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How to get the best out of HD TV

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Danielle Nagler Danielle Nagler | 15:04 UK time, Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Over the last few weeks, this BBC TV blog has tried to bring you insights on a diverse selection of programmes: From the final return of Ashes To Ashes, it has travelled to new children's series ZingZillas , by way of Cracking Antiques, and Over The Rainbow.

It is a selection that highlights the breadth of programming on the BBC at any one time. But all those programmes were also made in High Definition (HD) and are shown on the BBC HD channel in addition to standard definition channels as a result.

The young hopefuls vying to play Dorothy in Andrew Lloyd-Webber's production of The Wizard Of Oz line up in a publicity show for Over The Rainbow - one of the shows broadcast on the BBC HD channel

HD is undoubtedly buzzing this spring - take a look at any advert for anyone who sells TVs and associated boxes, or wander around your local shopping centre or supermarket.

A few years ago HD was specialist television - it is now pretty much everywhere. Around 23 million HD-ready TV sets are estimated to have been sold in the UK, and 70% of the TVs sold in the last three months of 2009 were HD-ready according to the broadcasting regulator Ofcom.

But there are millions of people across the UK who mistakenly believe that once they've got their HD-ready TV they are watching HD pictures, regardless of whether they've installed an HD set-top box or Blu-ray player as well, according to the British Video Association.

So in case you are thinking of investing - either for programmes you are passionate about experiencing in true HD, or perhaps because you want to see the World Cup in June shown in full in HD for the first time - I thought it might be helpful to explain what you need to do, because getting HD pictures to the screen you want to watch them on is not absolutely straightforward.

An HD-ready TV is the first step. But you will also need an HD tuner. That could be built into your television set - the popularity of integrated TVs for general digital television viewing means that there are integrated Freesat HD TVs available, and a range of Freeview HD TVs have already arrived in shops, with more expected.

Alternatively, you will need an HD set-top box, which may or may not be combined with a hard disc recorder (like Sky Plus HD for example). And the days of the Scart lead are numbered - you will need the HD version, known as an HDMI lead - to connect your box if you have one to your television.

You can get HD from all the main digital television providers. Freesat, Sky and Virgin have had HD available for some time. Freeview has just launched a selection of HD channels, with availability across the UK increasing steadily, and a developing range of alternative equipment.

Choosing the right equipment and getting it into your home gives you the ability to watch HD television, but doesn't mean that everything you watch going forward will be HD. HD channels require more capacity than standard definition - so broadcasters need to create them specially and additionally to existing services. So BBC HD, and the other broadcasters' HD channels are separate entries on the channel guide (for the BBC Channel 50 on Freeview HD, 108 on Freesat and Virgin, and 143 on Sky).

Even then, you should not assume that everything on an HD channel is in fact in HD. The BBC HD channel only broadcasts programmes made in HD. To count as an HD programme, the vast majority of the pictures have to have been shot using broadcast-quality HD cameras (not usually the HD camcorders that you might use at home). The pictures then have to have been processed as HD too.

Within an HD programme there may be a small amount of standard definition material - the BBC, in common with most other broadcasters, allows up to 25% of a finished HD programme to be non-HD.

We don't do that to save money - but because sometimes we need to use library pictures or sections of old films which were not made in HD, or we need to use very small cameras - for example for secret filming - which have been slow to develop in HD at the quality level needed.

Keeley Hawes as Detective Inspector Alex Drake in Ashes To Ashes, a programme also shown on the BBC HD channel

When the BBC started out in HD television, we wanted to use the channel we had available to offer as much HD programming as possible. We also guessed that we would find programmes we wanted to make in HD across our channels. So BBC HD does not follow the schedule of just one of our existing services but pulls in HD programmes from all of them.

This means that you can find Doctor Who (BBC One), and Doctor Who Confidential (BBC Three) on the channel, as well as Who Do You Think You Are? (BBC One), and Dragon's Den (BBC Two), and the World Cup (largely BBC One), Wimbledon (largely BBC Two) and Glastonbury (BBC Two and BBC Three) this summer.

But the majority of HD channels available in the UK are "simulcast channels". This means that they show exactly the same programmes at the same time as standard definition channels but when the programmes have been made in HD you will be able to view them in HD.

Most sport and much drama are now produced in HD, but it is still developing as a way of making programmes and therefore you will see a certain amount of "upscaled" programme. Upscaling means that the number lines in the Standard Definition (SD) picture are effectively doubled - from 576 to 1080 - to fill the HD screen.

In some people's opinion - and depending on the size of screen and the cameras used to make the programme - this can produce better pictures than on the equivalent SD channel. But it is not HD (and on BBC HD we don't do that).

So, to sum up, if you want to watch HD programmes, they need to be made in HD, shown on an HD channel, and you will need an HD TV coupled with an HD tuner inside the TV or in a box connected with an HDMI lead. There is more detailed advice on our website and trust me - you need no more technical expertise than is required to operate a remote control.

I believe - like many others who watch HD - that HD can deliver simply incredible television. I'd like every HD viewer to experience that, rather than feel let down by pictures that feel rather ordinary, and may in fact be standard definition.

Not every programme will blow you away - I've never found that to be the case in any medium with any range of content, and as programme producers I know that we're still learning how to get the best out of the technology in every situation. But I hope as you travel into HD you will find some outstanding examples of HD.

As someone once wrote to me, it can be like the excitement of the move from black and white to colour, seeing the television screen transform, and the world inside it come alive.

Danielle Nagler is controller of BBC HD


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  • Comment number 1.

    Thank you for the post but I fear you may need to borrow the Tin Man's tin hat! I've been very impressed with the content of the channel so far and I personally feel cheated with upscaled content, so I for one applaud the BBC's HD only commitment

  • Comment number 2.

    "... HD can deliver simply incredible television. I'd like every HD viewer to experience that, rather than feel let down by pictures that feel rather ordinary, and may in fact be standard definition."

    don't you just love irony?

  • Comment number 3.

    sorry for the double post but comment #1 wasn't visible earlier.

    theanfieldkop, why would you feel cheated by a channel being 24h and showing superior, upscaled versions of BBC1 & 2? don't you want the best possible picture quality for the shows you watch? i certainly do! and the only way to do that (aside from making everything in HD which won't happen at the Beeb for ages) is to have it upscaled.

    i think i speak for the vast majority when i say, "NO to HD only channels! Yes to simulcasts with upscaling!"

  • Comment number 4.


    I want the BBC to carry on showing 100% HD, but hopefully soon with an additional channel.

    How can a simulcast work when there is content from six channels?

    It's very worrying to me that Freesat's EPG for ITV1 HD is calling upscaled programmes 're-mastered HD' and Freesat's website shows all ITV1 HD's programmes as being in HD.

    The forums are full of people watching Loose Women and Coronation Street and thinking they are HD.

    It is lowering expectations of HD if people prefer channels full of upscaled programmes rather than native HD.

    Where would you put all the BBC3, BBC4, CBBC and CBeebies HD content?

    What would happen tonight? Upscaled Ten O'Clock News, upscaled QI. Where would you show Mad Men from BBC4 in HD?

  • Comment number 5.

    Anyone else noticed The World Snooker Championship is in HD on Eurosport HD but only SD on BBC?

  • Comment number 6.

    'Over the Rainbow' much better PQ from Fountain at Wembley than previous shows from BBC TVC, but why no DD5.1?

  • Comment number 7.


    'I believe - like many others who watch HD - that HD can deliver simply incredible television. I'd like every HD viewer to experience that, rather than feel let down by pictures that feel rather ordinary, and may in fact be standard definition.'

    Well thank goodness you included the words 'I believe' at the beginning of that section.

    We can all agree to 'believe' that HD television broadcast can be great.

    At 1920x1080 using a realistic bit-rate 'simply incredible television' the BBC could do just that - assuming that the production chain etc is up to HD standards.

    But it's not what I see from BBC HD currently - except in a small number of cases.

    I have posted before that I think that Doctor Who Episode 1 'The 11th Hour' looked very good and of a very watchable HD standard.

    Parts of 'Wonders of the Solar System' particularly the graphics etc looked great.

    Parts of The Masters looked good - mainly the closeups in the interviews - but on many shots the grass looked strangely artificial.

