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When is HD NOT HD?

admin_exported

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I've just turned on 'ON THE TOWN' on Film4HD. This is the classic Bernstein/Kelly Technicolor musical, and one of my faves. I have 'AN AMERICAN IN PARIS' on BD and it looks truly beautiful and so I was looking forward to seeing an HD TX of another of my musical faves from the period.

But....

UGH!!!! No detail. No depth. No 'pop'. No nothin'. Whites (it's sailors' uniforms

EDITED BY MODS.) were blooming and blacks were non-existent. The grading

EDITED BY MODS

. Without doubt this was the worst this film has ever looked on TV. SD, HD Any D.

EDITED BY MODS

my VHS looked better......

How can Four get away with calling this high definition? How very dare they?

What can we do?

Now I know that they (broadcasters, that is...) say that many HD channels are simply HD feeds of existing channels that by definition mix upscaled SD with true HD. And they also say that their upscaling hardware is soooooo much better than our 1080p TVs or Farouja amps can produce.

I say.

EDITED BY MODS

HD is HD. Upscaled looks upscaled, My upscaling is fine. When I jump between the SD channel and the upscaled 'HD' channel I can see no difference. So how can they justify calling their channels HD?

'ON THE TOWN' was unspeakably bad. Inexcusably so. Insultingly so. The western that preceded it was also terrible, but that was a B movie anyway. There can be no justification for this and - most importantly - no explanation for having to pay more for these upscaled channels. It's not just Film4. Five is

EDITED BY MODS

EDITED BY MODS

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. Unless it's CSI. Living variable to say the least.

I know Ofcom is on its way out but isn't this all a breach of the Trades Description Act (1968)?

This has huge implications for BBC1HD, btw.........
 

6th.replicant

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Oct 26, 2007
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Out of interest, which version of the An American in Paris BD do you have - is it the US import sold via Amazon.co.uk, and is the BD playable on a UK-spec player?

Ta
 

Andrew Everard

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Harrylime:This has huge implications for BBC1HD, btw........

Why should what C4 chooses to do have any implications for the BBC?
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
The implication is simple, The BBC has a simple policy on HD; to show native HD only (within its definition, of course) on its HD channel. If they choose to upscale on a simulcast channel then it goes against that mission statement.

Andrew, don't you have any information or suggestions on the original, central question?
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
My BD is the French edition. Region-free like all Warners titles. It's English mono and all the extras play in English.

Amazon.fr are selling it for less than EUR15.

France is a great place to get classics. UK offices of Hollywood majors are rarely interested in classics, sadly.
 

daveh75

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Jul 31, 2008
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Harrylime:
The implication is simple, The BBC has a simple policy on HD; to show native HD only (within its definition, of course) on its HD channel. If they choose to upscale on a simulcast channel then it goes against that mission statement.Which only applies to BBC HD and not a simulcast channel...

And actually according to Daniel Nagler when she appeared on POV over the picture quality issues last year, she stated that the requirement was that all HD programmes had to contain at least 75% native HD content....

Edit - just found this.

"There are strict guidelines for the percentage of Standard Definition footage used in HD masters.The upper limit for non-HD content in a programme is 25%.

For HD delivery, the use of Standard Definition broadcast and non-broadcast video formats, and certain non-broadcast HD domestic formats is not permissible.

Use of up-converted Broadcast Standard Definition and HDV material may be allowed, but such usage must be cleared in advance with Programme Operations.

Programmes must contain a minimum of 75% native high definition material"
http://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/dq/pdf/tv/tv_standards_worldwide.pdf
 

robjcooper

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Sep 29, 2008
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And if you don't stick to the guidelines or haven't obtained special dispensation for SD material used over that amount (most usually tape sourced unique archive footage) from the commisioning editor, then your master will be rejected for TX.

Even stricter guidelines apply to the Harding PSE (Photo-Sensitive Epilepsy) test all programmes have to pass before TX. Several years ago I worked on one of the 9/11 documentaries on the BBC and we used a rare, never before seen shot taken very near the first tower as it collapsed, which, as the guy was running for his life but still trying to shoot the maelstrom going on behind him, was very shaky with massive fast luminance changes and excessive dropouts and which failed the Harding test. No amount of arguing as to the validity or uniqueness of the shot would budge either the commisioning editor or the BBC Tech Review Engineer who failed it - the Director refused to remove it and the result was that the BBC butchered the shot just before transmission. The guidelines may not be requirements but if you want your show to air then you have to stick to them, and that goes for BBC, ITV, Channel 4, CH5 and Sky.

