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Blog Maverick: The Future of TV Programming – In High Def vs For High Def

Content shot for TV today is shot and protected for its biggest possible audience, which for today and at least the next 7 to 10 years is going to be an audience watching on a 4×3 TV. Even with the analog cutoff coming in Feb of 2009, most people who watch TV will watch on a regular, non HDTV.


Because TV Networks, whether broadcast or cable want to sell ads and reach the largest possible audience, they have to produce their content so that it is viable on the lowest common denominator of TV reception, the 20″ analog TV. The conventional wisdom is that dramas and high end shows are shot in film while comedies are shot on HD Tape, and reality shows are regular tape. But all are shot “protected” for regular 4×3 TVs.

I disagree with this assessment (and HDNet commercial), assuming that the analog TV shutdown happens as planned in 2009.

When only ATSC signals are available over the air (OTA), either standard-def (usually 4:3, sometimes letterboxed) or high-def (always 16:9, sometimes windowboxed) programming will be available though those channels. The major broadcast networks are committed to HD, and at this point I think it’s unlikely that HD ATSC broadcast stations won’t be the norm. As a result, we should be able to assume that through those pipes 16:9 content will flow. OTA ATSC set-top boxes (STBs) intended for 4:3 analog TVs may offer a zoomed crop for 16:9 programming, but I think it’s more likely that they’ll letterbox it, like a DVD player does for a 4:3 TV when it plays anamorphic widescreen content. That would mean that it’s a lot less likely that new programming, the majority of which should be broadcast 16:9, whether native widescreen or windowboxed, would be viewed on an analog 4:3 TV as native 4:3, This would negate the lowest common denominator that Mark Cuban describes.

I continue to wonder what the cable companies will do with their analog service once OTA NTSC goes away. I think that if they continue providing analog service, they’ll take the OTA HD ATSC channels and letterbox them as well. However, there’s the chance that they’ll stop offering analog cable service all together and customers with analog non-HD TVs will have to use a STB just like their OTA brethren.

And what will the satellite companies do? Who knows?

I have nothing against HDNet or Mr. Cuban, but I read that post as FUD-mongering and wanted to give it a little of my perspective.

Update: Apparently this article isn’t published on the Blog Maverick site right now. I was reading it through Bloglines’ cache and reacted to it based on reading it there. We’ll see if the article re-appears, although I have the content cached if it isn’t.

Update 2 (6:45am 2/25): The referenced article is public now. Reading it again this morning, I see he’s referring to both broadcast and cable networks. My points obviously apply to just the broadcast networks, who should pull the overall trend towards 16:9 programming (or at least, presentation) once the analog shutdown is complete.

Just watched tonight’s Heroes and loved the Star Trek reference they threw in. The car carrying Hiro’s father (played by George Takei) has a NY license plate, number NCC 1701. Saw it in real time and flipped back to re-watch to make sure. 🙂

Update (2/6): It’s mentioned on the Heroes Wiki: Star Trek page.

HUGE Rush reference on “The Knights of Prosperity” tonight; they sang “Tom Sawyer”!  OK, this show just became ultra-cool… 😉

Update:  They used “Tom Sawyer” in a training sequence and again in a barfight as well!

Who else besides Melissa and I like this show?

AVSForum: New Comcast/Tivo software announcement

As a former TiVo user and current Comcast DVR user I’m salivating at the pictures of the new Comcast/TiVo interface.  I hope the charge for this upgrade isn’t too bad, because I think this interface is an order of magnitude better than the current one.  I wouldn’t mind a box swap to get there if it meant I’d get a larger hard drive in the new box.  We can always use more recording time; HD programs eat up a lot of hard disk space.

With tonight’s episode “Hiro’s”, Heroes has become a must-watch show for me. A more interesting implementation of the “six degrees” theme than Six Degrees, that’s for sure.

Update: Steve Gillmor likes Heroes, too.

