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BBC may move more quickly towards HD

Discussion in 'TVs' started by Hellicopter, Feb 28, 2005.

  1. Hellicopter

    Hellicopter
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    From Broadband TV News

    News Alert
    BBC brings forward HDTV
    “2008 Olympics is a great driver”
    by Chris Forrester
    The growing apparent enthusiasm for HDTV across Europe, and in the UK in particular, has meant the BBC has looked urgently again at its HDTV timetable. John Varney, the BBC’s Chief Technology Officer, talking exclusively to Inside Satellite, said: “Our thinking has changed in that we’re asking ourselves how soon we might launch a HD service. We may be looking at something relatively quickly.”
    Varney admitted there was much to be done, including absorbing 40 HD cameras just purchased from Sony, as well as staff training. He also admitted that the BBC’s initial HD broadcasts “might not go to many people”, but “Doing this has come about because of the change in the consumer environment. Domestic HD camcorders are now out there at £2000 and below, HD screens…. I was in [electronics retailer] Comet a week ago and they’ve already got the new Samsung 50” HD-DLP set with quite stunning images and much cheaper than a Plasma. We’re less than 18 months away from HD-DVD formats being widely available. So, 18 months from now broadcast TV is going to look like the poor relation. People will be able to shoot their holiday videos in HD, rent Hollywood movies in HD, and we won’t have a HD service.” The BBC’s HD efforts will focus entirely on satellite for the time being. “No decisions yet as to when, but we are mindful of Sky’s plans for HD and then there’s our own Freesat platform, which would be an ideal place from which to launch HD because the bandwidth is there, but no date has yet been decided.” Varney explained that despite sharing the rights (with the ITV commercial network) for next year’s upcoming soccer World Cup out of Germany, it was unlikely that the BBC could show HD signals.
    Varney explained that he has now been joined by the BBC’s HDTV ‘mentor’ Andy Quested, and together they are embarking on a series of internal training and briefing sessions on HD.
    Read the full interview in Inside Satellite; exclusive to subscribers
     
  2. Starburst

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    If the BBC still pretends to be one of the leading broadcasters in the world then they have to be offering HD before anyone else in the UK, any delay just strengthens the belief that they use their guaranteed £2.5 billion a year to maintain the status quo.

    They have certainly not led the way with digital telly, their picture quality has been compromised by commercial concerns (which should not be an issue) and if they refuse to offer the world cup in HD via SKY's platform (assuming it's viable) then that is just a slap in the face for the license fee payer who by their millions are paying hundred of pounds extra a year to subscription services because the BBC simply are not offering a product they want.

    The BBC have to make every effort to be on the first HD platform intended for the UK (even if that is only for special events), it is the only way they can hope to be part of the future and actually maintain the belief that we actually need the BBC for something other than mind dumbing game shows, reality shows and soaps.
     
  3. ahin4114

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    Yes, but despite all of that, is it not refreshing to see the BBC moving a deadline forward rather than backward...

    Just my 2c, but it's all well and good saying that the BBC has this massive guaranteed income. But in reality how does this income compare to that of Sky? I'm pretty sure that Mr Murdoch were only getting £150/year per subscriber, his massive (?) plans for HDTV may be a little more restrained.

    Have we even heard yet how much more it's going to cost us to get this Sky HD package per month. Let's assume they adopt the same tact as they did with Sky+. So I pay £300 for a tuner box, and becuase I'm not paying you enough already I cough up another £10 per month.

    The BBC aren't in a position to make these kinds of demands, but Sky is. How would the populace at large react if the TV license nearly doubled in cost so that a minority could enjoy HD broadcasts. It's unfeasible to introduce a HD licence, becuase it could never be properly regulated.

    And with the risk of going off topic, I'm sure it would be easier for the BBC to secure more value programming for us to enjoy, if our friends at Sky wouldn't keep outbidding them with their bigger budget.
     
  4. Tony B

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    Well let's hope that they recognise the big opportunity associated with the World Cup, which will be captured in HD and ready, therefore, for HD transmission with little infrastructure cost to the BBC. Maybe they would have to pay more for the right to broadcast in HD via satellite, but that should not be such a huge blocker. It would enable the BBC to offer a real differentiator against the competition (in this case ITV).

    At least we can detect some growing momentum here...

    Which satellite would BBC use for the FreeSat service?
     
  5. Starburst

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    Indeed, but I am not getting too excited until we see some firm details.

    Off hand I think SKY generates around £3.5 billion from DTH, Cable and the other associated services, all that income however is given on a voluntary basis and not enforced by the legal establishment and supported by the government:)
    Unlike the BBC (as you have said) SKY have to do all the R&D, source hardware production and distribution and then subsidise the systems which gives them the tighter control of their market which is an issue for some people but allows them to create and offer new services.