If you want to find out more about BBC guidelines or have been affected by anything contained in this thread:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/commissioning/production/hd.shtml

Rob
 

robjcooper

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Sep 29, 2008
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Harrylime:
I've just turned on 'ON THE TOWN' on Film4HD. This is the classic Bernstein/Kelly Technicolor musical, and one of my faves. I have 'AN AMERICAN IN PARIS' on BD and it looks truly beautiful and so I was looking forward to seeing an HD TX of another of my musical faves from the period.

But....

UGH!!!! No detail. No depth. No 'pop'. No nothin'. Whites (it's sailors' uniforms

EDITED BY MODS.) were blooming and blacks were non-existent. The grading

EDITED BY MODS

. Without doubt this was the worst this film has ever looked on TV. SD, HD Any D.

EDITED BY MODS

my VHS looked better......

How can Four get away with calling this high definition? How very dare they?

What can we do?

Now I know that they (broadcasters, that is...) say that many HD channels are simply HD feeds of existing channels that by definition mix upscaled SD with true HD. And they also say that their upscaling hardware is soooooo much better than our 1080p TVs or Farouja amps can produce.

I say.

EDITED BY MODS

HD is HD. Upscaled looks upscaled, My upscaling is fine. When I jump between the SD channel and the upscaled 'HD' channel I can see no difference. So how can they justify calling their channels HD?

'ON THE TOWN' was unspeakably bad. Inexcusably so. Insultingly so. The western that preceded it was also terrible, but that was a B movie anyway. There can be no justification for this and - most importantly - no explanation for having to pay more for these upscaled channels. It's not just Film4. Five is

EDITED BY MODS

EDITED BY MODS

EDITED BY MODS

. Unless it's CSI. Living variable to say the least.

I know Ofcom is on its way out but isn't this all a breach of the Trades Description Act (1968)?

This has huge implications for BBC1HD, btw.........

Harry,

I think we have to accept that for some time there will still be a high proportion of upresed SD footage on the HD channels, simply because there is such a lot of back catalogue and it is an expensive process to bring some material up to an acceptable standard for HD.

I know you state in another thread that 35mm film is an HD format (which is true), however for a film company/distributor to justify spending the not inconsiderable sum to get that on to a more convenient HD format (such as HDCamSR tape), then it has to be done properly.

If you're expecting broadcasters to buy the rights to show it and consumers to purchase the Blu-ray, then you can't just fling any old theatre print onto a telecine, give it a one pass grade with no restoration and then expect it to be regarded as an HD master - that would be rather like making a CD copy of your favourite classic album from the cassette you'd made 5 years ago and left on the floor of your car, rather than finding the original vinyl, having it cleaned and then record it from a quality turntable

All you'll have is an HD master with unstable weaving pictures covered in sparkle ,scratches and blemishes, join bounces, stretches and frame warps, and in the case of older material, grade and racking hops where an optically processed dissolve was spliced in. Look at all the complaints a few missing arrows caused on the Blu-Ray of 'Gladiator' which led to Paramount re-issuing it.

And when you are talking about films like for example 'On The Town' made in 1949 the problems get far more difficult and expensive. You'll be searching for, at best, the original neg, or if not, an interpos or interneg or even perhaps an answer print. Finding this material can be time consuming and often bits and pieces can be missing so you can end up with a mixture of them all.

It'll then need to be scanned a frame at a time into either a 2K or 4K file on a film scanner - preferable to a telecine as it helps remove most of the frame warps and stretches seen over neg joins which a telecine can't remove and gives a more stable end result. Also it lessens the chance of further damage from scratches or dust which running the film through a telecine at 24 fps can cause (even with a wet gate - which causes problems of its own).

For a 90 minute feature, with a scanner processing 1 frame per second, this is 36 hours. This data then goes to restoration, which depending on the budget, can be mostly automatic (grain reduction, sparkle removal, frame stabilisation,) and then some manual work to remove large blemishes e.g. water marks, tramline scratches ,and bad neg joins, right through to a frame by frame total restoration.

