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Thursday, February 20, 2014

WGME CBS Portland, Maine High Definition downgraded to 720p

I noticed recently that CBS is now broadcasting television shows in 720p instead of 1080i.  I'd like to know, and I am trying to find out, when this began, but more importantly WHY?.

Great debaters take on the topic of 1080i versus 720p ad nauseam; there is no consensus.  But as a long time HD television advocate and industry watcher, in my personal opionion (well, me and my TV's) 1080i is far superior to 720p.  Just take a look at the ABC news cast (720p) and compare it to whatever is on CNN (1080i) at the same time and tell me you don't see a difference.

I was watching the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley recently and noticed how bad the picture was.  I noticed it on Face the Nation the prior day. I started adjusting the fine tuning of my Samsung High Def (which I hate compared to my Sony, Samsung is SO overrated, but that's a story for another post) because the picture just didn't look right.

I tried everything from contrast to brightness to warm/cool and everything in between.  I tried playing with the various (and useless) built-in "modes" on the Samsung (e.g. Movies, Sports, Gaming, etc.) but nothing worked.

When I finally hit the "info" button while tuned in the CBS, I was shocked to see that CBS was broadcasting in 720p. The info button on my TV tells the viewer what "definition" they are watching. I don't believe it had anything to do with WGME because they (like other broadcast stations) simply rebroadcast the signal as it comes in. But to be honest, I'm not sure. I checked back on several days and several other CBS shows and they were still in 720p. For all I know WGME may have downgraded the signal.  I used the google machine thingy and tried various searches regarding CBS and 720p but literally found nothing on the subject that had now capture my attention greatly.

I'm trying to get some answers and I'm starting with WGME to see if they know (or will even tell me) what's going on.  

One of the reasons I even watched CBS is for the picture quality.  It's important to me.  If there is breaking news or a Presidential address, I will watch it on NBC, CBS, PBS, or CNN (all 1080i) instead of ABC or FOX (720p for both) because of the better quality of the picture.  When you spend a lot of money on a High Def TV, you want your content in High Def, yes, but you want it in the BEST high def quality you can get.  When you have a choice, you will go with higher quality every time.

So I've started asking questions and we'll see what I find out.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

WMTW in Portand, ME, tries to fool viewers looking for HD

 

I'm not quite sure what is going on over at WMTW in Portland, Maine.  Even though Hearst Television (Heart Communications) has spent millions upon millions upgrading the TV stations it owns so that the local news for each can be broadcast in High Definition (HD), somehow Hearst managed to skip over WMTW - "News 8" in Portland, Maine.

Let's face it - whoever has the most HD wins.  Along time ago I predicted that whichever local TV station in our market (Portland/Lewiston/Auburn) did the local news in HD would win the ratings game (and therefore the advertising revenue).  And I happened to be right.  WCSH-6 broadcast its local news in first, WGME-13 was second, and WMTW has yet to do it.  The ratings match up exactly to this dynamic.

Although WMTW has won many award for its news coverage in the last few years, including a regional Emmy award and the Edward R. Murrow award, it continues to be dead last in the ratings in its official demographic area (Portland/Lewiston/Auburn as cited by the National Association of Broadcasters).

And here is why.

First, keep in mind the the majority of US households now have at least one High Definition television. And if you own one, and have truly experienced REAL HD, there is simply no going back to crappy quality pictures.  Why should we.  The technology has been around for two decades.  It would be comparable to the 1950's and 1960's when Color TV took over Black and White.  Can you imagine if out of 3 local TV stations, two were in color and one was in B&W?  Which would you watch on your new color TV?

After the conversion from Analog TV to Digital TV, local TV stations were still broadcasting their locally produced news in standard definition (SD).  It takes lots of money (for equipment in the studio and for field reporting) and time to prepare for broadcasting local news in HD.  But parent company Hearst put up the funds for what seems like every one of its TV station, except WMTW.

As recently as about 3 weeks ago, WMTW's HD capabilities for the local news was limited to a banner/scroll at the bottom of the screen which mostly had weather info during the broadcast, but the actual on-camera folks, and field reporting, was done in SD - and it looked like hell.

