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

Sunday, April 29, 2007

HD - connect me please


I must admit these days of 2007 are far better for HD screens than ever before, and 16:9 widescreen flatpanels are enabling more and more people to get in on it all.... then they discover something: "Hey this LCD HDTV display is really a big computer monitor. I can see everything. Big. "

Connected and unwired:

This is not a pipe-dream, this is what is next, and such a thing removes netflix and physical rentals, provisions a real HD solution of maximum ease and suitability with yet another box connected to your HD display. I see it as a very proper way to get indie movies into your home, and honestly, a lot of these movies are better than you may know. All this takes yet another enablement, by wireless connections, and by computer.. yes yet another box. most are sort of MAC Mini in shape and basic style. Usually the interface is clunky due to the IR remote.

I see a new scenario coming up quickly... where you come home from work, and read the news on your TV, then scroll through some available movie downloads. There are thousands. So you set a few preferences for the moment and pick from a list that is smaller and fits tonight's mood. Start up dinner and a commence the download ... in minutes ( or less ) you can relax in front of the movie or whatever you chose.

Navigation is better when you can point directly to what you want.
We prefer the ability to point that the wireless mouse has, as opposed to the navigation up-down-left-right-enter by IR remote that your basic Comcast/TiVo whatever uses. Use a Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse, when batteries are fresh it works for about 25 feet.

There is not enough HD content out there.
An HD owner can eaily grow tired of what is NOT available. This opens up a big wide 16:9 door for the IPTV content distributor.

Modes of Use

Apple TV is like generation 0.5 of all this, and though downloads from iTunes are ok, some are finding 2 modes of useage. First mode is Surfing & Immediacy the current situation out there for immediate play, after dismissing Comcraptastic stuff -- then switch to web and check out ABC and Joost ( they are the current chosen few of the moment anyhow ). So What is on Right NOW? Usually what you want to see is not in the short-list VOD or its on at 10pm. Mode 2 is very much the paradigm of Theater going, or nightly broadcast TV, where you chose something to see and set aside or have to make time to do that. That is perfect for the download type of user, HD-DVD viewer or DVD upscale whatever and already typical, get psyched-up to see a show or movie with no interruptions. These mindsets are very different, the immediate mode viewer will tolerate some advertizing, like prime time TV, while the Theater mindset hates every second of enforced pre-movie trailer viewing like current DVDs. The ideal scenario is Video on Demand where the viewer gets a high-quality experience from the HD. Its just not there yet. The web holds some promise... for example:

IPTV Architecture: Centralized or node and peer?


The founders of TiVo are creating a next-gen option for all this: The NYT says --
"Vudu, if all goes as planned, hopes to turn America’s televisions into limitless multiplexes, providing instant gratification for movie buffs. It has built a small Internet-ready movie box that connects to the television and allows couch potatoes to rent or buy any of the 5,000 films now in Vudu’s growing collection. The box’s biggest asset is raw speed: the company says the films will begin playing immediately after a customer makes a selection."

The imagination of the developers seems to include instant access, which is why a dedicated box is really required, in a peer-to-peer workload configuration. The Vudu is really a node in an immense distributed system, like a dedicated subscriber Bit-Torrent optimized for just one sourcebase, the first 10 minutes of everything they have ( ad serving pre-roll and intro segment to the vod content) can be spread all over the planet, and always be just enough ahead of the main load to stay streaming. Of course, this requires an available critical mass of nodes or major nodes ( like akamai has ) to kick it off, with costs decreasing as home adoption takes place.

Sun Streaming System
At the other end of the spectrum is Sun Microsystems, with a no-node nondistributed design, basically centralized brute force delivery. Think BIG... at a whopping 320Gbps per server load, these are monsters designed to live in IPTV over fiber, perfect for FIOS type suburb and city demographics. This would provision stuff like a 50,000 title library, and really get the content availability up to where it should be. Ideally this whole approach is for fiber networks that would handle HD the way we like it, but i suspect that DVD quality is what we will see more. Since your basic internet connection is central office managed anyhow, it just makes sense that this kind of system is right for NOC and datacenter placement. They have a dry but descriptive video: Sun Streaming System

All these IPTV options show promise but at 300-600 bucks per box and some cost per movie, I would really need my HD to be excellent, and have loads of content. The way the web works now, routers and switches are always running into overload conditions that can clobber a real-time stream, making the download-before-play the proper HD option in my opinion, where basically the Video Rental Store is on the screen of your TV. Of course this all has been promised before....and the PS3 and XboX have totally let us down for all the horsepower in the devices, the HD download is talk... so the game network systems sites are promises, but if the devices are connectd and HD is the screen, then at least we have an empowered base installed and ready to buy HD-IPTV. That critical mass is fast approaching, and i think 2007 into 2008 is open season for anyone that wants in on this.

