sports to drive HD (1 Viewer)

rang1995

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http://www.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/tv/bal-sp.hdtv11apr11,0,2349150.story?coll=bal-sports-more
TV's future in view, down to last detail
Television: Costs are high at both ends of the signal now, but the high-definition revolution isn't far down the road.



By Ed Waldman
Sun Staff

April 11, 2004











WASHINGTON - The future of televised sports is as clear as the rotating seams on Sidney Ponson's curve or the dimples on Tiger Woods' ball as it rolls toward the cup on the 18th green at Augusta National.

In high-definition television, those details are incredibly clear.

With its wide, movie theater-style screen and its vivid pictures, high-definition technology is spoiling a growing number of couch potatoes.

"It's to the point where I don't want to watch a ballgame unless it's high-def," said Lloyd Stirmer, who has had a $12,000, 103-inch overhead projection system in the basement of his Fulton home for about a year.

Stirmer, a Comcast subscriber, said the picture is "so crisp, it looks like you're right there; you're at the event."

Comcast SportsNet and its parent, Comcast Corp., are among the leaders in bringing high-definition broadcasts to the public. In late 2002, CSN spent $8 million to build its own HD production truck, which it used for events in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington.

But earlier this year, Comcast SportsNet completed an HD control room to serve the South Philadelphia sports complex. So now, the truck will be used almost exclusively for events in the Baltimore-Washington area, meaning that all Capitals, Wizards and Orioles games produced by CSN are in high definition.

"I think at the end of the day, what is going to drive HD into the home is actually Comcast," said Mark Howorth, chief executive of National Mobile Television, the largest renter of production trucks in the industry.

"These guys have made a significant commitment to HD as part of their product tier, and they are absolutely the ones who are pushing an entire industry ... to move to HD," he said.

Howorth, whose company built the HD truck that's used to produce Monday Night Football, predicts that by 2008, 80 percent of U.S. sports programming will be created in HD, up from an estimated 6 percent this year.

Mike Silvergleid, editor of Sports TV Production magazine, said networks are moving toward HD broadcasts for sports more quickly than for other programming, pointing to ABC's broadcasting of Monday Night Football in high definition as well as NBC's decision to do this year's Daytona 500 in HD.

CBS, which aired the NCAA men's basketball semifinals and championship in HD, was the first network to show a game in high definition, according to Ken Aagaard, senior vice president for operations of CBS Sports.

It was a New York Jets-Buffalo Bills game on Nov. 8, 1998. That year, CBS used the technology for only three other NFL games. Next season, it will do its No. 1 NFL game in HD each week.

CBS has broadcast two Super Bowls in HD - the Ravens-New York Giants game in 2001 and the New England Patriots-Carolina Panthers game this year - four years of the U.S. Open tennis championships and four years of the Masters golf tournament.


Saturating Augusta

"The Masters is a big deal," Aagaard said. "We have 42 high-def cameras out there on that course."

NBC does all the Triple Crown horse races, including Baltimore's Preakness, in HD. It will do some venues at this summer's Olympics in Greece, as it did some venues at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah.

ABC broadcast this year's Sugar Bowl in HD and will use it for both the NBA and Stanley Cup playoff games.

Fox is a late-comer to the party. Rupert Murdoch's network has not done any games in HD, but has plans to do both major league baseball and the NFL this year.

Jack L. Williams, president and chief executive of Comcast SportsNet, contends that sports programming is the best thing in high definition.


Feeling of being there

"Not only does it give you a picture that is six times clearer and sharper than what you've been used to watching, the configuration of the size of the screen gives you more of the field of play," said Williams, referring to HD's 16-9 aspect ratio - the ratio of the picture's height to its width, compared to regular TV's 4-3.

"In hockey, for example, you can see the plays developing. If you're watching a baseball game, you really get a feeling of almost being in the stadium.

"To me, sports was made to be played in high-definition."

Williams said top executives at the parent company, Philadelphia-based Comcast, wanted to offer more services - including high-definition programming - to their subscribers.

He said he told the executives that "the only way they could absolutely get what they wanted," was to build their own high-definition truck. He saw it as a worthwhile investment, even though HD production trucks cost more to build than standard trucks - sometimes twice as much.

The 53-foot-long truck was built for CSN by Sony's Systems Integration Center in San Jose, Calif. (Sony has since sold that division.) The first high-definition game on CSN was Feb. 15, 2003, with the Carolina Hurricanes visiting the Philadelphia Flyers. The first HD broadcast out of MCI Center was a Washington Wizards-New Jersey Nets game six days later.

Nationally, Mark Cuban has been a pioneer in high definition. The Dallas Mavericks' owner made his fortune when he sold Broadcast.com, which he co-founded, to Yahoo! Inc. for $5 billion in June 1999. In September 2001, he and a partner started HDNet, the nation's first network to offer all its programming in high definition.

In an e-mail interview, Cuban said he's more confident about the success of HDNet than he was about Broadcast.com.

"I didn't know if everyone would have a PC that supported multimedia when we started Broadcast.com," he said. "With HDNet, I know without any doubt that TV manufacturers are going to stop making most analog TVs. If analog TV goes away, the de facto winner is high-def.

"Combine that with the fact that a high-def television is really just a PC with a remote rather than a keyboard, and you start to realize that they follow the price performance curve of PCs. Meaning prices would come down quickly and performance would increase quickly. That's exactly what's happening."


