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Old 07-04-2013, 07:00 AM   #1
nrnoble
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How are older SD TV series being up converted to HD

I have notice several older SD shows are being broadcast in 1080i without any boxing; they fill the entire HDTV screen. I can't detect any cropping that might explain how the show would easily be up converted to HD. Clearly all the shows were recorded in SD 480 format, yet somehow the shows are have been converted to HD 1080i without distoring the image or quality (BTW, I have seen some very bad conversions, which is not what I am referencing here)

Some shows I have noticed that have up converted without loosing quality:

Friends
Seinfeld
Charlies Angles
TJ Hooker
Hogan's Hereos

Not a big list, and other then Friends and Seinfeld, the others aren't really that compelling as classic show.
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Old 07-04-2013, 07:06 AM   #2
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How are older SD TV series being up converted to HD

I don't know about Friends and Seinfeld, but the others would have been filmed rather than taped, so all it would need is scanning the film at a higher resolution. Even for newer taped shows, the tape format used was usually much better than SD.


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Old 07-04-2013, 07:39 AM   #3
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Once production companies realized that eventually HDTV was in the future, many older film shows were shot with 16x9 in mind, yet framed so everything important remained within 4x3 safe action or safe title areas. Now it's just a matter of rescanning the original films and re editing with HDTV gear.
Even today, a lot of HDTV is shot with 4x3 in mind to be compatible with those folks receiving only SDTV.
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Old 07-04-2013, 08:51 AM   #4
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Seinfeld was also filmed and the last time it was released for syndication Sony cropped out the top and bottom parts of the frame, while restoring previously cropped images on the sides, from the 35 mm film source, to use the entire 16:9 frame.
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Old 07-04-2013, 09:31 AM   #5
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Thanks, I suspected that maybe older shows were shot on 35mm film, thus it might be possible to up convert to HDTV assuming the entire frame was consistantly useable. I just was surprised that shows going back to the 60s & 70s were that compatible with HD formats.

I have read that shows that use Special Effect shots, have mixed aspect ratios, in terms of the master copy. I asked once if Star Trek The Next Generation would be released on Bluray, someone explained it was unlikely because the SFX shots were all 4:3 at 480i, thus can't be up converted, and would need to do what Star Trek:TOS has done, replace all the SFX shots.
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Old 07-05-2013, 12:34 PM   #6
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There's some discussion about it over the Star Trek: TNG thread.

Helpful image from the thread over on AVS Forums, showing an actual TNG film frame with the 4:3 TV aspect marked out. (click to embiggen)
Highslide JS

The frames marked out are the 4:3 safe and overscan areas. Depending on how the TV is adjusted, some of the overscan area may be visible.

Shows that were shot on 35mm film are fine resolution-wise, and some (like TNG) are being released in HD but still in the 4:3 aspect. There's nothing about HD that requires 16:9.

TNG is a special problem because post-production was done on SD video, so for the HD release they had to rescan all the original film and redo the editing. Some of the effects have been redone in CGI, but a lot were practical effects (such as models) captured on 35mm film, so they just scanned that in HD.

Other shows (like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") have been released in a widescreen format by using more of the frame, but this causes other problems. For shows not shot with widescreen in mind, there may be studio clutter visible outside the 4:3 frame. Also, the framing is part of the filming style, so the wider frame mucks up what were supposed to be tight shots.

And the 4:3 frame is off-center, so a wider frame makes everything right of center. Note that in the above image, the crosshairs are right on Picard's nose. In 4:3, it's a nicely framed two-shot, but in full frame there's a lot of empty space on the left.

There are some screencaps showing the issues with "Buffy" here and here.

IMHO, if the show was filmed for 4:3, it should stay that way even on HD releases.
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Old 07-13-2013, 08:29 PM   #7
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A lot of cable channels run small black bars on the legacy SD channels, some run full 16:9, which is actually nice, as in the case of a channel like ESPNU that Comcast doesn't carry here in HD, I can use the DVDO EDGE to crop it perfectly to 16:9 and not have any black bars/overscan. They should really just start black barring everything and not caring about the few legacy users who haven't passed the mid-2000's yet.
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Old 07-18-2013, 09:16 AM   #8
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A lot of the better shows were filmed, mostly drama, but in the 1990s and since sitcoms as well.

Most 70s/80s sitcoms and soaps were video so need converted, if they bother.

It is easy for me to see what is video or film.
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Old 07-24-2013, 12:17 AM   #9
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There's nothing about HD that requires 16:9.
HD formats (720p, 1080i/p) are 16:9 by definition. You can of course not fill the frame with picture and put black bars or such on the side.