About 3 weeks ago, WMTW "converted" to what uninformed viewers might think is HD, but in fact is not.  WMTW simply changed the aspect ratio from 4:3 (SD) to 16:9 (typically HD but more accurately is simply considered wide screen. You don't have to be in HD to broadcast in wide screen) so that the picture would fill the screen and not look stretched or squished.

However, the quality of the broadcast didn't change.  The local news is in wide screen but IS NOT IN HD.  Nor is the field reporting.  Just compare the onscreen graphics to the info bar at the bottom.  Or compare the picture to one of the other TV station's local news.

I can only imagine that WMTW received many complaints from viewers regarding its lack of local news in HD.  So their solution was to try to fool the viewing audience into assuming the broadcast was now in HD simply because the picture was now in wide screen format.  Well, guess what - IT'S NOT!!!!  There is NOTHING HD about WMTW's news broadcast.  It's just a wider originating picture.  Shame on you WMTW.

I am perplexed as to why WMTW is one of the few, if not the only, Hearst-owned TV stations around the country which has not been converted to full HD for the local news.  I've tried to find out, but simply can not.  And worse now is that because of ratings, WMTW cancelled it's weekday noon newscast due to lack of ratings and was replaced by "The Steve Harvey Show".  Really!?  Are you kidding me??  That show will get cancelled within a few months if not weeks.  Then, WMTW will be showing infomercials instead of a noon newscast.  It's just sad.  And all because the ratings were lost to two other stations who invested in HD technology for the local news cast.  WMTW is also the only local TV station to skip a 5 PM newscast - because nobody is watching in non-HD.  Instead they have the Dr. Phil show at 5 pm which is rebroadcast from an HD uplink.  They can do that, but they can't broadcast the local news in HD.  It's different technology.

The bottom line is that WMTW is dragging in the ratings even though the station wins prestigious awards.  But who would want to watch WMTW news (that looks awful on an HDTV) when the viewer can relax his/her eyes and watch WCSH-6 or WGME-13 local news in GLORIOUS, full HD.  No matter how insipid the news readers are (I simply can not call the people who anchor or report for WCSH or WGME "journalists"), the weather maps on the two HD stations are cool (especially WCSH) and much of the field reporting, which is sometimes local and sometimes rebroadcast from other stations around the country, is crystal clear in HD.

WMTW is losing the ratings game.  By all measurable criteria, they should be winning. But the lack of HD from the live studio news broadcast AND from the field reporting is dragging them down even further.

I tried to reach WMTW for comment about why they switched to 16:9 wide screen but not to HD, and to find out why Hearst's multi-million dollar investments in most stations it owns had not reached WMTW.  I could not get a response.

In defense of WMTW, the station does not refer to its local news as HD and does not use "HD" in any tag lines.  However, switching to a wide screen format as a way to placate the public is one more nail in the coffin, and a bit (or a lot) disingenuous.

WMTW once had one of the biggest viewerships in the country (by share) because its tower was located on top of Mount Washington, the highest place in New England.  They used to reach six or seven states plus the Montreal market.  The fall from grace began when digital TV was mandated and WMTW had to sell it's spot "on the mountain" due to FCC regulations.  They simply could not or would not keep up with current technology.

I'm sure that the local management at WMTW wishes like crazy that their local news was in HD.  I can't imagine it would be otherwise.  So the blame has to be put on the Hearst Corporation.  I wouldn't be surprised if Hearst plans to sell the station and that is why WMTW's newsroom has not been converted to HD.

If anyone out there knows what's going on, I'd truly love a reply to this post so that my readers will understand it as well.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

CBS, Sinclair, and WGME pass the buck regarding High Def issues

WGME-13 in Portland, Maine is NOT broadcasting in 1080i High Definition on their HD Channel (13.1).

I didn't notice for a while because I had cable TV, with a cable box.  I remember thinking that WGME's broadcast didn't have the quality I remembered but I don't watch TV that often anymore and figured that since I was using my cable box instead of an antenna, there was a signal degradation.  When I decided it was too expensive and went back to using my old Bessie (TERK Antenna) my Sony Bravia TV told me that Channel 13.1 was in 720p.  Then it hit me.

