Wednesday, January 9, 2008

SPEED Gives An HD Update

Currently, SPEED Channel is in the process of changing over to High Definition. It seems this is the next logical step for the network, which is now in over 70 million homes across the country.

Rick Miner is the executive-in-charge of this project for SPEED. "Over the course of the 2008 season, SPEED will be transitioning all of its event programming over to HD," said Miner. The network will kick-off the HD channel on February 7th with one hundred hours of NASCAR programming from Daytona.

To help sort this situation out, we took a very basic list of questions about this topic to SPEED, and here are the answers.

First of all, no one will lose the channel when SPEED goes to HD. Current SPEED programming on the channel you watch now will continue without interruption.

Right now, SPEED is negotiating with all the big cable companies, called MSO's for Multi-System Operators, to add the SPEED HD Channel. Results of those negotiations will continually be released to the media when each agreement is finalized.

Basically, just like with some other cable networks, two channels of SPEED will show-up on your cable dial when your MSO adds SPEED HD. That will allow those with an HDTV to watch SPEED in that format, and those with SD sets to continue to watch without a problem.

For Home Dish owners, SPEED HD will be carried by DirecTV from the start, and negotiations are on-going with Dish Network. SPEED HD for the satellite viewers will be added to the program line-up and then appear on the channel menu.

To begin with, more than half of SPEED's programs will be offered in HD when the network makes the switch in February. As the year progresses, the percentage will rise until all the offerings are in HD. The emphasis right now is on getting the NASCAR and other race programming over to HD.

As for the cost issue, the individual cable operator makes the decision how to put SPEED HD into the cable package that is offered, and how to price it. This is going to be an issue that The Daly Planet will track through our readers as this roll-out continues.

If your cable company does not offer SPEED HD in February and you want to check the status of the new channel, viewers must call their individual cable company and ask about SPEED HD. Each roll-out will be on a different timetable.

As more details become available, we will continue to answer your questions about the impact of SPEED going HD and the changes you may experience. We discussed the pros and cons of buying an HDTV set in the after Christmas sales in an earlier column, which can be read by clicking here.

This transition really rounds out the HD experience for NASCAR fans, especially since DirecTV's Hot Pass and the NASCAR on Fox and the ESPN Nationwide Series races are already offered in the HD format. Now that SPEED is switching the Craftsman Trucks over, the line-up will be complete.

As we said in our earlier column, it might finally be time to scrape together four hundred dollars and head to WalMart. The Vizio brand of HDTV is a good "starter set" and will get a lot of work on the NASCAR trail this season. Good luck.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, and follow the easy instructions. There is nothing to join and we do not want your email address. We would just like your opinion about SPEED in HD.


Anonymous said...

I have mentioned this before, but now I'm beginning to wonder...

Have you noticed that some--but not all--of the pre-produced packages and interviews from Daytona have had an odd "look" to the video?

I originally chalked it up to downconverting teh video to SD from an HD camera source. But a lot of the show looks just fine. in fact, it is primarily driver interviews that have this soft, washed-out look. The on-set portion o the show doesn't, nor does the video of the cars on the track.

I'm wondering if SPEED's using different kinds of cameras for some of the taped material. Because not all of it looks this way--and that's part of the reason I'm finding it so distracting.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 8:33PM,

It has been driving me nuts, but I have just chalked it up to the different formats between the ENG crew and the studio.

If anyone thinks they know what that is, give us a yell.

Tripp said...

I have an answer for you. The infield pit packages are being shot in 24p, otherwise known as 24 frames per second (fps), progressive scan. This yields what some claim is a look closer to 35mm film and has some artistic merit in certain contexts.

Without getting too technical, the problem comes when you put this footage next to either standard or high def footage shot at 30fps at a high shutter speed. The two are going to look very different.

I think the SPEED crew are playing around with their new gear, which makes sense. Their new cameras and production equipment will likely work very differently, and HD offers new opportunities and challenges that they will want to explore before the season starts in earnest.

I know this first hand as I'm a videographer (with no ties to SPEED, unfortunately) who's recently made the move to HD. I too noticed the quality differences since yesterday's show and had been thinking about what they'd been doing down there.

Anonymous said...

So does it look unifrom when viewed in true HD?

Or is the difference still visible?

Anonymous said...

hm...It looked like the field crews were submitting the field interview via Internet. That's what the quality issues looked like to me. I have no idea why they would do that though.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
So does it look unifrom when viewed in true HD?

Or is the difference still visible?

January 9, 2008 8:50 PM

something tells me it still wont look uniform. But I think they will stop doing whatever they are doing when they switch to HD.

Anonymous said...

As long as every 16x9 camera viewfinder is marked to remind the operator that the key part of the shot must still be visible on a 4x3 TV screen (and they shoot that way), I'll be happy.

