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Monday 8 November 2004

I want my HDTV! [Lurks]

Why is television so fucked in the UK? We've got this great public service called the BBC and yet they only manage to get on one or two must-watch shows a year tops despite having a budget 10 times that of the likes of HBO in the states. But let's just ignore content for awhile, I want to talk about technology. Despite the fact that we PAL based and therefore had an inherently superior television system to the Americans and Japanese for the longest time, these standards are positively archaeic in comparison with HDTV.
Why is it the Yanks are all over HDTV like a 'cheap suit' as I'm sure they'd tell you? Was the inherent shittiness of NTSC so bad that they broke first? Yet here in the UK we have a supposedly competent satellite broadcast monopoly in the form of the Evil Empire (Murdoch) BSkyB. These guys got EPGs right, they were the first people worldwide to offer a consolidated PVR-based service technology for consumers and they are one of the very few which have yet to have their encryption broken too.
And yet... where are we at today? I've got a big screen, a projector, as you've seen elsewhere. BSkyB looks pretty bad on that, blocky artifacts and all that jazz but the competition are even more of a farce. Bravo on my telewest broadband service is seriously transmitting at sub-VCD levels of quality. Even the best of the best show blatant DCT ringing around sharp edges (like their cunningly positioned station logos) and as soon as anything moves, the picture is demolished into a haphazzard collection of lego blocks like you've just passed the screen through Photoshop's mozaic filter. It's piss poor, really poor and no one seems to give a shit.
But surely they should give a shit? Surely the object is to make people watch more teles and subscribe to premium channels and pay-per-view movies rather than go to the cinema? It's similar to the loony tunes stuff we've seen with DAB radio in the UK. So many piss poor rubbish stations vying for the bandwidth that everyone transmits in low bitrates and looks shite. Own goal for the industry surely?
How can we arrive at the ludicrous situation where I am downloading American television episodes on my broadband and these rips, off HDTV sources in the US and transcoded to MPEG-4 for nice tidy 350MB downloads, are substantially better quality than my own fucking subscriber digital television?! To say nothing of the fact that I'm sitting back here watching ReGenesis and it's got the original AC3 sound track so I've got the full audio experience too.
Now why in the seven realms of shit isn't the BBC trialling some proper HDTV shit? Why, if this country was for so long the bastion of television production worldwide, is everyone pissing about with crappy outdated video equipment instead of the proper stuff? Why is it that Spooks was filmed and only will ever be available in standard crappy resolutions with a 2.0 sound track.
At once I've nothing to complain about because I get to pick the best of the yank stuff and I have the means to display it but why can't I get that from the BBC since this fucking government is forcing me to pay for that. I want more. I want HDTV and I want it fucking soon, even if I have to subscribe and pay more for it.
It's the year 2004 and it's time to move on so why is Britain just dragging their feet in the very industry it used to lead?


  1. I read somewhere that BskyB is to begin broadcasting in HDTV mid-next year. Think you might have to be a triallist or something. The fact is that 95% of customers don't have HDTV compatible sets anyhow. (although that's not a reason for not doing it)

  2. This is the price you have to pay Lurks, for being clued up, you have to remember that most of this country's population is made up of people that know nothing of the differences between good quality tv and what we have. They don't watch US tv, they don't download US tv shows and they hear nothing on the news about it.. because.. the tv companies obviously have a financial interest in not telling you about it.
    If we knew about it, and wanted it, then they'd have to spend a lot of money they'd rather not, on giving it to us, or there'd be discontent.
    At least, that's how I see it. There's also the plausible theory that this nation is brilliant at developing things before other people, but then very quickly falls behind the development curve and gets overtaken. It's all through our history, we suck now because we're lazy, uneducated, unmotivated and apathetic.

  3. 99.9% of people don't have HDTV sets. You can't buy them. The 0.1% would be folks who have HDTV projectors, LCD screens and so on. You don't start broadcasting HDTV because there's people to watch it. You start all your recording in HDTV and you start simulcasting in order to get people to buy the kit and have a migration path.
    I just don't get why we apparently have such low standards here. DAB is shittier here than anywhere else in the world. The quality of digital television is so bad it is plainly apparently on a regular 28-inch screen.
    I've read about BSkyB transmitting HDTV although I've no idea what it will be since they're not making anything HDTV. I'm guessing simple rebroadcasting of American content? Anyone know any more? (I didn't think it was middle of 2005 either)

  4. Last weekend, I went into a Sony store and they had a 60inch screen displaying an HDTV demonstration. For those who haven't seen it, it is fucking stunning. I've never seen such clarity and detail in a picture before - the step up from current digital images to HDTV will be like 14inch black and white to 36inch digital widescreen.
    I even got Mrs Dave over to take a look and she was similarly gobsmacked (normally she would shrug, claim to not be able to tell the difference, then walk away to look at lady's things).
    Presumably HDTV is a complete no-go for terrestrial digital is it? The bandwidth must be significantly higher, and with the muxes already rammed tighter than a nun's monkey, I can't imagine that this is going to fit.

  5. No good on terrestrial digital with the current allocation but the plan is to turn off the analogue stuff and that'll free up rather a lot of bandwidth. I can't see it happening though, I think Freeview will probably remain your largely free to air PDTV avenue for legacy televisions and it'll be premium services which will roll out HDTV.
    The interesting thing will be to see what the cable television people do. Currently they can't even get PDTV at remotely decent qualities but they must surely be watchintg the HDTV drive from the cable operators in the US...

  6. Read that Sky are planning to do HDTV. No idea of extra pricing yet. Expected 2006 with dedicated HDTV channels. They will need much larger hard disk sky+ boxes + improved box with better(likely MPEG4) compression.No expert myself that's just a summary from What Home Cinema Mag.Mistral

  7. People don't just get the benefit. My missus was quite happy to have our hifi replaced by a DVD with the amplification & speaker duties taken over by the telly. Quote : "It makes a sound". So I did the only just thing & bought an amp anyway.

  8. HDTV transport is still ordinarily MPEG2, something like MPEG4 isn't really appropriate. It isn't a massive lot larger, to record on disk, but yeah you would put a bigger disk in a Sky+ box. Thing is, right, most of what you'll be recording for a long time will be regular PDTV because it'll only be some stuff which is HDTV to start with.
    They could actually transcode to MPEG4 or whatever, to shove this stuff to disk but that's going to require real-time compression of quite high resolution stuff. That needs a lot of hardware spec. You can't do that with a PC right now, let alone a set-top box.

  9. Sky HD is coming next year, presumably it will be a premium channel and there are rumours it will first appear on their new premium HBO-style channel which starts in Feb. I reckon it will cost a bit because it'll use up so much capacity compared to 20 UKgold channels :)
    Lurks, where do you source HD US programming from?

  10. I'm not so sure they're going to start charging through the teeth for it, after all that's a real killer on take up when the proposition is already buying some expensive gear and the initial programming is likely to be quite spartan. Then again, one might have reasonably have said that about picture messaging and the mobile phone companies...
    As for hi-res HDTV programs, all the usual places really. Usenet, bteffnet, torrentbits etc.

  11. When I was in Canada over the summer I had the oppourtunity to watch HDTV at a family member's house-all I can say is...incredible!
    Watching Tony Soprano on a 55" DLP rear-pro HDTV is a humbling experience. I felt so cheated coming back to a Sky box and a 36" Toshiba CRT. Come on BskyB, pull your finger out!
    Quick question: anyone know what this "HBO-style channel" being launched in Feb is likely to show?