As you probably already know, by the end of 2012 every TV in the UK will be have to be “digital ready” otherwise its bye-bye to Eastenders, Big Brother, Loose Women, Gok’s Fashion Fix, Goldenballs and it’ll be the last you’ll ever see of Last of the Summer Wine. For some of us this is a cause for celebration but for the vast majority it means, at best, a new digi-box to ensure you can keep on watching these TV “treasures” or, at worst, a brand new TV – a big expense in testing times.
The reason for the switchover (or analogue sundown as it’s also, somewhat wincingly, called) is to ensure that we all receive programming and other services in top-notch, eye-melting, pin sharp quality. No bad thing, but it has implications far beyond having to fork out £500 for a new plasma screen.
Everyone involved in the commissioning, creation, production, and distribution of any video material will be affected in some way by the switch to HD. Here’s a few examples: sets on the soap operas are having to be rebuilt because they look unconvincing in HD, make-up artists are now using spray guns to apply make up to the faces of actors and presenters as a little light dusting of foundation just doesn’t cut it anymore, production companies are having to invest in expensive new shooting and edit kit, even poor Sky Sports presenter Richard “hairy hands” Keys has had to start waxing all his visible appendages to avoid scaring the younger viewers of Soccer Sunday whenever there’s a close-up of his werewolf-like mitts.
What all of this means to you depends on which part of the process you are involved in. To your average gun-for-hire cameraman it means a little bit of re-training, for a set dresser it means staying up a little later making the bricks on the side of the Rovers Return look more real, for production companies it means buying the right kit at the right price at the right time to avoid paying for Sony’s R&D, and for the broadcasters it means ensuring that the quality of the writing, acting and directing isn’t overlooked in rush to claim firmest foot on this brave new world.
In the corporate world many of the same rules apply but with the added headache of working out who pays for all of this. Inevitably, more switched on corporate production companies will find a balance between investing in new kit but not giving their clients heart attacks when the client sees quotes for jobs coming in higher than they were expecting. All clients want their programmes to look good but very rarely care which format it’s shot on or how much the camera cost. What needs to happen is that production companies need to educate the client in the benefits and additional cost of shooting in HD and the clients need to understand that there’s no way to avoid the move to HD and that sadly there is a cost involved.
At the moment the digital switchover means that TV screens are increasing in size by an average of 1” per year, as long as this continues there will be an inevitable and comparable increase in the size of budgets. When screens stop getting bigger (which they will) and budgets stabilize (which they will), HD will be free to deliver quality, versatility and interactivity of the kind that the founding fathers of TV could never have dared dream of.