Newracefan said...

Thanks for the update JD I guess I'll start harassing Comcast for info on the HD Speed channel.  I'm glad I wasn't the only one who noticed the picture issues, hopefully they'll stop playing with the new toys soon but since it should mean great TV when the races start, I'll stop complaining.

Matt said...

John, will SPEED be in widescreen format for those of us without HDTV?

Anonymous said...

I'm glad it wasn't just me. Speed's packages so far on the Pre season testing show look awful! The video looks washed out and is of poor quality, as those above have commented. JD, can you find out when Speed plans on shooting video normally again?

Anonymous said...

SPEED HD update from COX: I tried to contact COX today and I got some information. They say they will only add the channel AFTER SPEED begins to broadcast in HD on February 7. That could be a few days from the launch in HD, maybe longer. That means I might miss the first few days of SPEED HD while they work on adding it to the HD tier. Apparently, the channel needs to be broadcasting in HD, BEFORE they add it to my HDTV channel lineup.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
As long as every 16x9 camera viewfinder is marked to remind the operator that the key part of the shot must still be visible on a 4x3 TV screen (and they shoot that way), I'll be happy.

January 9, 2008 9:04 PM

That is one of the most important parts of the switch to wide screen. Most photographers know that a lot of people still don't have a wide screen TV and they try to shoot with that in mind.

Daly Planet Editor said...

SPEED says the non-HD feed will be transmitted in the DG format and ratio.

Speedcouch said...

I have DirecTV and HD and they've had a different feed for SPEED HD since Sept/Oct when DirecTV got their new satellite operational and added 50+ new channels. Even though the picture isn't really HD on SPEED and some others (like the MTV family), the audio says it's dolby digital on my Home Theater receiver and the picture looks a ton better than it does on the SD SPEED feed.

As to the interview footage from pre-season Thunder, please save us from "artistic" shots! But thanks to whoever explained that the camera folks are playing around with different settings because it looked atrocious to me.

As to any HD footage, it generally looks better in SD than what you are used to, but there's never going to be a time when it will look worse than what you would normally see with SD.

If your cable provider doesn't cut a deal with SPEED HD, you may see the pictures in letterbox. Or they may adjust the picture to fill the screen. There are a couple of ways it could go.

Just glad I have DirecTV and will be able to enjoy the true HD from SPEED when it's comes on-line on 7 Feb!

As to the reader's question about

Anonymous said...

I'm just happy to be getting something NASCAR !!!
Grani Girl

GinaV24 said...

Glad to hear that it was the TV format not my eyes! I was getting worried that what I was seeing was "fuzzy". Thanks for the info and on Speed's switchover to HD.

Anonymous said...

Wonder how long it will take our wonderful "friends" at Cablevision to add this. They JUST added ESPN2 a couple of weeks ago.

Then again, doesn't matter to me. My wife won't let us plop down the cash for an HD setup any time soon....

Anonymous said...

Finally caught this show tonight, but was multitasking and half paying attention. BUT half the show was HORRIBLE video quality and I see what you guys are talking about. looked horrible with washed out overexposed skies and soft focus rubbish. Ugh.

But I did like they moved the NASCARonSPEED over to the rt corner more on my tv..and after they came back from the dreadful hand held cam stuff, they did NOT put the rt hand logo back on the screen.

Might have been an accident but it looked NICE AND CLEAN on my tv, LOL.


Erik said...

I'm happy Speed is finally getting on the HD bandwagon. The visual quality of the broadcasts is something the traditional distribution channels (SPEED, Fox, ESPN, etc.) and even HotPass HD needs to capitalize on when going against lower quality online streaming video you get over the internet.

Anonymous said...

My question is simply: When will the countries largest (they say) cable outfig - Comcast - finally start to carry SPEED in hi-def? We are in the Northwest area (Seattle) market, and all Comcast will tell you is they don't know - when or evem IF they will make it available.

We ourselves were greatly excited at the prospect of watching SPEED programs in hi-def starting with Daytona, and made the "big purchase" on New Years Day to be well ready for it. Well of course being the novices we are, we thought Comcast would immediately add it to the lineup. Thankfully, SPEED parent company Fox carried in hi-def on Comcast, so we at least got to see the actual race that way. But most of the "100 hours of hi-def" were totally lost to us.

We have since become avid ESPN2-HD viewers, as all ESPN channels are carried in hi-def - and I'll have to say their hi-def picture by a large margin is superior to Fox's. I'll have to say too that ESPN has really turned their NASCAR programming around this year - and the Monday night "NASCAR Now" program is terrific. Great to see Alan Bestwyk back doing what he did so well "back in the day" on TWIN - when it was still a fun show.

If anyone can shed some light on this, I'm sure others besides me would appreciate it.