The Null Device

Every pore on Britney's face

Via Substitute, another piece about high-definition TV (HDTV), and in particular, about how the resolution is so good that it brings out every wrinkle, blemish and imperfection on celebrities' faces. I've also heard it claimed that the spread of HDTV will drive the development and adoption of new make-up technologies (ultra-fine nanomaterial cosmetics sprayed on with high-precision airbrushes or what have you), to allow those celebrities to keep looking perfect under the HDTV camera's harsh scrutiny.

Though, when one thinks about it, this sounds suspicious. Is HDTV really more detailed than the 35mm film that is shown in multiplexes? This is unlikely; when film is digitised for processing, each frame measures something like 3,000 pixels across; if HDTV exceeds this, a consumer HDTV set would have a higher resolution than the best computer monitor on the market (and this includes those used by graphic professionals). Not to mention that HDTV production would depend on digital video cameras at the very bleeding edge of the technology.

I suspect that the various stories about HDTV being so good that it shows you every pore on a celebrity's previously perfect-looking face is a sneaky piece of viral marketing, designed by some agency to spread buzz about this expensive new technology. It's a well-crafted piece, tapping into fascination with celebrities and the desire to see them brought down to earth and stripped of their seemingly superhuman perfection. And HDTV is going to need a lot of help in getting off the ground (and recouping investment); with passive TV viewership declining as more people seek out more interactive technologies, the number of people ready to invest in HDTV (which is, essentially, the same deal as regular TV, only with better image quality) off the bat isn't great.

There are 3 comments on "Every pore on Britney's face":

Posted by: Graham Tue Mar 30 14:04:50 2004

Funnily enough, the main reason I'd consider getting a widescreen TV is to watch DVDs whilst sitting on a couch. Maybe the footy. Otherwise I consider watching TV a bit of a chore.

Posted by: Ed Tue Mar 30 20:45:03 2004

as far as i know hdtv is twice the resolution of dv, hence 1440x1152, which is less than the roughly 4000x3000 or whatever they use in digitizing and post-production of big-budget 35mm films.

however, i think they are right about hdtv. it's sharper than 35mm. don't forget that source footage is often shot with 250 or 500 iso film, which results is a lot of grain - if you take a photo in 400 iso film (don't forget 35mm photos are larger than 35mm frames, since the film is used vertically rather than horizontally) you'll see scanning at 4000x2000 is totally unnecessary.

of course, people also use 25 or 50 iso film. however, you ought to consider that 35mm film is copied at least a couple of times before being distributed, and each copy takes away some image quality. also, i believe hdtv runs at 50fps/100fields, which means a very sharp depiction of movement. on top of all this, add the fact even hdtv ccd sensors are for now much smaller than the focus area of 35mm film, also meaning sharper focus.


Posted by: Strang R Tue Mar 30 21:43:15 2004

A few years back I upgraded from an old TV with rabbit ears to a new Trinitron with a cable connection. The biggest shock of my life was when I started watching Cokie Roberts and Sam Donaldson on This Week each Sunday on ABC (the American one) and realized how incredibly ugly they both were. There are times that a blurry picture is preferred. I am not moving to HDTV anytime soon.

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