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b_foote1

Why do Local TV spots look so bad?

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Ok, so i noticed that spots airing locally via comcast spotlight and other local cable affiliates look GOD AWFUL. So bad in fact that text and graphics aren't even readable. Everything looks pixelated as hell. What do they do compress them at 10:1 to save space or something. It makes me ill looking at something that was originally HD looking like DV or worse.

 

Anyway around this or should media planners and buyers just avoid these services if possible? Local affiliate (ABC, FOX, NBC etc.) broadcasts of the same spot look a lot better. Most of them accept HD and even the SD versions are at least readable and don't look to horrible.

 

All my spots are sent to stations via DGfastchannel.

 

Thoughts?

Edited by b_foote1

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I'm sure only the cable companies know for sure, but I worked at a TV station that operated 3 local channels. One of them was a cable channel (what is now the CW) and this is how it went:

 

Our 2 non-cable channels ran all ads off a server that we owned (and sometimes content played right off of decks). We had a lot of control over the quality. Our one cable channel on the other hand was run from a central location in NY or LA or something. We were basically a pass-through for the cable channel. Our station sold airtime and we had some influence over the programming for our market. Any ads we produced or received, we had to upload to them, and their servers were horribly slow. Like worse than dial-up slow. Usually if we didn't compress the hell out of everything (and this was before H.264) the upload would fail. I'm sure that after we uploaded it, it was compressed again and converted into whatever native format they use.

 

Not sure if that's still how it goes, but I wouldn't be surprised.

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I think he's talking about the video quality.

 

I thought it's because most of them are using archaic analog equipment? Or compressing to low bitrate MPEG2?

 

Last time I was at a TV station, I noticed the quality take a hit when they switched from lets say CNN to their own feed so they can place a local ad. The quality sucked, but when they went back to CNN, the quality went back to the original high quality feed.

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Spots on Cable are all hubbed from a few locations, quite possibly not even in the city that they are airing. Although they do accept DG Fastchannel for delivery, they then take that fine and redigitize it into their playback system.

 

More than likely they are using a very low bit rate Mpeg2 or h.264. It drives me crazy to see as well, but I am happy that at least my stuff looks good on my station in 1080i.

It also doesn't help that the locally produced cable spots, are poorly produced and probably using DV or HDV... Editied, Mastered and then compressed to death.

 

3 points for over the air broadcast in HD!

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I enjoy doing local projects since the people are typically nicer and under about 1000% less pressure than my bigger clients, but it's a crap shoot as far as getting things to look good on air. Up here there's a lot of lifers at the local stations that are still pissed that everything isn't running off a 1" tape, so a lot of the quality issues come down to people who have done things one way for 87 years and refuse to take an afternoon reading up on codecs, etc. to be able to get quality video on air. The fact that there are now a half dozen different screen formats and even more codecs for them to deal with just confuses the issue. No matter how much you try to avoid it, there's always a good chance that video will be cropped/ scaled/ compressed improperly.

 

One of the main problems I see in local spots are field issues from improper scaling. I only render fields when I absolutely have to due to certain types of motion anyway, but rendering progressive frames will help avoid lots of potential crap down the line. Sometimes if you talk with the people that are putting stuff on air you can figure out ways to get around problems but there has to be someone on the other end with a clue. I've run into several workflows at local stations where they demanded compressed formats like DVC Pro or H264 and were then taking that and recompressing it to another format or dubbing it onto Beta SP for no good reason. If you can get them to accept an uncompressed or lossless file that can also head off some issues.

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I do a lot of work for a local station in DC and it's the same thing, I saw one of my mograph pieces actually air on Comedy Central and CNN and they both looked horrible quality, but the same ads ran on our own station looked fine. It's definitely on the cable companies end. You'd think someone who actually is directly IN the cable business would know how to compress video so it still looks decent. But then again, Cable stations is content to just sit back and rake in the money without changing a thing.

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It's a mixed bag down here. I actually do direct uploads for HD stuff to some of our local stations, but other stations don't even accept that, only SD DG and beta sp. I don't think anyone can accept DG HD downloads because their systems all over the place and it doesn't seem to be any centralization. Add to that the cropping, center cutting, and other ridiculous scaling they like to do and it's fubar as hell. Talked with one of our bigger clients today and he was stressed about airing some local market commercials and them chopping up their HD spots without any regard to picture quality/framing. What can you do…?

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I enjoy doing local projects since the people are typically nicer and under about 1000% less pressure than my bigger clients, but it's a crap shoot as far as getting things to look good on air. Up here there's a lot of lifers at the local stations that are still pissed that everything isn't running off a 1" tape, so a lot of the quality issues come down to people who have done things one way for 87 years and refuse to take an afternoon reading up on codecs, etc. to be able to get quality video on air. The fact that there are now a half dozen different screen formats and even more codecs for them to deal with just confuses the issue. No matter how much you try to avoid it, there's always a good chance that video will be cropped/ scaled/ compressed improperly.

 

That's how I got my last broadcast job. They were switching from two Ampex ACR cart machines for commercial playback to a Sony LMS and D2 digital tape for commercials and programming. One of the lifers saw them bringing in computer terminals and promptly resigned. Worked out great for me as an applicant, of course.

 

None of the broadcasters here are originating local HD content yet. I scale my own stuff and give them SD versions at this point and archive the HD here for our clients' future use. I think cable might accept HD but haven't produced anything to air on local cable lately. A friend told me that certain channels get a lot more compression than others (obviously ESPN and the like get the best quality) but I don't know what that means for local inserts.

 

Cf

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It's a mixed bag down here. I actually do direct uploads for HD stuff to some of our local stations, but other stations don't even accept that, only SD DG and beta sp. I don't think anyone can accept DG HD downloads because their systems all over the place and it doesn't seem to be any centralization. Add to that the cropping, center cutting, and other ridiculous scaling they like to do and it's fubar as hell. Talked with one of our bigger clients today and he was stressed about airing some local market commercials and them chopping up their HD spots without any regard to picture quality/framing. What can you do…?

 

People can accept HD downloads from DG...but no one want to pay for the $250 per spot per destination for HD. They completely outpriced themselves. We only send SD via DG becasue it's like $45.

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