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Scrubs for HDTV


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#1 Markus

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 03:58 PM

Hi,

Scrubs is a 4:3 show, shot in S16. I've read that they protect the frame for a later hdtv use. So if they want to release the show in 1:1.78, do they have to cut all episodes again? Because it needs longer for a character to exit a frame, etc.

Is this assumption correct or did I miss something? Any comments will be highly appreciated.

best regards,

Markus
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#2 Mitch Gross

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 04:39 PM

They shoot it with 16:9 in mind as you say. They edit it that way as well, and deliver a 16:9 master to the network. What you see broadcast in 4:3 is an extraction from the 16:9. Sometimes it is from an HD master so the 4:3 is in full NTSC (or PAL) resolution. But sometimes it is from an SD master (such as DigiBeta) and what is broadcast in 4:3 is reduced in resolution, not that anyone would know. FOX did this for years and no one could tell the difference.

Just about everything on the major US networks is done this way except for the shows presented in letterbox (such as ER) and "disposable" productions such as reality programming that do not have a long shelf life. But even that is changing, as Survivor is shot in 16x9 on DigiBeta and posted that way was well.
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#3 Markus

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 05:07 PM

Thanks Mitch! This process seems very logical, just a bit strange that their framing ist optimized for 4:3 and their editing for 16:9. I wonder why they won't release the 16:9 version on DVD. Although it must be awkward to see the unused space in the compositions all the time.
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#4 Michael Most

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Posted 19 January 2006 - 02:10 PM

They shoot it with 16:9 in mind as you say. They edit it that way as well, and deliver a 16:9 master to the network. What you see broadcast in 4:3 is an extraction from the 16:9. Sometimes it is from an HD master so the 4:3 is in full NTSC (or PAL) resolution. But sometimes it is from an SD master (such as DigiBeta) and what is broadcast in 4:3 is reduced in resolution, not that anyone would know. FOX did this for years and no one could tell the difference.


That is not the case. "Scrubs" is posted in standard definition only, in 4:3. It is one of the very few network film programs to do this. In fact, the only other ones I can think of are 7th Heaven and Charmed.

I don't know where you got your information from, but it is incorrect.
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 January 2006 - 02:14 PM

That is not the case. "Scrubs" is posted in standard definition only, in 4:3. It is one of the very few network film programs to do this. In fact, the only other ones I can think of are 7th Heaven and Charmed.

I don't know where you got your information from, but it is incorrect.


I think he was logically assuming, like I do, that every network show is now posted in 16x9 for the very reason we've all been talking about, the future need for an HDTV version.

So if they are really posting in 4x3, are they conforming the neg to the EDL for future re-transfer to HD? What about the sales to PAL countries that want 16x9, like the U.K.? Surely they aren't blowing up 4x3 NTSC to 16x9 PAL? Has "Scrubs" shown up in the U.K. yet?
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#6 Mitch Gross

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Posted 19 January 2006 - 04:52 PM

I don't know where you got your information from, but it is incorrect.



Sorry Mike, I know you know this type of info far better than myself. I thought that all the networks were contractually requiring these deliverables now.
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#7 Michael Most

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Posted 20 January 2006 - 12:47 AM

Sorry Mike, I know you know this type of info far better than myself. I thought that all the networks were contractually requiring these deliverables now.


Some "legacy" shows got grandfathered. The shows I mentioned were among them.

In the case of "Charmed," the network did request HD last season as well as this season, but the additional cost of the visual effects caused Spelling to ask them to waive that, and they agreed. Since there were already 7 seasons in the can, all in standard definition only, there was no real advantage for the production company to change now.
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#8 Keith Mottram

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 12:01 PM

I think he was logically assuming, like I do, that every network show is now posted in 16x9 for the very reason we've all been talking about, the future need for an HDTV version.

So if they are really posting in 4x3, are they conforming the neg to the EDL for future re-transfer to HD? What about the sales to PAL countries that want 16x9, like the U.K.? Surely they aren't blowing up 4x3 NTSC to 16x9 PAL? Has "Scrubs" shown up in the U.K. yet?


scrubs is shown in the uk in 16:9, my assumption would be that they produce a 4:3 cutout for US broadcast. cant remember whether earlier seasons were in 4:3.

keith
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#9 Michael Most

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 08:38 PM

scrubs is shown in the uk in 16:9, my assumption would be that they produce a 4:3 cutout for US broadcast. cant remember whether earlier seasons were in 4:3.