In the case of films with optical effects these will often be sent off to a specialist effects house where for instance black key lines will be removed or colour spills in composites, match graded out. The data will then go to a grading suite or DI theatre where it will be graded to match the original answer print, and then any masking or re-racking originally done will also be re-applied. After that, all those restored DPX or Cineon files will need downresing from their 2K or 4K size onto a 1920 x 1080 tape master.

And in their website for Film4HD, they do quite categorically state that:

Film4HD is a direct simulcast of the core Film4 schedule. A proportion of the films will have been originally made in the HD format, or converted from 35mm film to the HD format. The remaining non-HD programmes will be up-converted from the SD source material.l.

http://www.film4.com/features/article/hd

And there really is no comparison between the quality of the broadcast spec up converters which are used and the chipset in even the most expensive home cinema amp, TV or Blu-Ray.

Broadcast kit such as the Teranex Xantus we have at work and costing in excess of £80,000, work with an uncompressed SDI SD signal path when upconverting to HD, whereas your home kit is working on a very highly compressed mpeg datastream.

Also don't forget that in that transmission path there is a mass of compression going on to get that lovely HD original down to a reasonably transmittable bandwidth, and that doesn't help one bit.

Berating Film4HD for transmitting material which was supplied to them in that state by the film studio/distributor is mis-directing your ire. Better still that you complain to the studio/distributor themselves and see whether they have plans to release an HD version of the film.

And I have to say in Film4HD's defence, they do insist that films are shown in their original aspect ratio and not some horrendous full screen pan and scan, just because a few people have moaned that there are black bars at the top and bottom of their screen. They also appear to use very low compression and transmit a stream with a high bitrate.

Also, broadcasters in general are trying harder and harder to transmit as much material as possible in HD and not just newly shot material. For instance, Granada/ITV Studios are presently restoring many of their old drama series - I'm presently working on the original series of 'Sherlock Holmes' starring Jeremy Brett, as well as 'Jeeves and Wooster' with Fry and Laurie and I know that 'Frost' and 'Cadfael' are also being readied for transmission.

As far as possible and where still available, everything is being sourced from the original A/B neg rolls or IP, being scanned at 2K, and each show given a 2 day restoration with a team of three people. The results so far are superb and does go to show that where possible, they are more than willing to make a concerted effort to have high quality HD material on their HD channels.

However, I'm still not sure what the simulcasting BBCHD channel are going to do on Xmas day when they show yet another re-run of the 'Only Fools and Horses' Xmas Specials considering that all the studio based scenes were shot on analogue composite SD tape ......perhaps it means they might show something new and original instead.!!

Rob

(EDITED BY MODS to insert some par breaks, purely in the interests of readability)
 

Frank Harvey

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I recently heard that Sky's HD service only actually outputs about 20% actual HD - the rest is upscaled. The fact that this service is called HD, and is charged a premium for, should be a matter for the courts under some trade description act or something. I think it's appalling.
 

daveh75

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Jul 31, 2008
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FrankHarveyHiFi:I recently heard that Sky's HD service only actually outputs about 20% actual HD - the rest is upscaledThat's the trouble with repeating what you hear, without doing any research to substantiate the claims
 

The_Lhc

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FrankHarveyHiFi:I recently heard that Sky's HD service only actually outputs about 20% actual HD - the rest is upscaled. The fact that this service is called HD, and is charged a premium for, should be a matter for the courts under some trade description act or something. I think it's appalling.

I can imagine that might be the case for Sky 1HD as it's a simulcast (as are all of Sky's own HD channels), but those are the only ones Sky have any direct control over, you can't blame them for what the rest of the broadcasters do.

I expect people will complain equally about BBC 1HD when it starts broadcasting as some of those shows will be upscaled as well, despite the fact that it should allow the BBC to show MORE HD content, as the other channels will have more timeslots available on BBCHD.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Reply to Rob!

Thanks, Rob for an excellent, informed and reasoned reply.

I agree with you. Simulcasts are a problem and I accept that there will be variation. I'm not concerned with the minor titles like 'Death Drums Across The River', or the odd B western, which I know will look poor and in many cases am simply happy to just see broadcast!

My issue is with higher profile titles that should be treated with respect by what's supposed to be a 'serious' film channel. 'On The Town' was restored for DVD some years back (it looked good) and I would bet have aired in HD in the States. Film4's master of this was simply poor - even for SD - and there's no excuse for it. I have dealt with the Studios for 25 years and I know how they work. That master should have been rejected and Film4 should have pushed for a better replacement. Crikey - even the BBC's old master would have done which was taken from a lovely, pristine Technicolor Dye Print, as I remember.

