Coping with the Digital Transmission Transition

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the November, 2008, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]


Todd Burns writes:

I would really appreciate an answer to these questions about the HD (broadcasting) changeover in February.


• Can you output an HD video from FCP to a standard SD Beta deck (UVW-1800)?
• Will the video be stretched?
• Do we need to get an HD Beta deck?
• Do we even have to output in HD after the change in February?

Larry replies: Thanks, Todd, for writing!

Keep in mind that the February 17, 2009, transition is to digital transmission, not necessarily HD. The National Association of Broadcasters has published an FAQ on this. You can read it here.

So, in answer to your questions:

1. Not directly. You need to down-convert (transcode) from HD to SD. This can be done using a capture card – Blackmagic Design or AJA – in real time, or prior to tape output by creating an SD QuickTime file in Compressor.


2. Not necessarily. Keep in mind that all HD is 16:9, and most SD is 4:3. This means you would lose information on the edges of the HD material when transcoding (converting) it from 16:9 HD to 4:3 SD.


3. You only need an HD deck if you are going to record HD to tape. Most stations use playout servers that take digital files, rather than tape. Contact the station to learn their specs.


4. The format you output in is determined by where the tape is going. In other words, what format does your customer need? There are two different broadcast formats – 720p (ABC, ESPN, Fox) and 1080i (CBS, NBC, PBS). Be sure to determine who needs what format before outputting your project.


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