOW RES" garbage really "shines" and makes it unwatchable!


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[This message has been edited by Desertfox (edited 07-20-2001).]
 

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The sci-fi channel does more letterbox 16/9 than NBC!! Then there is the special OCP BS of NBC digital network which illictly includes WTVJ maimi which is violating FCC manadate by two full years!! It is obvious that NBC is striving to copy jolly friendly source... the BCC!


Lets look at some low lights:


1) The weakest link


2) British men behaving badly


3) Fear on Monday nights. Bug eating! Do not eat any snack during this show!!


4) Olympic coverage for chipmunks. The highlight of Atlanta was Jay Lenos monolog!! Ratings do not lie!


5) TNT wimbleton coverage superior to NBC!


6) Many DIGITAL NBC stations do not pass HD leno!! Such as Tampa etc...


7) What if Sony did not sponcer Leno...? Would they increase budjet for Fear Factor(TM)??


8) What about the NBA on NBC???? I am sick and tired of pigskin requests!


9) Does anyone have the courage to explain WTVJ,maimi numbers CON!
 

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I think the fact that they're calling these broadcasts widescreen when they're actually just letterboxed is downright misleading, and the fact that they're calling this 'innovative' is laughable. NBC really is pathetic. The fact that they're making this announcement now and still aren't saying anything about HDTV is making me think we probably won't see any HDTV this fall. But that's OK, between CBS and ABC there are several new shows airing this fall that look to be worth checking out and they will be in HD. I'll even watch the occasionalal 480p broadcast on Fox rather than watch NBC's crappy low-res material.

SCREW YOU, NBC!


------------------

Jeff Kohn
http://home.houston.rr.com/jeffkohn
My DVD Profiler Collection
 

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Has anybody heard wether the taping of Star Trek:ENTERPRISE, done with HiDef cameras, is only for the production, or does Paramount-UPN at some point envision broadcasting it in HiDef?


16x9 Enhanced Trekkies need to know!
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by JKohn:
I think the fact that they're calling these broadcasts widescreen when they're actually just letterboxed is downright misleading, and the fact that they're calling this 'innovative' is laughable. NBC really is pathetic. The fact that they're making this announcement now and still aren't saying anything about HDTV is making me think we probably won't see any HDTV this fall. But that's OK, between CBS and ABC there are several new shows airing this fall that look to be worth checking out and they will be in HD. I'll even watch the occasionalal 480p broadcast on Fox rather than watch NBC's crappy low-res material.


SCREW YOU, NBC!
I agree that it stinks that it will be in 4:3 letterboxed as opposed to 16:9, but of course I would rather 4:3 letterbox than 4:3 non-letterbox. It's 30 someodd percent more picture!
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by hdtvguy:
Has anybody heard wether the taping of Star Trek:ENTERPRISE, done with HiDef cameras, is only for the production, or does Paramount-UPN at some point envision broadcasting it in HiDef?


16x9 Enhanced Trekkies need to know!
Enterprise is being shot on film, not HD video. I don't know how that rumor got started, but it probably had to do with the now common misconception that protecting a 16:9 frame automatically means you're shooting on an HD video camera.


Any show with a great deal of visual effects would add an enormous cost, in both money and time, to do an HD finish. Enterprise certainly fits into that category, which is why it's being finished in standard definition.


Mike Most

Visual Effects Supervisor

Los Angeles


 

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mmost - So it's a given that the UPN broadcast of Star Trek will be in standard definition? That's a bummer, as I was planning a party to show off my system to the software geeks.

Guess that handles the party idea.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by mmost:
Enterprise is being shot on film, not HD video. I don't know how that rumor got started, but it probably had to do with the now common misconception that protecting a 16:9 frame automatically means you're shooting on an HD video camera.
Sounds a lot like they did with Babylon 5. Live shots were designed for 16:9 and cropped to 4:3 for the original run. The CGI was done in 4:3, but designed to be cropped to 16:9.

They were released on widesceen DVD in Europe and shown letterboxed on Sci-Fi. To do a HDTV version would require new CGI work or living with the low quality of existing CGI.
 