This confused the heck out of me.  As the second largest broadcaster in the world behind the BBC (UK), CBS Corporation was one of the biggest proponents of 1080i High Definition, investing a lot of money to make 1080i the standard over 720p.  In the end, CBS got what it wanted for CBS affiliates while other Networks, like ABC and Fox went with 720p.  And I know that WGME had been broadcasting in 1080i from back a ways when I only relied on over the air High Definition.  So when I noticed all of this happening last week, I called CBS Corporation in New York and left a message - that was my only option.

CBS itself doesn't own WGME, it is owned by SInclair Broadcasting (better known as the Tea Party broadcasting group).  On the day I left a message with CBS, I went home that night and noticed that WGME was back to broadcasting in 1080i.  I thought that maybe, someone from CBS contacted them.  CBS Affiliates are under contract to rebroadcast network programming in 1080i.  It work the same for whatever network we're talking about whether the contract is for 720p or 1080i.
Now, there is an ongoing debate over which is better, 720p or 1080i.  I can guarantee you, in all my years of researching HD TV, 1080i is superior to 720p.  I can tell the difference from a mile off.  But that's not the point.  The point is that CBS and NBC transmit their HD signals in 1080i, while ABC and Fox broadcast in 720p.  Do me a favor - watch and compare and see if you don't agree.

I worked on getting my antenna in just the right spot for several days (it's what you do when you rely on Over The Air, or OTA, television signals).  So I know that it wasn't a fluke.  WGME didn't slip up one day for a few hours.  They were broadcasting in 720p for I don't know how long and they hoped nobody would notice.

I noticed.

I knew (from previous experience) that if I called the General Manager of WGME that I wouldn't get any answers.  So I called CBS Corporate Offices in New York.  I didn't get to speak to a live person but I left a message with a Rich Shoenholtz in Affiliate Relations.  I never heard back from the guy (I wasn't surprised).  When I didn't hear back I wrote to Craig Clark, the Chief Engineer at WGME to ask about the 720p signal.  I did not hear back from him either.

Today, I called CBS again and talked to a lovely (I'm kidding) woman named Kathleen Powers.  She had absolutely no idea what I was talking about and didn't know High Definition from a hole in the wall.  After I got frustrated trying to explain, she put me on hold and said she talked to "someone" who said that Sinclair Broadcasting owned WGME and I would have to take it up with them.

OK - I don't get it.  WGME is owned by Sinclair but under contract with CBS to rebroadcast the CBS signal in 1080i.  CBS spent a lot of money to make sure they would be in 1080i when the conversion to digital/HDTV took place.  But nobody cares that their affiliate isn't doing what is supposed to be done under a signed contract?  That make absolutely no sense to me.

So I called Sinclair, knowing ahead of time that I would be hard pressed to find someone there who would talk to a lowly consumer.  When I explained why I was calling the receptionist, again, had absolutely NO IDEA what I was talking about and said that an affiliate could use whatever "brand of equipment" they wanted and that I should take it up with WGME.  What!?  Really?!

When I finally explained what High Definition was and the different qualities of High Definition, and that one of their stations was following protocol, she transferred me to the IT department.  The gentleman that answered the phone said that he wasn't the right person to talk to (after I explained again why I was calling) and "transferred" me to dead air by hanging up on me.

As a last resort, I called Tom Humpage, General Manager of WGME.  I left a voice mail and sent him and email since we had emailed each other a few years back about other issues.

As of the date and time of this posting, I have yet to hear back from anyone regarding this issue.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sharon Rose on WCSH 6 a second-rate hack

I can't even bring myself to call her a reporter.  There is nothing "journalistic" about Sharon Rose.  A journalist reports the facts and while every journalist is supposed to be unbiased, it is common that a journalist has his/her own slant to the story.

That's one thing.  But Sharon Rose on WCSH 6 doesn't stop there.  She makes it quite clear what her opinions are about every story she reads.  That's right, she's not a journalist, she's a "personality" that reads from a teleprompter.  As a result, what we get, as viewers, is her biased, eye-rolling, scrunched-up face as it pertains to any story that falls outside her narrow-minded, white-bread, middle class purview. 

