Say What?

Every once in a while I read about something someone said...and my head starts to hurt.

Let's pick on Microsoft. You remember Microsoft, don't you? No, not that Microsoft. The Microsoft that was a member of the DTV Team.

Bet you haven't heard that term in years...or maybe at all.

The DTV Team: Originally Compaq, Microsoft and Intel, later joined by Lucent Technologies. You know...the computer guys.

Back in 1997, the DTV Team promoted the computer industry's views on digital television--namely, that DTV should not have interlace scanning formats but progressive scanning formats only.

And why shouldn't these computer guys be pro progressive? Computer monitors are progressive. It's easier to convert progressive video into interlace than interlace into progressive. And, from an HDTV transmission standpoint, 720p uses less bandwidth than 540p...I mean 1080i (no angry letters from the pro-1080i camp, please).

Case in point: Ask most NFL fans who watch the games in HD and they'll tell you that ESPN (and formerly ABC) and Fox games look better than CBS and NBC coverage. Why? Motion artifacts (or temporal distortion, if you prefer) in the CBS/NBC 1080i picture as compared to the ESPN/Fox 720p picture.

But then I read that Microsoft's XBox strategist, Andre Vrignaud, was attacking Sony for its decision to use 1080p in PlayStation 3, saying the gaming industry was "hyping" 1080p and that 1080i (as used in Microsoft's XBox 360) is just as good.

Here's the fun part: Vrignaud has said that most modern (meaning flat panel) HD displays display content progressively, even if they first received an interlaced signal. What does this mean to Vrignaud? "When you're watching a 1080 signal on a modern HD display, you're almost always watching a 1080p signal."

Wrong. Thanks for playing. Less than a decade later, Microsoft has changed its tune for the sake of a little spin.

First, let's qualify. If you're watching a 1080i signal on a modern 1080p flat panel HD display, you're always watching a 1080p display...of a 1080i signal. The signal doesn't change. It's converted to progressive for display, along with any motion artifacts. It can't be any better than the signal that went in. Sure, transcoding can blend the interlace fields into progressive frames, but that's not 1080p...even with the world's best deinterlacer.

On the television production side, progressive is a holy grail of sorts (especially for fast moving action such as sports). Sony's HDC-1500/1550 cameras are based on 1080/60p and derive 720/60p and 1080/30i from 1080p in the camera head. Grass Valley's LDK 6000 cameras shoot natively in 1080/30i or 720/60p. Why? Because if you want progressive, you don't want to derive it from interlace (remember 1080/30i is 540/60p). You want to derive 1080i and 720p from something better like 1080/60p (Sony) or shoot 1080/30i and 720/60p natively (Grass Valley).

But 1080p signals will be making their way past the camera head sooner than later. NVISION's NV8288 router is already capable of handling 1080/60p's 3Gbps bandwidth.

Who would have ever thought broadcasters would be more advanced than Microsoft?

Michael Silbergleid is the editor and associate publisher of Television Broadcast. He can be reached at>/i>