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bob ross said that cbs had the cost of an hd transfer from film down to a few thousand dollars. it is pathetic that nbc can't find the resources to get this stuff on hd after it is shot on film and the local affiliates spent all the cash to put the pathway in place. if i were an nbc affiliate that spent the cash to upgrade i would be mad.


greg


------------------

-------------------------

Why does he shake hands with that guy right after he sexed the alligator
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by ADent:
Sounds a lot like they did with Babylon 5. Live shots were designed for 16:9 and cropped to 4:3 for the original run. The CGI was done in 4:3, but designed to be cropped to 16:9.

They were released on widesceen DVD in Europe and shown letterboxed on Sci-Fi. To do a HDTV version would require new CGI work or living with the low quality of existing CGI.
Well, it's a bit more complicated than that. The vast majority of television programs today are shot on film, but posted entirely on video. What this means is that each day's film is transferred to videotape, and those videotapes are then used as sources for the final edited program. In other words, the original film is never physically cut, but is stored as uncut camera rolls. At approximately 8000 feet per day (many shows shoot considerably more), and 1000 feet per roll, this means 64 separate cans of film for each episode, not to mention stock footage, title sequences, and any inserts or 2nd unit footage shot separately. In order to recreate a video posted show in high def, you would have to recover all of those separate rolls (with a reasonable probability that at least a few will turn up "missing"), retransfer in high definition matching the original transfer timecodes exactly, reassemble and re-color correct the show, and lay back the track again. This is a complex and expensive undertaking, both in terms of cost and time, and assumes that you kept copious records of the film key number to video time code relationships for each and every shot. The only series I know of that actually went through this is The Sopranos, which recreated the first season's shows in high def by going through this sort of path. There are a few shows that are finished by assembling the negative, then transferring directly from that. These shows are far easier to recreate in high def, because the editing has already been done, and the original elements are simply and easily recovered. Shows done this way include NYPD Blue, ER, The West Wing, and Law and Order.


Any show with significant amounts of CGI adds another layer of complication (and considerable time and expense) if those effects are desired in high def. In most cases, however, standard definition video posted shows today are finished in 16:9, so an upconversion of visual effects sequences could be done at a pretty high level of quality, (certainly acceptable to most viewers)and assembled into the recreated high def show.


Mike Most


 

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Quote:
Originally posted by indygreg:
bob ross said that cbs had the cost of an hd transfer from film down to a few thousand dollars. it is pathetic that nbc can't find the resources to get this stuff on hd after it is shot on film and the local affiliates spent all the cash to put the pathway in place. if i were an nbc affiliate that spent the cash to upgrade i would be mad.



See my post above. The cost of high def telecine as opposed to standard def is usually a difference of about $200 per hour (very, very average to low figure). If a program is being transferred from assembled negative, this transfer is usually budgeted at anywhere from 12-16 hours, so the difference there would be about $2500 at the low end. You must also go through some online editing for titles and formatting, as well as some dirt removal. HD online averages about $100 more per hour than standard def, so for the 8 hours or so of this work you're adding another $800. You must then lay back the track to the hi def master (add another $200 vs. standard def), and then you must create a downconverted NTSC version of the final program (about $500). Add all of this up and you come to approximately $3500, a very reasonable sum. Unfortunately, there are very, very few shows that are posted this way. For video posted programs, film is transferred each night and then the show is posted using these video masters. For high def, this means 8 days of 4-6 hours of telecine per night, for a total of about 40 hours. At $200 per hour additional for HD, this alone is $8000 per episode. You must still spend the additional $200 per hour for tape to tape color correction vs. standard def, and at an average of 10 hours per episode, this is approx. $2000. You then have the finishing costs I already mentioned for the film originated program, so the total additional cost for HD posting comes to an average of at least $11,000 per episode, and this is very much at the low end, since the footage I'm quoting is less than most shows today shoot. This is also exclusive of all visual effects costs, which can easily triple in a high def environment. That may not sound like much, but for a 22 episode season it's $250,000, and it's got to come from somewhere.