    An unconfirmed rumour indicates around £400 for the HD STB (SKY+ type) and an additional £10 a month for the sub. The expected SKY channel line up with additional output from HD1 and HD2 (in mpeg4) and unnamed other broadcasters.
    I honestly can not see why one of those broadcasters can not be the BBC offering FTA HD content or a partnership with SKY supplying them with HD content and using it to generate some revenue to supplement the license fee.

    The BBC revenue model has the advantage of being enforced by law with little option for the average viewer to avoid paying the "tax" but has the drawback of preventing the BBC from investing in some areas they may like too.
    Nothing stopping them from offering and creating services with other broadcasters and platforms though as they do with the UKTV brands.

    If the BBC are not in a position to offer the World Cup in High Def to the UK in 2006 then it's my hope that if SKY have launched then a deal can be done, it's in SKY's interests and the BBC's I would have thought.

    I'm sure the BBC would love to go back to a time when they were capable of outbidding everyone else and they could exploit their buying power, they want to operate in a commercial market then they have to accept the limitations:)
     
  6. Starburst

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    The UK is so tightly centered around the SES birds at 28.2 and Eurobird at 28.5 there is simply no other option but to use capacity from those satellites.
    The BBC's much talked about "Freesat" service is still vapourware, without ITV, CH4 and Five what would be the point.

    The BBC will never offer anything that would convince nearly 8million (PAY, FTA/FTV) households to move their dishes away from the SKY based platform or invest in a motorised system or second dish.
     
  7. Dutch

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    Great posts, Starburst. :smashin: I agree with all your points.

    Steve
     
  8. Stephen Neal

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    Interesting - the BBC & Sony announced last year that they were refitting TV Centre with at least 25 Sony BVPE30 standard definition cameras. However I haven't seen these on-air yet. It may be that they have managed to renegotiate and decided to go for HD cameras - which all have standard definition outputs available so can slot into standard def studios, but run HD as soon as the BBC upgrade the rest of the infrastructure.

    However if the BBC have bought Sony HD cameras it does, possibly, imply they will be running a 1080i service - as that is the resolution that Sony cameras work natively. The BBC's HD OB truck is also 1080/50i with Sony cameras.

    AIUI there is an option for the Sony cameras to output 720/50p progressive from their CCU (camera control unit) - however I think this is a cross-conversion from 1080lines - the camera itself can't run in 720p. (Whether the camera can run 1080/50p internally to scale down to 720/50p or whether it has to take a 1080/50i signal and de-interlace and scale I'm not clear)

    Philips - now Thomson - have the only 1080i and 720p "native" camera - because it actually has over 4000 lines, and averages different numbers of lines when running at the different vertical resolutions.

    2008 - ready for the Olympics - sounds like an interesting date to hit. That is also the year that it is expected that BBC News will move to Broadcasting House - and new studios. Be interesting to see if News 24 goes HD - after all it was the first 16:9 outlet the BBC really had!
     
  9. Nick_UK

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    I think we can detect some spin !

    John Varney - would that be the same John Varney, who in October 2004 announced the upcoming sale of the technical arm of the BBC to Siemens for £2 billion ? The technical arm of the BBC that deals with much of the broadcast technology, including digital coding and multiplexing for BBC's digital services, satellite distribution, the London Media Gateway - a fibre ring in London which is used to broadcast content - and all the third-party business BBC Technology does with organisation such as the 3 mobile phone network, ESPN, DirecTV and National Public Radio in the US, plus the BBC's consultancy arm ? That deal has now gone through, and Mr Varney has some spare cash to spend.

    Spin, spin, spin.......

    Full story : http://www.computing.co.uk/analysis/1157934
     
  10. Quickbeam

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    "The BBC’s HD efforts will focus entirely on satellite for the time being."

    That contradicts pretty much everything I've read about the BBC's plans for HD. As I understand it broadband is being considered as an option for delivering pre-recorded HD to a PVR; there is also the possiblility of broadcasting pre-recorded HD over the air during down time on Freeview. A third option, as suggested by Greg Dyke's article, is that the BBC could switch its terrestrial muxes from 16 QAM to 64 QAM, which would allow the BBC to broadcast 1-2 channels of live HD via terrestrial; muxes 2 and A already use 64 QAM. In other words, the Beeb has been looking at all the possible ways of broadcasting HD. Satellite is not the only option.
     
  11. SimonMW

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    I'm jaded by all the talk of HD. Being a cameraman/editor by trade it's also me who has to foot the bill for equipment upgrades to keep up. I have viewed HD and it is impressive, although resolution isn't everything. I have several problems with the idea of HD, especially from the BBC.