The Paradigm Gear Shift
Between now and 2009 digital cutover, expect to see a lot of paradigm-shift-failure where boardroom decisions are made according to what feels good for the Corp. and by the time such stuff is in play, the IPTV startups are going to be eating their profits. This is because the Film ownership and distribution mechanics of film dealmaking are in very different hands.

And Now what?
The smart film financing and distribution firm will have partnerships across all distribution channels written in contract and ready to put to use. The Theater - Broadcast Special - DVD Release - Downloadable - web/intergrated event stream could make a film stay on the radar for many times longer, maximizing the moment value of marketing ( meaning; the display of the advertizing moment is the impulse-buy mechanism of VOD immediacy ) When done properly, it costs very little to add-in digital and gain more eyeball and wallet access than any Theater to DVD only situation could possibly produce. This is lower cost-of-goods-sold entertainment product with continuous and global cashflow, no need to ship physical products and push for front shelf space.

Content is King:
Unless you are a sports fan, then only 1 or 2 HD shows a week are worth the PVR space... I think this is nuts... there are thousands of hours of HD and 2k works ripe for re-release. Where is it?
... insider tip - keep an eye on this guy, www.charlesferri.com -- he gets it.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

1080i 1080p Myth Busting

We a lot of seemingly authoritative bad and old writing out there, it is time for some basic...


1080i is worse than 1080p.

Not really. Broadcasts are in HD1080i and properly managed at both ends, is very good. Since Flat panel displays do not scan but instead assemble each frame in video memory, it is always a 1080p screen result. Nearly all the 1080p displays available in 2007 do a great job of de-interlacing, although i have a preference for DCDi ( Directional Correlation De-interlacing ) as done by Faroudja.

1080p in HD-DVD and Blu-ray is better mostly from the reduced compression and not the interlace (i) or progressive (p) delivery. In Fact some 1080p 24 at 24 frames per second from film productions is more "filmic" ( a word i have heard used often ) at a lesser frame rate and more motion blur than the usual 30 or 60 frames persecond that a good 1080p LCD HD display can show you. Odd - even arrival of interlaced data is alternate rows of pixels requiring processing to assemble an image. Over and above that is the 16 x 16 pixel block used in compression codecs.

-- So really where is the problem for 1080 video? It is not Interlacing.

MPEG and Compression

The usual problem for digital video in any form is not in the progressive or interlaced delivery of the image frames, but in the over-compression of the digital processing. Current broadcast standards are delivery of TS or Transport Streams in MPEG2. This is required because the MPEG compression de-compression process must happen at the both send and recieve ends. So the Broadcaster uses MPE2 to compress and your Cablebox firmware uses a built-in standard MPEG2 chipset to de-compress. Its old technology, from back in the DVD days. Direct-TV and others are migrating to MPEG4 variants which are somewhat better, but blocking errors are still the outcome when this technology is mis-used.

Worst Case Scenario: BIG BAD MACROBLOCK

The problem is in bad data or over-compression used to save bandwidth, and visible evidence of this is square chunks of the image looking out of place and time. That artifact is known as a MacroBlock... if there is any detriment to digital works, it is abuse of the mpeg2 compression codecs that reveals blocking in the frame. All your digital video is made up of these blocks and when its all good, you probably do not see them or know that they are there. This is different from interlacing which is a very fine comb-like edge artifact.

Basically a cheap broadcaster running out of Bandwidth will smash and squeeze the video stream right up to the point of customer complaint. Then you see macro blocking.

Now that you know what all this is, complain when you see it. Click to see below -- a very extreme case of compression recovery failure in macroblocks. Click Play and then move the slider to see and select frames for view. ( there is no audio ) A variety of error cases is visible but they happen fast so the slider helps see this in detail.

