HD1080i De-mystify HDTV 1080i ::: know why before you buy

Thursday, September 21, 2006

HD 1080i vs the 1366 x 768 display & HD ready

and yet more obervations....

The APPLE iTV is already being hailed by the MACheads and Fruit-compute centric crowd, small wonder, but it seems Accenture did some survey that essentially concludes that the iTV type device that turns your widescreen flat 16:9 display and home theater into a more flexible bang for the buck with wireless integration to any other device ( yes read - iPOD, MACbook whatever )... is true and the utlimate desire of the media enabled household. whew.. mouthful that was.

iTunes will deliver 720p downloads in support of this new gizmo. Its all good.

MICROSOFT finally beta'd the Version 11 DRM, thats digital rights management for content. Of course all the screamers launched into a pointless tirade over it, but hey, its like blaming the messenger for the message... all MS is doing is enabling content control for those clients in hollywood that asked for it. DRM is not mandatory in the windows media 11 products, so for it to bother you it has to be turned on for that specific content by the producer of that content... in fact i would doubt that most Publishers of video and music will start using it for some time yet to come, its beta to see what happens.

So if you get some DRM'd WMV or music or video, do not blame microsoft for enabling it, BLAME THE PUBLISHER THAT SET THE FLAGS IN IT... in fact there are abundant levels of control in DRM that allow all kinds of things, its up to the people that create the file and distribute it. If you dont like that, then get your stuff from someone else in some other way, freedom of choice will send the message needed.

The 1366 x 768 resolution screen... I get this a lot
ok here is a practical response without a lot of geekytech words. A lot of nice large 16:9 widescreen flatpanels say High Definition, and the TRUE HD camp says that 1080i requires 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution.

If you feed a 1080i signal into the component YpBPr or HDMI / DVI input of a 1366 x 768 display, then it should look fine, your screen is getting twice as much information digitally as it needs to create a great image. Do Not Worry. I have done this with one of those 37 inch DELL displays, looks great as long as you are sitting a few feet away. What you dont want is a large screen area with 1366 x 768 pixels... 60 inch displays look really fuzzy with that resolution.
In my option however, if you can, get a 1080 display since broadcast 1080i is where its all going.
I have seen and love the Sony SXRD 1080 stuff and Westinghouse LVM 37" and 42" 1080p monitors for price performance.

HDMI 1.3
This is cool, if you encounter a system with HDMI connections, this is where 1080 will be in the future, so ask if its HDMI 1.3 compliant. This has to do with audio On HD DVD and Blu-ray both codecs will boast lossless coding for up to eight discrete channels of audio at resolution at least as high as 24-bit/96kHz. The catch is that the new codecs will only be carried digitally in their native form over HDMI 1.3.

Monday, September 18, 2006

HD-DVD and VC-1 / Mpeg2/4

... I got a slew of questions, mostly the MPEG4 crowd wondering why i'm talking about VC-1.

Ref MS PR from April : http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2006/apr06/04-24HDDVDPR.mspx Note: NBC/Universal is correct in their assessments.
iTwire: http://www.itwire.com.au/content/view/5647/53/

OK so the President of universal claims; “The reviews are in and HD DVD is hands down the leader in picture quality, audio experiences and interactive capabilities that have never been seen before,” said Kornblau. Of course the "reviews" are in fact NBC/Universal people but the fact is, he is correct ... but you need to know why.

Truth?> do not credit the HD-DVD disc itself.
The great image quality is in the codec that can be used in HD-DVD, and that is VC-1.
VC-1 can be used in any DVD, it just so happens that HD-DVD is where you will find it right now.


VC-1 ( SMPTE 421M-2006) is better at HD 1080p and 720p, any framerate.. it seems to compress without incurring the issue of scene change block recovery (that blocky pixel clobbered crude look ) and stays clean on fast scene cuts and high action video preserving detail, when in my mind, it matters most.

MPEG4 and VC-1 will look the same in talking head news and basic things, but VC-1 is freshly minted code that cleans up the messthat the last generation of codecs forced us to live with. The result is cleaner playback for a smaller filesize, or conversely, more quality if the quality was there to begin with, it will be preserved with a more compact format.


the questions and very short answers....

Will this matter to you? Yes.. if you have an HD-DVD and you see a VC-1 format was used, it is going to look great period. Blu-ray uses mpeg2, which means its compression to get the same clean look will require more file space.