    The first is that we can't even get a decent standard def digital broadcast right. It suffers from horrible compression and washed out colours. It's totally abysmal, yet people want to move to HD. All we'll get is HD but with the same awful high compression rates.

    I don't know if anyone here has seen a direct feed from a standard def broadcast camera, but I can tell you it's light years away in quality from the image you see on your TV screen via Freeview! If bandwidth is freed up for HD transmission I would much prefer it to be carrying a much, much higher bitrate SD transmission that EVERYONE could benefit from (and pays their license fee for) rather than a HD signal for a minority of people who can afford such things as 52" HD plasma TV's etc.

    The comments by the BBC about a £2000 HD camera are also misplaced. The camera he is referring to is obviously the Sony FX1. Now while a few yuppies and indie moviemakers may buy the camera, how many of them actually have the TV to display the image? The vast majority of the public will not be recording their holidays in HD. The BBC guy seems to be assuming there will be an explosion in HD. We've only just pursuaded people to get DVD players and digi boxes, In my own profession I have only just started getting requests for more DVD's than VHS dupes. People aren't going to be making HD the defacto standard even if HD-DVD became available tomorrow. It took 6 years for standard DVD to reach critical mass.

    I also wish these companies would announce something solid rather than beating around the bush. All this talk of 'soon' and 'quickly'. It creates uncertainty in people who might be wanting to buy a TV now, when in reality most of them won't be able to get HD into their homes in an degree of quantity until at least 2010, probably much, much, later.

    Then there's all the confusion in the US. We need to get one thing absolutely clear. The US is NOT going totally HD. There is a common misconception that their analogue turn off is to do with making HD transmissions the standard. It is not. All it is is to do with digital TV which encompasses all the SD resolutions too. Many stations will continue on with SD because HD is just too much. They can also have several SD stations to increase advertising revenue as opposed to just one or two HD channels in the same bandwidth. Make no mistake the TV stations over there are not exactly over the moon at the idea of having to upgrade all their equipment to HD. So many of them simply won't.
     
  12. Abit

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    HD is not a required standard in America but it will obviously be the defacto standard for the vast majority of channels throughout the country. It is what is driving digital TV.

    As it is, the majority of all prime time programming on the free networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, WB, UPN, PBS) is produced and shown in HD. Even non-primetime events, such as sports on the weekend, is shown in HD.

    On the cable and satellite side you have all the movie channels (HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, TMC, Starz, Encore, etc; all offering an HD version. You also have pay per view in HD, ESPN HD, Discovery HD, HDNet, INHD, etc, etc.

    DirecTV will also soon be launching four more satellites to increase their capacity by an additional 1500 local HD channels and 150 national HD channels.

    The only stations that I can see holding out the longest are the very tiny local ones that already have lousy programming and extremely limited audiences.
     
  13. Howard Pitfield

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    Abit said
    So that's BBC 3 and 4 then.....

    H :rolleyes:
     
  14. Stephen Neal

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    I've read the broadband suggestions from Andy Quested - but it is VERY clear that satellite will be the major "broadcast" platform for HD in the UK initially - and it has always been suggested that this would be the first platform the BBC would "broadcast" HD on. They've already demo-ed HD transmissions from the BBC Broadcast Media Centre at White City for IBC last year. With Sky launching an HD service, I think the Beeb would be very unlikely NOT to broadcast HD on that platform, in a method compatible with that platform.

    Satellite is going to be the first option I suspect - because Sky are also launching on it, and so it will have the most content? Whilst the BBC may be able to launch a limited HD Freeview service by shifting to 64QAM (though this will still be resisted if not accompanied by transmitter power increases, as otherwise it will inevitably cause some people to lose reliable reception of BBC digital services) this isn't possible for any other broadcasters on the platform without removing services, apart possibly from Sky? However Sky are treating HD as "the killer app" to continue to drive satellite take-up - as it is a new advantage over Freeview - so probably wouldn't use their Freeview space in this way?

    Thinking about it - the current BBC studio cameras at TV Centre are pretty much universally Thomson 1657s (with some exceptions - JVC and ex-Philips cameras are also in use), which date back to mid-1997. They have lasted for about 8 years. If the BBC expect their next camera purchase to last a similar length of time - that will take them to 2013 - 3 years after they have stated they are aiming for all HD production...

    I suspect that if the current lenses used with the Thomsons can fit Sony HD cameras (which also provide SD outputs) then it would make sense to upgrade to HD cameras (though still in SD studios and with SD lenses) and then upgrade the studio infrastructure and lenses as they move to HD production? (Lenses often cost more than camera channels - and whilst HD cameras are now quite cheap, HD lenses aren't. Sure you can use SD lenses on HD cameras in HD mode - but the results aren't as good...)

