I am spending this week with my parents in Florida. As a good semi-retired couple they dutifully purchased a 60" Sony rear projection LCD tv upon moving into their new home. Perhaps the problem is Comcast digital cable, but here are my observations:
1. There are not many HD channels.
2. On the HD channels, not all of the content is HD.
3. Some commercials are in HD and look awesome. Local commercials and most national spots are non-HD with crappy sound. This is not a criticism of commercial producers, but merely an indication that HD has not fully taken hold even on the networks.
4. Live HD shows probably look awesome over the air, but digital cable adds so much compression that it can be unwatchable. Might as well watch the SD version. For example on July 4 we watched the Macy's fireworks show on NBC. NBC had artists perform on top of Rockefeller center, which was nicely done, good lighting, jib, helicopter shots, the whole shebang. But the compression killed it for me. I try to point this out to my dad and others, and most people do not notice. Is the problem with Comcast or is it the problem of multiple up and down linked satellite feeds?
5. Non-live broadcasts are better, but still lots of compression artifacts in areas of motion.
6. Broadcasts of questionable format. We watched the Concert for Diana 1-hour NBC boil down, which was recorded on the DVR. It was letterboxed 4x3, just like on the SD VH1 live broadcast. However the NBC logo was indented from the left, indicating it was an HD signal at some point, protected for 4x3. Comcast gives no indication of what type of signal you are watching. One would think that an HD signal would not be 4x3 letterboxed. It looked pretty good, but not crystal clear.
7. A side note, we watched the CBS Boston Pops special at 10:00 eastern time. Normally I have watched this on A&E, and sat through the hour of bad one-hit wonder pop singers, followed closely by the 1812 overture, Stars and Stripes forever and fireworks, usually with Kris Kristoferson or some horrible on-camera host. Well this year (2007) CBS started their broadcast 7/8 of the way through the 1812 overture, then put Craig Kilborn of the Late Late Show center stage wearing a bright yellow Boston Police rain jacket. He attempted to make some July 4th humour. Poor attempt. Then came the part of the broadcast for which, hopefully, some CBS executive will lose his job over. John Mellencamp, fresh from the plastic surgery clinic, performed one of his patriotic songs. Apparently the sound mix for the Boston Pops and Craig Kilborn's microphone were routed directly into the satellite truck. The sound mix for Mellencamp and his band was non-existant. I think there was an on-camera mic somewhere which picked up some of his voice. The guitars were silent, and the Boston Pops drowned out any other sound. Then came the Patriotic sing-along, featuring the Boston Children's Choir. Again, there was no apparent attempt to mic these kids, or the audience for that matter, so all we heard were the Pops. Don't get me wrong, the Pops are great. Then more Kilborn banter and R-O-C-K in the USA, wth a similar poor sound mix. Towards the end of the song, Keith Lockhart and Kilborn chimed in for the chorus, and their mics were at full volume, further drowning out anyone else. Finally Star and Stripes forever, normally immediately following the 1812, was the finale. Oh wait, let's get Craig Kilborn on the air one more time to introduce the fireworks display, featuring poorly mixed canned music. Shame on you CBS.
So after about a minute of fireworks featuring more compression artifacts than I could bear, I switched to the HD movie channels, which all seemed to be running a You, Me and Dupree marathon. So I wound up on the regular Showtime for Superman Returns in SD. I stretched it to fill the screen, and watched/slept through the whole movie. Unfortunately a good sound system and a big tv could not save this movie.
If any readers work for CBS, Comcast or Bryan Singer productions, forgive my ranting.
Thanks for reading,