4:3 viewers may get a window-boxed picture (black on all sides).
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Old 07-24-2013, 06:14 AM   #10
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These converted files/shows probably would lose quality or look worse when you watch it in bigger screens.
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Old 07-24-2013, 11:28 AM   #11
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I was stunned when HD was pretty new to see Hogans Heroes in HD on HDNET. Turns out as someone mentioned here it was shot on film. They scanned the original film prints to create the HD master.
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Old 07-24-2013, 01:24 PM   #12
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HD formats (720p, 1080i/p) are 16:9 by definition. You can of course not fill the frame with picture and put black bars or such on the side.

4:3 viewers may get a window-boxed picture (black on all sides).
That's correct for broadcast HD. Blu-ray natively supports 1440x1080, though it's going to get pillarboxed when sent to the TV.

But the point is, it's still possible to show HD content in 4:3, even if the display pillarboxes it. It doesn't require using the full 35mm frame, or cropping.
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Old 07-25-2013, 05:54 PM   #13
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The early seasons of Friends and Seinfeld were shot on Super 35 Film in 3 perf negative pulldown to target the 4:3 ratio. That's why after being up converted to 16:9, they can be a bit awkward. Mic booms showing up every so often, and more or less empty screen utilization.

In the later seasons, they switched to targeting a true 16:9 ratio during filming and editing and that's why the later seasons looks so much better.
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Old 07-26-2013, 05:23 AM   #14
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TV shows used the same film cameras as the motion pictures. Or that's how all film cameras from about the 1960's on were manufactured. Much of the filming of TV shows took place on the Motion Picture Studio lots, anyway, and so those cameras were used, since the studios owned the shows in the first place. However, looking in the viewfinder or monitoring on video, there were seperate demarcations: for our discussion, one for 4:3 TV and others for wide screen theatrical films. If you were shooting for TV you just made sure that what you wanted to be seen on the TV was in the 4:3 demarcation. However, everything OUTSIDE the 4:3 demarcation was still being captured on film, it's just that in the very expensive telecine process to transfer the film to video, everything outside the 4:3 demarcation was "cropped" for the very expensive transfer broadcast network video so it would nicely fit our old CRT TV's.

So, by now you might have figured out that if the studios still have the negatives, and most do, all they have to do is process the film to digital using the entire width of the print and NOT "cropping" to the 4:3 as had been done decades ago. In other words, if a TV show was filmed in the last 30 to 40 years, it was most likely filmed in wide screen, anyway. We just never saw the content that was outside the 4:3 demarcation on old time TV.

Now, the studios may have to still crop a bit of the image because camera operators may have allowed production, such as mics, lighting, or even where set ended and where the real-life studio began and even crew hanging out or working OUTSIDE the 4:3, but within the wide screen demarcation (someone holding a boom mic, for instance). In those days, TV people didn't care much about stuff outside the 4:3 but within the wide screen demarcation because the folks at home would NEVER see it. While the idea of wide screen TV was bounced around and even championed on the 1980's (there were our modern equivalent of widescreen video projection for places like off shore oil rigs were they could enjoy widescreen entertainment, and it was truly the precursor to our modern Home Theater set-ups), nobody in the industry thought it was ever going to happen or at least not for a really long time, and by then, who would want to air all those OLD TV shows in the future? This is the same thinking (never realizing how valuable OLD TV shows could be in the future) that had NBC back in the 1980's destroy, re-use or just throw out almost every episode of the DAYTIME Hollywood Squares of the 1970's. I believe only the Story Book Squares (a DAYTIME special series of Squares for kids that ran for two or three weeks) and some of the NIGHTTIME Hollywood Squares is all that survived the purge. A sad loss of some really GREAT TV. Thankfully, Mark Goodson saved EVERY ONE of his Match Games of the 1970's.

So, essentially, a great amount of TV that was filmed was filmed in wide screen.

I don't think that Hooker or the shows the OP listed were "upconverted" to HD. I believe they were re-scanned, and therefore, true HD. However, some shows like Seinfeld when they were first promoted as HD were, in fact, unconverted resulting in a noisy MESS! However, I do believe that Seinfeld, and some other previously unconverted shows, have been rescanned to true HD and that is what currently airs. However, even with the rescan, Seinfeld looks very disappointing. It is clear the studios don't really want to spend the money to make these shows look great in HD.

