Now that we have High-Definition (HD) in the beginning stages of taking over traditional 480i broadcasts, we will start to notice all the little things that we never before saw on television. With double the amount of line resolution and 5 times that clarity, HD will hide no secrets.
Production values have increased significantly in the HD realm. Having worked in television production for a number of years, I have a good idea of what broadcast centers, studios and set-builders are doing to scramble to get their sets up-to-par with the details of HD. The old days of using fake wood and cheap substitute materials for background sets are over.
If you’ve watched a sporting event on HDTV you will have noticed how details stand out. On the pitcher’s mound, there is no hiding the swarm of gnats buzzing around the player’s head. On the field, bloody noses and bruises are clearly revealed. But this is not a problem for most viewers. In fact, these kinds of details only enhance the experience, making it more realistic. The most significant improvement in sports has been, in my estimation, the now clearly visible hockey puck.
But that is reality. In the set world all those annoyances can have a dramatic affect on the production. For instance, if you have flies buzzing around a set shot of a kitchen, it would ruin the scene. If someone has a large blemish the morning of a shoot, and makeup doesn’t seem to be doing the trick, it could mean either postponing or rebuilding the shot. HD is all about details, and detail work costs more.
Most viewers do not realize this, but production costs for HD are at least 10% to 15% more than Standard-Definition (SD). Sets built for HD can cost at least 3 times as much as older sets. Detail work like makeup, set props, and miniatures are all upping the quality to meet HD needs. Lighting for HD also has its needs. Although HD cameras perform as well as 35mm in low lighting, in brightly lit areas more light is needed to balance the daylight.
From an engineering perspective, cabling and hardware also increase production costs. Broadcast and recording equipment that were once top-of-the-line, but weren’t manufactured to handle HD, now need to be replaced. And software upgrades also are a factor. There are development costs, and once installed an upgrade can sometimes cause production delays.
So it seems everyone is in the same boat when it comes to HD. Producers and viewers alike are paying much more for HD content. In the end it will be worth it, but until then, it’s “you get what you pay for.”