SD is far from dead
Thursday, 15 April 2010

Our latest Rapid TV News Round Table covered HDTV and the industry’s apparent rush towards 3D broadcasting. But one speaker warned that standard-definition broadcasting was far from dead.

“We tend to forget developing markets, and cable infrastructures...take India, for example: It is an enormous cable market in India,” said Bob Gentry, managing partner at Marquis Consulting. “Whether that will ever be fully HD remains to be seen. So I don’t think SD is dead, but I think you’ll see the [control switch on a camera] be upside down. Whereas it used to be ‘Here’s an SD camera and you can throw the switch to make it HD’. But what will happen now is you’ll say, ‘Well, it’s all HD. And if you have to make it SD, well, here’s the switch to do it,” so it will stay. But it will gradually disappear over time but it will take a long will take a long time.”

Ian Trow, Director of Broadcast Solutions at Harmonic, confirmed that standard def was still a major business division at Harmonic. “Everyone concentrates on the latest and greatest, and 1080p occupies a lot of press coverage. But I think if you’re getting pragmatic about the resolutions and actually matching the end-distribution resolution to what you’re actually using in the production chain, I think a lot of people are going to say: ‘Well, can I actually justify HD production all the way through the chain? I think the industry has often cannibalised prospects by writing off previous technology far too early, and SD is one of those technologies. Undoubtedly, there are benefits in HD. And I think the subtle change in emphasis where all cameras essentially are HD with the capability of being switched to SD and similarly for file-servers and other production equipment. But I think SD has got a lot of mileage in it yet.”

Carl Furgusson, Head of Compression Project Management at Ericsson, developed another argument that proved SD was far from dead. “Last year, Ericsson surprised quite a few people by launching a new SD encoder, our MPEG-2 SD encoder. While everyone’s talking about HD, MPEG-4 and everything else, one of the primary reasons this was important is because with over a billion set-top- boxes and integrated TV devices [in use], SD isn’t going away any time soon. But from an operator’s standpoint, the desire to launch HD services is there and the ideal of being able to squeeze down your SD MPEG-2 channels into your current existing transmission space, and to put these new High Definition channels in without any change in transmission Operating Expense, is a considerable benefit from a business model perspective, from an operator’s standpoint.”

(Source: Rapid TV News)