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Scaling up to HD

by Adrian Pennington on Sep 13, 2012

Creating pixels in HD images can cause image artefacts in the output video.
Creating pixels in HD images can cause image artefacts in the output video.

Whether broadcasters have migrated to HD or are just beginning that transition, the ability to convert content from one standard to another is an essential business requirement, says Adrian Pennington.

hile the world’s primary markets are well on their way through the transition to HD, there are still a huge number of secondary markets that are further behind the curve. They will find themselves in a similar position to where the US, Japan or Germany was 10 years ago with HD stations and not enough HD content.

There will be a need to up-convert legacy content and a requirement for up-conversion of signals from existing SD infrastructures until the facilities can transition to HD. All of which requires the ability to up-convert at a high quality so that the result is almost as good as true HD.

These secondary markets tend to be countries where the economics dictate that equipment has to be run for as long as possible,” says Don Thomas, Grass Valley product manager, production switchers.

“It is worth remembering that this applies to consumers as well as broadcasters; there is little point in rushing HD channels to air without the prospect of a worthwhile audience being able to see it.”

Key emerging markets for HD include South America, the Middle East and China but secondary markets also lie within so-called mature markets. The US is on the face of it a very mature HD market, but there are also large numbers of lower-value assets in the country, part of a larger archive perhaps, which are still being up-converted.

And although we may think Europe is in a similar state, only 500 channels out of 9000 are HD today, so there’s still a good demand for SD to HD content.

“Although most prime European and US channels are broadcast in HD, they have to deal with SD-based content up-converted to HD,” observes Daniel Collin, product manager for infrastructure, Miranda.

“Examples are the various incoming feeds with international content, SD news studios [only 300 out of 600 are HD in the US], lower quality feeds and legacy/archived content.”

“Up-conversion will be with us for years to come because there’s a huge library of content that was created in SD,” agrees Thomas. “News and sports, most obviously, have archives which are continually in use. However, there are programmes from decades past which are now finding new audiences, through niche channels which have HD outputs.”

Indeed, says Simon Westland, Blackmagic Design EMEA, the need for good quality down-conversion is just as important in mature markets as deliveries are made to regions that are still predominantly standard definition.

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