After a somewhat sluggish start, HD TV services are finally starting to take off here in the UK. It’s about time too, as there are almost 10m HD TV sets currently in use here in the UK, yet Sky — the main provider of HD broadcasts in the UK — has barely half a million subscribers signed up to its Sky HD service. However, the …
Panasonic+AppleTV+Mac: HD content access AND creation
Prompted by Freesat launch, comprehensively upgraded our kit. Now got.
* Panasonic 42 with integrated Freesat/Freeview/Anal-log tuners. 1080p
* Panasonic Blu-Ray player. 1080p
* Panasonic AVCHD MPEG4 Video camera, records on to SDHC card. 1080p
* Apple TV 720p (but tell it via the settings menu that the telly is 1080p and the Apple+Panasonic combo does a very good job at upscaling 720p to 1080p content.
SOURCE ONE Freesat
every blade of grass indeed. And, memorably, that look on Schweinsteiger's face when the final whistle blew: perhaps the look of a man who's not only just lost a final, but has finally also realised that his name translates as Pig Climber. Grass great, but the actual ball used in Euro 2008 turned into blurry flying ectoplasm on high goal kicks when the tracking camera panned across the stands. Probably a camera-side rather than broadcaster's compression problem. Does not behave this way on other fast pans.
SOURCE TWO Apple TV
This device is a good extension of the overall package, giving access to three main sources of HD content.
(i): rented movies from iTunes store. Previous commenters are right: visual quality excellent (especially on recent titles, not retro-mixed old stuff); choice as yet limited.
(ii) HD content generated/edited via Final Cut Pro or iMovie. Footage shot with Pro-grade HD cameras and then use Apple's Compressor pre-set for AppleTV to downscale to 720p. Simply drag the resulting file to your iTunes movie library and it will sync to your AppleTV box. Results stunning.
Note 1: Compressor has a nice feature to speed up workflow. Take your source material and apply any number of pre-sets to produce output files in any variety of formats. eg make versions for iPod/iPhone at in the same transcoding batch.
Note 2: install Compressor and QMaster on all Macs on a network and the lead machine will automatically use any idle processor core on any other Mac on the network to speed up the transcoding grunt work. Very smooth and near-zero configuration.
(iii): often forgotten, many people have years of HD back catalogue. It's just that they're stills, taken with any decent Digital Camera. Needless to say, you can set any/all of your photos to sync to AppleTV via iTunes. You can also use any/all of your pics to make a slideshow (complete with HD transitions) which will play when you're using your AppleTV as a giant iPod.
Note: this slideshow option is smart enough to resume at the place it left off (rather than going back to the beginning) even if you navigate back up the music menus to choose other songs/playlists.
Note: you can also choose any/all of your pics to work as screensaver when using the Apple TV source.
SOURCE THREE: Blu-Ray player.
Results range from the simply very, very good to the staggeringly awesome. Money talks: production values are the key.
SOURCE FOUR: PANASONIC AVCHD Camera
This has been the revelation for me. 1920x1080p HD for 600 quid. Shoot a bit of footage on this palm-sized cam, record on to SDHC cards (2 hours 45 mins goes on to a 16GB card). Cam+Card also records stills Then take the card out and plug it into the card reader slot in either the TV or the Blu-Ray player. Results: on some subjects (eg botanics, landscapes, talking heads) indistinguishable from broadcast HD. Some very slight artefacts on very high speed motion (eg 100mph motorbike pass-by filmed from the curb). Avoid fast panning - the camera will sense this and warn you anyway.
AVCHD is a highly compressed H264 format. But play it back in its native space on the same manufacturers equipment and it just doesn't show. Blew me away. The quality is significantly better than last years HDV gear (eg Sony Z1) at the £3K mark
Another major plus: the Viera Link control allows all the Panasonic equipment to be controlled with a single remote. This includes the SDHC card, or the camera itself plugged in via an HDMI cable in playback mode.
Panasonic: Genuine HD recorder box closely integrated with the TV/Tuner.
