How are older SD TV series being up converted to HD

Discussion in 'TiVo Coffee House - TiVo Discussion' started by nrnoble, Jul 4, 2013.

  1. Jul 4, 2013 #1 of 42

    nrnoble Active Member

    Aug 25, 2004
    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:

    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.
  2. Jul 4, 2013 #2 of 42

    stevel Dumb Blond TCF Club

    Aug 23, 2000
    Nashua, NH
    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.

  3. Jul 4, 2013 #3 of 42

    MScottC Well-Known Member

    Sep 11, 2004
    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.
  4. Jul 4, 2013 #4 of 42

    9300170 Member

    Feb 20, 2003
    Tempe, AZ
    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.
  5. Jul 4, 2013 #5 of 42

    nrnoble Active Member

    Aug 25, 2004
    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.
  6. Jul 5, 2013 #6 of 42

    alansh Active Member

    Jan 3, 2003
    Phoenix, AZ
    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)

    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.
  7. Bigg

    Bigg Cord Cutter

    Oct 30, 2003
    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.
  8. classicsat

    classicsat Astute User

    Feb 18, 2004
    Ontario Canada.
    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.
  9. ADent

    ADent Active Member

    Jan 7, 2000
    Denver, CO
    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).
  10. lindamartin123

    lindamartin123 New Member

    Jul 21, 2013
    These converted files/shows probably would lose quality or look worse when you watch it in bigger screens.
  11. DeWitt

    DeWitt Member

    Jun 30, 2004
    Summit, NJ
    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.
  12. alansh

    alansh Active Member

    Jan 3, 2003
    Phoenix, AZ
    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.
  13. Philmatic

    Philmatic Member

    Sep 17, 2003
    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.
  14. Series3Sub

    Series3Sub Well-Known Member

    Mar 14, 2010
    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.
  15. Series3Sub

    Series3Sub Well-Known Member

    Mar 14, 2010
    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.
  16. Series3Sub

    Series3Sub Well-Known Member

    Mar 14, 2010
    You do know that Star Trek: TNG is available in Blu-ray now?
  17. Series3Sub

    Series3Sub Well-Known Member

    Mar 14, 2010
    Correct, as witnessed on the Star Trek: TOS Blu-ray release.
  18. alansh

    alansh Active Member

    Jan 3, 2003
    Phoenix, AZ
    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. :)
  19. Worf

    Worf Well-Known Member

    Sep 15, 2000
    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...
  20. Wil

    Wil Unknown Member

    Sep 26, 2002
    Not to mention the actors' faces.

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