You should never see anything this bad, but it serves to expose what your digital video is really doing, in that you are always seeing blocks of data. Extreme cases like this make it much more obvious. This example was sent to me on a DVD from a friend who thought his system was broken. It was recorded direct from his cablebox. It is important to note, that this processing problem is not your new flatpanel display, but happens before that at the Cablebox/Converter, and can be from line noise in the cable, a problem at the source, or bandwidth overload, among other things.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Broadband Video HD - NAB me

Well its time again for the National Ass. of Broadcasters to have a bash in vegas, and this year instead of real broadcasting, its about real broadbanding... Video that is on your desktop converging with your mobile phone and flatpanel in the living area... yikes. No ATSC/HD/wha...? Lots of new cameras and editing stuff, but the buzz is Broadcasters yakking it up about the web? ... while the Apple TV gets another bashing, these guys are rolling out some cool tooling...

I just got some On the Floor news. Silverlight rocks...its a modload to your system to play it, & that is enclosed in a 1 meg download. The floor quote is "It will kill everything else" in response to high quality over-the-web large format video and surround audio. I asked if SilverLight was a VC-1 codec variant, and they said "VC-1 is integration. you must see this yourself, it is crisp clean and seamless."... hmmm i need to know more. I will bet though that it is VC-1 VBR with a tagging layer and some overlay managers with sync tags and stuff for mouse handling. This is interactive publishing for WMVHD that integrates vector art and therefore lets you scale the outcome in pixel-space. This product launch is really speaking to code-sets and markup availability for convergence. Interact - see - buy stuff - user experience mechanisms that are adoptable by any web community developer system on any (?read: except linux ) platform. The Fact that it can do HD nicely is but one part of its feature-set. In my dreams it would let me realtime mashup and track-over 3-d compositing. The Wait and See is something called Expression Blend that adds whatever you have handy and lets you do what havent thought up yet... because it has its own authoring studio... e.g. this is the WPF/E project.
http://microsoft.com/silverlight = the splash date is April 30, MIX07
VC-1 is already very good. Take for example this clip 30 meg download 720p VC-1 CBR (wmv9) of flames, where each frame is selectively different except for blackspace. No Mpeggy blocking. Its kind of a stress test since it really loads up a player to deliver progressive frames cleanly where the next frame has a changing distribution of compressable content, and there is a lot of gradients that degrade into blocking in when the codec is inferior.
Interaction in the Experience. The next evolutionary step.
For Example: we are developing what we call Curious George Elements ... integrated nuggets of visual epiphany in an awestruck moment of insight and discovery... or basically a cool clever message trinket built into a movie. Based on a visual event or maximizing a product placement, a stroke will launch a mini top layer abstraction treatment. Lots of heavy tagging, and creative mindgaming of motion visuals, and showing off a lot., since basically its the showmanship that value-adds the HD interactive experience.
There is Gold in them there frills...
A HUGE amount of all this fresh video action is really based on the Must-Have nature of the wave this is all riding on... or more accurately, wave after wave after wave in a seeming endless near tsunami of video for the sake of video. User contributed video. Everyone is a potential rockstar. High availability of cool is a magnet for the right-now crowd. To fuel this scenario you need, lots of download speed and bandwidth, a computer and a large flatpanel ( the computer could be that laptop, PS3, Xbox, or soon, the flatpanel itself. ) And of course, the next downloadable player format. ( no listing of real.com, they owned the webvideo market and then shot themselves in the feet with bad marketing ploys so many times that they have no legs - proof that its possible to piss-off your users in droves.)
Currently capable of Higher def and TrueHD display downloads are:
  1. Qucktime 7 (beware of iTunes piggyback download)
  2. Windows Media Player 10 ( very nice, easy )
  3. Divx ( possibly the cleanest player chrome out there )
  4. Joost (Beta - this is all custom stuff, excellent )
  5. Neokast (Beta)