    And...... that's about it.

    Ashes to Ashes was better than SD - but not 'simply incredible television' by a large margin.

    Often the BBC HD picture has been no better than those being put out by CBS Action ( a SD channel) showing the original 'Star Trek' - a show filmed in the early 1960s.

    'I believe' a switch to a 1920x1080 picture - up from the current 1440x1080 plus a higher or variable bit-rate (possible if one or more other channels are added to the lineup) would go a long way towards realising a higher quality image that delivers the HD experience we hopefully all want to see.

    Cheers, daveac

  • Comment number 8.

    Danielle, you said "Upscaling ...can produce better pictures than on the equivalent SD channel. But it is not HD (and on BBC HD we don't do that)".

    A noble sentiment but when e.g. up-scaled SD Midsomer Murders (on now on ITV1 HD) looks at least as good as e.g. HD Waterloo Road (on now on BBC HD) then you have to question the relevance of your statement.

  • Comment number 9.

    Danielle you refuse to show upscaled sd on your HD channel yet up to 25percent of your HD shows by your own admission is plain sd.
    why not upscale the 25percent so that the lurch between sd and hd within
    a show is not so disconcerting for the viewer.

    I can well remember the magnificent picture quality BBC HD put out before
    August 09. and yes I have a full HD 1080 panel with integrated freesat tuner.
    I can tell you now that in my opinion the Picture Quality is still not as good as it once was.
    When will you take steps to restore the Picture to it's former glory?

  • Comment number 10.


    how about putting them on BBC1 HD, BBC2 HD, CBBC/BBC3 HD, CBeebies/BBC4 HD, BBC News HD?

  • Comment number 11.

    Its funny you should post a picture from Ashes to Ashes Danielle and talk about HD. Ashes to Ashes looks awful and never been HD for me. It lacks everything HD should be. For me its an inslut to be shown on the HD channel.

    Its also very funny you say "or wander around your local shopping centre or supermarket" - Funny because if you walk around most shops and supermarkets most no longer show BBC HD due to the poor quality your channel now has.

  • Comment number 12.

    Ms Nagler said: "HD is undoubtedly buzzing this spring"

    Well, yes; what wouldn't be buzzing having a reported £12m spent on pushing it.

    In the next paragraph Dear Danielle helpfully explains:
    "A few years ago HD was specialist television"
    Oh yes! I remember that very well - for 'specialist' read 'Geek'

    Nagler claimed "70% of the TVs sold in the last three months of 2009 were HD-ready" by linking to a 'Digital Television Update' by OFCOM which said:
    "almost 69% of all secondary TV sets had been converted to digital by the end of Q4, and "Integrated digital television sets (IDTVs) accounted for almost 74% of sales in the quarter" and separately "Over three quarters (80%) of freesat decoders sold supported HD services by Q4".

    Perhaps I'm going blind, but nowhere does the page Nagler linked to claim "70% of the TVs sold in the last three months of 2009 were HD-ready".

    Nagler then goes-on to say "there are millions of people across the UK who mistakenly believe that once they've got their HD-ready TV they are watching HD pictures"
    Well, if she were to read the feedback from some of those people who have taken time to respond to her earlier ramblings she would know there are many who have invested large sums of money in HD televisions, HD receivers, HDMI cables, Pay TV subscriptions, Dolby Digital Surround Sound Home Cinema Systems, etc and know for sure, that despite watching BBC HD (sic) they are still not 'watching HD pictures', due to the low bitrate, and lack of true HD resolution.

    Ms Nagler may well feel it "helpful to explain what you need to do""if you are passionate about experiencing .. true HD", but perhaps she should listen to what her loyal viewers (and licence payers), have been telling her, and others, for the last eight months.

    Nagler: "An HD-ready TV is the first step"
    Er, No! Good source material, where the budget extends to high quality HD cameras is probably more likely the first step.

    So much for "Choosing the right equipment"", Danielle helpfully explains to us that ""HD channels require more capacity than standard definition""
    Oh! The irony of it all - I could cry.

    "Even then, you should not assume that everything on an HD channel is in fact in HD" explains the 'controller of BBC HD'.
    WE KNOW! - we have been telling you that for months now.

    Nagler rounds-off by proclaiming "I'd like every HD viewer to experience that, rather than feel let down by pictures that feel rather ordinary"
    It's really rather simple, then, Danielle - up the bitrate to levels near to, or equivalent to, those prior to the 40% reduction in August 2009, and increase the resolution to that used by most UK HD broadcasters, 1920x1080.

    And...... er! that's about it!

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    ''Most sport and much drama are now produced in HD''-
    Despite Moto GP being produced and shown live in HD and England Autumn Internationals being shown in HD BBC HD doesn't yet bring any Moto GP in HD or Live Autumn International games live or highlights in HD.
    Next week will see live snooker from Sheffield again in HD but because the BBC refuses to expand the number of HD channels it will only be on Eurosport HD.
    Eurosport HD covers French Open Tennis in HD which the BBC hasn't confirmed it will show any of.
    Eurosport even brings some Ski Sunday races in HD which the BBC show live on BBCi but don't yet show in HD while Eurosport HD shows them.
    There is also no news on whether any of the Rugby Challenge Cup games will be shown in HD when other Rugby events are screened in HD.

    The BBC hasn't announced if any of the Wentworth PGA or Scottish Open before The Open will be in HD, the coverage from Wentworth has been confirmed as being in HD as the BBC is sharing the coverage but it hasn't confirmed if it will show its highlights and live coverage in HD.
    The BBC also hasn't confirmed if it will show its highlights and live coverage of the Scottish Open in HD the week before The Open which will be in HD. The BBC also haven't confirmed if it will show HD highlights of the Ryder Cup this year either.

    Despite heavy demand for F1 in HD there is still little news on what is happening and when F1 will start in HD.

    How to get the best-

    Make sure all BBC programming is in 5.1. The cost of 5.1 isn't as great as providing HD itself but it is an important part of HD programming.

    Switch to 1920x1080i broadcasting and switch to DVB-S2 with the latest MPEG-4 encoders with no bit rate fixes.

    BBC HD needs additional HD channels to avoid major programming clashes which mean some big BBC1 and 2 productions in HD end up on BBC hours or days later.

  • Comment number 15.

    The BBC's Queen of spin is spinning again although she has got sometings right like needing an HDMI lead.

    Plenty has been said already on the poor quality of Ashes to Ashes and also the bad schedualing caused by the golf.

    "HD is undoubtedly buzzing this spring - take a look at any advert for anyone who sells TVs and associated boxes, or wander around your local shopping centre or supermarket."

    Well in my area everyone is advertizing Sky. Nobody demonstrates BBC HD any more.

    "So in case you are thinking of investing - either for programmes you are passionate about experiencing in true HD, or perhaps because you want to see the World Cup in June shown in full in HD for the first time"

    Unfortunatly "true" HD is not something the BBC is going to deliver this year unless they repent of thier sinful ways. I would also like to see the "World Cup" 3D but the BBC is unable to deliver although it will be available in other countries.

    "Freeview has just launched a selection of HD channels". Well actually 2 part time channels.

    "Within an HD programme there may be a small amount of standard definition material - the BBC, in common with most other broadcasters, allows up to 25% of a finished HD programme to be non-HD."

    Not true. All the content produced by the BBC for the "Winter Olympics" was SD and only content produced by the host was HD. This meant that more than 50% of the first programme was in SD. Even small amounts of embeded SD can be very disconcerting. For example the "Grand National" kept switching between HD and SD. The "Grand National" also had a faulty aerial camera which produced very dark green grass.

    "Not every programme will blow you away"

    I am sorry to say that that since the encoder change none of the BBC HD programmes have blown me away. The channel that blows me away the most is Eurosport HD. Even upscalled SD is as good as BBC HD in terms of picture qualiy. The shots from the helicopter in the Tour De France were truly spectacular.

    It is not only picture quality that is a problems. Very little of the BBC produced programmes use surround sound. Even when they do use 5.1 it is often not very well produced.

    If you want to get the best out of HD, the BBC HD channel is not the channel to go for.

  • Comment number 16.

    Danielle, when are you going to actually going to finally admit that the HD you are outputting is unsharp and soft especially on faces?

