Moving Images 2007 – Andy Quested, BBC

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Good Old Trend

I’m at Malmö Högskola where the third Moving Images conference is taking place, organised by SVT (Swedish National Television). The theme for this year is HD and high resolution. I thought I’d live blog chosen parts of it.

SVT:s CEO Eva Hamilton introduced the day by emphasising the importance of both audio and visual when it comes to HD. Far to often it is assumed that it is only a matter of picture quality. The HD development is one of SVT:s prioritised projects, along with on demand services. In 2008, the plan is to offer HD programmes between 18-23 every day. Interesting.

Andy Quested, responsible for HD strategy, from the BBC started by apologizing because the presentation was in English, that he was going to use Powerpoint and the first audience activity of the day. Everyone in the hall had to stand up, and only those with HD at home were allowed to sit down. 99% of the audience were still standing. Quested said, “How can we understand are audience if we don’t know what they are watching”.

So why is HD important now? The three points listed were:

1. Production technology – finally here, this has taken slightly longer than expected.

2. Consumer devices & flat screens – selling very well to consumers

3. Delivery technology – works today

These three all lead to the fact that HD services now are affordable, Quested said. And he consumer demand is what’s driving the market:

* Prices fell by 30-40% over the last year
* Consumers can get HD quality through many different sources – PS3 and similar devices.
* Competitors like Sky have driving the market forward.

Some stats:
Britain: 3.8 million HD-ready TVs (March 2006). Expected to hit 10 million in 2008.
Japan: 9.6 million HD TV sets, 19 channels broadcasting (end of 2006). 28,9 millions HD TV sets and 69 channels predicted by 2011.
US: 27.7 million sets, 42 channels. There was a prediction here as well, but unfortunately I missed it.

The BBC had made a survey to see where the HD technology gave an perceived benefit in the programmes. Wildlife, Sport and Film came out on top, while History and Comedy where in the bottom. Quested had examples where old comedies from the 70´s and 80´s that were still sent successfully, even if it was 4:3 and bad quality. The genre seems to be less sensitive to audio/visual standards.

Quested took up an interesting point regarding quality control. 1280×720 images (except the Varicam and HDX900) simply aren’t good enough. And this is because the material shot can’t be reused, or resold later on. Some of the nature programmes that are filmed today will have an even higher value further on, as the areas filmed now are off limits for media, and some of the species are extinct. Although, the scenes will probably be sold and used in small chunks, rather than full programmes. Makes sense.

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