On Tuesday morning, November 29th, 2011, the WCSH 6 Morning Report reported a story regarding some business men in Connecticut who won the lottery.  The point of the story was that not only did they win a lot of money, their intentions are to donate a large portion of the money to charities and other humanitarian organizations.

Video of the winners ran during the story. The video depicted the winners at the lottery headquarter in Rocky Hill, CT, where they stood next to and behind the "big cardboard check".  As the video portion ended there was a woman seen clapping off to the side.

When the camera returned to Sharon Rose and Lee Nelson in a wide shot, Sharon Rose just couldn't contain herself.  She made a motion as if she were clapping but her hands never touched, thereby never making a noise.  While she was making this motion she said "That's how they clap in Connecticut".

First of all, Rose's depiction was NOT what was happening in the video.  Second, I was born in raised in Connecticut.  I grew up in the Hartford area.  In fact, I lived in Rocky Hill at one point in my life.  I was born into a lower middle class family that didn't have a lot of money.  Actually, we were poor.  Connecticut is no different than any other place in the world.  Some people have money - most don't. AND WHEN WE CLAPPED, WE WERE POOR ENOUGH THAT OUR CLAPS MADE NOISE.  I moved to Maine in 2001 after living in CT for all of my life prior to that.  It's no different here than it was there; except there are a lot better choices of restaurants and stores outside of major cities.

I was extremely irked by Sharon Rose's depiction of "all people from Connecticut are rich snobs".  On one hand I wondered if she was jealous.  On the other hand, I assumed she's just an idiot.

This isn't the first time I've caught her showing her true colors.  If you take a moment to watch her when either she or Lee Nelson is reading a story, you can tell exactly what she thinks about ANY topic by the way she scrunches up her nose at it, sneers, rolls her eyes, or does any number of things to show her disdain.  Watch closely as a story is read about gay people, the homeless, casinos, abortion rights, Occupy Wall Street, and on and on and on.  She got a stick so far up her ass, her only option is to try and wiggle it out, and every painful attempt can be read all over her face.

I personally am sick and tired of that single-minded, opinionated, prejudiced, bigoted, news-regurgitating blow hard that I can't stand another minute of it. 

To those of you who disagree - YES - I CHANGED THE CHANNEL.  The only reason I was watching WCSH in the first place was because they managed to the first to start broadcasting the local news in High Definition.  I mostly put up with WCSH for a few weeks because the weather graphics are so cool.  But let's face it, WMTW should have been the one to do it first.  They are the local TV station with the best newscast and the most down the middle reporting.  That's why they win the local Emmy for best newscast in this demographic market (Portland/Lewiston/Auburn).

When I wrote to the WCSH news director, Maureen O'Brien, this was her response to me questioning why Sharon Rose is allowed to behave the way she does:
"I am sorry you were offended by Sharon’scomment. We encourage our anchors to be real people – to laugh and joke and react like other people do, particularly in the morning. I understand that this approach is not everyone’s cup of tea.."
 NOT EVERYONE'S CUP OF TEA???.  Making fun of an entire State and making judgments about the people who live there, without knowing what the hell you are talking about, is not a "joke".  It's offensive.  Sharon Rose doesn't "react like other people".  She reacts like herself; a narrow-minded, glorified copy girl, who has nothing but disdain for anyone who doesn't think like she does.  She's a conservative, middle-class, bigot.  And since the management as WCSH stands by her and allows her behavior each and every day, they must be bigots and racists too.  What other conclusion is there to make.

I was stupid to expect an apology from either WCSH or Ms. Rose.  I don't know why I was disappointed I didn't get one even when I specifically asked for one.  I guess that's why they invented blogs.

Friday, November 4, 2011

WCSH 6 Morning Report in High Def

It's been several years now since I have watched WCSH Channel 6 in Portland, for my morning news. Watching it was a habit; it's what "people" watched when I first moved to Maine in 2001 and so I got in the habit of watching it. But never really cared much for the hosts.

When Shannon Moss defected to Channel 8 - WMTW, I began watching Channel 8 for my morning news. Channel 8's newscast was professional and easy to watch. The other competition, Channel 13, WGME, was always a distant third in my book, and in the ratings.