    Lets do a comparison using your picture above from Ashes to Ashes which presumably you put up as a shining example of BBC HD:

    Firstly lets all (including Danielle) take a very good look at the picture (Danielle) posted above and specifically the face detail. Apart from a prominent spot and a pock mark on the forehead its near impossible to make out any skin texture, its just a soft blur.

    Now take a look at these:

    These are taken from a downloaded trailer to a new Professional Film showing in Cinemas - "City of Lakes".

    The entire film was shot on Canon 7D and 5D STILLS cameras in video mode!!! The encoding is 8.67mbs and 1280 x 544.

    I think the sharpness, clarity and detail in the faces is clear for all to see. You can see every pore on the face and every wrinkle even on the dim indoor shot (These are not stills but video captures!):

    Artificial Light: https://img683.imageshack.us/img683/2136/cityoflakes1.jpg

    Bright sun: https://img682.imageshack.us/img682/2231/cityoflakes2.jpg

    Now also further compare this to a screen capture of a face taken from BBC iPlayer - Ashes to Ashes in HD (which looks remarkably less perfect than the one you posted above Danielle which makes me suspicious of photoshop enhancement):


    The differences are clear to see.

    Even if you compare Danielle's original and "better" Ashes to Ashes capture vs the other HD captures then the difference is like night and day for sharpness and detail.

    Further one would expect this mostly down to encoding.

    I have screenshots taken from South Pacific on BBC HD. The slow motion camera is razor sharp and detailed despite dealing with highly detailed water particles. However the shots at normal speed are blurry showing how the encoder bit rate copes well with a very slow changing picture from the slow motion but fails to cope adequately with the much faster changing normal speed picture which frankly looks SD.


  • Comment number 17.


    Did you see the Paxman/Clegg interview? Absolutely perfect HD. Excellent facial close-ups, every stray whisker and blemish were evident.

    This was unlike the interviews/studio at The Masters, which were just soft, with no detail.

  • Comment number 18.

    How to get the best out of HD TV?

    Simple. Subscribe to Sky.

  • Comment number 19.

    As an early-adopter, I saw BBC HD at it's stunning best. But I've gone from being an evangelical advocate of BBC HD, lauding it to friends and colleagues at every opportunity, to now having to motivate myself to switch over when something is being simulcast - so disillusioned with constant disappointment am I.

    Don't get me wrong; there is the occassional gem. "Wonders of the Solar System" was one. But for every "Wonders of the Solar System", there is a "Royle Family Christmas Special" which marked a pitiful low for the channel. What is showed was that the channel controllers either lack the power to reject programmes on quality assurance grounds, or they are unable to spot poor quality. I sincerely hope it is the former.

    This £12m drive to improve awareness of HD by the BBC is a miscalculation in my opinion. If a new audience sees the channel in it's current state, they won't remain an audience for very long. BBC HD needs an overhaul. The channel controllers need to have the power (and inclination) to enforce extremely high QA standards on programmes that reach the channel. If it ain't stunning HD... it doesn't go on. Regardless of how much the producers of the show spend on HD cameras. Furthermore, as has been mentioned countless times, BBC HD needs to be brought up to the near-universal standard resolution of 1920x1080. Despite protestations for those at the BBC HD, simple common sense tells you there will be greater acuity of images at this resolution as opposed to 1440x1080. Finally, the new encoders might be super-efficient and may offer "more for less" in terms of bit-rate, but the volume and voracity of the complaints should tell you this is simply not true. The drop in bit-rate coincides with a marked drop in customer satisfaction. Bump it back up to AT LEAST 12mbps.

    £12m should easily cover all this, and the audience will take care of itself. As they say... "Build it, and they will come".

  • Comment number 20.

    I think ITV1 HD's upscaled SD is really impressive and provides a better (for me) viewing experience than most of the BBC's alleged "HD". ITV's upscaled SD is so good it should be used as a minimum standard benchmark for FTA HD - if an HD programme can't match that quality, then it has no right being called HD.

    The way things are at the moment, I'd rather the BBC used their HD channel to show good quality upscaled SD rather than the artefact-laden effort we have now.

  • Comment number 21.

    "Not every programme will blow you away - I've never found that to be the case in any medium with any range of content"

    The dip in the broadcast standard makes your statement true, but perhaps you didn't watch the early BBC HD broadcasts...

  • Comment number 22.

    The BBC has its funding of HD entirely screwed up.

    Why for example is it contributing over £6m to the advertising budget to promote Freeview HD this year, whilst the BBC HD channel itself only "has an annual service budget of £4.0 million up to and including 2009/2010. It is anticipated that the required budget will decrease to £2.5m from 2010/11." See BBC HD Service Licence

    This can only be seen as a 'political' measure to try to disuade people from adopting alternative platforms, rather than any attempt to promote HD.

    If the BBC were truly serious about ensuring the viewer "gets the best from their HD TV", then surely it would be better that the viewer adopted a platform that gives the the potential for dozens of HD platforms (even without subscription), with a higher bitrate, rather than one that will be forever limited to a handful, and is currently struggling to even achieve that, and with a bitrate constraint to boot.

    If the BBC were truly serious about ensuring the viewer "gets the best from their HD TV", then they would be maximising the budget the channel has to ensure more hours of HD are broadcast, a wider range of HD programming is shown, and the highest picture quality is acheived.

    But no, instead the BBC would rather spend our licence fee on advertising.

    You couldn't make this up...

  • Comment number 23.

    Finding this blog, for those new to BBC HD, is far easier as it at least has the words HD in the title, unlike the current blog dealing with HD picture quality https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2009/12/the_hitchhikers_guide_to_encod_5.html?page=3 which newcomers might like to read before investing their hard earned cash on the basis of Danielle's diatribe above.

    To pick up on some of her points:

    "because you want to see the World Cup in June shown in full in HD for the first time"

    Fot those of you, like me, who read that as "in full HD", look carefully at it it again!. It actually says "in full in HD". You won't be able to see it "in full HD" on BBC unless you live in Scandinavia and receive BBC HD via satellite there. The TV manufacturers have for a long time been telling us full HD TVs have a screen resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. The BBC HD channel is broadcasting to the UK at 1440 x 1080, leaving the set top box or TV to 'insert' the missing 480 pieces of picture information on each of the 1080 lines on the screen. To be fair, this doesn't just apply to the BBC, but nevertheless, the resolution of the received signal is not the full HD the TVs are now capable of. Clearly this will and does have an impact on the achievable HD picture quality.

    "I believe - like many others who watch HD - that HD can deliver simply incredible television. I'd like every HD viewer to experience that, rather than feel let down by pictures that feel rather ordinary, and may in fact be standard definition."

    It can, but very infrequently on the BBC HD channel. Many of us do feel let down as we did experience "simply incredible television" before August last year when the BBC decided to commit the cardinal sin of changing 2 aspects of the transmission chain at the same time. New encoders were introduced, and no doubt would have given us an even better picture quality, but when coupled with the similtaneous 40% redution in transmission bitrate, the net result was a worse picture quality. This can be read about in great depth on several blogs now in the BBC archives.

    The frustrating aspect of all this is the BBC's decision to show on a dedicated HD channel, programs that just don't live up to the expectations of the HD viewer. The latest series of Ashes to Ashes being a prime example of viewers left wondering why HD bandwidth was used for a program that exhibits none of the attributes expected of HD.

    Contrast that however with the latest series of Dr Who, although not without its problems, which shows what can be done with the right equipment, facilities and pre-processing in the absence of adequate resolution and bitrate! Sadly, not all BBC HD appear to be getting that treatment.

    Danielle, give us back that "simply incredible television" by incresing the resolution to 1920 x 1080 and putting the bitrate back up to the 16 Mb/s it was before August 2009. As you know, spare bandwidth is available, at least for satellite transmissions.

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 25.

    Whilst I appreciate and commend the BBC's efforts in creating the first HD channel in the UK which is finally widely available, they really do need to start focussing on the quality of the broadcasts. I am rarely that impressed by the BBC HD service anymore especially with the motion resolution. Surely any HD channel's raison d'etre is the resolution, colour standard and encoding quality as well as far improved sound (preferably in DD5.1). Standards, be they 1080i or 720p (I think Full HD is unlikely to happen either OTA or via satellite in this country), should be rigourously adhered to, and comparison's to SD made regularly on content before it airs, by people who know what they are doing, otherwise what exactly is the point?

