October 18, 2003
Unlike most of America, I have a fair amount of HD equipment at home. I have an HDTV, a DirecTV HD STB, an over-the-air HD STB, and a D-VHS VCR. All that gear comes in handy when editing a digital television magazine. But there's some HD stuff that I don't have...and didn't even know existed.
My wife recently had Lasik laser eye surgery. Before her surgery, she proudly announced that she was going to get "HD Vision." HD what?
It seems that "HD" and "high definition" have become the buzz phrases of the 21st century. It seems that everything is available in high definition. "Imagine a quality of vision so crisp and clear, it's like living in a world of Hi-Definition."
That's a promo from one of the many laser eye care centers promoting "high definition vision Lasik." What is "high definition vision Lasik"? It's a customized version of standard Lasik.
There's also Kodak High Definition film. Available in both 35mm and Advantix (APS) versions. "The term 'high definition' denotes sharpness and detail across many categories, and that's exactly what Kodak High Definition film delivers," said Alex Hodges, marketing director, U.S. consumer imaging, Eastman Kodak Company.
There's the Swarovski HD-ATS80 HD High Definition Angled Spotting Scope (think monocular).
Then there's my favorite: HD Vision High Definition Sunglasses. Yes, like the X-ray specs of your childhood, now HD Vision High Definition Sunglasses can make you look cool (or geekish). "HD Vision takes sunglass vision technology to a whole new level. Just like high definition TV is the ultimate in viewing clarity, HD Vision makes the world come alive in brilliant, defined color like never before. Crystal clear images so rich and vivid you won't believe your eyes." So says one of many HD Vision websites.
What Is HD?
I no longer have a beef with any of the broadcast networks. They are all moving forward with HD. Even FOX, having been given a slight nudge by ESPN's HD offering, is going HD. My beef is with local stations. Upconverted SD is not HD. I like HD. 1920x1080 and 1280x720. Some HD isn't 1920x1080 or 1280x720. Some HD is 1440x1080i (that would be HDCAM) while another HD is 1280x1080 (that would be DVCPRO HD). I'm OK with 1440x1080 and 1280x1080. Really. No problems.
But my local stations suck. I bet most of your local stations suck, too. There really is no need to upconvert SD to HD for DTV. DTV supports SD. But HD is cooler (or geekier). We've written about this before in DigitalTV-Television Broadcast...you know that we hate upconverted SD.
Perception Is Everything
Drop in to your local electronics store and you'll see HDTVs with fairly decent HD pictures. You'll also see folks looking at those HDTV sets...and then looking at the prices and doing some quick math in their heads. HDTVs are selling, but HD STBs are another story. And that's a problem.
It seems that when folks get those HDTVs home and plug them into their cable feed, they wonder why the picture isn't as good. Others with HD STBs wonder why their over-the-air picture doesn't look as good. How do I know this? Because we get a lot of email through our digitaltelevision.com website from regular consumers who suffer from a variety of HD ailments: "I bought an HDTV and plugged it into my digital cable, but the picture doesn't look as good as it did in the store." "My STB says 'HD' but the picture is stretched."
There's even an "HDTV Stakeholders Conference" put on by Reed Business Information. While more of an HDTV Mutual Admiration Society, I think we all get that there's HDTV potential out there. I commend broadcasters like Discovery who will spend $65 million on its Atlas HDTV project. I commend Cablevision as they roll out Rainbow DBS this month with 21 HD channels (from Rainbow Media) and the ability to offer as many as 39 HD channels.
When everyone is offering HD this and HD that, except broadcasters, the industry is losing in the eyes of the public. I'm glad the networks have embraced HD. But now it's time to think locally.
Michael Silbergleid is the editor. He can be reached at [email protected].