(CORRECTION [Nov-06] - Blu-ray does support VC-1, as of when i do not know, so basically the format exists via licenseable usage for publishers, regardless of media constraint, i think this is partly due to DRM transparency allowing it, and that is a good thing. )

In a word or 2 , those that think HD-DVD is not as good for movie releases simply because it has less of a storage capability are not aware that with VC-1 you get 2-10 times the compression for the same image as Mpeg2 and probably 2-4x MPEG4. So HD-DVD with VC-1 just doesnt need the old bloated codec or its space requirement since it can do a great job of delivery for a full length Movie in 1080p. In fact i can make a nice 720p HD in VC-1 at 5-6mbits for about 180 megs every 5 minutes of runtime. do the math- this means a 1hr 45 min HD 720p video in VC-1 encoding can fit on a regular old 4.5 gig DVD, and use windows media player in full screen mode to display it.

In my most humble opinion, the VC-1 codec can enable IPHDTV at 5 mbit bandwidth rates.
My FIOS fiber optic connection can just about handle that.

This is good. I can edit an HD video, upload it it for review in a couple minutes, and get client feedback quickly, and they can see detail on thier 1280 pixel computer screens with windows media player enough to guide the development. If they like it in 720p they will love it in 1080.

Is that Macroblock thing in VC-1?
Macroblocks that are visible represent a failure in image rendering due to data rate or error correction... VC-1 is not the same, it has other points of failure in error correcting, and in my opinion its block recovery is a more elegant solution. Be wary though, a transport stream and a basic file codec are in fact a bit different ( bad pun ) It will pixellate and get blocky when the author of the video over-compresses to a point well below the bit-rate needed, but if you follow guidelines, you will not often see any issues. Macroblocks are an MPEG-specific definition.

OK - HD-DVD - Blu-ray and whatever...

What is all this Multiformat stuff?
Some companies are making a possible play into a player/disc option that covers all bases.
Basically the usage fees for content publishers to employ Blu-ray causes one set of standards and DRM to happen, HD-DVD causes yet another etc ... To prevent fence-sitter behavior in the consumer-space, i expect multiformat systems to appear... however if they too get greedy about patents and trademarks, then it will still be a case of proprietary supply-side control that will break standards down to a lowest common level of mundane, in the quest for ubiquity. I am not sure i want a bi-polar DVD player, i need to give it some thought.

Other questions:
Can 1080i run a computer resolution of 1080 vertical pixels?
Yes - it is what i do infact - get an Nvidia 7600 GT or better video card and just plug that DVI into whatever 1080 HDTV you have, mine is a Westy LVM-37w3 costs 1400 bucks at best buy and it rocks for an LCD. Most all 1080 HD monitors will also run 1920x1080 in VGA mode too.
I would ASK the store guru first though, some monitors require your system to have a driver to use VGA properly for thier display at that resolution.

Addendum: It took me a while to finally make a decent longform HD piece... so i encoded it in WMV-HD 1080 and found this out... basically for a lot of stable-scene situations like interviews and talking head stuff , i got about 22 minutes per gigabyte 1080p pristine, Stereo Audio. [Begin: rant] THE VC-1 CODEC. Oh my... do the math. A regular DVD can hold a decent 1hr HD tv show with room to spare. I had one segment 300 seconds (5 minutes ) runtime in 200 megs, lots of high action scene cuts in that part. Damn. If someone just made an HDMI/component output 1080p DVD player for WMV-HD ... but oh wait.. you can buy a nice tiny AOPEN computer with 1080p DVI output, the Windows Media player 11 is free, for about 500 bucks. copy the DVD file to the hard drive and play it. Take that a step further, get the Logitech Remote. badda-boom badda-bing... its done. You can probably download a VC-1 60 minute tv show in just over 3 gigs, and love every frame, even the advertizing in it. Ok do not get me wrong, I still want to make BD 1080 and in 2007 i will ship a Ps3 with my HD product to the clients that want HD in a box for thier videos, but really, I am impressed with VC-1 to the point that i may just use it for Archive and b-roll storage for HD in my system, get my on-line terabytes back for the next editing job. Broadcasters should be using VC-1. I am so sick of Mpeg Macroblocks. I Know the VC-1 people are aware of how compact this Codec is, but i wonder if the rest of the world does? Is it shunned for being a Microsoft thing? If you know what you are doing, and take the time to do it well, VC-1 absolutely cannot be beat. [End:rant]