Channel 8 took a big bite out of WCSH's domination of the morning news market. WCSH had become stale, and full of big-egoed anchors that often rolled their eyes at news stories and often voiced their right-wing opinions openly; something that is supposed to be an absolute no-no in the world of journalism. But the viewership never questioned Sharon Rose's opinion about certain stories.

OK - jump to today. I've always said that whoever can do the news in HD in our local Portland/Lewiston television market will win the ratings game. Viewers who have HD televisions will, in general, watch an HD broadcast over a standard definition broadcast, even if the HD broadcast wouldn't normally be their first choice in programming.

I will try to be fair. My opinions on WCSH are not a secret. But they did a good job. I caught the broadcast today, Friday, November 4, 2011, when the morning News Center team celebrating their 15th anniversary. Seeing a live news HD broadcast in Maine was a pleasure and something I have been waiting for since I started this blog in 2007 and long before the official transition to Digital TV in this country in 2008. The anchors, Lee Nelson and Sharon Rose, were still as insipid as they've always been. But Lee Nelson actually looked good in his HD makeup. Whoever did it did a great job. Kevin Mannix, the weather forecaster, also looked great. Unfortunately, the unforgiving bright lights and camera lenses of high definition were not so kind to Sharon Rose. She looks like a corpse in HD; the "false eye lashes" were way over the top and appeared like two frightened spiders caught in a flashlight beam.

Like most HD local news broadcasts, field camera work is still in standard definition. That will come in time. But the most impressive addition to WCSH's broadcast was the weather. The new weather maps were large, crisp, and easy to read. New graphics, like three dimensional surface-map icons (take a look at the high and low pressure icons on the map with circular three-dimensional wind circulation) were cool. There seemed to be many new graphic features and they didn't overpower the map; they added functionality to it. Often, when new technology is available, it is used because it is available regardless of the value it adds. Not true with WCSH's weather graphics - job well done.

The other local affiliates in our demographic market, WMTW and WGME, have to make the switch to broadcasting in HD or they will lose a lot of viewers. It is expensive to convert a studio to an HD studio, and the hardware (cameras, editing equipment, etc.) and software needed is extremely expensive and requires a hefty financial commitment from each station's ownership.

I'm happy that Southern Maine finally has an HD news broadcast. I'm disappointed that it was WCSH to do it first, but I have to admit, overall they did a very good job that will only get better as HD broadcasting in local markets matures.

Now come on WMTW!! Let's get with the program (no pun intended). WGME, to me, is out of the running. Even with an HD broadcast they will still be in third place, out of three.

I will continue to watch WMTW for my news. I simply can not stomach the on-air personalities. I will continue to hope that WMTW goes HD for their news and I may check in on WCSH form time to time, just because HD is so much easier on the eyes.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Metrocast Cable finally adds some HD channels

Welcome to 2007 - oh wait, it's 2011.

Metrocast Cable (formerly Metrocast Cablevision) is not one of the country's big players when it comes to cable TV. From the Metrocast web site: "Metrocast serves over 135 communities in the states of New Hampshire, Maine, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Connecticut, South Carolina, Mississippi and Alabama "

That's not a lot of customers when compared to the big guys like Tiime Warner and Comcast. I"ve been struggling with Metrocast for years; trying desperately to get them to add more HD channels to their pitiful HD lineup. When not including "reality" TV (meaning sports, nature, and educational channels) there was a total of 2, count 'em, two cable channels that carried movies and/or classic live action TV shows in High Definition. They were TBS-HD, and TNT-HD. Sure, they carried our local TV stations, but I"m talking about actual cable networks that broadcast actual TV shows - not DIY, not shows about interventions, or following murder investigations, or animal abuse. I'm talking about one-hour dramas and comedy shows. You know, we used to call it "television".

Every time I would contact Metrocast I would get an answer like "Well, we just added The Outdoor Channel". GREAT! I can sit around and watch some guy fish for 3 hours. I was told to submit an online request for the channels I wanted, which I did, over and over and over again.

