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What is broadcast quality?

Believe it or not, this question was presented to me by one of the major broadcasters when they were in for a meeting at Adobe headquarters.  "What is broadcast quality," they asked?  Now the two gentlemen from the company we spoke with were very intelligent so they weren’t truly asking the question, but rather to make a point.  However, the question intrigued me.

What is broadcast quality? 

The quip and answer I heard had the ring of truth – "Whatever goes on the air is broadcast quality."

Does this strike you as it does me?  The implications? 

It means that the quality is secondary to the content that is being shown.  The story, the image, the impact is more important than the actual quality?  In this world of HD, content can come from a user posting to YouTube.  Looking for an example?  How about the final video a certain Iraqi leader?  It was on every broadcast channel and it was shot on what? A cell phone!

When I think of all of the conversations that I have with people talking about what next camera to buy and how much this piece of equipment costs, I think now about how this is many times irrelevant to what you’re capturing.  If you’re in the area where a tornado touches down and capture it on your old single CCD DV camera and call the local news company will they take it?  Probably.  If you post a cell phone video on YouTube of a surprise appearance of (fill in the name of your favorite band) in a dumpy bar will people watch it?  Yes.

It’s just like my recent post entitled, "It’s still about the story…" Great content without substance has no relevance.  Poor content with substance is important and relevant.

If you’re on the business side of the equation, another way to answer the question of what is broadcast quality is like this: "Whatever people want to watch"  One conclusion that I draw from this is for us to consider (again and again!) what do people care about and want to watch?

What perhaps is even more interesting is what will happen to viewing habits as more and more channels show up on the internet. In the ‘ole days’ we had a dozen channels if we were lucky.  Then along came cable and more specialty channels such as ESPN. Back then, nobody thought a 24 hour cable network dedicated only to sports would ever make it.  Boy were we wrong about that one!  Now, we’re on the cusp of having access to thousands or tens of thousands of channels with the Internet. Within Adobe we often talk about this phenomenon that as more channels become available, they will become increasingly more specific.  One example we often mention is the knitting channel.  This would never make it on the networks, let alone a cable channel because it is too narrow a focus for a mass audience.  However, if we take the number of people interested in knitting across the world, we would have many tens of thousands that would watch it.

The emergence of the Adobe Media Player will enable people to have a viewing experience like TV but with the Internet – both in an offline and online mode.  It will empower people who are passionate about topics such as knitting to create content to reach their intended audience.  This makes me question what the landscape of broadcast will be in the future.  If you haven’t taken a look at what the Adobe Media Player and AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) environments are all about, you can get started here:

So what is broadcast quality?  I would still say that the answer is both "whatever goes to air" and "whatever people want to watch."  The one that I’m still figuring out is, "What is a broadcast?"  Maybe you can help me answer that one.

Comments

Broadcast on TV

it means quality level video an audio, based on the begin formats of tv Betacam, 1inch, vhs, betamax, or 3/4 etc
example:broadcast quality: Betacam
Industrial quality: 3/4
Consumer Quality VHS

What is your opinion about the Radio quality in broadcast? I think This is very important to be consider.

[DR – Hadi, I think that audio is actually as important as any visual content you see. When you look at a silent animation, it’s okay… When you put a good sound track to it, it totally changes its impact and perception.

That being said, audio has been more than good enough for many years. The tools to create good audio are incredibly cheap and audio components continue to improve. In broadcast, I think that .mp3 is not good enough for critcial listening and I also wish we didn’t have .mp2 which is an unusual audio MPEG standard that is still prevalent in the radio broadcasting world. Other than that, I think all aspects of audio in broadcast today are very good.]

This article is interesting to the people that make attempts at being broadcast but have been turned down. I, too, received the “it has to be broadcast quality. It is hard to make handheld cams look professional.” I disagree. There’s definitely a market for it. Even if some of the sounds have peak issues, they can be fixed. It doesn’t mean that the product is unwatchable on tv. Therefore, there must be a deeper meaning. Can it be that it is a simple term for “we don’t care to broadcast your product even if it’s paid programming”? Very possible. Cribs is handheld. Many of the reality shows have handheld segments although they are spending more time on tripods than they used to. Why would television have broadcast standards against DV when cinemas don’t? It doesn’t make sense when silverscreens are 20 times larger. Tieuel Legacy! aka Shawnre’

[DR – great comments Tieuel, thanks.]

It is intresting to here that every thing goes on air is ‘broadcast quality’ but you have to super a caption like ‘poor video quality is regretted’ etc. when you are surfing the channels in your television each and every channel is different from other one in appealing and in audio quality(definitely iam not talking about the sets lightings etc, so what determines the out put of a video signal at a television receiver?

Thanks for the article and it came right on time. Your article has actually helped me out. For sometime, because of challenges, I faced a dilemma.

I want to film, edit and upload on a webcast but I was nervous regarding which camera, quality of the film etc.

All this technicality actually took me away from my purpose, which is..

“Why am I doing it? What is it all about? What is the content? Who am I aiming it at? What difference will it make for me and the communities? What implications will it have locally, nationally and internationally? And many more questions that really surrounded on CONTENT and PURPOSE.

So, I sat down and to THINK about this questions – “What is broadcast quality?”

And you know what the voice inside me said?

“wrong question.”

The question is, “CONTENT” and if it is a great idea and content is brillaint, then even if you don’t have all that la la HD broadcasting quality – you will VERY SOON.

And one from week 3 days of putting the idea on paper, and going to people with NO laptop, No camera, no software, no nothing, but my content on paper with thumb nail sketchings from some beaten up pencil, I got…

1. Two Laptops

2. All software I need

3. Helpers from the city I live and people relpying to me via email to help.

4. A newspaper report wants to do a positive write up.

All because I read your article, and thought content. Sometimes, we worry about technical and not the real issue here..

People! Content! Engaging.

All the gear I got and now a awesome camera and the lights coming in a week, were not paid from my pocket.

People believed in the content, the idea.

Cheers mate.

[DR – terrific comments and post. Glad that this was useful to you and even more glad that things are going well on your new project.]

idea for the adobe media player – add a link to kinkos (sarcasm if you missed it)

[DR – ouch.]

Oh what an interesting question.

I agree with the idea though that what ever makes it on the air is broadcast.

I’ve had people tell me that regular ol’ DV is not professional level.

Uhhh??? I respond.

Watch your cable channels, and a lot of them are shot on ol’ DV. And they come with blown-out highlights, wrong color temp, and sometimes out of focus. Yet they still make it on the Animal Planet, Discovery, Food Network and so on and so forth.

Broadcast quality is outdated term from the analog BetaCam days. And those days are long gone.

MCT Images Blog

Broadcast quality is a quality that fits the medium you are broadcasting these days. If you are posting a youtube video, well almost anything goes but it should be 320×240 with around 300kb/sec.

Traditionally broadcast quality should be good enough to air on cable and that includes some color changes that I don´t exacly know about. Maybe someone can fill in.

I don´t like when people only are talking about cellphone video and alike. For professional and semi-pros, it´s most interesting to read about true quality and real recordings, not about what the kid next door accidentally captured with his daddy’s phone. Thats why we spend thousands of dollars on camera equipment and software.

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