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Executive Decisions: HD Resolution
Posted Jan 3, 2007 Print Version     Page 1of 1

A colleague who is an experienced screenwriter sent me an urgent email recently with a serious concern regarding a prospective corporate video job. Her email went something like this: 
     Hey Russ: I was approached by a potential client to write a pretty standard corporate script, and they asked me if I was familiar with HiDef as they would be using HD for this shoot. Of course I'm familiar with it; however, I haven't written something shot on HD. Besides being aware of aspect ratios, can you think of any reason why I would need to adjust my scriptwriting?
     My response included the following:
     Clearly, your writing needs to have much higher resolution for HD. Any slight flaw will be noticeable so be extremely careful with grammar—dangling participles are especially obvious in HD . . . Seriously though, content is content, right? Good writing is good writing. But that's just a standard definition opinion, so what do I know?

This story makes me smile because it typifies the high level of anxiety and uncertainty involved when undertaking a major change. Making the transition from producing in SD to producing in HD can certainly be filled with challenges from camera to workflow issues, and I'm preparing to tackle those challenges full force. One of my New Year's resolutions for 2007 is to begin producing in HD. I call it my "HD Resolution."

As 2006 wore on, I was beginning to feel like I was the only producer on the face of the planet still toiling away in lowly old standard definition. Manufacturers were releasing new models of HD cameras at a rapid pace. Electronics stores were teeming with beautiful new HD monitors at ever lower prices. Walking the halls at NAB, I found only one booth using a standard-definition television for displaying sample video (other than field production monitors). Everything else was flat-panel plasma or LCD HD-capable. The media has been full of HD talk. Colleagues have been chatting about it, forums have been abuzz, ads for HD cameras and editing systems and storage and tapes have been omnipresent.

Then I read Stephen Nathans' September 2006 Nonlinear Editor column, Curiosity and the Cat.  In that column, he reports that a recent EventDV survey showed that 60% of our readers produce corporate video and over 92% use SD as their primary or sole acquisition format. What a relief to be in such fine company! 

Now I would have loved to have been an early adopter of HD technology, and I'm looking forward to adding the format to our arsenal, but honestly the demand wasn't there from our stable of corporate clients to justify making an early plunge into those waters. As of the close of the third quarter in 2006, we had received a grand total of one phone call from a potential business client specifically requesting HD. And even that client was not adamant about HD acquisition.

Deliverables rule when it comes to profitability. The non-broadcast marketing and training videos we produce have typically been delivered via DVD, CD, or streaming video. Our clients have wanted their video to play on the hardware they own without the need for additional investment. This hardware has been strictly standard-def in the training and conference rooms of our particular clients. Our projects weren't of the kind that demanded future-proofing by shooting in HD, and we certainly didn't have the time to experiment with new workflows.

So what makes 2007 different? Why have I made my HD Resolution now? My gut instinct says the time is right for our business model. Cable and satellite providers have brought the full impact of HDTV into homes and businesses, giving clients a real taste of the image quality possible with this format. HD monitors have been the most actively advertised consumer electronics of the 2006 holiday shopping season. And though the format war between HD DVD and Blu-ray will result in far fewer initial sales of these new-generation DVD players than analysts had originally predicted, at least high-definition DVD players are finally available in the marketplace.

Moreover, I remember seeing a documentary about the annual migration of large herds of wildebeest across the Serengeti in Africa. Every year hundreds of thousands of these animals mass along the banks of the Mara River. They must cross the raging river and climb its steep banks to reach the lush grasses on the other side, but the river is teeming with hungry crocodiles. As the wildebeest huddle on the river's edge, there is growing anxiety about making the crossing until finally one bull leaps into the water and is instantly followed by a stampede of his brethren flailing through the river and on to the other side.

I greatly appreciate those HD pioneers who jumped into the river first. I watched their path and learned from their struggles. I believe I am safely near the middle of the herd in my quest across the river. The crocs have had their fill. I can struggle through the difficult waters and climb the steep bank on the far side of the stream.

I sense that my non-broadcast corporate clients will soon be requesting HD deliverables and some newer broadcast markets we're moving into will benefit from the advances in image quality. And throughout whatever technical challenges we face while making the transition, I take comfort in knowing that one important part of the process remains unchanged—telling a good story is still telling a good story.

Russ Jolly is co-owner of PixelPops Design in Richardson, Texas.

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