High Definition

The living room television here at YPS was dying. So in an attempt to be technology proactive, I went and researched and picked a new TV that should last us a while. I went to Ikea and repurposed some cheap furniture into a TV stand and now we have a gloriously large HDTV sitting in the living room. Right about the time we purchased the TV and got the new, improved, more expensive cable box, (Thank you, local government granted cable monopoly!), I got the latest issue of MAKE. Cory Doctorow has a column about how some things really don’t need to been seen in HD. Later that same night, I turned on the high-def NBC affiliate to see a close-up of Jay Leno. The light bulb went off over my head.

A good tight close-up in HD makes otherwise relatively normal people appear pretty damn scary. First off, the screen itself is huge. So the person’s head appears twice normal size. Then there’s the resolution. In 1080i, I got way too much detail. I have no need to critique the make-up flaws of celebrities and talking heads, but I can do that in HD. Check out nostril hairs? Indeed. Watch the pancake make-up crumble during a live broadcast? Yup. Notice the flecks of spittle collecting in the corners of someone’s mouth? Oui.

All in all, it’s kind of unsettling. I think HD programming will shift away from tight close-ups on people’s heads. Otherwise, it’ll remain a niche market. Where it shines so far is the kind of things IMAX is good at showing. We watched a live broadcast from space. The interior shots were interesting, but the exterior shots were just spectacular. NASA could hang an HD camera up in orbit and I’d watch the footage with no soundtrack or commentary for hours. There are also movies that I want to see on the new set, like Hero. Some movies really do benefit from the big screen.

I’m still tweaking all the equipment for the best possible quality. I think I’m going to have upgrade some other system components. Such is the lot of the technophile, I suppose. It’s a never ending struggle to stay current. Now to get a next gen game console and see what it looks like…


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