April 04, 2007

Notes on High Definition TV

Some observations on the merits and perils of HDTV having lived with our upgraded cable service for a couple of weeks now. MLB Baseball and NHL Hockey are stunning to watch in HD, just like being at the game. Every chip of ice. Every blade of grass. Clear as a whistle. Of course I exagerate some, but you get the picture. Or do you? In comparison, NHL Hockey in SD is total garbage. My team (the one I follow, not the one I own), The Anaheim Ducks, are like the gypo-didicoys of cable sports TV. Unable to find a regular home they bounce between FSN Prime Ticket, Versus, and the local channel KOCE. None of these stations broadcast in HD, the local KOCE signal looking like a VHS cassette that has been recorded over several times too many. Thankfully HDNet shows 2 or 3 NHL games a week and now I'm spoiled, everything else is completely unsatisfactory.

FSN manged to broadcast the opening night game of the Anahiem Angels MLB game in HD, and it was the first time I had seen anything on the FSN-HD channel. Usually they are mysteriously "off the air". Sadly, tonight was back to 'normal' with the Angels game back down the dial in quaint old SD and the blank off-air signal back on FSN-HD.

So I wonder, just what is the FCC doing to "force" the broadcasters to finally catch up to the consumers. Supposedly we were all meant to be watching HDTVs by now, with our funny old 4:3 sets used as planters. Many of the people I have spoken to about HD whose only reservation for holding off on upgrading their system (other than the obvious cost of a new set, which is drastically less than this time last year) is the lack of content to watch on the big, expensive screen.

Of course, not everything about HD content is great. Watching the last episode of Raines on NBC, we were treated to Jeff Goldblum spraying his spittle as he delivered his lines. It was unfortunate the scene was backlit by the sun pouring in through the window behind him, highlighting the saliva droplets. Thanks to the clarity of HD they were really really glaringly obvious.

And some actors now look much more wrinkled and pock-marked than they might have done in old Standard Def. I'm sure there are some casting agents and artist representation agents getting an earful of whining about how the talent didn't look so good in the last episode. Sadly, there is not much the FCC can do about that.

(This article originally posted on Tumblr)


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