In a booth near you at NAB are the next gen Adobe Media Player flavors ( what no fancy name? ) basically the next level of flash player, with video interaction up front. So far my full screen flash HD videos totally clobber the cpu, and die with no grace whatsoever...., so all video there is in smaller windows, 800x600 being a typical size that will play ok. Adobe is acting really big on all this - sporting a partnership with akamai (broadband high bandwidth video streaming service, anyone with the $$ can partner with them, puleeze what? this is your big deal?).
PR on Adobe.com = uhm. yawn? where is my HD?
The current level of player for flash 9 uses a variant of the On2 codec which has less scene-cut block recovery and gradient blocking problems than earlier versions based purely on jpeggy stuff. Its already quite good, bit it hogs cpu horsepower as the flv player code is a hybrid of Active-x and a true video handler. When the next gen FLV format is truely pure and coding is a layer that has access properly, then all manner of advertizement embedding is available. meaning? Enforced intro-outro ad coding, mouseover product placement ad launching, counting clicks. Those of us us in video can do all that now, but its hard to handle and automate, very custom work .. this new stuff has all the toys built right in, so we are told.
There is something i want to set straight though. DO not credit ADOBE for any huge tech value... It was MACROMEDIA and On2 technologies did the heavy lifting that kicked this off, Adobe was just the buyer in all this... none of the savvy work here was Adobe in-house smarts. My guess is that VP7 integration is in this mix.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

HD 1080 Trailers

..and some 720 trailers too.

I really like teaser / trailers because they often contain some choice moments of any work. Even better is to download or stream them and examine a few selected frames. Its my hope that more than a few repeat visitors to this site are equipped with 1920x1080 displays or at least the ability to se a 720p at 1280 pixels across.

Print Screen

H.264 is the Mpeg4 HD delivery method of Apple's quicktime format, and it uses AAC audio, it is quite good, even when you only get 720p to look at.

Here are some links:

A more complete 1080p download for Quicktime users:

You will need quicktime's latest download to view this if you currently have version 6 or less, Version 7 is required.... bad news is you will be forced to swallow an iTunes download of 32 megs to get it. iTunes will install a ton of stuff, among which is apple DRM and ipod connection listeners. For that reason i am NOT linking the download here, since i think that is a bit over the top. ( I uninstalled Real Player due to their invasive and irritating piggyback download and the impossibly annoying Jukebox and event reminder popups they placed in my system. there still is some jusched junk in my machine leftover from that.)

Logic defect in PC use: Important to note is that the 1080p quicktime will put the controls of apples player off the screen in a way that cannot be seen. DuH - you could hit "Ctrl+Enter" for fullscreen "Ctrl+F" play to get around that, or pulldown the View> "Play All Movies" to start playing.

Monday, April 09, 2007

HD Free over the air, SXRD

# things that are Coming Soon ...

For a mere 99 bucks you can grab HD over the air digital TV, from Plextor, of course its another "coming soon" thing, but this enablement has my interest since its nice and compact and has a high availability price-point. Of course they say "Watch High-Definition TV Anywhere!" when the practical reality is closer to the broadcast antenna is where you have to be, let us say clear line of sight 50 miles is more probable. We will let you know when ours arrives and we tour around New England with it.

SXRD XBR1 - oops, trouble ahead.
So it would seem, the XBR1 display engine for the SXRD 50" on up rear projection Tv's are now in life-cycle testing out there since market introduction years ago. Apparently a Yellow band or green blotch could possibly develop in the system over time... repair under warrany ends at 1 year, so if you have one, go to sonystyle.com and get the 3 year plan. Alex covered it well here: http://www.computerworld.com/blogs/node/5135

1366 resolution screen displaying HD1080i
I still get way too many hits from searchers looking to discover what really happens when a 1080i broadcast arrives into thier 1366 x 768 display, industry take note, you need to explain yourself. I have already done many many post on this: here is one ...

The actual www.HD1080i.com
ok ok ok, i havent launched the site yet and I am still in the process of tuning the CMS that runs it. I will Beta the start page next week and allow membership to people that have a 1920 x 1080 display connected. For everyone else ... HD1080i will launch soon, and have downloads for testing your display ( for those with HD screens connected to your computer).

One good note, i have flash 8 running in full screen 1920 x 1080 so there will be a special area for those of you that are so equipped, to see what i see. It is really is stunning stuff...such things i can do with that definitely sparks the fire of future cool.