As far as I know, nothing has changed. The show is posted in 4:3, and any 16:9 version is reformatted by matting using common sides. However, I am doing some work at the post house that finishes the show later this week, so I'll be able to find out if anything has changed in the post chain.
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#10 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 22 January 2006 - 05:05 AM

Hi,

I'm sure I've seen Scrubs in 4:3.

Many DVB receiver/display combinations are capable of auto switching, so it's not necessarily something you have to get up and fiddle with controls to fix.

Phil
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#11 Michael Most

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Posted 29 January 2006 - 06:36 PM

As promised, I checked on the current post path of "Scrubs." What I said was correct: it is posted only in standard definition, 4:3. There are reasons for this. The primary reason is that when they adopted Final Cut Pro a few seasons ago, they also decided to do their own online assembly. What is delivered to the post facility is an already assembled program, and the post facility then does tape to tape color correction, titling, any dirt fixing that is necessary, any VFX work necessary, and following layback, the delivery duplication. In order to continue their same post path in HD, the production company would have had to acquire new storage, new monitoring, and an HD VTR. They did not want to make these investments, as the primary reason for the entire Final Cut workflow was to save money in the first place. And although they could have gone to a more conventional post path (i.e., having the post facility handle all the HD post work, including assembly - like pretty much every other show on television), they chose not to. Although the network would rather have the show in HD, as a "legacy" production they have allowed it to continue on the present path.
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#12 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 29 January 2006 - 07:41 PM

Hi,

> In order to continue their same post path in HD, the production company would have had to acquire new
> storage, new monitoring, and an HD VTR. They did not want to make these investments

I am, and it doesn't happen often, absolutely astonished. Considering that there's no real doubt they're making enough money off that series every day to cover the aforementioned 150k investment, that seems like a very strange decision.

Clearly there's some behind the scened moneymanaging going on that we don't know about...

Phil
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#13 Tenolian Bell

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Posted 29 January 2006 - 08:39 PM

Final Cut Studio is already HD ready.

Storage, 1080 monitors, graphics cards, and HD VTR are getting to the point where some editors who own their own systems can afford to upgrade to HD.

Doesn't seem like it should be cost prohibitive for a network show.
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#14 Michael Most

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Posted 29 January 2006 - 09:37 PM

Final Cut Studio is already HD ready.

Storage, 1080 monitors, graphics cards, and HD VTR are getting to the point where some editors who own their own systems can afford to upgrade to HD.

Doesn't seem like it should be cost prohibitive for a network show.


HDCam VTR (full editing machine, they would need one) = approx. $65,000
Monitoring package (scopes, etc.) = approx. $7500
Properly rated storage (approx. 3 TB) = $5000 + FiberChannel switch to put it on network
Engineering/maintenance: Contract would be at least $5000 per season

That's over $80,000 right there. That doesn't include the additional cost of transferring in HD (admittedly, minimal) and proper video monitoring (at least $20,000 if you really want to do it right). This is not a do-it-yourself project we're talking about here, it's a network television show. Your idea of "cost prohibitive" is based on your own view of where those funds come from. On a network television program, especially one made for a major studio (in this case, Disney), departmental costs are done on a per-episode basis, and it is very difficult to justify an outright purchase of this caliber of equipment. Not to mention the simple fact that every episode prior to this season only exists in SD anyway - so with only this season, or perhaps this season and one more, what exactly is the payoff to the studio for that kind of expenditure? And this does not even take into consideration training the editorial staff to handle additional technical responsibility - responsibility that shouldn't be theirs in the first place, and that they really don't want. The model of "off line" and "on line" that exists in network television post production endures because it properly divides responsibility and expertise. The editorial staff does the creative cutting, and the more technically capable and knowledgeable post facility performs the film transfer, final mastering, and network deliveries. This gets shows done without problems and delivered under tight deadlines. "Scrubs" is an exception, not the rule. It has always been something of an independent, maverick production. That's why it's housed in an abandoned hospital rather than on proper stages, even though it would be a lot easier to shoot on a stage. It has also always been, shall we say, "tightly budgeted," which is why the whole Final Cut thing happened in the first place. And it's the only network show I know of that's cut on anything but Avid equipment (the others are on cable - Nip/Tuck and The Closer come to mind) - for much the same reason.

