Saturday, March 24, 2007

In The Eye Of The Beholder

We've been having a lively debate about HD this week at Narrowstep. The question is, what is HD ? Or rather, what can pass as HD ?

Two of Narrowstep's channels (London TV and Single Malt TV, check them here on Vidzapper), already film most of their content in HD (and, boy, does it make a difference, even when encoded down to 800Kbps). But the maximum transmission on Narowstep's telvOS platform is currently 1.8Mbps. Still, if I flick between one of these channels and BBC HD, the difference is not huge, and when it comes to sporting events, the difference is less still.

I've heard on good authority that HD on existing broadcast platforms is put out at around 4Mbps (even this is compressed by a factor of 300:1 - a pure HD signal is 1,500 Mbps), although common consensus is that it should be 6 - 8 Mbps (which is what you get when there isn't much contention - ie viewers - on the service).

So, the technical specifications don't mean much here, but to avoid confusion I have suggested using the term 'HQIV' (high quality internet video) for video delivery that is technically not HD, but looks like it to the consumer.

2 comments:

TM Vinson said...

As someone who began following Narrowstep 3 months ago after first seeing Malt TV, I can attest to the striking difference in quality of this channel and other web content and, indeed, the comparability to BBC HD. As a side note, I receive my broadband/HD signal via Virgin/(Telewest), and can actually notice a difference in HD quality during periods of high contention -- something, of course, Virgin swear to be impossible. That said, they also claim my 20 Mbps broadband never slows to a crawl, as it does at peak periods.

I applaud your attempt at separating out HQIV (particularly now as a NRWS shareholder) from other online video rubbish. I believe general consumers, and not just videofiles, appreciate the difference intuitively. Now, please, market the hell out of the distinction and convince the Fortune 1000, FTSE 500, and Madison Avenue and Fitzrovia adshops that their online content shouldn't be upstaged by Charles MacLean, wonderful though he is.

IP Jones said...

Interesting point about contention. I'm also a Virgin Media customer (with a measly 4Mbps) and find that the contention isn't so bad, but it is perceptible at times (Sunday early evenings seems to be the worst time).

Still, they're miles better than any other broadband provider that I've had experience of in this regard