15 October 2010

An interesting conversation with KOFY TV about broadcasting "widescreen standard definition" football

Tomorrow, KOFY-TV 20 in the San Francisco Bay Area will broadcast the San Jose State vs. Boise State football game. Currently, SJSU is 1-4 on the season and 0-1 in the Western Athletic Conference, while Boise State is undefeated 5-0 and 1-0 and is predicted to top Bowl Championship Series ratings. Although this is a home game, I'd like to stay home and just watch both the San Francisco Giants vs. Philadelphia Phillies opening game of the National League Championship Series in baseball on KTVU-TV and the SJSU game on KOFY. Given that the Boise State Broncos is the 4th ranked team that the lowly SJSU Spartans has played this season, and that SJSU fell to the national champions 48-3 and even lost to a Football Championship Subdivision (lower division than where SJSU is, the Football Bowl Subdivision) team UC Davis Aggies during the SJSU Homecoming game, 14-13 on 2 Oct., tomorrow night's score should be quite obvious.

I happened to catch the Boise State vs. Toledo football game last Saturday on KOFY, which is one of the Western Athletic Conference TV affiliates. While Boise State is undeniably a great football team, the broadcast format isn't. KOFY broadcast the match in 4:3 format as it does for all its programmes other than ABC7 News at 9. However, KOFY compressed a 16:9 picture into 4:3, thus making everything seem thinner than proportional. Thus, today I decided to ring up the KOFY switchboard over the phone, (415) 821-2020 pressing 4 for technical services, to ask the tech guy why. I left a message and promptly got a call back about 15 minutes later. The technical worker explained that Learfield distributed the football game in a widescreen standard definition picture format, and standard definition programmes must be broadcast in 4:3 format. In this case, as widescreen is the new normal format for television sets and broadcasting, the only realistic broadcasting choices that'd preserve the picture quality would either be: scrunching the picture (as I mentioned earlier) and leaving black pillars to the left and right of the screen, or letterboxing the picture within the 4:3 area and leaving the image proportional. The tech worker explained that "blowing up" the widescreen SD image just because KOFY does have widescreen capability would drastically reduce picture quality and defeat the purpose of high definition television.

So there you have it, if you're wondering why KOFY or any other WAC television affiliate is showing the football games in such a weird format. I'd suggest contacting Learfield Sports, which distributes TV/radio broadcasts of the WAC, and persuading them to start televising games in HD. I mean c'mon. If CBS could start broadcasting soap opera The Young and the Restless back in summer 2001, then why does Learfield have to broadcast football games in standard definition widescreen in 2010?


PS: At the SJSU student newspaper The Spartan Daily, one columnist opines that the Giants need a better offense to beat Philadelphia.

No comments: