By Carolyn Giardina
Reports on the progress of digital television broadcasting and HD production varied greatly at the Hollywood Post Alliance (HPA) Annual Technology Retreat, Feb. 6-8 at the Rancho Las Palmas Marriott in Rancho Mirage. HD production for television broadcasting showed significant momentum, while the transition to digital television (which includes HD broadcasting as an option) remains far behind schedule.
Last spring 70 percent of television stations failed to meet the May deadline to begin broadcasting a digital signal. This and related news confirmed what many already believe–that the industry will not meet its 2006 deadline to complete the transition, as mandated in 1996 as part of the FCC’s Fith Report and Order.
Still, broadcasters reported notable growth in HD production. CBS is producing and broadcasting its complete primetime episodic series schedule in high definition, as well as select MOWs and other programs.
ABC also has an HD-produced primetime line up, as well as some special events. NBC and the WB Network have also increased their number of HD programs since the 2001-2202 season.
Content was also a central theme when the topic shifted to the promise of digital cinema projection and distribution. Texas Instruments’ Doug Darrow reported that there were only 20 films released digitally in 2002 (a year that ended with 150 available screens, he said). He emphasized, “For digital cinema to become a reality, it has to be built on a consistent release of content.” At press time, he reported that the amount of digital cinema content was flat.
That was consistent with an update from Warner’s Wendy Aylsworth, who said that Warner Bros. anticipates releasing about the same number of features in the digital realm in 2003 as it did in 2003. She explained that the studio “still considers [digital cinema] to be in the experimental stage.”
In identifying the hurdles to making digital cinema a reality, much of the discussion surrounded standards, ranging from HD to 4K and beyond. Digital Cinema Intiatives’ Walt Ordway reported that the seven studios would like to consider 10-15 years into the future when making these decisions.
Industry pundit Charles Poynton agreed: “At some point, we need to freeze the standard so that a business can take place…so we should think about a standard that is going to last,” he said.
The HPA Retreat attracted some 230 attendees, and demonstrated the growing interest in the association. HPA is next readying to participate in Display/LA, a conference devoted to introducing dispay technologies to the creative production community.
“Directors, cinematographers, producers, editors, special effects artists and others within our industry need to understand the impact of display technology on their creative work. With the recent advances and options in display, it becomes increasingly important to look at and present images in the best possible way,” said HPA president Leon Silverman, executive VP at Laser Pacific.
Display/LA is scheduled to take place July 17-18 at the Beverly Hilton.
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