Hi,

> In order to continue their same post path in HD, the production company would have had to acquire new
> storage, new monitoring, and an HD VTR. They did not want to make these investments

I am, and it doesn't happen often, absolutely astonished. Considering that there's no real doubt they're making enough money off that series every day to cover the aforementioned 150k investment, that seems like a very strange decision.

Clearly there's some behind the scened moneymanaging going on that we don't know about...


Phil, you have an interesting way of always sensing the worst in people.

I'm not defending their decision (I have nothing to do with the show, and my opinion doesn't mean anything anyway), but let's get real. This is a studio owned show we're talking about. They've already set up their post production workflow and it's worked pretty well for the last 2 seasons. They're likely in either their final or next to final season. The network is giving them a "bye" on HD, and they already have 4 (I think) seasons - all in SD - in the can. With no compelling reason to change - and really, there isn't one - why change it? The adage "if it ain't broken, don't fix it" comes to mind. Changing it to HD for the sake of doing so likely won't get them any additional viewers, or any additional international or DVD sales. So the real question is why should/would they change?
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#15 Tenolian Bell

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Posted 29 January 2006 - 11:02 PM

I don't know where you got your information from, but it is incorrect.

Your idea of "cost prohibitive" is based on your own view of where those funds come from.

Phil, you have an interesting way of always sensing the worst in people.


Geez Mike I recognize we are but flawed mortals, you could take it a little easier on us.



About two years ago I was at a telecine suite in Burbank about to transfer a music video.

As I walked into the telecine suite the images on screen were of 21 Jump Street. I said "hey look at a young Johnny Depp." The colorist explained they were retransferring to HD for the DVD.

He said they had to do most of the show by eye because they didn't have most of the EDL's.
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#16 Michael Most

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Posted 29 January 2006 - 11:50 PM

Geez Mike I recognize we are but flawed mortals, you could take it a little easier on us.


I really don't mean to sound harsh, but I've been conditioned over the last couple of years of Internet forums that the general public has very little understanding of how the film and television industry work - but, unfortunately, they think they do. There seems to be little notice of the fact that in any business, decisions are made based on the operating conditions of that business and the logic that is thus applied. People on Internet forums often seem to think that decisions should be made based on what they happen to like, or the way individuals work on their own projects these days, which are usually devoid of deadlines, quality requirements, or technical perfection required for network deliveries. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should, especially when a $2 million license fee and an airdate hang in the balance.

I don't expect those not working in the industry to completely understand how it works, but I do get a little miffed when those who have little idea of why things are done the way they are assume that those who do them are either ignorant of new technology, ignorant of the costs of new technology, or simply doing things without a reason. Television is big business, and it is run as a business. There is a reason for the way everything is done, and the reason is not ignorance of the alternatives. It is knowledge of what it takes to produce on the level that's expected within the time and budget constraints that are imposed.
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#17 Keith Mottram

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Posted 30 January 2006 - 12:27 PM

As promised, I checked on the current post path of "Scrubs." What I said was correct: it is posted only in standard definition, 4:3. There are reasons for this. The primary reason is that when they adopted Final Cut Pro a few seasons ago, they also decided to do their own online assembly. What is delivered to the post facility is an already assembled program, and the post facility then does tape to tape color correction, titling, any dirt fixing that is necessary, any VFX work necessary, and following layback, the delivery duplication. In order to continue their same post path in HD, the production company would have had to acquire new storage, new monitoring, and an HD VTR. They did not want to make these investments, as the primary reason for the entire Final Cut workflow was to save money in the first place. And although they could have gone to a more conventional post path (i.e., having the post facility handle all the HD post work, including assembly - like pretty much every other show on television), they chose not to. Although the network would rather have the show in HD, as a "legacy" production they have allowed it to continue on the present path.


