06.22.2005 12:00 AM
BBC Engineers, Viewers Prefer 720p
BBC engineers have conducted viewer tests to determine what the British public might prefer as the more favorable format for HD--720p or 1080i. Each format was compared with Europe's conventional 625 PAL (576i on CRTs and 576p on plasma, LCD).

According to published reports, viewers were seated at a distance of the 2.7 meters (just under 9 feet) from test screens, a distance which the BBC reports is typical in British homes. Most consumers tested agreed that "ordinary SD" was good enough for screens up to 27-inches from that distance. For larger screens up to 50-inches, 720p was considered "more ideal." (The BBC findings did not make it clear whether the broadcaster sampled identical 1080i and 720p content side by side.)

The ages of the test viewers were not given, either, but it's a safe bet that younger consumers often prefer the progressive-scan format over interlace because computer monitors are progressive, and more young consumers use computers more often, generally, than older viewers. (Perhaps coincidentally, the U.S. network that consistently captures the youngest viewers, Fox, defers to 720p.)

According to published reports, the BBC findings led one BBC engineer to declare that it was time to "ditch interlacing," pointing out that digital cameras and flat-panel displays are inherently progressive and that since interlacing is analog compression, it's yesterday's technology. Apparently, several major broadcasters disagree. A sizeable majority of HD programming in the United States, for example, currently is transmitted via 1080i.

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