Not pocket money

Of course, not all HD television systems cost $12,000, but you can't find one for $99, either. Recently, the most expensive high-def TV in the Circuit City store in Catonsville was a 42-inch Sony flat panel that went for $8,000 (the 60-inch model was $10,000, according to a salesman). The least expensive was a 15-inch Samsung for $572.

One of the reasons Cuban is so optimistic about HDTV is that Congress has set a target of Dec. 31, 2006, for all television stations in the country to complete the transition from analog to digital broadcasting.

Analog broadcasts use waves of varying frequency and height to carry the information. Picture quality depends on signal strength. Digital broadcasts transmit data in bursts, and once the signal reaches a certain level, reception is essentially perfect. Stations that broadcast digitally can also "multicast," or send out several different programs on the same channel.

In Baltimore, channels 2, 11 and 13, as well as Maryland Public Television, have already begun broadcasting digital signals. Across the country, more than 1,600 stations are broadcasting digitally, according to a Federal Communications Commission spokeswoman.

Not all digital broadcasts are high-definition (but, all high-definition broadcasts are digital). The difference is the number of lines that form the image from the top of the screen to the bottom. In standard broadcasts - analog or digital - there are 480 lines. High-def broadcasts have either 720 or 1,080 lines.

At a recent Washington Capitals-New Jersey Devils game, there wasn't much difference in the dark, windowless control room, with its three 42-inch plasma sets and more than 200 video monitors, for the high-definition production than for a strictly analog production.

Director Bill Bell called out the shots he wanted, what plays to mark as highlights and counted down the time left before a commercial break - just as he always has.

But his quietly efficient crew had to be cognizant that while shooting a close-up between periods of host Al Koken that there wasn't something on either end of the high-definition frame that shouldn't have been there.

And on the high-definition monitor that shows what's being sent out to CSN's 2.6 million Baltimore-Washington subscribers, a white square maps out the "safe action area," or the picture that analog viewers see.

How long it will be before Bell and other directors don't have to worry about the "safe action area" is an interesting question.

Cable systems will be big players in determining the availability of high-definition programming, according to Silvergleid, the editor of the TV production magazine. "The problem is that high-definition takes bandwidth, and cable systems have a finite amount of bandwidth," he said.

Another big hurdle, according to National Mobile Television's Howorth, is a hardware shortage. Of the 120 trucks capable of producing a game in the United States, only 18 can do high-definition production.

"If a truck is in Los Angeles, it can't be in San Francisco," said Howorth, who estimated that 12 new HD trucks will be built during the next 12 months. "If it's in Los Angeles one night, it can be in San Francisco the next day, but it can't be in Seattle the next day - it's just too far away to move the truck."



Copyright © 2004, The Baltimore Sun
 

squicken

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Mar 24, 2004
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Thanks for posting the article.

42 cameras at Augusta * $150k/camera = $6,300,000. Wow. Plus, they didn't have commercials. Brave new world.
 

vurbano

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cyuhnke said:
Thanks for posting the article.

42 cameras at Augusta * $150k/camera = $6,300,000. Wow. Plus, they didn't have commercials. Brave new world.
im sure they were rented.lmao
 

astrossuperfan

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Could this article kiss any more Comcast a$$?

What's going to drive HD into the home is going to be a combination of HDTVs sold, plus networks and cable channels providing HD content, plus a way to deliver it, ie Voom and Comcast. One part is not the whole.
 

squicken

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I don't know much about Comcast, as I live in the Southwest. But I kind of agree somewhat with the article. What will compel consumers to buy HD sets are lower prices and available contnet. What compels content providers to include more HD choices is consumer demand for this programming. I think consumers won't jump on the HD ship until content is availabe. So consumers want cheap TVs and content, content providers want a large HD capable audience, and TV makers can't sell cheap TVs until demand picks up and economies of scale are achieved. Someone has to take the lead, and the FCC mandate has in effect crowned content providers as the leader. Of course Comcast isn't going to propel the HD revolution. But, Comcast jumping on board forces the other northeast carriers to get with the program. Now with more content, more TVs are sold. TVs become cheaper, and more are purchased. Now with more consumers demanding HD contnet for their HD sets, my POS cable company Cox must finally give in and join the HD party in the year 2287. The company will then be well situated to provide HD content to the 35 remaining survivers of the second nuclear holocaust. Cox will however still have trouble keeping its appointment times, using the excuse of zombiefied highwaymen attacking their technicians.
 

eschu97611

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vurbano said:
im sure they were rented.lmao
anyone watching the Heritage Golf Tourney on CBS now-it is supposed to be hd but it looks like a horrible blend of sd and hd upconversion-hard to even watch-hd my you know what!!
 

BFG

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Yeah CBS did this for the Final Four and the Masters. At the Masters there was 42 HD cams and 10 SD cams, but the SD cams still ruined the broadcast. The HD cams the have today only seem to be the ones not covering the golf, the announcers, and scenery, LoL. I didnt get HD until February so I missed the CBS football season, but this is pretty sad. It really ruins it for people who are expecting to see a HD broadcasts, and there's only 3 HD cameras in use. At least when ESPN does HD its all in HD, except for small things like the goal cam, which isnt used that much.
 

Sean Mota

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eschu97611 said:
anyone watching the Heritage Golf Tourney on CBS now-it is supposed to be hd but it looks like a horrible blend of sd and hd upconversion-hard to even watch-hd my you know what!!

Very true...! I just finished watching my local station WPIX (WB) doing the Mets vs Pirates Baseball game in glorious 1080i all HD cameras. Awesome PQ. Now I turn to CBS with the same expectation and it is a let down. It even looks like Fox Wide Screen. Terrible to say the least!
 

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