There will be a 25mbit server in LA and another in NYC, mostly because my clients are there, but such extra high stuff is required to properly make HD. Not to exclude anyhone too much a 5mbit 720p also will be available for those with 1280 computer screens and flash9 or windows VC-1/wmv9 advanced profile. www.HD1080.net is now and will be a subscriber source for trade screen distribution.

Friday, April 06, 2007

IPHD - ABC digital High(er) definition primetime.

ABC tv on the web
click to launch website

Competition for eyeballs... Its a wonderful thing. Ok so its not true HD in any sense, but its good enough to write about, and well worth your time to investigate.

Basic typical Digital TV is about 352 pixels across the width of your tv screen, which for most people is far less than the available resolution of a computer screen. Its all about pixel realestate and the screen. ABC is delivering a nicely scalable 720 pixels.

Click the image above and take a look at ABC's latest. visually it is every bit as capable as Joost, its got all it takes to deliver what you want. yes, at full screen. Select "Size" in the lower right. Resolution here will be at least 3 times better than any broadcast option. If your display has nice upscaling internal to the monitor then you will actually prefer this to your basic Comcast. Although it is high bandwidth, i think most good to great broadband connections will handle this just fine. It basically is the file quality of a progressive DVD in "Big" mode. Go for it... you will be hooked.

Awesome sums it up nicely.

... credit where credit is due, ABC is going to grab a lot of eyeballs with this latest offering, several very savvy advertizers are in on it. Nissan, Toyota all announce at the openers. Navigation is a left right slider and a click gets you the episodes, up to the last 6. I missed SIX DEGREES and didnt realize what a great show it is, thanks basically to this website and its video. There is no reason at all why this convergence cant win out over other options, in a huge way. Advertizers get thier eyeballs. Currently its wide open, no membership hassles, and it totaly kills AOL Hi-Q etc all the rest. At this moment in time, the ABC primetime content player and its production quality, kills every other offering out there for video on a web connection...

It is 16:9 so it fills my 1680 x 1050 screen 1 here at hd1080i labs... Nicely. Only my own videos look better, and thats because they are coming off my local server farm at HD1080i . This is from a website. I do not know what this codec is yet, but i plan on finding out more. It puts my mpeg2 Comcraptastic subscriber cable digital service to shame.

It has a mini mode, and yes, if you have the right phone, you can see it there also. Its BIG mode is 720x400 pixels, basically DV1 format. It seems that its the source file that is upscaled by a custom codec and surrounded by navigation with flash (7,8,9) enhancements. It is in Stereo.

You will need to download several new software bundles that use active-x. It is worth it. My dual core cpus loaf along at 22% to play this in Big mode. It only plays in screen 1 of my 3 screen setup (5280 pixel desktop - I reconfigured and whatever screen 1 is , will get the full screen playback. its quite nice in 1920 x 1080.)

My desktop screen capture ( 3 monitor setup )

For me this was a serious eye opener. There are GREAT ABC shows out there that i would have had no exposure to, and totally missed, had it not been for this player/website. It's quality is better then STD Digital CableTV. This is the type of entertainment convergence-repurpose & reconnect that I was harping on last year, and it will be very strong in the entertainment marketspace.

I just tried it on my other HD/PC and quite frankly, its better than APPLE TV so hold on to your wallet. I have windows media center with YpBPr component output for 480i on the Toshiba satellite laptop and ran this through my std NTSC CRT monitor. Stunned. Then through component input DVD player out the s-video connection and into to a big screen 4:3 the kids play video games on... Fantastic. ( in basic talk - i hooked a laptop up to my 50" rear projection circa 1996 TV set and it was better than Comcast in quality and ease and stereo sound.)

I sort of wrote-off ABC as a 720p not really into high definition quality network. They carry on about "Scan Lines" in HD1080i... and i know anyone with that problem in HD1080i is simply doing it wrong and living in the past. Watch "planet earth" in Discovery HD and tell me you see anything of a scan-line problem. You wont, they do it right and its amazing. This new ABC website is causing me to re-think the delivery-value of desireable content though. There is a lot of great HD network operations out there, but they are lost in poor content - most of it is stuff i do not care to see.

I will cover the options for making all this work in 1920x1080 through DVI from a cost efficient box next time, but i should mention that all my graphics displays are driven by nVidia cards, and they have HDCP and PureVideo off a Verizon FIOS connection.