HD: It's Staring You in the Face

What are you going to do about HD?

You know it’s coming. Whether you work in broadcast, cable, teleproduction or even if you shoot weddings on the side (don’t laugh, it pays well...I should know), you know it’s coming.

Have you been asked yet? You know, the “when are you going HD?” question. Or better yet, the “when are we going HD?” question. Did you have an answer? (I wonder if the folks at PepsiCo have asked this of their ad agency yet.)

Broadcast stations as well as local and regional cable outlets are all looking down the barrel of the HD gun. Broadcasters have it easier—at least they have an HD distribution path with over-the-air. (Over-the-air is a valid distribution path right?)

But what are you going to do about HD? You know that someday you’ll need to be in HD, even if you have no idea how your HD signal will be carried on cable if you’re a cable-carriage-only operation. Broadcasters have it easier again. They’re racing (well...walking quickly) to sign HD carriage agreements with cable.

But what do you do now? There are field acquisition, studio production, post, infrastructure and distribution questions to be answered.

And it hasn’t been lost on the television industry that HD equipment is now available at a fraction of the cost of just a few years ago. Same goes for consumer gear—many are watching your standard definition signals upconverted on their HDTVs.

You can take a lesson from CBS. It’s O&O stations will be converting to XDCAM HD, but stations without an HD infrastructure will acquire in standard definition (those acquiring in HD will center punch for SD).

Acquisition is a good place to start, followed by post so you can take advantage of HD oversampling when you downconvert. Your biggest headache will be your infrastructure. Routers and terminal gear are fairly easy to replace if the new HD gear takes up the same physical space as your old SD gear.

But your biggest headache: cable. Will your current plant cabling handle HD? Odds are it won’t. At least not to the specifications that you’ll want your HD signal to meet. Do you even know what’s under your floor? RG-6, RG-11, 8281 RG-59, maybe even Radio Shack RG-59 because at the time it was good enough. How old is your cabling anyway?

It’s time to make your HD plans.

I’ve never enjoyed having to predict the future with three- or five-year plans. But there’s one prediction you can bank on: HD will be in your future...it’s just a matter of time.

Michael Silbergleid is the editor and associate publisher of Television Broadcast. He can be reached at msilbergleid@silverknight.com.