Mike, I can understand them posting in SD to save a few quid, but do I take it they post (prior to output) in 4:3? If they shoot S16 then why not post in anamorphic and output to both 4:3 and 16:9 FHA? With large parts of the world showing 16:9 and this costing no extra cash (correct me if I'm wrong) where would the problem be? As for the HD upgrade yes $100,000 is a significant ammount of cash, but based on the assumption that they will have to post in HD in the next year or so what is the ammount when the investment becomes viable (particularly if you consider they will most likely have to remaster these programmes for Blue Ray/ future exhibition). I also fail to see how the most expensive item (the deck) would sit solely on one productions budget- is Scrub's finishishing suite used solely for that production? thankyou for all your informed posts.

Keith

ps apologies if I got my fact wrong about it being broadcast in 16:9, if it still goes out at 4:3 then that would make it one of the only Channel 4 imports I can think of being broadcast in this way and I'm surprised they accept it.
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#18 Michael Most

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Posted 30 January 2006 - 09:46 PM

Mike, I can understand them posting in SD to save a few quid, but do I take it they post (prior to output) in 4:3? If they shoot S16 then why not post in anamorphic and output to both 4:3 and 16:9 FHA? With large parts of the world showing 16:9 and this costing no extra cash (correct me if I'm wrong) where would the problem be?


As I said, I don't work on the show. They have their reasons, whatever they may be. A large part of it may simply be that they are used to the 1.33 frame, and find their gags funnier in that format. Another may be that shooting in a practical location (they use an abandoned hospital, and many of the rooms and elevators are quite small) it makes for fewer problems and more efficiency. I'm sure there are any number of reasons.

I also fail to see how the most expensive item (the deck) would sit solely on one productions budget- is Scrub's finishishing suite used solely for that production? thankyou for all your informed posts.


In most cases (Scrubs being one of them), television productions are very self contained. Editorial is usually in one place, and the department is set up specifically for that particular production. On some lots (Warners comes to mind), a number of shows have their editorial departments in the same building - but none of them are connected to each other, and each one has its own cutting rooms and central storage, if used. In the case of Scrubs, they are completely self contained in the hospital location - the production office is on the first floor, post production is on the second floor, and most of the shooting takes place on the 3rd and 4th floors. But as I said, they are something of a maverick production, and most shows are set up either on film lots or in warehouse stages. But in almost all cases, editorial is co-located with production when production is in Los Angeles. The only company I know of that doesn't do this is Spelling. "Charmed," for instance, has production at Paramount, but editorial is over on Seward, in space rented from Laser Pacific. This was also the case when production was in Woodland Hills, in the west Valley.
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#19 Jonathan Bryant

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Posted 31 January 2006 - 03:58 AM

They shoot it with 16:9 in mind as you say. They edit it that way as well, and deliver a 16:9 master to the network. What you see broadcast in 4:3 is an extraction from the 16:9. Sometimes it is from an HD master so the 4:3 is in full NTSC (or PAL) resolution. But sometimes it is from an SD master (such as DigiBeta) and what is broadcast in 4:3 is reduced in resolution, not that anyone would know. FOX did this for years and no one could tell the difference.

This would explain why some of FOXs shows in the past years looked really soft to me.
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#20 Mitch Gross

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Posted 31 January 2006 - 12:45 PM

Mike, what I think most people here don't get is how budgets are allocated in the industry. The current production of Scrubs doesn't care about HD posting because they don't have to. It doesn't get them anything right now but it would cost them money, so they see no upside to it. This is in addition to all the various reasons you mentioned. When it comes time to market & distribute the show again in HD (syndication, HD-DVD, who knows what), then the shows will be re-transferred and re-edited on someone else's budget. Yes the production all comes out of the same studio's budget, but if they don't have to spend the money now then they don't really feel the need.

For new shows that set up fresh, an all-encompassing HD post route makes sense. But since this particular show could grandfather itself they wisely chose to stay in 4:3 SD. Compare this to a program like ER. They chose not only to go all HD in post but to also letterbox their 4:3 master. This is because a powerhouse production like ER could do this, plus with the longevity of the program and the huge financial investment made by the studio it was wise to make the move now.

I think they're on their 12th season now, with around five seasons posted HD and in 16:9. Mike, I'm sure you know more accurate numbers on this than I. And are they still the largest standing set in LA? With West Wing shuttering soon, I believe ER takes the prize.
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