You might ask why shows don't go back to cutting and assembling negative, and the answer is because finishing on videotape allows far more flexibility and is far more efficient in terms of turnaround time. Prime time television began a transition from film posting to video posting almost 15 years ago, and it's not about to go back, regardless of the relatively small advantage of its being a more economical way to create an HD master.


Mike Most

 

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Feel free to correct any mistaken impressions that I'm about to write (as if anyone needed an invitation).


These series (ER and West Wing) are filmed, right? That is, they are actually shot on film and later transferred to video (in a similar process as a DVD)? If so, I think this movement to 16:9 aspect ratios is good news for HDTV. This means that future reruns -- and we all know that it seems like the majority of any season is reruns -- are future-proofed for HDTV. Whenever the studios/production companies get their act together and decide to deliver the shows in HD (read: when they decide to do HD transfers), they can go back and do it for this season.


For example, if Constant c productions decides to start delivering to NBC an HD ER this year, then they could go back to last season's 16:9 episodes and transfer them as well. This idea works even better if they make the decision to deliver HD in January.


Perhaps there is even a bottleneck in the transfer process. Can anyone give us an informed view of the capacity for HD transfers? When DVD started, there were fewer titles initially since it took time to get transfers made. I would expect a similar bottleneck with HD, until enough facilities are available.


Artistically, this is also a positive move for HDTV. Consider the constraints in the CBS shows. There must be an awareness by the producer/director/videographer(cinematographer?) that 95% of the viewers will only see a 4:3 image. Therefore, the entire 16:9 area is not available for content. With ER and West Wing being letterboxed to SD viewers, there is more freedom to use the entire 16:9 area. Of course, this only pays off for us (HDTV viewers) if the show actually gets aired in HD. But, the potential is there.


Another question/discussion topic: How long between CBS's (or ABC's) announcment that they would air a show in HD and its showing up as HD? Didn't one of these networks announce and begin midseason on a show? I'm not talking about CBS's promise for new shows or next season. I'm talking about the last year or so. Suppose NBC is simply trying not to promise something they might not be able to deliver? But, behind the scenes, they (and the studios/production companies) are actually trying to deliver HD. When they have the HD ready to show, they announce, flip the switch, and watch this forum light up with comments about how bad of a job they've done with picture quality, etc.


Last comment: As has been stated here before, NBC doesn't produce the shows. It buys them from the studio or production company. Of course, it is a bit of a partnership, with NBC acting publicly as if they own the show (since it airs on their network). But, NBC probably can only exert pressure to get shows in HDTV (the pressure can range from demands, contracts, or requests). NBC can/will air anything in HD. They obviously do so with Leno. I doubt that a studio approaches NBC and says, "Here are the HD versions of ER." and NBC replies, "No. We don't want to broadcast shows in their best possible quality. We would rather broadcast shows in lower resolution." Again, it is the production companies who will make HD happen. I'm not trying to minimize NBC's role as the buyer and the pressure that they can exert. I'm just saying that a show that NBC contracted for 3 years ago only has to live up to that contract. If NBC didn't demand HD by a certain date, they have little power to demand HD content immediately. I would like to see NBC start bullying the studios and production companies to do more HD.



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-Jason


[This message has been edited by JasonATL (edited 07-20-2001).]
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by mmost:
Prime time television began a transition from film posting to video posting almost 15 years ago, and it's not about to go back, regardless of the relatively small advantage of its being a more economical way to create an HD master.


Mike Most
Thanks Mike, I really enjoy reading your posts. So that would leave only Diagnosis Murder(broadcast in HD) and Lexx-Season4(not broadcast in HD) as the only currently produced commercial episodic shows using HD cameras.


Look down the road 5 years and speculate that HD takes off. How would the production companies record their product then?




[This message has been edited by hdtvguy (edited 07-21-2001).]
 

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"it is pathetic that nbc can't find the resources to get this stuff on hd after it is shot on film and the local affiliates spent all the cash to put the pathway in place. if i were an nbc affiliate that spent the cash to upgrade i would be mad."