I checked around with my friends in other towns, and in other states. The list of HD channels they had was astounding to me, on one hand. On the other, I wasn't astounded, I was pissed. Why couldn't Metrocast provide its customers with the same HD channels that the rest of the WORLD was getting. After 4 years of this, I assume they finally figured out how to provide HD channels that viewers actually want. This morning I saw an advertisement for Metrocast on MSNBC (which happnens to be a channel I've been requesting in HD since it started in HD last year). In one part of the ad, it mentioned that Metrocast had added USA in HD and FOX News in HD.

I quickly turned to the on screen guide. I frantically started looking for these channels - nothing. So I called Metrocast this morning and asked them about it. I told the CSR that I saw the advertisement but I don't have these channels. She said "they won't be available until March 1". Well, I had to admit, that was good enough for me. After waiting for years, I can wait one more week. As of March 1, 2011, Metrocast will be adding the following HD channels:

AMC HD (channel 755), USA HD (channel 751), Oxygen HD (channel 719), Fox News HD (channel 742), Lifetime HD (channel 733), Lifetime Movie Network HD (channel 772), SyFy HD (channel 756), Bravo HD (channel 754), FX HD (channel 749), and Travel HD (channel 770). Meanwhile, Outdoor Channel HD will move to channel 779.

It's not perfect. MSNBC-HD should be in the lineup. If you're going to include CNN and FOX News in HD, why not MSNBC. It makes no sense. And no Comedy Central. Apparently the owners of Metrocast are right wing conservatives, probably tea party activists. Not only did they omit MSNBC and Comedy Central (Jon Stewart) from the lineup, they also did not include any of the Gay/Lesbian TV channels like HERE! or LOGO.

Having said that, I can't complain too much. FX, USA, and Bravo were 3 of the HD channels that I had been begging for. And it's nice to know I can still watch southern white trash gut a fish in glorious HD if I happen to be in the mood.

Oh and congratulations to Metrocast for finally dragging itself into the FIRST decade of the new millennium. You're only a decade behind - not bad.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

My Final Posting

** Update 12/1/2011 - Obviously, I'm back.  I decided not to shut down this blog as there may be things I feel that need to write about from time to time.

**


Here is the state of affairs, as I see it, for High Definition TV.

The big 7 broadcast networks are broadcasting most of their programming in High Definition. that's a good thing. Even most of the daily soap operas (for as long as they may last) are in High Definition. I can't believe that it finally happened.

In the big cities, local news is in High Definition. In smaller cities, it could be years before that happens but they are all working in that direction.

It is still free to receive High Definition broadcasts, over the air, from your local affiliates. THAT'S A VERY GOOD THING. And keep in mind that your local broadcasters can offer two, or in some cases three or four, channels from one broadcast tower. So give them a shot. Get a good quality Antenna (you all know I recommend the Terk) and check out what's happening on your local affiliates' sub-channels.

As for cable and satellite - I'm still very disappointed. Most "high def" channels do not actually broadcast 100% in high definition. Some of the programming is in the HD aspect ratio of 16:9, but not in HD quality. A whole lot of it is still just stretched out (from 4:3) to fit your screen and is as bad in quality as it was before. But they all like to call it HD. Keep them honest.

A few HD cable/satellite channels do a better job of providing real, quality HD programs. One of them is CNN. Also the Discovery networks do a fairly good job. As does PBS. But so many of them just call themselves HD because their picture fills up your HDTV's screen. It really is a shame how much they try to fool the TV-watching public.


If you are really watching a 720p or 1080i High Definition broadcast, you will know it, because you will marvel at it. Any time you wonder if the program you are watching is in HD, it isn't. Because if it was, you wouldn't be wondering.

I am moving on to other things. Over the last few years I've become very involved in the world of Blackberry. I am writing for other web sites and moderating user forums. It's become my new hobby and since there are no big changes going on in High Definition, It's time to put this blog to rest. I'll stop back and write a bit if anything newsworthy happens.

The one big thing left to take hold is TV over the Internet. Not to your PC, but to your TV. It will take a while before it all gets straightened out. There will be winners and losers; some people will spend money on new devices that they will love, and some will be disappointed. To me, it's all about the picture quality. That's why I got started down this path to begin with.