I need to maybe come clean on something, i am not just a HD1080 / HD fanboy. I create HD video , shoot and edit the stuff, so my view on it is a bit more intense than most will have. Something that can and will affect what you see is called a CODEC, and it is the method by which your Video is stored as a file on DVDs. It is the COmpress-DECompress process that is used in creating , storing and playback. It is more than simply a format like Quicktime or AVI and a lot of fancy software and firmware code is needed. It is a huge enabler, like Mp3 is for music files. So MPEG 2 , MPEG4, VC-1 are all really code-driven ways of getting digital video to you, most digital cable is MPEG.

Friday, September 15, 2006

HD 1080 Delivery - Perfect Targeting

Steve Jobs & "iTV" The evolution begins.

http://www.engadget.com/2006/09/12/live-from-the-steve-jobs-keynote-its-showtime/ Not that i would herald Apple Computer for much, but Steve has the platform to set an example that does get followed, for example, the Apple][ that healped lead to MSDOS and finally the PC platform, creating the consumer endpoint ubiquity that caused the internet to actually connect to people. Apple does well in entertainment. Did the iPOD well, so it is natural to persue more.

The iTV or whatever they call it is basically a real small digital TV box with a hard drive that you can connect to your HDTV and home theater stereo or surround sound system, and have some wireless features you want anyhow, and the box with its infrastucture is likely to launch next year. It connects thru your broadband ISP and does some On-Demand stuff of a dedicated supply-side like iTunes.

Since digital TV's , flat panel widescreens, are nearing a critical mass of minimum consumer volume to make a valid business model-- the prospect of content delivery to them is now most definitely the cash flow of the marketspace. The prospect of subscribing to a service that lets me night time download conveniently whatever my use profile states i want, is a success story i want in on. If a service existed that would allow me to capture what i have interest in, i would love it, especially in 1080., and i would actually be TELLING them my customer preference profile, which they now spend huge amounts of money trying to figure out, and usually mess up. Literally they will get what they want to know, right from the source, and in doing this also make a happy consumer of service and product. Perfect Target Marketing.

Here is a real example. I work for Damon Dash and Daniel Lazar of Tiret. Damon dash was profiled on CNN and i missed it ( sept 11 ), in fact,Tiret didnt even know when Damon's profile would get into the schedule, so they couldnt warn me to record it. CNN makes this available http://edition.cnn.com/CNNI/Programs/revealed/ so at least i can catch it later. This is good, and now his video pressbook can have a clip or two referring to this coverage. looky here http://dsmjmedia.com/tiret work in progress stuff.

Lets say now that iTV enters the picture and i tell my iTV to hunt down any clips it can find that mention keywords Damon Dash & Tiret at anypoint from now till the end of time. BOOM! Whn they happen, it grabs them, i see them, keeps me in the know the way i want it in yet another format that is more detailed better and cooler and on my biggest screen... so maybe they drop in 15 secs of some Car ad in the front that i can tolerate, and a sponsor gets a known set of eyeballs. win -win - win. IPTV down a fat pipe my way.

VOD equation
Currently VOD is defined as a sourcepoint delivery at the time of request. Thats ok but it requires massive immediate bandwidth. I want to watch what i want when i want for sure, but like the netflix paradigm, i can specify what i want, and have it arrive where i am. For me, that is time planning that works. What the providers dont realize is that scan the VOD menu, see that what i want is there, and plan to click the buy button and see it at a later date. This means it could download with less bandwidth sensitivy during off peak hours, and i still get what i want, and see it when i intend to. VOD is less of an impulse buy than they think it is, and in truth, availability and quality is more important.

AT SOME FUTURE POINT I want the same connection to HD video that iTunes has for Music, except for this model they dont have to store it all, just grab bits as the broadcast happens and send my iTV the streams. Like an HD Video Inbox. Subscribe and get. Gimme. Sign me up. Adelphia has On-Demand, but the big problem there is that what i would demand is not there, its untargeted, useless to me.

