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ABC's view (720p)

The following from Saul Shapiro of ABC was posted to the ITS
mailinglist and meant for distribution to the TIG:

--- Forwarded mail from "Shapiro, Saul T." <Saul.T.Shapiro at abc.com>

From: "Shapiro, Saul T." <Saul.T.Shapiro at abc.com>
To: ITSMail <ITSMail at itsnet.org>, OpenDTV at pcube.com,
        "TIG (E-mail)"
	 <telecine at alegria.com>
Subject: Just a reminder...
Date: Thu, 30 Jul 1998 07:20:44 -0700

There have been a few spools of threads unwound these past few days with
respect to the interlace/progressive debate.  I just wanted to unwind a few
more inches and remind you why ABC chose to start with progressive scan
distribution and transmission.

The single most important fact to keep in mind is that there will NOT be
consumer confusion over formats because ALL manufacturers of displays have
affirmed they will decode and display pictures REGARDLESS of the received
format.  That means a program sent in 720p will show up on a 1080i native
display receiver.  Consumers do NOT have to choose amongst formats.  The
benefits of choosing a transmission and distribution format accrue primarily
to the network and affiliate.  The consumers will enjoy beautiful, detail
rich pictures regardless of the format chosen by the network.

ABC has opted to use 720p for the following reasons taken in total:

1)  Better Pictures:  We feel 720p provides the absolute best picture
quality to the consumer.  This conclusion was supported by the subjective
testing done under the auspices of the FCC's Advisory Committee on Advanced
Television Services.  Progressive scan eliminates "interline flicker" caused
by interlaced scan and is superior for moving pictures.  It eliminates
"temporal artifacts" because the entire picture is painted each frame.
Since effectively all of television relies on moving pictures, we felt this
was a highly relevant benefit.  Almost all leading video authorities agree
that progressive scan is the proper goal.  We feel we should go straight to
that conclusion.

2)  Equipment is Available:  The fact is we were able to identify at least
one vendor for each of the critical components of our digital release
facility that could promise delivery in time for our November launch.  And
there are many more in line shortly thereafter!  While it is true that there
is a broader choice of equipment available today for an interlaced-only
solution, we have been able to carefully plan our facilities to allow for
flexibility and choice amongst formats.  Come November, 1999, when many more
of our affiliates must be on air to meet FCC guidelines, we can expect a
wide variety of 720/1080 switchable equipment to be available.

3)  Future Display Technology:  Some folks justify using 1080i because many
consumer receivers being planned for introduction this fall are 1080i rear
projection systems.  We are taking a longer view.  The development of large
area flat panels is proceeding at a remarkable pace, and the prices are
falling quickly.  Although a few thousand rear projectors may be sold over
the next year or so (all of which will display our programming, as discussed
above), we feel that most consumers will embrace DTV, and HDTV in
particular, via flat panel displays.  Flat panels are inherently
progressive, and will most certainly be available in 720-line versions long
before 1080-line models are cost effective for the typical living room

4)  Channel Efficiency:  One of the most compelling reasons to use
progressive formats, regardless of the line count, is that progressive
formats compress more efficiently than comparable quality interlace formats.
This is one reason the Commission's Advisory Committee determined that 720
lines progressively scanned is comparable to 1080 lines of interlace!  While
it seems counter-intuitive that 720 = 1080 (and the numerologists and pixel
prophets like to take advantage of this confusion), there is ample
scientific evidence that shows it to be true.  We can either send better
pictures at the same bit rate, or the same quality pictures at lower bit
rates.  In the former case, consumers benefit from the absolute best
possible pictures.  In the latter case they benefit from greater variety,
either in programming or digitally enabled information services.  Either
way, the consumer wins and by extension so does ABC!  Initially we intend to
fill our channel with the 720p picture, providing artifact-free encoding at
any frame rate.  We will let the market response help inform future service.

5)  Computer Compatibility:  At the heart of the format debate, advocates
for progressive have long promoted it as compatible with "computer
applications."  We concur that this is an advantage.  Here at ABC, we feel
that progressive technology will allow us, as well as our parent and
partner, Disney, to create new opportunities for enriched story-telling and
information rich programming.  While it is still too early to clearly define
precisely what form this programming will take, embracing progressive
formats early provides us with the greatest technical flexibility to explore
new forms of story-telling that has long been a promise of DTV.

6)  Cable Compatibility:  It is no secret that the cable companies have
expressed a preference for progressive formats.  Their reasons tend to have
more to do with the costs of a set-top converter (which they must bear), but
we are not disappointed that they have, for their own technical and economic
considerations, reached a conclusion similar to ours.  We hope this will
facilitate cable carriage of DTV programming, allowing for a more rapid
conversion throughout the industry.

These are the primary reasons for ABC choosing the 720p format for
distribution and transmission of HDTV programming.  Taken together, we feel
they provide a compelling rationale for embracing progressive technology.
However, while 720p works for ABC, we are not suggesting that 1080i is wrong
for others.  We will work closely with our affiliates who have chosen, for
whatever reason, to use 1080i within their facilities.  We are confident
that we will be able to deliver contribution quality HD material via
satellite to our affiliates and, if they so choose, they will be able to do
high quality transconversions to the interlaced format.  Consumers will
enjoy spectacular pictures either way! 

--- End of forwarded message from "Shapiro, Saul T." <Saul.T.Shapiro at abc.com>

Thanks to Match Frame Austin for support in 1998.
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