    On the other hand if they have budgeted for new SD lenses for Sony SD BVPE30 cameras - but have now decided to go for HD cameras instead, they may still go ahead with an SD lens purchase?

    Of course it is possible that TV Centre may be closed down /or sold off before 2010 anyway if everything studio-based moves to Manchester and Broadcasting House...
     
  15. Muf

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    It would be nice if they would do like ProSieben and throw us a few samples every so often.

    Jim.
     
  16. Stephen Neal

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    I guess they don't want to start "public" broadcasts until a UK standard has really been adopted. Can you imagine how angry people would be if the BBC started in MPEG2, people went out and bought MPEG2 receivers, only for the BBC to launch properly in MPEG4?

    It is a bit like the BBC launching an NTSC colour service for widespread tests, and then launching in PAL... Oh hang on... Err... bad example ;-)
     
  17. Nick_UK

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    I would suggest that the motives would be far more commercial. Rupert Murdoch is bringing in a HDTV "service" (which might only be one channel) because he thinks he can make money out of it. Commercial TV companies will only start HDTV if they get pressure from the advertisers. The BBC is already making a lot of HDTV material, because it relies on selling programmes abroad, but it may only start up a full HDTV service in the UK if it thinks it is losing viewers to the other channels if it hasn't got one.

    I know that there is a small clique of people here on these forums who are pushing for HDTV, but the truth of the matter is that they are a tiny minority. The truth of the matter is that the average man in the street doesn't know very much about HDTV, probably isn't prepared to pay very much to get it, and is quite happy with what he already has. My guess is that most of the other commercial TV companies will watch the Sky HDTV launch very carefully, but none of them will dip their toes in the water and invest millions in new equipment, until they have seen how Sky fare. The BBC is a slightly different story, because the BBC coffers have recently been bolstered to the tune of £2 billion after the sale of its technical arm to Siemens, and it could well use all or part of that to further its progress of HDTV, as hinted at by the BBC recently.
     
  18. Muf

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    Thanks Stephen, I wasn't suggesting starting regular transmission, just a few programs now and then to give a few enthusiasts a thrill and the BBC to establish themselves as a HD broadcaster, like ProSieben are doing. I am not sure what the motives are behind the ProSieben HD transmissions, they are very well publicised and simulcast with the SD transmissions which suggests to me that they are more than just tests. We have already looked at one BBC HD production with a German sound track, now another on the way, it would be nice to see the BBC putting these out themselves.
    On the subject of mpeg4, I would have thought, now that the forthcoming STB's and chipsets are dual standard (mpeg2/mpeg4) this would make it easier for broadcasters to start HD earlier like Euro1080 are doing. The switch over would be easier at the consumer end.

    Jim
     
  19. Stephen Neal

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    AIUI pretty much all the HDTV set top boxes currently on sale, rather than those that have just been announced but aren't yet shipping, are MPEG2 only. To encourage their adoption for BBC tests wouldn't be that responsible. MPEG4 receivers aren't shipping yet AIUI - or if they are they are only just beginning to.

    MPEG2 compatibility is part of the DVB spec I believe - so any MPEG4 receivers have to support MPEG2 (at both SD and HD I believe)
     
  20. Stephen Neal

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    There is also the issue that the BBC is at a major upgrade point for its largest studio centre at the moment.

    The BBC had to replace aging cameras, and analogue composite studios, in the early-to-mid 90s and take a decision whether to replace with 4:3 digital, or 4:3/16:9 switchable cameras, even though there were no 16:9 outlets at the time.

    Given that the BBC expects cameras to last at least 5 years (and historically have employed them for much longer than this - the 4 tube EMI 2001s introduced in the late 60s lasted well into the 80s) - and the current 16:9/4:3 Thomson 1657s have been in use for 8 years or so (and thus coped with the switch to 16:9 broadcasting between 1999-2000, 3-5 years into their operational lives), a difficult decision has to be taken with a view of possible developments which will take place in the lifetime of their cameras (and lenses)

    The discussion of camera purchase are important - as you aren't buying cameras for this year and next, if you expect them to last as long as the previous deployment, you are expecting them to last until 2012-2013ish. There will also be the issue of what standards the new Manchester and Broadcasting House TV operations are equipped to cope with - both are due to be running in 2008/9 (if Manchester is approved of course)

    To not, at least consider, a partial HD upgrade is short-sighted I'd suggest.

    (The cynic in me suggests that HD adoption may be driven by overcompression of SD services - and that if the SD services were broadcast at a decent data rate the quality differences would be less marked...)
     

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