(i) ability to edit **native** AVCHD in Final Cut Pro and iMovie. You can ingest AVCHD using Apple Intermediate Codec and then edit/output it, but the process is laborious.
(ii) AppleTV upgrade to 1080p, to avoid having to make a 720p format file for this device.
Apple & Panasonic:
Collaboration to produce tight integration of workflow from AVCHD capture, FCP edit and Blu-Ray burner output.
RE:HD film rentals via XBox 360
Won't happen in the UK because there isn't a single ISP that can afford the bandwidth requirements of HD programming.
Just look at Virgin Media, they're so strapped for bandwidth they cap all their users after only 30 minutes, despite owning the only fibre network in the UK!
Last time I checked, there aren't many 30 minute feature films, and the urge to watch sorta goes out of the window if you have to wait two days to download it.
RE:Time to get a 1080p tv for all that 720p content
"unless you have a bluray player of course"
of which the vast majority of films are also 720p. I've seen the odd few that are 1080i.
I notice that none of the Blu-Ray retailers or the packaging itself has any indication of what the format of the movie actually is. You have no idea if it really is HD until you get home!
The entire Blu-Ray rollout has been an exercise in misleading the end user.
Of the 27 bluray movies I have sitting under my telly, every single one is encoded at the full 1080p so I'd have to question your claim that " the vast majority of films are also 720p. I've seen the odd few that are 1080i."
And to say it's not clear on the packaging? It clearly states on the back of *most* cases that it's full HD 1080p
My two pence worth.
Paris because I wish she was sitting under my telly.
What's the point?
As people keep subtely pointing towards, there is no such thing as HD.
If you buy a 1080 set, any 720 "HD" (ie most) will be upscaled by a non-integer factor. If you get a 720 set, hopefully any 1080 content will be downscaled... or will it just not be watchable?
With SD you get to watch the native resolution. With HD you don't. So we've introduced extra resolution in order to *decrease* picture quality. Until there's a shared common standard between TVs and media players, HD will remain a well-executed con.
(Of course, so was DVD. The strategy of employing point-sampling for video encoding produced "sharp images" (stills) but crap movement due to strobing. I'm I being cynical in thinking that this may just have been done to introduce a flaw that they could later sell us the solution to...?)
Don't mind the AC
Just about every Blu-ray disc is in full 1080p (as is HD-DVD). In fact the few that aren't are 1080i, not 720p. As stated on the boxes.
The previous AC claimed that HD movie downloads for the 360 "won't happen in the UK". Which is rather odd, since they DID happen last year. Not that I've bothered with it, since I have a HD-DVD player, and the vast majority of the 360's HD film selection were also released on the format.
"Mark" asked "why not use the new compression algorithm and create a HD movie that fits on ONE DVD?" - to which the answer is "because while a 720p film would fit if you dial down the bitrate enough, Blu-ray and HD-DVD already used those new compression algorithms and yet decided that 20+Gb for the video alone was necessary to give the best quality at 1080p". Squeezing a whole HD film onto a single DVD is the HD equivalent of VideoCD when it comes to being covered in a swathe of artifacts and mess.
With the exception of the BBC's Living Planet (I think it was that series) which purported to be 1080i, not one of the Blu-Ray discs in my local HMV had any resolution or encoding info on the packaging whatsoever.
"With the exception of the BBC's Living Planet (I think it was that series) which purported to be 1080i, not one of the Blu-Ray discs in my local HMV had any resolution or encoding info on the packaging whatsoever."
Utter rubbish. I've picked up the first 10 from my tv stand, titles including Superman, Blood Diamond, Pirates of the Caribbean and Casino Royale (all titles I'm sure you'll find in HMV) and all bar one of them has a specifications table on the back, and in it clearly states "Video : 1080p High Definition".
The only film without this box was "the Departed" and it has a gold logo saying "Full HD 1080" clearly stamped on the back of the case.
BBC HD FTA
Sayeth the article: "However, Freesat From Sky doesn’t offer any HD channels".
Fail. BBC HD is broadcast FTA, or in the clear, and can be picked up by any compatible HD receiver, including a Sky HD box with either a Freesat by Sky card, or no card at all.
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