    A joined up strategy for Freeview HD and Freesat HD seems a little elusive with the vast majority of the British licence paying public paying for what appears to be a beta service. Whilst I don't particularly like Sky, they certainly deliver in terms of numbers of HD channels, which is what people want. 1-3 HD channels showing simulcast content available on other channels is not really going to blow many people away, even as an early days solution, who don't understand the technical limitations of why there are so few channels...whicch also assumes that their eye-sight and setup allows them to be able to tell the difference between HD and SD! I think legislation here would make the issue more widely known, as they did in America about 10 years ago...

  • Comment number 26.

    If those people who thought they had HDTV didn't know they didn't have it, then they don't need it, because they won't know when they do get it.

    Do I really need to see the spots on some politicians face to appreciate what his policies are? I am quite happy with radio 4 on long wave!

  • Comment number 27.

    I have a HD-TV with Freesat receiver built in and a Blu-Ray player connected via HDMI.

    My family and I can't see any difference between the standard BBC channel or the same programme being shown on BBC HD.

    The same is true of DVDs. I have 1 film on both standard DVD and Blu Ray. I can play the same section of the film from both discs and see no difference in the resultant picture.

    Overall, I can't see any advantage in HD. I am only thankful that I haven't entered into a contract obligating me to pay for my disappointment!

  • Comment number 28.

    Provided they get a FullHD TV set instead of a HD Ready TV Set, they will be blown away by Blu-Ray more so than BBC HD.

    The quality on Blu-Ray is out of this world, I still can't believe what I am looking at when I put Wall-E into the Playstation 3. The clarity and sound is mindblowing even on a very large screen.

  • Comment number 29.


    TV settings. Have you adjusted your TV using the BBC Testcard which is shown every two hours on the daily preview? Have you turned off all the picture enhancements in the menu and changed from vivid/dynamic to normal?

    Viewing distance. You need to sit about 2 x screen size from the TV to fully appreciate HD. So a 42" would mean 42x2=84" or seven feet.

    If you sit too far from the screen you won't see the detail of HD and you won't see the imperfections of SD. The further you sit the more thet will look the same.

  • Comment number 30.

    Upscaled SD images do look very good on HD channels because they are sent out at the bit rate used for normal HD, so there are far fewer blocking artefacts.
    Although HD does give a significantly higher resolution than SD images, although with reduced contrast because there are only a limited number of 'levels' between black and white (This is what causes banding on sunsets and the like), the impact of HD would be greatly reduced if people could see the quality of ordinary SD images sent at the same bitrate as HD.

  • Comment number 31.

    @ 27 - Durelli

    Provided that you have set the TV up properly then I am sorry but I do not believe you! Actually I am not sorry.

    Anyone who cannot tell the difference between BBC and BBC HD is either a liar or in serious need of glasses to such an extent that they should be banned from driving until their vision is fixed.

    And as for your comment saying that there is no differece between DVD and Blu-ray... well, that is the most rediculous statement I have heard in a long time.

    @29 - Derek

    This guy is trolling. Some people just love to argue over everything, it is a sorry state of affairs to live their life by. Next these people will claim they see no difference between Dial-Up and Broadband.

  • Comment number 32.

    Its been a while since I last commented, but its interesting to see that the debate on HD PQ has not shifted a lot in the last few months.

    One thing is becoming more and more clear though - not many directors or producers in UK TV seem to know how to film in HD, yet the Americans seem to have it sussed. Reading through a lot of the posts, aside from probably Dr Who, all of the positive comments about PQ have been relating primarily to American imports (Heroes and Mad Men especially). Things like Survivors and Ashes to Ashes are consistently getting a pounding because of their poor style as much as anything.

    However, these issues are then only compounded by the BBC not upping the game by broadcasting in 1920x1080 like all other broadcasters, and making simple errors in their live broadcasts (i.e. SD graphics on an HD picture). Add all of the issues together and you find that things like Dr Who tend to be the exception rather than the rule.

    If you look at Sky's home programming, it is of a high PQ. The US imports similarly so. The Beeb's would be much better if the bit rate and transmission rates were upped and the Beeb would have a far better HD trumpet to blow.

    It is all well and good crowing about what is good - unless it is, people won't bother. Sky have over 2 million HD subscribers, there are quite a few Freesat HD boxes, V+ boxes and some Freeview HD out there now, yet prime simulcast BBC shows (e.g. Dr Who) pull in a very low and not increasing number of HD viewers. Why? I was expecting Dr Who to hit nearly 1 million HD viewers this year but it has only slightly increased and a fair proportion of this will be, I bet, down to the poor PQ experience people have.

    As #19 said, build it and they will come...

  • Comment number 33.

    I would've thought the quality of Ashes to Ashes scriptwriting was more of an immediate concern than the picture quality.

  • Comment number 34.

    Once you get over the novelty of a bigger screen (the only real benefit of an HD TV), you realise that you're still watching the same old programmes as before. The same tired episodes of Dad's Army - 40 years and still going. the same inane game shows. The same dull and irrelevant news broadcasts. The same formulaic soaps (basically: people arguing the whole time).
    And when it comes down to basics, it's the programmes we watch - not the definition, not the colours, not the depth of the blacks. I'd trade HD tv in an instant for some well made drama, interesting documentaries, insightful interviews, entertaining comedy and intelligent talk shows.

  • Comment number 35.

    Thanks for posting.

    I am still unhappy that the BBC HD service is not offering what the technology can deliver.

    1. The bandwidth reduction has not been compensated by the new encoders. New viewers to BBC HD will not see what we used to see, such a shame. BBC HD at first stated that the new encoder/ lower bit-rate combination will produce at least as good HD picture quality. After many of us complaining that this was not true, they have backtracked to the position that most viewers will not be able to perceive any reduction in Picture Quality [by inference: those of us who have invested in high end HD equipment at home will have to go elsewhere for what HD television can achive)

    2. BBC HD seem to have decided that 5.1 DD sound is not worth the effort on most live spots, so rarely offer it. Again such a shame.

  • Comment number 36.

    Why has my post been sent for moderation. I am a not a new member and the Post a comment box has a heading that states that the comments are reactively moderated!

  • Comment number 37.

    @31 - (regarding not being able to tell the difference). No, the original poster is correct. Unless you sit right up close to the screen, even with 20/20 vision a person's visual acuity is such that when you're more than 8-10 feet from the TV, the difference is invisible. Unless you either have a huge screen (6 feet across, or more) or are just mistaking a brighter picture for more definition. If you view in the dark, the effect is even less noticable, since your pupils get larger which makes the eye's focal ratio smaller which has the effect of reducing depth of field and making eyeball focussing more critical. Although I doubt you'll believe me, but you might believe the "Viewing distance to screen size" chart on engadget

  • Comment number 38.

    Apart from an HD Tuner of some kind you must have it connected via an HDMI cable, often forgotton. Only then with good HD content will you get the full benefit. So that means sometimes! Plus no one is telling the public that small screens (Including some 32 inch and all the smaller sizes) will not show any real improvement. Large screens will benefit more, the larger they are the more you will notice the improved quality. But then most people buy a screen so large and sit so close they can nearly see every pixel! Screens should be at eye level when seated and viewed from the correct distance. For a 32 inch screen this is about 8 - 12 feet, 42 inch about 10 - 14 feet. Not possible in some modern homes!

  • Comment number 39.

    Most things shown on channels such as 4HD ITV1HD that are upscaled is better than the majority of things that are true HD on BBCHD due to the drop in quality since last year.
    Even my wife who is not that bothered about HD like I am says why is BBCHD always far worse than the other channels?

    If only I could get ITVHD World Cup pictures with BBC audio.....

  • Comment number 40.

    @3 wrote "...i think i speak for the vast majority when i say, "NO to HD only channels!"

    I don't think you speak for the vast majority of viewers, unless you base it on some statistical survey.