WEs>AREs>MAD!!!!s>


------------------

Ken English, Sr. Engineer, KSL-TV/-DT.

"Not a REAL Engineer, but I play one in TV"
 

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Mike Most,


Thank you for your informative posts on what really happens in filming and post production. From what you've said, it seems all the more remarkable that NBC isn't willing to offer ER, West Wing and the various Law and Order series in HD. These would seem to be the "low-hanging fruit" that would allow them to have some very high quality content in HDTV at a bargain price.


I understand some of the advantages you listed of posting with videotape. Many productions are looking at shooting and posting in 1080/24p. Are the cost differences significant between 24p and film to videotape? How quickly do you think the changeover will occur?


It really is good to get information from people who work with these issues every day. Thank you for your participation on the forum.


Jim


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Let me get this straight, this show is hi-def and 5.1, but my local affiliate makes it crappy NTSC and mono?!
 

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I e-mailed and got a reply from Salter Street Films regarding LEXX. While they ARE using HD camera's, they are only producing a 4:3 ratio. The reason given, as Mike noted above, are the costs involved due to it's high content of special effects.


They have more special effects than any other show currently being produced. Since LEXX is more of a cult phenom, the return on their costs probably just isn't there.


Too bad. It's my favorite show.


I do know they HAVE done at least one transfer to HD, though. It was shown at the 2000 HD Fest. The good news is, the letter hinted that, should there be a season five, they may produce the thing in 16:9 HD.
 

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On some big budget films that I have been related to (at least watched filming and post production when I lived in LA), they would have a video camera attached to each movie camera. When they got into post, they would actually edit the film on video. It was a special video editing machine that would remember every edit made, and forget edits that were reversed. After the editor and director were satisfied with a particular cut, the machine would then cut and splice the film to match the video edits.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by JimboG:
I understand some of the advantages you listed of posting with videotape. Many productions are looking at shooting and posting in 1080/24p. Are the cost differences significant between 24p and film to videotape? How quickly do you think the changeover will occur?

Many are looking, but few are doing. While it's true that shooting on 24p HD video eliminates the cost of film stock and processing, you still must edit, sync, and downconvert dailies each night (at least with single camera production), which eats up some of the savings in daily telecine. But the real financial hindrance is the cost of the camera package in HD, which, although it's coming down now, has been in the area of twice the cost of an equivalent 35mm package. Up until recently, the only way one would save money by shooting HD video would be if the production shoots a very large amount of footage (the more you shoot, the more significant the savings are). This is all ignoring other, less quantifiable advantages of film production, such as the ability to shoot at any frame rate (necessary for slow motion and fast motion), far greater contrast ratio (allowing for more flexibility and efficiency in production, since you don't have to control the highlights nearly as much as on video, even HD video, not to mention the nice "blooming" highlight effects that are very difficult to achieve on video), far more control of depth of field (at least on 35mm, not so much on 16), ability to impart "depth" even in "flat" lighting situations (due to its non-linear response), far more variety and quality in terms of available lenses, ability to add more cameras as needed very economically, availability of lower cost "disposable" cameras that can be put in dangerous locations without undue financial risk, and general "forgiveness" of the imaging system with regard to faces, particularly wrinkles and skin problems, among other advantages. All of these things add up to the conclusion on the part of most cameramen and producers that with the current generation of HD equipment, film is still a superior imaging medium and a better and more flexible production tool. I think a change to electronic capture is inevitable, regardless of film's production advantages, but the difference in cost needs to be considerably greater than it currently is for that change to happen based purely on economics. My prediction? 2-3 years, and even then it will be gradual.


Mike Most

 

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Quote:
Originally posted by hdtvguy:
So that would leave only Diagnosis Murder(broadcast in HD) and Lexx-Season4(not broadcast in HD) as the only currently produced commercial episodic shows using HD cameras.
There's also Titus, Earth Final Conflict, and 100 Centre Street. In addition, the pilot of the fall series "Pasadena" was shot on 24p HD, but I don't know if that will continue on the series.


Mike Most


 
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