I do have to say that HDNET's (now Axis) showings of Cheers were a detailed splendor of HD. One could see Ted Dansons's beads of perspiration on his brow and left no doubt where his toupe began and real hair (if any) ended. The color was sublime. It really brought new life to an old show. Now that was a way to rescan a show. However, I have not seen the beautiful widescreen HD Cheers on any of the other channels that air it, only on the old HDNET. Maybe the studios want more for the widescreen good transfers.

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Old 07-26-2013, 05:59 AM   #15
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There's some discussion about it over the Star Trek: TNG thread.

Helpful image from the thread over on AVS Forums, showing an actual TNG film frame with the 4:3 TV aspect marked out. (click to embiggen)
Highslide JS

The frames marked out are the 4:3 safe and overscan areas. Depending on how the TV is adjusted, some of the overscan area may be visible.

Shows that were shot on 35mm film are fine resolution-wise, and some (like TNG) are being released in HD but still in the 4:3 aspect. There's nothing about HD that requires 16:9.

TNG is a special problem because post-production was done on SD video, so for the HD release they had to rescan all the original film and redo the editing. Some of the effects have been redone in CGI, but a lot were practical effects (such as models) captured on 35mm film, so they just scanned that in HD.

Other shows (like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") have been released in a widescreen format by using more of the frame, but this causes other problems. For shows not shot with widescreen in mind, there may be studio clutter visible outside the 4:3 frame. Also, the framing is part of the filming style, so the wider frame mucks up what were supposed to be tight shots.

And the 4:3 frame is off-center, so a wider frame makes everything right of center. Note that in the above image, the crosshairs are right on Picard's nose. In 4:3, it's a nicely framed two-shot, but in full frame there's a lot of empty space on the left.

There are some screencaps showing the issues with "Buffy" here and here.

IMHO, if the show was filmed for 4:3, it should stay that way even on HD releases.
You've mentioned a real pique of mine, not with the old TV but with the new HDTV content: they still frame HDTV content for 4:3 and this has resulted in no tight shots anymore. tight shots on TV, or the cinema, can really bring the dram home as we can see the actor using his face to act and immerses us in the content. It the one thing I really like about the old Voom channels: they shot for HDTV aspect with some really close and tight shots, but what a tremendous difference to experience in HD. Now everybody on TV may as well be blocks away with all the wasted space at each end of the frame.
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Old 07-26-2013, 06:00 AM   #16
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Thanks, I suspected that maybe older shows were shot on 35mm film, thus it might be possible to up convert to HDTV assuming the entire frame was consistantly useable. I just was surprised that shows going back to the 60s & 70s were that compatible with HD formats.

I have read that shows that use Special Effect shots, have mixed aspect ratios, in terms of the master copy. I asked once if Star Trek The Next Generation would be released on Bluray, someone explained it was unlikely because the SFX shots were all 4:3 at 480i, thus can't be up converted, and would need to do what Star Trek:TOS has done, replace all the SFX shots.
You do know that Star Trek: TNG is available in Blu-ray now?
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Old 07-26-2013, 06:03 AM   #17
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That's correct for broadcast HD. Blu-ray natively supports 1440x1080, though it's going to get pillarboxed when sent to the TV.

But the point is, it's still possible to show HD content in 4:3, even if the display pillarboxes it. It doesn't require using the full 35mm frame, or cropping.
Correct, as witnessed on the Star Trek: TOS Blu-ray release.
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Old 07-28-2013, 11:15 PM   #18
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Since the final print of ST:TOS was on 35mm, it could have simply been scanned and issued as-is. You can actually view it that way on the Blu-ray (there's an option to show the original effects). They don't hold up well of course; you can see all the scratches and dirt spots in glorious HD.
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Old 07-29-2013, 01:04 AM   #19
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Can you see the seams in the plaster and the cracks and chips on the props?

Dirty little secret - production crews took shortcuts when the end result wouldn't show on the low-res of SDTV. Of course, those things show up plainly when you upgrade it to HDTV...