    I can't say that my opposite view is the majority either, but I'd agree with derek500 (@4). BBC HD is the best range of HD content (ignoring the rants from some of the usual crowd) on one channel for my tastes but I would also like to see a second BBC HD channel to cope with the increased HD content.

    @16 Alsone. Are you serious about comparing a publicity image processed for a website with images captured from other sources? Surely the Ashes To Ashes shot is not intended to be compared with HD images as this is a website and not a television screen.

  • Comment number 41.

    Hi everybody,

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting - as always a great range of opinions, some food for thought for us and some good questions too. I'm sure Danielle will do her best to answer some of them on here or in her next blog post.

    Just a small bit of clarification, as I think it'd help on here: The blog post was written for mainly for the many readers of this blog who've not yet got HD but are considering it, or have just taken the plunge, especially now it's on Freeview, and give them a bit of help, guidance and information. Hopefully any newbies will become as passionate as some of you are about the service!

    There picture quality debate is still open and ongoing at Andy Quested's blog on the BBC Internet Blog, so if you want to raise any recent issues on HD, picture quality and other tech stuff in that area. (https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2009/12/the_hitchhikers_guide_to_encod_5.html%29

    Andy's been off but hopefully should be back soon to answer you technical questions. Do keep them coming on the Internet blog for him.

    If anybody is new to HD or has just got the service and has channel questions, this is a great place to ask them.

    Also @11 (wednesday83) I was actually the one who chose the Ashes to Ashes picture on here, not Danielle! I don't want her getting taken to task for something I'm responsible for!

    BBC TV Blog Assistant Content Producer

  • Comment number 42.

    How many people know how to set up a TV I wonder for picture quality. Nobody I know does. As a TV&Video engineer I have spent most of my 40 year working life going just that on a regular basis. You can buy expensive electronics to do same as with computer monitors but the eye is often best. How do I do it professionaly. Try this in a semi dark room, daytime curtains drawn a bit no lights on etc. Find a test card 'live' or get one from the internet, the girl with the blackboard is best! Step one go to custom setup. Turn off / down the colour saturation. Set the brightness and back light level so that the screen is just and only just showing a glow.(To bright ruins the 'black level') Set the contrast so that the black, via grey boxes to peak white are clear and evenly balanced. Now turn up the colour saturation and adjust for a nice natural skin tone on her face! Voila done, no not quite you can now make minor adjustments to all settings to suit your tastes. This should give you an accurate and natual looking picture. Adjust the sharpness control if fitted to suit as well.

  • Comment number 43.

    The recent bandwidth cut to get BBC HD to squeeze on to Freeview has damaged the picture quality unnecessarily on all platforms and makes this blog post completely irrelevant. Sky, ITV, Discovery, Channel 4 etc all broadcast at a higher resolution, with a higher bandwidth and therefore offer a higher picture quality - which is surely what HD is all about. No doubt this post would get approved, as the BBC are trying desperately to sweep this issue under the carpet. I urge people to check out the 'Salmon of Style' blog post on the BBC Internet blog and read the thousands of comments about this issue before bothering trying to get BBC HD

  • Comment number 44.

    It looks like all three election debates will be shown in HD on the various channels hosting them. Is this perhaps another new broadcasting standard: High Definition Cringeworthy Politicians.

  • Comment number 45.

    This would have been a good link for Danielle to have made in her blog, as Andy Quested explains how to use the BBC HD Test card to set up a TV.


  • Comment number 46.

    What about all the shops that have show rooms full of Freeview (not Freeview HD) TVs in the (Freeview HD ready) Manchester area? Are they rushing to tell the customer that these TVs are out of date? I think not.
    What about all us that have our 'new' Tvs. Where are all the upgrades, the plugins etc from the manufacturers to upgrade to Freeview HD? I think not!

  • Comment number 47.

    "...an HDMI"

  • Comment number 48.

    I still cannot understand why some things are on at different times on the HD channel from the times they are originally shown on other channels, this is a bit of a joke really, but not as much as the joke you played on us last week.

    After the first episode of Ashes to Ashes on the HD channel, the voice over said that due to our (BBCs) uninterupted coverage of The Masters golf, Ashes to Ashes would not be on at the same time next week.
    Last Friday came and what did we have?
    We certainly didn't have uninterupted golf in HD, we had a couple of hours, another unrelated show, more golf, something else then more golf, what exactly is your definition of uninterupted?

    ...and why is virtually every kids show now in HD yet only about 20% of other content in HD?

  • Comment number 49.

    @Gary, #41 above. Thanks for explaining the picture choice. Re-reading my post above it comes across maybe a little harsh on Danielle for which I apologise, although I believe the points within it are valid.

  • Comment number 50.

    until the BBC can be bothered to show the F1 in HD .. then its one giant fail right now

  • Comment number 51.

    @Gary Andrews

    People should know what they are investing in. Is someone going to spend £100-£400 on a HD box for a one off series in HD like Wonders of the Solar system? Probably not.

    They won't to know there is consistently good programming on the BBC all year round to watch.

    Currently none of the BBC's longest running shows are being shown in HD.
    It's understandable new studios need to be built for Casulty,Holby City and Eastenders.

    But it wouldn't stop programming like The Sky at Night, The One Show, QI, Question of Sport or Have I Got News For You. Many studio based programmes are now available to be used in HD. The same studios that film The Graham Norton Show in HD also produce QI and Have I Got News For You.
    There is little reason why the entire Friday Night schedule on BBC1 from 7pm-11.30pm excluding Eastenders and the News can't be shown in HD.

    For those looking at investing in equipment with few regular programmes on all year round they will then see which of their favourite sporting events are shown in HD and what movies are shown in HD.

    Currently for them the BBC has shown barely any movies in the past few months.

    For Sports viewers it isn't much better.

    Moto GP is now being produced in HD and shown in many countries like Belgium for example, yet not in the UK on BBC HD.
    Rugby viewers who have heard that the 6 nations are in HD should know although there is no reason why not the Rugby Challenge Cup on the BBC isn't in HD and the Autumn Internationals the BBC has aren't in HD despite other broadcasters having the England games in HD.

    Snooker fans should know while the snooker next week is in HD on Eurosport currently the BBC has no plans to show any of it.
    Ski Sunday fans should know while some Ski races are produced in HD the BBC currently doesn't show them.

    The Golf from Wentworth which the BBC shares is set to be in HD but the BBC hasn't confirmed if it will show it in HD. It hasn't confirmed if the Scottish Open Golf is in HD despite The Open taking place the following week not far away from The Open.
    There is also no conformation if the French Open Tennis will be shown in HD or if any of the ATP Master Tennis from London in November will be in HD despite other broadcasters showing last years coverage from the 02 arena in HD while the BBC did not.

    Despite Formula One being the most requested Sport to be broadcast in HD the BBC hasn't released any ongoing information as to when viewers can expect Formula One to be in HD.

    If viewers know that popular sports, movies and regular BBC programming is going to be available in HD and 5.1 throughout the year it will make the investment in Freeview HD and Freesat HD much more worthwhile.

    The BBC should use more of its HD marketing budget on securing more sports and other regular BBC programming in HD.

  • Comment number 52.

    I haven't tried the modern digital version of HDTV. I loved the 1125 line analogue version we were playing with many years ago.

    Many things about digital have disappointed me. The biggest one being terrible handling of gradients; fog, for instance.

    And when my widescreen CRT died and I bought a flat screen - ug, that is horrible! (No wonder so many edit suites still use CRT)

    As a dubbing mixer, I was very impressed with the professional quality digital came out many years ago for production - especially DIGIBeta which quickly became an industry standard. However, the broadcast version of digital has been, for me, a backwards step in everything from how it handles the digital information to things like losing a picture entirely when the signal is weak, rather than just going a bit grainy.

    Like so much technology, it suffers enormously from hype. The potential to be amazing is there, but the gulf between pro and domestic is as big as ever - possibly bigger than before.

  • Comment number 53.


    Your comparison of a 600x400 jpg with a downsized screen grab from the 2.9Mbps 1280x20p25 iPlayer stream has zero relevance to the 1440x1080i50 9Mbps+ broadcast BBC HD stream.

    They dropped the quality for sure, but silly comparisons at 1/4 resolution, or drawn from a different service entirely, don't show anything useful.


  • Comment number 54.


