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BBC HD back in 1990

Discussion in 'General TV Discussions Forum' started by RecordablDVDfan, Jun 27, 2005.

  1. RecordablDVDfan

    RecordablDVDfan
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  2. Stephen Neal

    Stephen Neal
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    The Beeb co-produced an HD drama with NHK Japan "The Ginger Tree" in 1125/60i (aka 1035-50/60i) in the late 80s. (This was converted to NTSC then PAL as there were no direct 1125/60i to PAL converters then and still looked not too bad)

    From the late 80s onward the BBC produced a lot of test material in 16:9 1250/50i (aka 1152/50i) - including Wimbledon coverage, Top of the Pops, Noel's House Party etc. They initially had Philips KCH1000 tubed cameras, and then moved to CCD cameras (which were the predecessors of the Philips-now-Thomson LDK6000s) - and recorded uncompressed 1440x1152 on 4xD1 720x576 VTRs. (Each VTR recorded one out of four samples from the HD signal)

    I also remember the broadcast of a short HD test film ("We Return You To The Studios" shot on location at the original BBC studios at Alexandra Palace) converted to PAL from 1250 line 16:9 in the early 90s as part of the Open University on BBC Two.

    The Beeb also took part in the 1250 HD coverage of the Albertville Winter and Barcelona Summer Olympics in 1992 ISTR - as part of the Eureka and HD-MAC teams.

    The Beeb also produced a number of OBs of music events in both the 1250/50 (1152/50i) and 1125/60 (1035-1050/60i) formats, throughout the 90s, before the 1080/50i and 1080/60i standards (both developed from the 1035-1050i standards) became standard in the late 90s.

    The BBC drama Rockface was shot in HD (1080/25p) for US co-producers, and other programmes (A Concorde documentary made with Discovery, Last Night of the Proms, Carols from Kings etc.) in 1080/50i or 1080/25p.
     
  3. Dutch

    Dutch
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    Stephen,

    Do you know if the BBC still have the equipment to play this 1152i50 material to enable a conversion to today's 1080i50 standard? It would be nice to see some of the old HD material from Wimbledon and elsewhere get an airing when the BBC finally start HD broadcasting.

    Steve
     
  4. HowieC

    HowieC
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    I was involved in HD tests carried out at BBC TV Centre in around '85/86. If memory serves me well it was a joint effort between BBC, Sony, Canon and the Japanese National Broadcaster(NHK)
    All the kit was Japanese and travelled with a generator to produce the required volts/Hz. There were two cameras some CRT monitors (4:3) and a projector. The cameras were pretty insensitive by modern standards and required huge lenses, hence Canons involvement. The monitors weren't that big and didn't show HD to its best, but the projector was staggering. We set up a vast screen and the results blew everyone away. We were using the set for some drama or other and in HD it looked incredibly tatty and costumes and wigs and make up all looked very artificial.
    I cannot recall what the standard was, but it certainly gave the designers etc who visited a lot of food for thought. Those of you who have worked in studios will know how tatty sets often are, but they appear fine on standard monitors, HD studio productions are going to require cinema standards all round, and that has major cost and time implications. The Ginger Tree CoProduction followed on from these original tests.
     
  5. CKNA

    CKNA
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    Trust me. That HD did not look anything you see today. BBC sysytem had problems with motion and so forth. Stephen can tell you more about it. MUSE Japanese looked a little better but by todays standards it was low quality. They were both analog. As a matter of fact there is Genesis DVD of a concert from 1987 that was shot at the stadium in London using MUSE. I also have it in HD and it looks like crap. Today's digital SD looks better.
     
  6. ianh64

    ianh64
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    I worked in the Computer Graphics Workshop about that time (1986-90) and was priviliged to be invited for a viewing in my early days there. It is a long time ago, but my lasting memory was indeed how it showed up tatty sets were. I can't remember what I was viewing, but possibly a live recording with a beige backlit set.

    Thankyou for reminding me of this. I always recall my days at the BBC with great fondness.

    -Ian
     
  7. Stephen Neal

    Stephen Neal
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    Sorry CKNA - you are confusing transmission with origination.

    The BBC Wimbledon stuff I saw (1440x1152 uncompressed feeding 4xD1 VTRs from Philips LDK HD CCD cameras) was excellent when viewed directly in the truck. The cameras weren't as sensitive as todays HD CCD models - and struggled towards the end of the day when light levels dropped. (The pictures were thus noisier towards the end of the evening) However the Wimbledon stuff WAS shot on CCD cameras towards the end of the trials (around 1992ish) - and was recorded digitally and uncompressed - in fact the digital recordings almost certainly outperform current HD-CAM VTRs (which utilise more chroma subsampling and spatial compression... )Though they do only use a single 1/2" Beta-sized cassette, rather than 4x2/3" D1 cassettes!)

    The motion issues you mention were a result of the HD-MAC digitally assisted analogue component transmission system - which used various levels of interlace to carry 1152 line resolution across multiple 288 line fields by using macroblocks based on detected motion. These motion issues were not present on the recordings made in the truck though, and would not be present on material replayed in this standard today. Sure compared to off-air MPEG2 and MPEG4 in use today, HD-MAC was incredibly crude - and the received picture was inferior. (Similarly MUSE analogue transmission suffered in comparison to MPEG 2 HD)

    The Genesis concert you mention was no doubt shot on much earlier, HiVision tubed 1035-1050/60i saticon cameras, which were good for tubed cameras - but don't really compare with modern HD and SD CCD devices - especially in high contrast situations like a pop concert.