Though, I've always wondered they'd tell - I mean the film master will show the defects, but the TV won't...
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Old 07-29-2013, 01:19 AM   #20
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Can you see the seams in the plaster and the cracks and chips on the props?
Not to mention the actors' faces.
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Old 07-30-2013, 03:32 PM   #21
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Oh yeah, a lot of little details pop out now. For example, in "Gamesters of Triskellion", you can now see the wires behind the actors that powered the light-up collars. The seam around Spock's ears shows up a lot more now too.
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Old 07-30-2013, 03:58 PM   #22
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You've mentioned a real pique of mine, not with the old TV but with the new HDTV content: they still frame HDTV content for 4:3 and this has resulted in no tight shots anymore. tight shots on TV, or the cinema, can really bring the dram home as we can see the actor using his face to act and immerses us in the content. It the one thing I really like about the old Voom channels: they shot for HDTV aspect with some really close and tight shots, but what a tremendous difference to experience in HD. Now everybody on TV may as well be blocks away with all the wasted space at each end of the frame.
I agree 100%. That's what annoys me about not having the original aspect available -- framing actually does matter. It's not just a matter of the director just fitting all the actors in the frame. The choice of shots affects the flow of the story. There's a great example in one of the "Buffy" links I gave above. Whedon deliberately crowded Buffy into a corner of the frame to create a claustrophobic feeling. In 16:9, no more claustrophobia.

You're also right about directors still trying to film 4:3 safe, but with any luck that will diminish. Nobody makes 4:3 sets any more; I'm not sure what percentage are still in use. Once it gets small enough, they can just stick the 4:3 users with letterboxing.
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Old 07-30-2013, 04:02 PM   #23
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Even older ones were filmed like that. Flipper, from the 60's, was filmed as it was actually a tourist show to get people to visit Florida back then (It was mostly swamp then).

Some you wouldn't expect: Hogan's Heroes, Thunderbirds

They show or used to show, these on HDNET before that became AXS.NET

The old VOOM used to have 21 HD channels before alot of HD came about and used to show these too.
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Old 07-30-2013, 04:18 PM   #24
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You're also right about directors still trying to film 4:3 safe, but with any luck that will diminish. Nobody makes 4:3 sets any more; I'm not sure what percentage are still in use. Once it gets small enough, they can just stick the 4:3 users with letterboxing.
Babylon 5 had the opposite problem (notwithstanding the FX issue mentioned above for ST:TNG)...JMS saw HD coming, and ordered his directors to frame both for 4:3 and 16:9. But some of them wouldn't or couldn't, so while some episodes look great in HD, others look cropped because the directors just framed exclusively for 4:3, so you get chins cut off in close-ups, etc. He tried to be forward-looking, but his crew didn't always get it.
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Old 07-31-2013, 02:45 AM   #25
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Can you see the seams in the plaster and the cracks and chips on the props?

Dirty little secret - production crews took shortcuts when the end result wouldn't show on the low-res of SDTV. Of course, those things show up plainly when you upgrade it to HDTV...

Though, I've always wondered they'd tell - I mean the film master will show the defects, but the TV won't...
Oh, YES! The mantra back then about any defects on a set was a big look of "don't worry" and "how pathetic our TV system is" and the words, "but the resolution is so low (or bad), they'll never see it at home." Yes, things were done just enough to meet the tech specs of the era and NO MORE than that.

On the plus side, I never knew a single individual who thought our NTSC decades ago was anything but a sad compromise and utterly a joke when it came to what we thought TV ought to be technically. We always felt we were working with a crap system and couldn't do some really high quality things as far as aesthetics with a shot, but sometimes that crap system worked to our advantage. . As a kid growing up, I was mesmerized at how BAD our TV system was and dreamed of something so much better. We are a lot closer to that today, thankfully.

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Old 07-31-2013, 09:44 AM   #26
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I've been enjoying this thread. Thank you for starting it. I had wondered the same thing.

Just to add a bit to the conversation about sets . . .

When HD first started one of the biggest reasons more shows didn't start recording for HD was the additional expense of the sets required. Having sets that would look good in HD was often a lot larger than the actual additional cost of recording the show in HD.

Does anybody else get a kick out of looking at how chessy some of the really old TV show sets look? The Honeymooners comes to mind. Especially the real early episodes.
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Old 07-31-2013, 11:08 AM   #27
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One reason Doctor Who didn't go high-def earlier is because they weren't budgeted to rebuild the sets, and the old sets weren't good enough for HD.
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Old 07-31-2013, 11:37 AM   #28
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One reason Doctor Who didn't go high-def earlier is because they weren't budgeted to rebuild the sets, and the old sets weren't good enough for HD.
Not sure they were good enough for SD either. Talk about some cheesy sets!
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Old 07-31-2013, 12:34 PM   #29
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Not sure they were good enough for SD either. Talk about some cheesy sets!
I thought they looked fine (we're talking Eccleston and Tennant here, not the old series).
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Old 07-31-2013, 12:40 PM   #30
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I thought they looked fine (we're talking Eccleston and Tennant here, not the old series).
Yeah, I was talking the old series.
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