    "For a 32 inch screen this is about 8 - 12 feet, 42 inch about 10 - 14 feet."

    With all respect to your forty years as a TV engineer, but those distances are best for SD and it will be difficult to see the difference between SD and HD from so far away. Two times screen diagonal is best for HD.

    Have a look at this chart. https://hd.engadget.com/2006/12/09/1080p-charted-viewing-distance-to-screen-size/

  • Comment number 55.

    "If those people who thought they had HDTV didn't know they didn't have it, then they don't need it, because they won't know when they do get it.

    Do I really need to see the spots on some politicians face to appreciate what his policies are? I am quite happy with radio 4 on long wave!"

    I posted the above comment this morning and the comments that followed showed that many people cannot see any difference SD to HD! It's the same with sound quality, millions don't know their treble from their bass, and as long as the walls and curtains are shaking with sub-bass they are happy. Who needs quality?

  • Comment number 56.

    @51 F1, I agree entierly but the biggest issue at the moment is not so much content but picture quality.

    There's very little point in having large numbers of programmes in HD when they are transmitted at SD type quality.

    Once the encoder is sorted out and we start to see the kind of quality we saw before the encoder change a year ago, then I believe the calls you make for more HD content should be fullfilled.

    @38, I have a Pioneer 428Xd Kuro and can quite easily see differences between HD, SD and poor quality HD from a distance of around 10-12 feet.

  • Comment number 57.

    #40. At 1:41pm on 15 Apr 2010, ChrisK wrote:

    "…(ignoring the rants from some of the usual crowd)…"

    Once again you have posted inaccurate and in my view needlessly rather offensive comments regarding the people complaining about HD picture quality. To pick one small example, Bill-Taylor’s assertion (#35) that the bandwidth reduction has not been compensated for by the new encoder is far from a rant. It is backed up by EBU documentation suggesting that the encoder is running below its minimum recommended level, as you should know if you have been reading the blogs as you say you have. AFAIK this point has never been publicly addressed, let alone refuted, by the BBC. The rest of his account of the BBC changing its position in the face of criticism is also accurate.

    And as for it being a ‘usual crowd’, at a rough guess I’d say there have been well over 5000 posts about this issue across various blogs since August from, according to a December estimate, over 300 individuals, including contributions from a number of professionals and industry insiders who support the view that PQ has deteriorated. The Number 10 petition https://petitions.number10.gov.uk/BBCHDPQ/ lists over 2300 signatures. A (puzzlingly long drawn out) complaints process is still under consideration by the BBC Trust. To paint it as the endlessly repeated empty complaints of a few ignorant die-hards is unfair. As unfair, in fact, as Danielle Nagler’s statement in a BBC piece on the issue that only one complaint had been received without adding that said complaint had 55 signatories (a claim that was, eventually, partially corrected).

    @Gary Andrews: I see you have suggested quite reasonably that PQ discussion belongs on the ‘salmon of style’ blog, and of course I’m happy for any responses to this post to appear there, along with any further discussion of PQ. I do feel though that there needs to be a corrective to ChrisK’s post here since, I imagine, many people will be coming to this blog for the first time, and they could otherwise easily get the wrong impression about the status of the current debates about HD PQ. I hope therefore this post will be allowed.

  • Comment number 58.

    Sorry, but the poorer quality that the BBC now provides as HD (with its recently introduced compression antilogarithms) I feel that any further investment in HD is no longer worth it. Certainly not for watching BBC content, anyway.
    You've made a complete mockery of HD quality.

  • Comment number 59.

    There might be a good test for readers of this blog especially if you have had BBC HD a long time.

    If you saw Torchwood when it first airred on BBC HD way back - well one of the very first scenes was set in an alley with rain pouring down on the guy on the floor.

    The image first time around was very good HD. Well Series 1 Episode 1 is on tonight at 22.45 PM - can't catch it... myself as I'm busy and can't record HD.

    It might be a very apt title :-) - the episode is called .....

    'Everything Changes'

    Cheers, daveac

  • Comment number 60.

    I think that the BBC HD channel output is very dull most of the time. I don't understand how the BBC who once were leaders in broadcasting can think that the schedule will stack up against all of the great stuff that the other HD channels show. Nothing but previews, kids shows and repeats almost all of the time. That coupled with the poor picture quality since the technical changes means that I very rarely ever want to watch this channel now. Please go back to the older bitrates and give us BBC1 HD (with upscaled material which looks excellent on ITV1HD) rather than a poor man's HD, poor show BBC.

  • Comment number 61.

    What can I say ....?

    As an early watcher of BBC HD it was great - while it lasted - truly amazing picture quality, a major WOW factor when you saw the pin sharp images, much much better than was expected.

    Then for some reason it all changed last year. I am no techie but my eyes saw a big drop in picture quality & the wow was gone. Something to do with bandwidth / encoders or some such stuff. The BBC were bound to put it right though ? no, all they did via Danielle Nagler was to deny that anything had changed with regard to picture quality - TOSH !

    So if you are a non HD viewer at the moment I would say get it - its great but not on BBC HD - despite what they will tell you, but there are plenty of true HD channels on Sky that you can see that still have that WOW factor.

    Shame on you BBC.

  • Comment number 62.

    To be honest I cannot see what the fuss about HD is. I have a couple of friends with SkyHD and top of the range HD TV's and the picture is no better than my mothers Panasonic TV. Waste of money

  • Comment number 63.

    No one has mentioned the insanely stupid HD logo in the top left hand corner of the BBC HD transmissions. Not much point in having the best pictures if the imersive element is ruined by uneccessary channel branding.

    The excuses are as anoying as the logos themselves i.e. so we (the viewers) will not get confused when channel surfing, completely ignoring the fact all digital equipment displays channel and synopsis info for a few seconds at every channel hop.

    I did notice today (15/04/2010) that the ITV HD channel was not displaying a logo.

    Just (18.39hrs) taken a look at the BBC HD channel, Doctors on at the moment and no logo displayed. Lets leave it off permanently.

  • Comment number 64.

    I wonder when the great unwashed will be told that their HD ready TV's they have paid good money for over the last few years have just been made obsolete by the decision to use DVB-T2 for HD - a standard that NO hardware on the market for the last few years supports.

    Ignoring that, the quality of BBC HD is just laughable, it's about as close to decent Full HD as I am to being the countries next PM!

    Very poor show from the BBC.

  • Comment number 65.

    @62, rollocktothis, HD can be stunning, its just the vast majority of BBC HD at the moment is soft (especially faces) and poorly detailed.

    Most people seem to be of the opinion that Sky HD is better than BBC HD. Certainly when BBC HD 1st started, that wasn't a comparison that was being made although there were a few calls for a slight increase on sharpness on some programmes on BBC. However, others, particularly natural history subjects (which being slow changing and often brightly lit) were stunning. Unfortunaely those days are gone and some don't even compare favourably to the best SD I've seen. I can show FIVE and CH4 SD pictures that look better than BBC HD counterparts. That said, the odd BBC programme still looks good but mostly again very slow subjects that have no change between frames and are thus much easier for the encoder to encode at higher quality eg. close ups and slow motion.

    As you are unconvinced by HD, to see proper HD in action, take a look at the microsoft HD showcase (google is your friend), there are one or two truly stunning examples there - one of my favourites is "Storm Chasers".

  • Comment number 66.

    #41, Gary, firstly, I'd like to say that I welcome your approach to engagement with us. A friendly comment, which I hope signals a change of attitude because, in the past, I daresay a number of the above posts would already have been removed by now.

    You said in your comment: "Just a small bit of clarification, .. The blog post was written .. mainly for the many readers of this blog who've not yet got HD but are considering it, or have just taken the plunge, ....!"

    Perhaps you've not deemed all these comments off-topic because you've realised that it is exactly these "newbies" to whom most of them have been addressed. As well as, of course, to the BBC staff who perhaps haven't listened to, or at least don't seem to have acted too quickly on, some very similar comments made over the last few years.

    Nearly two years ago I myself tentatively dipped my foot into FTA HD TV for the first time and, unfortunately, I was immediately disappointed by what I found from the only HD service I could get, i.e. BBC HD. I thought then that I should start telling the BBC why, in the hope that "they" would listen to me and make some changes before Freeview HD arrived.