Don't accept less than perfect when it comes to high definition. If you are not getting what you pay for, then fight for it.

For my regular readers, we've been down a long road. I hope I was able to help, and teach, and offer information that was important or helpful. When I looked back at all of the articles I wrote, I forgot that it's been more than 4 years since I started. I moved this blog from another blogging location, so the first posting data on this site was December 2007. But I started this blog originally in 2006.

I want to the Doug Finck, from WPXT/WPME. He has been a fervent supporter of mine, and this blog, and has provided me with so much useful information that I can never truly thank him properly. He knew that my goal was to get information to to public, so that they could make informed decisions, and know the truth about high definition broadcasting. I wish him the best.

Until we meet again.........

Monday, January 10, 2011

Public often fooled by HD that isn't HD

Not only do we have HD channels that don't provide 24 hours a day of High Def programming, even new shows produced that you assume are in High Def, aren't

Take for example, TBS. They started airing a new one-hour series called "Glory Daze" about kids going to college in the mid 80's. It was supposed to be nostalgic. That's my generation. I found it stupid, unfunny, and uninteresting. But what I found most offensive was that the show was launched in 2010 on a High Def network, and the show isn't in High Def. TBS says it is, but it is not.

It is very easy to tell when a TV show is in High Def. You should NEVER have to look at the TV show and squint your eyes a bit and say to yourself, "is that in HD". If it is, there is no question.

Consumers started to really dislike television shows that were "stretched" to fit the new wide screen format. The shows were out of focus, characters looked short and fat, and heads were often cut off. But the shot filled the screen so TV execs thought they could fool the public. It only takes watching ONE show in real high definition to realize what you are missing. So TV execs siad "let's at least produce these shows in the 16:9 aspect ratio". Yeah, that will fool them.

Back to "Glory Daze". What they did to this show is the same thing I am seeing all over the place. Shows are produced in a 16:9 aspect ratio (the same length to width ratio of your wide flat screen TV" but it is still in standard definition. A brand new TV show, produced in the 21st century, and it's not in HD even though it is being broadcast on an HD network.

As it turns out there are four categories of TV:
  1. Standard definition TV (that's a 4:3 aspect ratio) that has the black pillars on either side of the picture (I refuse to watch that entirely)
  2. Standard definition TV that has been stretched to fit the 16:9 ratio. Disconcerting and distracting to watch
  3. Standard definition TV filmed in 16:9 format (watchable - but disappointing)
  4. And then real HD. Mostly the big 7 networks in Prime Time broadcast in real HD. But some, like "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" on ABC don't even try. That's because they film in the field (not in a studio). HD field cameras are very expensive.

It's easy to discern which shows are in HD. If the picture is so clear that you say "gee that picture is nice", that's your first clue. Then, on a facial close up, if you can see white light reflected back to you in the actors pupil, that's your second clue that it's HD. Standard def rarely, if ever, has this reflection. Third, HD is simply easier to watch. Your eyes don't strain, every detail is easily visible and the color is beautiful.

Some Faux-HD exists that is fairly good. HDNet had Hogan's Heroes (yes that late 60's, early 70's TV show) in high definition. You see, when the original film is of a certain film stock and quality, it can be digitally enhanced and reprocessed to be as close to real HD as possible, the results are quite good. But it's expensive to go back and reprocess these old shows. Some more current shows like "Friends" will never be in "faux HD" because it was filmed on video tape, not film.

A huge number of Americans have now spent the money on a High Def TV. Half of them don't know how to actually get HD on their HD TV. Of the ones that do, half of those don't really know if they are watching an HD show or not.

I can receive all 7 broadcast networks over the air, in HD, with an antenna, for free. It's the best quality HD because there is nothing between the signal and my TV. As for quality, as much as I despise The Today Show on NBC, that's where you will see some of the best quality HD. The CBS evening news is also excellent, as is PBS's news hour. Because all of these are in 1080i, the highest quality HD for broadcast television, they look spectacular. Fox, ABC, Fox, MyNetwork, and the CW all broadcast in 720p. Good, but not excellent quality HD.

For cable, if you have CNN in HD, you won't see a better quality HD feed.