It was great to have another Locke episode on “Lost” last night. He’s one of my favorite characters. The “sweat house” scene with his vision of Boone was well-produced. It’s a shame we’re only going to get three more new episodes until January.

We were very disappointed that Storm was let go tonight on Rock Star. We thought that at this phase of the competition, it was known that all 5 “rockers” were great singers. We thought “they’re now being tested on their musicianship”, writing original songs and collaborating with Gilby. I thought Dilana had failed that test, but apparently they still like her stage presence and ability enough to keep her on until next week’s finale.

Storm was the most gracious contestant. She supported everyone else during their performances, always being the first one to stand up and sing along when someone else was on the stage. Her song “Ladylike” kicked ass. She was never afraid of being in the Bottom Three.

At this point, I believe either Toby or Lukas should be picked. I think Toby’s going to go all the way.

Melissa and I are still greatly enjoying Rock Star: Supernova. The band chose last week to do the now-standard “double-boot” week, getting rid of two contestants, Josh and Jill. I enjoyed Josh’s performances, but his style and delivery were too clean for Supernova. I enjoyed a few of Jill’s performances, especially Heart’s “Alone”, but her occasional yell-singing and tendency to copy original artists’ visual performances (most notably Courtney Love and Tracy Bonham) didn’t appeal to me.

This week’s “unplugged” performances (three of which used electric guitars – shame!) really separated the final eight for me into the final four and those who won’t make it. The final four of Rock Star: Supernova will be:

  • Dilana
  • Lukas
  • Magni
  • Storm

I’m half-tempted to pick Zayra instead of Storm, but I have to think that after performing her Latin-feel original song last night the band has to know what they’re getting with her. I thought the performance was great and showed the type of music she’s most comfortable with & sounds best singing. I don’t think she would sound good as Supernova’s lead singer.

As to a final two prediction, let’s say Dilana and Lukas.

Melissa and I have really been enjoying Rock Star: Supernova together. We’ve even been watching the online episodes that show song selection, practice, and interactions between the “rockers”. Last night’s show had the third performance from the contestants, and it’s now becoming clearer to me who will make the final four.

Dana has a great voice. “Born to be mild” is a bit caustic, but she wouldn’t seem right singing for Supernova. Zayra is certainly sassy enough to have a chance, but she has too smooth a delivery. She performed a decent rendition of “Everybody Hurts”, but I like Ty’s cover of last season much better.

Speaking of the songs that are being covered, it seems like about 95% of them were ones used last season. That’s lame. Having some “classic rock” tracks (even repeats from last season) are OK, but if Supernova’s music is going to be metal/alternative that should be the genre that’s concentrated on. Of course, we haven’t been shown what kind of music to expect from Supernova yet, which is lame as well. It smacks of laziness on the part of the producers for the band and Dave Navarro to chide contestants for picking too “soft” a song when the every song on the board each week must be covered. I think the show saved licensing costs by re-using the rights to the songs they licensed for last season.

I was hoping we’d get to see a performance or two from Supernova by now, but instead we had Jason Newstead with the House Band, whom I dig lots, for a “White Rabbit” cover by Phil. That was an enjoyable performance; I was impressed with Phil’s delivery. He even “crushed it” a little at the end.

Dilana’s “Zombie” was a little rough, but she kept it together. Storm’s performances the last two weeks have had more “acting” than I think they should have. I think some of her antics take away from her pitch control to an annoying extent. Josh doesn’t have the voice that Supernova needs, but he’s a great singer. I don’t think Ryan or Lucas could sing the way they did for 2+ minutes last night for a 2-hour show five nights a week. It would be too rough on their voice.

My final four at this point of the competition: Dilana, Patrice, Toby, and Phil. I’m tempted to put Magni in there instead of Phil; his cover of STP’s “Plush” (which I haven’t heard in a while but love—Desert Ice used to play it) was quite enjoyable. Things will probably happen that’ll change my opinion, but there it is for now.

Who else is watching Rock Star? Comment.