    I suspect if the concert had been shot on CCD 1152/50i or 1035-1050/60i cameras in the early 90s it would have looked HUGELY better. From memory there wasn't a huge quality difference between the Sony 60Hz and Philips 50Hz CCD cameras at the time (though ISTR the Philips suffered more from stuck pixels initially)

    The BBC shot stuff using Philips 1152/50i and Sony 1035-1050/60i stuff throughout the early-to-mid 90s - much of it used to improve the quality for commercial laser disc and then DVD release. Eventually the 1080/50i and 1080/60i standards were created using the common image format - and the Beeb standardised on 1080/50i (also 25p) for their HD stuff.

    AIUI the Beeb have retained their HD 1152/50i recordings - though finding 4xD1 VTRs for replay must be a challenge these days - so I guess they'd reconstruct the HD sequence in an alternative way using a single D1 VTR to play-in to a computer or similar.
     
  8. Stephen Neal

    Stephen Neal
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    Yep - I remember those tests being carried out (though I wasn't involved!) They used the Sony HiVision (though it might not have been branded as such then) Saticon tubed HD cameras and 1" analogue open-reel HD VTRs - similar to those then used on the Ginger Tree.

    At around the same time the BBC were also shooting HD using Philips HD Plumbicon cameras ISTR - using the proposed 1250/50 (aka 1152/50i) HD standard that was more relevant to a 625/50 broadcaster.

    From memory the Philips stuff looked better than the Sony - but this was mainly because the Plumbicon tubes performed better than the Saticons.

    The 1250/50 HD stuff shot at TV Centre and on OBs using the KCH 1000s (3 tube Philips Plumbicons) and the later CCD Philips cameras really did look excellent.

    There were major production limitations - limited lenses and numbers of cameras - so the productions were not as sophisticated as the analogue PAL stuff around the same time (In fact there wasn't a decent HD hand-held at the time ISTR) However when viewed on a large HD monitor - or a projector - the quality was amazing.
     
  9. Stephen Neal

    Stephen Neal
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    Yep - ISTR that the first major on-air use of HD kit in the BBC in the 90s was the Peter Snow projected election graphics system. This ran in 16:9 HD to feed an in-vision projector, which because it was being fed HD graphics, allowed the SD cameras to zoom in quite tight to projected images without the pixels becoming too big?

    I remember seeing the large Sony HiVision HDTV monitors used to drive the kit in-shot.

    (Quantel used Sony HD monitors as front-ends to their high-end print Graphic Paintbox - in the late 80s and early 90s - used for high-resolution magazine and poster work before the widespread use of Photoshop was possible. They also used them for their Domino digital film system in the early 90s)
     
  10. pj

    pj
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    i saw a bbc demo of HD in the mid 90's @ a childrens bbc event @ the N.E.C. it was a large monitor showing iirc a ballet or ballerina(sp?) i remember japan being mentioned so it may have been from one of their broadcasts, i just remember thinking I NEED THAT AND WILL ONE DAY HAVE IT IN MY LIVING ROOM though i didnt think it at the time it would have taken this long!
    the footage was stunning even if it was inferior to what we get now
     
  11. ianh64

    ianh64
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    My group did all the election graphics systems - News & Current Affairs seem to have the big budgets. I worked pretty much exclusively on sport so I side stepped the election stuff - but I did do a small bit on the Weather system - the original rain radar although I don't think it ever went to air in the state that I left it. I guess by the looks of it the new weather system is HD - Horrid Disaster! If HD was used, it would probably have been introduced for the election after I had left.

    We had a barrage (6) of paintboxes mostly all computer driven - DEC MicroVAX- I think we were pretty unique in that. Basically the paintboxes were used as a high quality framestore - it was SD but had hardware antialiasing at a sub pixel level. Nothing as fancy as a Sony HD monitor for us - lucky if the monitor we were using was a grade 1 screen. They would be so basic compared with what is available now. N&CA had the money to buy a Meiko (?) computer engine based upon the transputers (what happened to them?) for Peter Snows battleground graphics - if there was not an election going on it/they was just gathering dust. By the time I left, we were using a Macintosh standalone system for the Sports Vidiprinter - I think I can be proud to say that I developed one of the first, if not the first, realtime multimedia applications ever regularly seen on TV. It was even going to have a stereo sound version of the vidiprinter buzzer ready for the introduction of Nicam stereo but a bug/missing functionality in the Apple system software prevented this from being developed in time for the live date so it got missed off the list. I left the BBC soon after.

    -Ian
     
  12. Dutch

    Dutch
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    Thanks for all your info, Stephen. All very interesting stuff. :smashin:

    Steve
     
  13. Stephen Neal

    Stephen Neal
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    The current weather system seems to be PC based...
    Yep - the "Soft Paintbox" I think they were called? Before I changed jobs, employers and roles entirely I was an R&D Engineer (well sponsored and then full-time) for Quantel.
    Ironically - probably a better quality output system than is being used today - the levels of aliasing and interline twitter are greater now than on the 80s Paintbox based system... (Though I suspect the output system is also massively lower cost...)

    You're not alone - not sure galleries get Grade I monitors these days. (It is now common to see 16:9 TVs used as transmission monitors in BBC galleries)
     
  14. Stephen Neal

    Stephen Neal
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    Yep - Ballet and Opera have been popular test sequences for all the HD systems!

    I think it is because you need to shoot them wide for quite long periods - to see the interplay between the dancers - but this gives you time to soak in the extra picture detail. They are also quite easy to shoot effectively with a small number of cameras - and often have striking sits and costumes!

    (Much more impressive than a news broadcast, or a fast cut pop concert)
     

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