Virgin does (on occasion) state whether or not the material is upscaled when you call up the info screen via the 'i' button, and I support this. It would be reasonable, I think, for channels to put this in their EPG info so that we can make an informed choice.

Your point about original ratio material is very interesting. I suspect the BBC will have some issues with 2.35:1 movies on the BBC1 HD simulcast. I think we should expect to see some re-framed titles coming up over Christmas.
 

Lee H

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On Sky, you can turn on the feature that highlights shows that are actually in HD in orange making it easy to distinguish.
 
A

Anonymous

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And there was me simply enjoying access to a growing amount of higher definition viewing on tap. Does the label on the channel really matter, if one wants full control over picture and sound you buy the Blu-Ray don't you? I thoroughly enjoyed the technical analysis by Rob though - always interesting to get an insight into someone else's world - thanks.
 

Frank Harvey

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Jun 27, 2008
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daveh75:FrankHarveyHiFi:I recently heard that Sky's HD service only actually outputs about 20% actual HD - the rest is upscaledThat's the trouble with repeating what you hear, without doing any research to substantiate the claims

I'm not so much passing on hearsay, more what I've been quoted by a source that would know about that sort of thing


Much of Sky's "HD" content is how our SD performance should be nowadays given what we can do with modern technology.
 

laserman16

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Harrylime:

Virgin does (on occasion) state whether or not the material is upscaled when you call up the info screen via the 'i' button, and I support this. It would be reasonable, I think, for channels to put this in their EPG info so that we can make an informed choice.

Same with ITV on freesat. On the "i" button its sometimes classed as "upscaled HD".
 

daveh75

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Jul 31, 2008
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FrankHarveyHiFi:daveh75:FrankHarveyHiFi:I recently heard that Sky's HD service only actually outputs about 20% actual HD - the rest is upscaledThat's the trouble with repeating what you hear, without doing any research to substantiate the claims

I'm not so much passing on hearsay, more what I've been quoted by a source that would know about that sort of thing


Much of Sky's "HD" content is how our SD performance should be nowadays given what we can do with modern technology.25 of the 53 HD channels carried on Sky are 100% HD....Now it's a long time since i did my maths GCSE, but thats not 20%.
 

laserman16

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Nov 23, 2007
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daveh75:FrankHarveyHiFi:daveh75:FrankHarveyHiFi:I recently heard that Sky's HD service only actually outputs about 20% actual HD - the rest is upscaledThat's the trouble with repeating what you hear, without doing any research to substantiate the claims

I'm not so much passing on hearsay, more what I've been quoted by a source that would know about that sort of thing
Much of Sky's "HD" content is how our SD performance should be nowadays given what we can do with modern technology.25 of the 53 HD channels carried on Sky are 100% HD....Now it's a long time since i did my maths GCSE, but thats not 20%.


Bit nearer 47%.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
How much difference is there watcing film on sky movies HD and buying a £200 blu-ray and watching it on that - on a panasonic p46-G10 tv?
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Blu-ray is way better - especially the sound.

Sky Movies HD has a bitrate ~ 20Mbps compared to blu-ray which can have up to 48Mbps.
 

robjcooper

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Sep 29, 2008
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Hi Harry,

Thanks for your kind comments and glad my non-paragraphed (thank you moderator - not sure why you split some of them where you did though.) ramblings were interesting. I have searched a little further regarding 'On The Town' and it does look as if it has not yet been remastered in HD - IMDb has no reference to the release of a blu-ray version of this film, which is usually a good indication that it has been done. Also, considering that MGM were on the verge of bankruptcy until last week (although Lionsgate are still trying to overturn the shareholders' preferred deal with Spyglass), then it's not surprising they haven't been able to spend the money restoring their back-catalogue (I noticed that even the more recognised classic 'Singin' in the Rain' is currently unavailable as a Blu-ray and 'An American in Paris', The Wizard of Oz and 'Gone with The Wind' seem to be all that is available in HD from that period in MGM's history).