As for the rest of cable TV high definition, so much of it is junk. That's why most cable companies no longer charge extra for HD itself. They charge you for digital TV and for the DVR, but the extra charges for the cable company to simply supply you with an HD feed have vanished. And there's a good reason for it. Even after all of this time, we still can't get many non-reality TV shows in HD. (I don't count DIY shows, and all reality shows to be real TV - when I talk about TV shows I mean the real one hour dramas and sitcoms.)

You are not getting what you think you are. It's time you started making some calls.

Friday, October 29, 2010

WPME's Weeknight Schedule in HD

Portland, Maine's "MyNetwork" affiliate, WPME - Channel 35.1, has an impressive weeknight lineup during prime time.

While the 2010-2011 "Big 3" television season offers some good options like "The Whole Truth" (ABC) and "Hawaii Five-0"(CBS), I can't say, personally, that the new season is all that impressive. Even with Emmy winners like "Modern Family" on the Wednesday Night comedy block on ABC, I find that most of the time, there is still very little to watch on ABC, NBC, opr CBS.

In this economy many people (like me) have had to tighten the belt. HBO and Showtime are gone from my cable lineup (not that I"m missing much from them either).

I enjoy sitting down to a nice cop or law drama, in High Definition. I believe that MyNetwork has found the answer. Right now, WPME is running back-to-back episodes of shows like "Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Without a Trace, Burn Notice, and Monk, during the week in prime time. Each night is a different show - two episodes. Did I mention they are in High Definition. And like "Law & Order" on TNT-HD, these are good shows, well made and well acted. They are an enjoyable alternative to the Big 3 lineup and a much better option than reality and do-it-yourself TV shows in the HD tier of channels.

Give WPME a chance and take a look at their weeknight lineup. Support them if you can.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Law & Order: UK, or is it Law AND Order: UK - who cares

In the 20 years that "Law & Order" has been on television in the US, I cannot say that I ever watched an entire first-run episode. TNT-HD started running "Law & Order" (the original) in High Definition a few years back. Suffice it to say that I only started watching "Law & Order" because the episodes were in HD. After that, I grew to like the show. It's a good show - well written and acted. and with almost 500 episodes of the original alone (approx 24 per season times 20 seasons) there's a good chance I have yet to see many episodes.

Law & Order: UK came out in the UK in 2009. It was a huge hit there. And so, as was true of all other Law & Order spin-offs, they made a big deal about it. That meant bringing it to America on "BBC America". Last night was the first episode of "Law & Order: UK". It is not written by, produced by, or in any way related to Dick Wolf (the creator/writer of every L&O episode, ever) other than he gets royalties because he created the original.

The episode in NO WAY resembled the style of the US versions (including "Law & Order: Criminal Intent, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, the new "Law & Order: Los Angeles", and "Law & Order: Saved by the Bell - the College Years").

It didn't help that at first, they speak fast. Very fast; and American ears can't understand most of what a Brit is saying at those speeds. It doesn't help that we have no clue what their Acronyms mean (like a CSP is equivalent to our DA - or something like that). And it really doesn't help that the Judge (or equivalent) and Attorney's (or equivalent) are actually wearing white wigs in court. Yes, they are wearing the same white wigs that the Whigs wore. Not only the Whigs wore wigs, but every major party represented in the court room, who is in public view, must wear the white wig.

So I found myself continually thinking "what the hell did he say", followed by "what is an APS" (insert your acronym here)", followed by "WHAT?! - they still wear white wigs in court?". I have no idea who was guilty or innocent, nor do I know how these lawyers and police people got the evidence, or how they put the pieces together, because I was so distracted by all of the things I mentioned above.

The only thing more boring than a Brit is a British Detective who mumbles at high speed.
And to top it all off, it wasn't in HD because my cable provider (METROCAST CABLE) doesn't provide that HD channel in my HD channel lineup. It was painful to see BBC America HD in the corner of the screen. Yet I am not receiving BBC America in HD.

Back to my original thought. If “Law & Order: UK” were in HD at my house, I probably would watch it – and love it. But when a show is not in HD, I notice all of the other crap that turns TV into bad TV.