High Definition (HD) has revolutionalised the idiot box. With five times better picture clarity, 16:9 wide aspect ratio, and awesome 5.1 digital surround sound, the viewer enjoys a superior audio-visual experience unlike Standard Definition (SD).
While Movies Now has been a pioneer in the broadcast industry, offering the first 24x7 HD English movie channel in India, launching an HD channel poses its own challenges.
Satellite and distribution system: An HD channel consumes at least three times the bandwidth of a normal channel, which is a major reason why a platform is reluctant to accept an HD channel.
Infrastructure and operations: For a 24x7 HD channel, these pose a number of challenges. From the set-up to content transfer, to storage issues, to quality checks, all demand more time and space for the channel. Additionally, sound mixing for a 5.1 format is more time-consuming since the balancing parameters of multi-tracks need extreme precision than stereo sound.
Format of the programming: Not all content is shot in HD and some directors insist on retaining some aspects of the movie shoot as is. Bringing this appropriately on the HD channel sometimes poses a challenge in terms of quality execution.
Cost implications: HD programming also involves huge cost implications for the channel. For starters, an HD channel needs a separate licence fee, which is much higher than a Standard Definition channel. The investment in the content, equipment and technology is also much higher. Certainly, this investment doesn’t reap immediate benefits, it is only covered over time.
People training and education: The HDTV industry being in the nascent stage, it doesn’t have too many trained professionals for the job and this would mean an additional investment in training and education of HD technology.
Lack of information and data: The penetration of HD is much higher than reported by any syndicated formal research. There is a need to educate the consumers and trade about HD technology and its benefits. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misleading information about HD that has been released.
Quality standards: India is a heterogeneous market with a variety of platforms for viewing content – CRT, LED, LCD, Plasma TVs, etc., which poses a huge challenge since the output differs with each platform. The content needs to be tested under different platforms before it is dished out. As a new technology, like any other technology, HDTV faces many hurdles, but judging by the rapid development in the space, we are sure it will take off earlier than expected.
(Ajay Trigunayat is Chief Executive Officer, Hollywood Channels at Times Television Network.)