Why not have Windows Media Center do this? Or TiVO HD? Sorry but i'm already familiar with the progress of thier very crappy interfaces to the point that i am convinced they have to start over to make me want it, not likely to happen, since by thier own marketing methods i am sure that only my lowest expectations will be met, and the usual case is interface through some dumbass handheld remote that will never be what i want it to be.

Apple on the other hand, seems to be nimble enough to do things of this type reasonably well, and in my view of this, the best use is to do an end-run around the cable/broadcast provider and use the internet. Its a pipe dream of course, but maybe i will read my own post on this sometime in 2007 and realize then, that i was right on the money...

just maybe.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

HD 1080 delivery

It is getting to the point where 1080i HD is gaining in delivery methods. This is a good thing, and the open market response to this in terms of availability and enabling tech is rather location sensitive at this time, but that is one major situation undergoing change... based on new & fresh network capability. This years CEDIA is all about 1080 resolution products and people are buying. The puzzle pieces start to fall into place.

Enter the ISP - In a table published very recently by PCworld, respondents gave us a view of actual performance for several enabling ISP services capable of HD delivery, in summary:

1) Cable ( co-ax copper ) avg = 5.7 mbps
2) DSL ( varies ) avg = 2.9 mbps
3) Fiber Optic (FIOS) avg = 9.6 mbps
4) Fixed Wireless (2.4/5.8 ghz) avg = 1.6 mbps
5) Satellite (very service dependant ) avg = 720kbp

... so whats all this mbps mean? There are too many variables to discuss here, but the supplier central office distribution thruput to you is really the control to end-point here, except in the case of satellite, where dish location and quality matter and variances are dramatic. Lets think of it as HD transport stream bandwidth.

I have found that the VC-1 transport stream is very good for hd1080 at 8384 kbps or about 8 mpbs, but for average action video you can get a decent hd stream for around 5mbps, thats 5 million bits-per-second or 5 megabit. You do well at 10mbit, and get perfect around 40mbit, which really is proper for 1080 Sports and high action stuff like racing.

Practical reality for this means that HD as delievered by connected service is able to deliver pretty well, up to and including service that functions as TV/Internet like Digital Cable. Most service happening right now is Mpeg transport though, and hence the rather blocky outcome in a lot of cases, its buffered and cleaned up some at your receiver box, cable set-top whatever.

What is VC-1? well essentially its windows media v9,10, etc and standards adoption is being managed by SMPTE 421M-2006. It does a great job of delivering a compact HD transport stream within the available bandwidth, because it was originally crafted to be capable that way.

Why does this matter? Well, MPEG 4 (H.264 ) was heralded awhile back as the best... But you want to see more, you get VC-1 / SMPTE 421M. At this moment Mpeg 4 is good to go in my opinion, BUT My guess is that it will become more prevalent, based on the simple economics of better picture in less bit-load, with on-chip device decode and essentially realtime transcode.

Getting that HD from its source, to my eyeballs ...
For those in the know, last mile fiber-opic is the way to go. Thats what i have.
... Verizon FIOS, which currently has no video on-demand of its own, yet, but i have it on good authority that a clean fiber connection is capable of gigabit performance, with very little stress. Unfortunately the infrastructure is still in buildout and central office processing is not yet there for the video HD consumer, but it's in the hands of verizon, they can supply whatever they want through this pipe, whenever they are ready to.

This opens up a world of something very cool, IPTV. Essentially this is connecting your HDTV to your Internet Connection. IPTV is a-la-carte supply of HD and pricepoint momentum is happening now. check out http://matrixStream.com for example. VOD or Video on Demand. This is my personal favorite solution, VOD being the high quality i would expect for my time spent looking at stuff that i would set-aside time for. WHY? because i look at movies and events maybe 2 times.. I may be odd that way but i will wait for quality and i will pay for it.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

What is The Sony PS3 Really?

OK i have to rant on this a bit, since for me anyhow, the PS3 marketplace arrival, regardless of when it happens, is in-fact a next generation event.

The Ps3 is based on Cell Processor Technology.
This is the technology of the next globally #1 supercomputer.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/5322704.stm read if you will.

The thing about games that makes performance is the crunching of lots of data in a repetitive manner, this makes Game rendering unique in that the same little chunks of code run over and over and over the to make your image. In such a world 2 things happen:

1) ... you want multiple processors to run at the same time rather than 1 processor running really fast on only one thing at a time.