    This is what I'd said back in 2008:

    "I've invested in a Freesat to get access to BBC HD, but I think I've wasted my money. For most of your programmes, the picture doesn't seem to be up to the sort of HD standards that I've seen demonstrated in TV showrooms (Sky HD and Blu-Ray). The other problem is the number of HD programmes, which is far too few. Why do you spend hours of each day repeating the same HD Preview? Why don't you show more HD films (I haven't seen any since I got the thing a month ago)? Why is the programming mostly the sort of fare shown on BBC1 or BBC3 and not more from BBC2 or BBC4? How about some classical music, opera, rugby, etc.? If you want HD to take-off (and I presume the BBC wants to be a market leader) then you'll need to improve the quality (bit-rate increase?), variety and quantity, otherwise people who've seen it will not be recommending it to their friends."

    I'll let others decide whether or not the BBC has listened over the last 2 years. Personally, I do believe that they are finally starting to listen. If they are, then perhaps its as a result of ChrisK's "usual crowd's rants". And, if that's the case, and if the BBC do finally start making some significant changes, then I will be very pleased with the achievement. Even if, at worst, the feedback, complaints and campaigning has simply speeded-up an evolution that would have eventually happened anyway.

  • Comment number 67.

    The other thing to mention of course, is there is MUCH more to HD that just the "HD" tag.

    Resolution is not the only thing. Compression and Bitrate are also JUST (if not more) important.

    This is why Blu-Ray pictures on a Blu-Ray player like a Playstation3 looks SO much better than the more compressed and lower bitrate ShyHD, which inturn still looks better than the heavily compressed HD movie download services from AppleTV, iTunes, Playstation Store, Xbox Live etc.

    It's order (from best to worst):

    Digital HD Downloads (PS3 store, AppleTV etc).

  • Comment number 68.

    BBC HD is a crushing disappointment. It's been well documented about the loss of picture quality, but in some programmes its worse than SD. I watched a programme called Clash - the picture was awful - I turned over to "on the buses" (a 70s sitcom) on ITV4 and the picture was sharper. I think the BBC is making a huge mistake if they think we don't want pin sharp pictures - that's why we bought HD TV.

    While I'm ranting, the schedule is truly awful - it should show programmes which are currently on eg Ashes to Ashes shunted to another night - complete nonsense. I never thought I'd say this but have a look at ITV1 HD if you want to see how to do a decent HD channel.

  • Comment number 69.


    "I never thought I'd say this but have a look at ITV1 HD if you want to see how to do a decent HD channel."

    How can three or four HD programmes a week make a decent HD channel?

  • Comment number 70.

    "How can three or four HD programmes a week make a decent HD channel?"

    because its on all day, and everything on ITV1 is shown on ITV HD

  • Comment number 71.

    The BBC HD channel used to be a showcase of what Hi Def picture quality should be, and all the shops used to use the BBC to demo their equipment, unfortunately a short sighted idea of dropping the bitrate by 40% has stopped the shops using the channel to demo equipment and they now use blue rays instead, and instead of a WOW factor we now have the meh factor.

    I respect the BBC for their world class program production but I think they don't give their customers the same respect by saying there has been no quality drop, and if you do notice it you are a "geek". A more honest branding of the channel in it's current state would be SD+ or HD light.

  • Comment number 72.

    The fact is that it's got nothing to do with the proportion of non-HD against genuine HD content. On Freesat, you've scaled back the bit rate such that the quality of the picture is almost indistinguishable from standard definition. Put it back up to where it used to be (about 40% higher) and you might then have a service worthy of the "HD" label.

  • Comment number 73.

    SD terrestial Freeview has always annoyed me with breaks in the signal at the slightest interference. As the local council approves in-fill high-rise buildings on every vacant patch of grass that situation is getting worse.

    SD on iPlayer is sometimes a bit blocky and a programme usually has several outages, sometimes for minutes. HD on iPlayer is usually like a storyboard with a beautiful still frame every few seconds. My ADSL is 12mbps and no cap.

    Luckily there are rarely any programmes that I find worth watching on any TV channel - otherwise I'd have to drag the old analogue TV out of the garage.

    Once radio goes digital then I will cease to bother with that too.

  • Comment number 74.

    Hi Danielle, I agree. HD is buzzing this spring and beyond that but not on BBC HD it isn't. More like fuzzing, blur and noise.

  • Comment number 75.

    HD seems over hyped to me and I for one won't be rushing to pay a premium to watch it. I'll have to wait until a) Freeview HD comes to my region and b) I need to replace my existing TV / PVR.

    One thing I will never do is to pay any money to Sky.

  • Comment number 76.


    "..because its on all day, and everything on ITV1 is shown on ITV HD"

    But not in HD!!!!


    "On Freesat, you've scaled back the bit rate such that the quality of the picture is almost indistinguishable from standard definition"

    Let's get real. If you are having trouble telling the difference, there is something seriously wrong with your set-up/settings/viewing distance.

  • Comment number 77.

    Hmmm....I was going to buy myself an HD enabled DVB-S card for my PC to go with my spinky new 24" 1080p monitor (So I can watch the World Cup in peace), but if the quality of FTA HD is as poor as everyone is saying I don't think I will bother.

    Is the bit rate reduction purely down to limited broadcast bandwidth or is the beeb just being tight?

  • Comment number 78.


    "On Freesat, you've scaled back the bit rate such that the quality of the picture is almost indistinguishable from standard definition"

    It's scaled back on Sky HD and freesat unfortunately.


    "Is the bit rate reduction purely down to limited broadcast bandwidth or is the beeb just being tight?"

    Nothing to do with limited broadcast bandwidth and they are now broadcasting null packets, so they could easily push the bandwidth back up. My guess is freesat and Sky HD at 16 or 20 mbps would make freeview HD look poor, so the BBC have decided to give us all a poor mans HD. I'd rather each format freeview/freesat & Sky/freeview HD offers the best picture quality the bbc can offer, rather than the worst it can get away with. The BBC has always had one of the best SD picture quality standards, it's a shame so many of us have been let down on the HD front.

    Respect to the BBC for allowing many of these posts up though, as they are honest and frank views from their customers.

  • Comment number 79.


    "Let's get real. If you are having trouble telling the difference, there is something seriously wrong with your set-up/settings/viewing distance."

    Well, let's take as an example a Freesat BBC HD recording of the last episode of Lark Rise to Candleford, on a ScreenPlay DLP projector at 1080i on a six foot screen. I maintain that there is almost no difference between that recording and a recording made simultaneously on the same recorder (Humax Foxsat HD) of the SD broadcast. Other HD content, such as the Astra HD test broadcasts, look spectacular on the same projector. The BBC HD content USED TO look spectacular too, up to a few months ago. Now it looks just ordinary. I don't think the BBC should label it "HD" until and unless they put the bitrate back to where it was in the first place.

  • Comment number 80.

    "..because its on all day, and everything on ITV1 is shown on ITV HD"

    But not in HD!!!!

    Calm down - you're missing the point. ITV HD is much better than BBC HD because
    (1) You know what's on - no endless repeats and children's tv
    (2) It's on all day
    (3) I don't care whether it's true HD or upscaled SD, the picture is miles better than BBCs supposed HD

  • Comment number 81.

    @80 I'm not missing the point at all!! The SD upscaled on ITV1 HD is no way as good as BBC HD.

    In fact I'd even say that the Paxman/Clegg interview on Monday on BBC HD was far superior than last night's debate on ITV1 HD. Maybe the camaras were closer, whereas last night they had to zoom in?

    Of course, if you're comparing upscaled ITV1 HD with the few 'dodgy' BBC HD programmes like Ashes to Ashes, you may have a point. But they are few and far between.

    It will be interesting to compare Sky News HD's debate next week which will also be on BBC HD later the same evening.

  • Comment number 82.

    @78 thanks for the reply.

    Anyone got any experience with PC based Satellite/HD receiver cards? How good are they?

  • Comment number 83.