Also, although i'm not not sure when the DVD restored version of 'On The Town' you mention was done, it's worth remembering that what may have looked good from a DVD on a native SD monitor wouldn't necessarily look so good when upresed - for instance, if the restoration had been mastered to Beta SP (a composite analogue format) then the description of what you saw on Film4HD sounds spot on (I'm using the Beta SP transmission masters of 'The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes' as guide reference material and they look exactly as you describe how you saw 'On The Town' on Film4HD, and that's viewing them upresed through our Teranex in an uncompressed SDI environment). Again, depending on when it was done, even a Technicolor Dye Print when transferred to say 1" C format or Beta SP/Panasonic M2 (which was the BBC's preferred analogue component format), would still look pretty poor when upresed. Also it's worth considering that if this particular film was last transferred before the advent of DigiBeta or even D2 or D3 (both composite digital formats), then there is a good chance that what Film4 received was more than likely a DigiBeta made from an analogue dub from an analogue safety master of the original film-to-tape telecine transfer analogue master, which would be two analogue generations from the original master - and I'm sure we all remember how a copy of a cassette copy of a copy sounded in comparison to the original. I do understand your point that perhaps Film4 should have rejected the tape and requested a better copy, but there is a good chance that what they received and transmitted was the best copy that was available.

I agree wholeheartedly that it would indeed be a good idea if Film4HD or Virgin did supply the information in the EPG as to whether what they are showing is truly HD or upresed, especially considering that the V+ box has such a pathetic amount of storage on it (when 2TB drives are available for well under £100, what they supply is insulting for the money we pay per month). I almost considered telling Virgin to take their box and put it where the sun don't shine when I was only able to record 2 of the Star Trek films which Film4HD were showing a couple of weekends ago as we were away and wanted to watch them at our leisure. However the two we did mange to record looked superb and were shown in their original ratio - however, the sound on Star Trek-The Motion Picture was absolutely appalling - still not sure if it was a transmission fault or a problem with our V+ box.

I sincerely hope that BBC1HD will not pander to the whinging idiot 'I pay my TV licence so why should I be getting black bars on my picture' brigade, and insist on showing movies in their original ratio - perhaps an announcement at the start of features shown 2.35 stating that the film is being shown in the original ratio as the director intended may perhaps educate them - but somehow I doubt if the 'Strictly Come X Factor Big Brother Dancing on Ice with an I'm a Celebrity Get my Ego Out of Here' crowd will actually understand - I am fully prepared for the complaints as to why, if they are HD, are 'The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes' and 'Jeeves and Wooster' being shown with black bars either side - It doesn't seem to matter that they were originally shot as 4:3 and that's the way true 4:3 looks in HD. Whatever we do, it sometimes feels as if we just can't win.

Rob
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Hi Rob

Thanks again for another excellent response.

The MGM titles to which you refer (including 'On The Town') are controlled by Warners who do have a history of remastering well, and treating their classics with respect. I have BDs of 'Maltese Falcon' & 'Treasure of the Sierra Madre' on order from the US and can't wait for them to arrive. I agree - MGM itself is always strapped for cash and has a history of producing terrible masters of 'classics'. They did not properly grade the restored sequences on the 'Heaven's Gate' DVD, and 'New York, New York' was released on DVD as a 4:3 letterbox disc.

I have rewatched the 'On The Town' DVD, upscaled via my BD player to 1080p. It's a Region 1 NTSC copy, but even so it looks so much brighter, detailed and just downright 'better' than the Film4 broadcast.

Can I ask a question about upscaling to you and anyone else listening?

There seems to be a contradiction on these forums. So can I just go back to the core issues?

1. We all accept that native HD is better. Best. Desirable. We want more, in fact.

2. We accept that there has to be a degree of upscaling where simulcast channels are concerned. One can argue that over time this should decrease - especially on movie channels where the original source, is to all intents and purposes, high definition.

3. We accept that the upscaling hardware and software used by broadcasters is technically better than anything we would most likely have at home.

However......

4. When the channel is broadcast and then compressed is there still a benefit? That's to say is the compressed upscaled picture any better to the untrained eye of a regular human being (ie viewer) than the base SD picture run through whatever upscaling kit there might be sitting in the living room. That's to say an amp, a TV, even a cable box?

5. So, I ask the question again. If Point 4 is really true, then the HD benefit lies in the proportion of native HD broadcast and can therefore channels that do not screen the vast majority of their output as native HD truly call themselves HD channels? If not, then they therefore should not be made available at a premium. Even if that premium forms part of an add-on package price. After all a 'steak pie' must contain a majority of steak within it. Otherwise it's simply a 'meat' pie and worth a whole lot less at the checkout.
 

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