2) ... you want ultra fast databus to visual memory transfer speed.

This is why a Fast Computer CPU and Fast Graphics GPU ( Nvidia SLI for example ) matter to a huge extent when you are processing for interactive performance for a lot of pixel space. Perfect for what a cell process technology gets for you, each cell chip consists of eight processors controlled by a master unit that can assign tasks to each member of the processing team. Each cell is capable of 256 billion calculations per second, and exchanges data at that speed.

Basically a multi-cell processing engine like the Ps3 is a piece of a supercomputer.

But there is more.. The PS3 will have one HDMI 1.3 port. The final specs were created June 2006. Why does the 1.3 spec matter? COLOR. On a large 1920x1080 display, color banding from gradients done at 24 bits will cause some banding artifacts. HDMI 1.3 will allow 48 bit color accuracy, for 281,474.9 billion colors. All will handle 1920 x 1080 pixels at 60 frames/s through progressive output, in what is commonly referred to as high-definition (HD) 1080p format.
IMHO - not a lot of displays are as good as the HDMI 1.3 spec provides for.
http://neasia.nikkeibp.com/neasia/005020 if you like tech.

The Ps3 is More than a Console.

Its capable of much more than just a game machine, although the initial unit's operating system probably will take time to develop out to the point of exerting the full power of its own hardware. This is also where future improvements can be implemented/ but there is another thing...

The Ps3 runs on on a customized SONY Linux.

Yikes! what's that you say. Geeks around the world are fully aware of linux, but your average Joe could not care less, never heard of it. There is no doubut that a lean mean Linux kernel can do some amazing things, and that by not using a Microsoft Operating System they can keep STD PC virus/trojans out, but we will just have to see how well that all plays out in the long run.
The power of all this means the PS3 can to a lot of things simultaneously, having processing that reads from shared data over a network at high speeds, lots of concurrent Wireless and internet useages. We will see how well the geeks of the gamer world can offer up enhancements that actually work, i can envision a whole class of ps3 add-on markets emerging as a result of interest in performance and functionality, leading of course to version upgrading of the PS3 OS and potential compatibility issues where some users who install a 3rd party TURBO tool of some sort end up having something else not working properly.

The "Phone Home" problem. In my opinion, networkable devices have this issue of power-up and connect to the manufacturer that is both good and bad. A lot of valid marketing purposes can be achieved, but at the same time it makes me worry about how and if i want a PS3 in my home network router. Does anyone have info on that that is real?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

HD Critical Mass Ubiquity

The golden egg does in-fact require a goose...
Face it - ebay and Google et. al. really required critical mass of users to function at the larger scale, such that the PC was not just a cubicle appliance, but that average household had one, AND an intenet connection AND the ability to read and click. All these things were synergy dependant where devices, services and intellectual enablement were in place at a tolerable price-point. Basic Marketing 101. Look at MySpace. It doesnt have to be too fancy, just high availability and ubiquity.

So where is the Critical Mass equation for HD devices product and services?
HD has been available for many years now, lots of Cable has been put in place and much of that is fiber-optic growing at a decent pace... " .. fade in the sound of crickets "

What is HD as a platform that drives the marketspace?
Firstly, please accept that HD is a platform.

For a short time i sat in a Best Buy parking lot waiting for someone, and witnessed more than a few people leaving the store with big boxes that have TV's in them. Flat-Screens.
Aside from the Home theater entusiast, the ever popular Sports on Dish/Cable seems to be working well as a market driver, and ads forboth HD displays and HD content is evident in broadcasting now. The winning equation for HD is connectivity to source, decent content from source, and user experience ... so its no big surprise that spectator sports are good drivers for the consumption side of device/service.

Digital interaction at high resolution is, for me anyhow, the ultimate goal. It enables more, and it establishes global std conventions for size and frames per second, as much as the ubiquity of the web browser on a PC, comes in lots of flavors but the experience is and delivery is the same.

I see HD as great for who? Advertizers. Bigger better brighter bang for the buck.

But they wont really move until the critical mass of available eyeballs in this HD platform are active and out there. Digital Cable is an astounding opportunity for marketers, since the cable goes to a physical address and household that can be researched for demographics and income levels, and preferences. Its all trackable by default, a given in the equation.


IMHO the next couple of years will be great