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

Saturday, February 10, 2007

HD 1080 - VOD - IPTV?

The thing about content in 1080i and 1080p High Definition is; that all of it is expanding in all directions. Right now content producers and entertainment houses are looking to the day that the critical mass of consumer enablement arrives, though it seems like it has been years in the making -- Its sort of an evolution revolution in slo-motion.

More access, more content. Lets say you could deal with the less immediate stuff by downloading it for later viewing, or perhaps plan a movie night... that works, netflix and blockbuster rely on it. How about: you could get that Movie with no forms, no trip to the videostore, or even opening your postal mail. On-Demand channels in cable/dish and your basic TiVo / DVR use in broadcast HD -- not a lot of HD in there, no library of substance.

The ultimate would be an HD media center that lets you preview across all platforms of delivery and availability, and have that in 1080 flick with a click-now to download, see-later cheap get and keep. That woul be only ( from what i can tell ) a few lucky fiber-enabled Verizon FIOS Tv users, and by all accounts it is the best, bar none.
But for the rest of the population not connected through FIOS... what is happening now: Amazon and TiVO, 2 goliaths in the market are in beta test on a download service that sources web connectivity to TV display of VOD... but its not yet in HD.

480i only
Commentary: - I really like this service from Amazon Unboxed, and hope to see it grow. Even though its not yet HD its quality is pretty good, you can enjoy it on about any video device including handhelds and PC's ( sorry not yet MAC ready ). Its DRM requires windows xp, and for me it worked fine, has not timed out ot acted broken in any way, all i got was stereo audio but i dont know if some movies ( as opposed to TV shows ) are in surround from service. Download was rather quick, it seems Amazon is trying to do a good job here. -- my favorite benefit here is that they do not require a "dedicated and branded " player download, like AOL HiQ and Divx do, so its all portable.

The Apple iTV and Amazon/TiVO and countless other freshly minted market-space kickoffs are in progress right now, and from what i see, you need a lot of the correct matching equipment and provisioning to get to it. NO HD1080 is in there yet but i'm sure a premium offering will come to pass and be worth the wait. On my display 720p scales up to 1080 pretty well, so i am looking forward to this.

720p only

want 2 megapixel 1080p VODownload?
Standard TV/DVD
Its not HD. . . yet.
Of course expecting HD from walmart is crazy anyhow, and Cable/Dish HD service, not really Video On Demand, its "what-they-have-at-the-moment" is pretty good & getting better -- most times it's digital quality is tolerable and only a dedicated network like a cable provider or satellite/wifi can handle HD bit-rates anyhow. The ideal VOD is a searchable library of large amounts of content, and by all observations i can make, that is where all providers are heading, so there is a lot to look forward to.

A solution to bandwidth is there are 2 resolutions to HD, one (720p) that is 1280x720 or one megapixel, and another (1080) is 1920x1080 or 2 megapixels. Most broadcasters are now going 1080i , which done properly is really seen at 1080p on an LCD or fixed pixel widescreen flatpanel. ( hardly any flatscreens "scan" so interlaced 1080i arrival to your screen is of minor consequence. ) so bandwidth for both 720p and 1080i delivery of premuim VOD is do-able, VC-1 or Mpeg4 for when the recipient is a computer.

However... 90 times more 1366 x 768 resolution displays are in use right now than there are any other in wide-screen flatpanel. Many owners dont even know thier native resolution. Those that do know are staunch 720p advocates on blogs and boards. .. and even more perplexing is that a lot of the 720p broadcasters show a 4:3 non-widescreen image most of the time.
720p HD broadcasters :
ABC HD (720p) rarely 16:9
FOX (720p) lots of 4:3
ESPN-HD (720p) But i see it in 1080 in Comcast always 16:9
UPN (720p) 4:3
WarnerBros WB (720) 4:3 typical
The resolution Divergence:
The overwhelming majority of connected HD's are 1366 pixels, and the majority of transmission boradcasting is an mpeg transport stream in 1080i. So all these people are getting a 2megapixel incoming quality that the display or set-top scales down to 1 megapixel, which by the way, looks pretty damn nice, and most are pleased with that. Its my opinion that the displays currently available do a much nicer job of down-sampling a component input source, so dont use your set-top at 720p. What does all this mean? -- A library of 720p Video on Demand may well become a winner for the "click and see" crowd, so i would like to have Apple make its iTV / iTunes offering be as device portable as possible without haveing to be an Apple hardware owner.
Ok so if you are a 720p user with a good scaling display, then perhaps DVD quality VOD over IP is going to engage you. Perhaps AOL HI-Q video is for you. This service has a lot of free content, some of it is quite good, and it uses a dedicated download system to get it to you quickly.
Once installed , the Kontiki HI-Q downloader will deliver 475 meg full length show downloaded and ready in about the time it takes to make a pot of coffee and a Microwave popcorn bag. It requires you to be a registered member, and use it's dedicated player, the expiration on the above Babylon 5 show was Feb 1 2010. The Hi-Q/IN2TV player itself is ok, its features are spartan , but i do not like the surrounding chrome - PC connected HD screen owner should check it out. The demos are free and the sound is surround. The AOL VOD library is rather large, it will take some time to realize how much is in there.

Either way, distribution channels and DRM will have to grow, and from what i can tell, since its digital, the disc and fiber platforms we have around now will do it, probably immediate VOD is best at 720p, and 1080 is more of a download. I did a couple of tests with vc-1 and got great results at 720p24 using up about 200megs every 5 minutes of runtime, scaling that to 1080 full screen came out ok.

I support Trade-show floor HD loops, and use a small-box computer at the show to remote upload, so i had to figure all that out and make it work. In this way i sort of had a taste of being a VOD download provider. It caused me to appreciate VC-1 as a codec even though the audio was only stereo for my work, it was quite good.

I guess about all we can say is that for next gen HD VOD over IP channel, we have only just begun, internet distribution basically requires a dedicated network stucture near the last mile endpoints to compete with Cable providers, and few more HD screens need to be out there. Some very creative people are working on a Next-Gen WiFi that may well change the high bandwidth distribution heatmap of connectivity at the 5mbit+ level, i am keeping a close eye on that since it may well be the most cost/benefit solution around. Think about it, everyone has a cellphone, the towers are aready there. Souped-up ultra bandwidth tech is closer to you than you might think.

JOOST is coming soon, lots to talk about, Convergence of Web/TV and interaction...

More on 3-4gen IPTV VOD next time ...


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