    Some excellent points, very well made. HD can be a complex topic, and hopefully, the launch of Freeview HD will help to demonstrate the benefits to all UK TV consumers – not just those with a pay TV subscription. But, the success of free-to-air HD won’t be judged solely on the availability of terrestrial HD channels, more on the overall consumer TV experience.
    Some of the Freeview HD set-top boxes being launched this summer are hybrid devices - enabling consumers to access catch-up content, from the likes of BBC iPlayer as well as a host of interactive services and internet applications. Some are also pay TV ready, giving consumers the opportunity to top up the terrestrial programme bouquets with premium sport, movie or lifestyle content. It will also be important that some of the gremlins experienced in first generation Freeview set-tops are ironed out – picture quality, rapid channel change and reliability will be important considerations for consumers deciding whether to make the switch to HD this summer.

  • Comment number 84.

    @Derek, 76. ""On Freesat, you've scaled back the bit rate such that the quality of the picture is almost indistinguishable from standard definition"

    Let's get real. If you are having trouble telling the difference, there is something seriously wrong with your set-up/settings/viewing distance"

    I disagree.

    There are many programmes on BBC HD where the quality is worse than the best of Ch4 or FIVE SD programmes:

    eg. An old one but a gold one on examples: https://img202.imageshack.us/img202/9089/combined2.jpg

    Both captured using the same methodology back to back.

    Whereas the technique might not be without flaws, its the same for both pictures.

    Another one same method: https://img227.imageshack.us/img227/3260/comparison3.jpg

    And as I know someone is going to moan that these are old, South Pacific - BBC HD 2010 (February I think):




  • Comment number 85.

    Just wanted to add obviously on pause you see compression flaws you don't see clearly when the picture is moving. However, a comparison between two paused pictures still holds true because the one with less compression will look better when passing through at full frame rate. The BBC HD vs 5 back to back pictures clearly show the difference.

  • Comment number 86.

    What I want to know is why the BBC doesn't show MotoGP or F1 coverage in HD on the BBCHD channel.

    And why do we have to watch it on the red button meaning that you cannot record or pause the program.

    Very poor.

  • Comment number 87.

    50 Darren Jacques wrote:
    until the BBC can be bothered to show the F1 in HD .. then its one giant fail right now

    the problem here is that the BBC do not provide the pictures you see. The FIA films F1 and the BBC buy the pictures.

    Until the FIA provide HD footage, the BBC will not be able to show F1 in HD.

    It would be great if they could arrange some sort of deal for the British GP in HD this year, but it probably won't happen.

  • Comment number 88.

    Is Playstation 3's PlayTV capable of getting Freeview HD?

  • Comment number 89.

    Why would a broadcaster transmit upscaled SD pictures? Surely the bitrate would be much better spent on a high quality SD signal.

    Also, out of curiosity, how are films, US TV shows, etc. shown on HD channels. Are they shown at their correct speed (24fps) or are they still sped up to 25fps?

  • Comment number 90.

    The problems I have with the various sources of HD are
    1) Sky HD costs money - far too much money.
    2) If I invest in Freesat for HD then all the Standard definition pictures are inferior to Freeview - What a poor state of affairs
    3) Freeview HD is not available in my area till 2012.
    4) There is no clear guidance on which will be the better to invest in for the long term FreeView HD or FreeSat HD.

    The BBC have been very bad at showing leadership and guidance. Far too many people will end up sending equipment to the dump. The whole digital and HD upgrade process has been handled VERY badly.

  • Comment number 91.

    @Keith I agree and I'm going to post an abridged version of something I've been saying for a long time on the other threads in here for the benefit of the many newer names here;

    Freeview quality and the loss of channels on Freeview can only get worse as more channels go HD and services become ever more bandwidth hungary eg. Super Vision, 3D etc, on a service that has no spare bandwidth left.

    Why don't the Trust just save face as I've said for a long time by separating the 2 services out, Freesat as a quality "showcase / enthusiasts" platform and Freeview as a day to day easy to get reception channel. This way bandwidth is no longer a hot political issue.

    That way comparisons would no longer matter if made between the two services and everyone is happy as Freeview is doing what its intending to do, bring digital to the masses and Freesat in turn can become a showcase for the very best of the BBC in broadcasting quality terms and the very best selection of high quality SD channels and HD channels (especially if the Trust were to review the operating terms of service and impose a minimum broadcasting PQ standard (and bit rate) for all channels on the epg to raise broadcasting PQ quality overall) to take advantage of the extra bandwidth on satelitte.

    To anyone about to point out the lack of space, there are null packets that could be removed, transponder shuffles that could free space by grouping channels together more efficiently, transponder modes that could be changed to free more space, a commercial broadcaster who could in theory at least (subject to persuasion or legal force if maybe the regulator or government stepped in) move encrypted channels off 2D's narrow footprint transponders to other transponders on Eurobird thereby freeing space for FTA, and there's also the laumch of a new sat due for 28 East in 2011 which brings more bandwidth to the location. Therefore space on satelitte is not an issue in the same way that it is on DTT which has no where to go.

    Also, separating the Freeview and Freesat out in this way also gives the BBC a platform to showcase their shows to foreign buyers with the very best picture quality (Freesat) - are they really going to convince us that, that wouldn't help with sales?

  • Comment number 92.

    For some reason, my Post #23 got held up with the moderators for quite some time, but was eventually posted without any changes. As a result, some of you may have missed one of the points I picked up on from Danielle's introduction, which I have repeated below:

    "because you want to see the World Cup in June shown in full in HD for the first time"

    Fot those of you, like me, who read that as "in full HD", look carefully at it it again! It actually says "in full in HD".

    Did they mean to say 'full HD' or is this an acknowledgement that they aren't broadcasting in full HD?

  • Comment number 93.

    To controller of BBC HD
    Do you know that towards the end of March the iPlayer HD team seems to have changed the encoding so that the FLASH acceleration introduced by Adobe to stop it being an unwatchable slideshow is no longer effective?
    There have been contact messages from users and Adobe themselves, posts on 2 iPlayer Forums and at Adobe Labs, but not a single response or change by the iPlayer team...
    Is this how your HD service should be handled?

  • Comment number 94.

    Watched Ashes to Ashes tonight and the quality was apauling. I find it difficult to believe that the poor quality was due to the codec alone. Previous series were shot in 16mm Film and I do suspect this series is also 16mm although it breaks the BBC rules. Recorded "Lost" on Sky 1 HD at the same time and that was real HD with surround sound.

  • Comment number 95.

    "When the BBC started out in HD television, we wanted to use the channel we had available to offer as much HD programming as possible."
    LOL.. you mean like Zingzillas... Kerwizz.. big and small??.. So who actually sat down and decided those were the things that would take up that valuable HD airtime? Who is it that thinks the avarage 3 year old really appreciates HD viewing?... What a total waste! How about a bit more for the adults that have spent their hard earned cash on HD TVs HD set top boxes etc etc?? movies maybe? Hotel babylon was good, more along those lines please.

  • Comment number 96.

    @ 95 'How about a bit more for the adults...Hotel babylon was good, more along those lines please' - are you for real?

  • Comment number 97.

    @96 sorry.. obviously Zingzillas is more your cup of tea!

  • Comment number 98.

    Oh dear.. just looked at all your other comments nur0... not really a lot you do like is there? :)).. moan moan moan moan moan! LOL

  • Comment number 99.


    Don't forget all the PSB channels BBC HD, ITV1 HD, C4 HD and from July, Five HD are only available via Sky and they're FREE.

    Best bet is to buy a second hand Sky HD box off Ebay and a £20 viewing card and then you'll get more FREE HD than any other platform (Freesat two HD channels, Freeview HD three.

  • Comment number 100.

    @92 Burnlea, BBC HD is currently 1440x1080i which is not full HD.

    Whereas I welcome full HD, unless they increase the bit rate the picture will only get worse in quality. Without an increase, the higher the resolution, the more pixels you have to compress into the same bandwidth and so the higher the compression has to be and the more the picture suffers visible softness and degredation.

    Interesting to note recently Danielle that Astra themselves (the company who own the satellites) issued a press release saying that they receive complaints aboput picture softeness when broadcasters run less than 12mbs as a bit rate for HD: https://www.techwatch.co.uk/2010/03/12/ses-astra-says-hd-quality-suffers-when-bit-rate-is-cut/ and urged broadcasters not to squeeze their bit rates.


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