May 28, 2010

Lack of HD gives Chelsea the blues

We were at the Royal Horticultural Society's Chelsea Flower Show this week, which was, as ever, beautiful, bright, colourful, and something worth experiencing in glorious 3D, Sensoround and overpowering Smellovision. It was also something worth experiencing in HD. However, the BBC only broadcast it in Standard Definition (and some of the poorest, blockiest SD we've seen in a long time, with lots of compression artefacts).

Chelsea had been one of the first big events the BBC transmitted in HD (in 2008), with a full week of eye-popping coverage. It's certainly something that benefits from the extra resolution, much more so than drama, for example, where well shot 25p video or film tends to still look pretty good in SD - like fast-moving sports, the huge amount of often swaying detail in gardening programmes does need HD. However, they dropped it from the HD schedules last year (although the SD transmission didn't look as bad as it does this year). There were some shots that looked as if they'd been shot with a mobile phone (and not one of this year's models).

We presumed, however, that they would be shooting HD on location (to at least have high-quality archive footage for future use). No.  The one camera that we got a good look at was an ancient Digital Betacam. Of course, you can get great SD pictures from these, but it's not HD. Another camera we spotted looked equally old, but its cover prevented identification.

As the BBC has just announced that BBC One HD will launch as a simulcast channel in the Autumn (alongside the current BBC HD channel), Chelsea will almost certainly be back in HD again next year so not, at least, shooting in HD this year seems short-sighted. It's just a pity that the Beeb couldn't find any air time within the many repeats on this week on BBC HD to show some of the show in HD.

[UPDATE: We went to the RHS' Hampton Court Flower Show, which is held every July, and it too is being shot on Digital Betacam SD camcorders - we talked to a BBC cameraman, who told us that it was purely down to budget. The reason it is not being considered for archive in HD is that the individual programme wouldn't gain from that archive, so it's not going to pay anything extra for it. Which means that the BBC as a whole won't gain from it.]

Related post (on our Photographer's Garden blog): HERE COMES THE JUDGE

No comments:

Post a Comment