Both AJA and Blackmagic showed cameras at NAB 2014, as I covered in other articles. All of these new cameras offer some type of SDI connector for studio use, and all can shoot the matching framerates for 720p (50p & 59.94p), but none of these cameras (even those specifically marketed for studio use) includes 720p in any of their specs. Could have AJA and Blackmagic forgotten about 39+ US networks that use 720p? Or what…?
39 TV networks that currently use 720p in the US
Here is a list of 39 TV networks that currently broadcast 720p in the US. This list is likely to be incomplete, and does not include any of the 720p networks in Canada, the rest of the Americas, and the rest of the world. That’s why I am so surprised they’d be neglected, since they are all potential purchasers of cameras from AJA and Blackmagic.
- ABC Family
- Al Jazeera America
- Audience Network
- BeIN Sport
- BeIN Sport (en castellano)
- Big Ten Network
- Crime & Investigation Network
- Disney Channel
- Disney Junior
- Disney XD
- ESPN Deportes
- Fox Business Network
- Fox College Sports
- Fox Deportes
- Fox News Channel
- Fox Soccer Plus
- Fox Sports 1
- Fox Sports 2
- Fox Sports Networks
- FX Movie Channel
- MLB Network
- MLB StrikeZone
- Nat Geo
- Nat Geo Wild
- Root Sports
Why do some networks choose 720 over 1080?
All current terrestrial HDTV systems (as approved by ATSC, DVB, and ISDB, and all of their variants I know about) have established both 720 and 1080 as approved HD formats. The 720 system favors a higher progressive framerate (i.e. temporal resolution), while, the current 1080 system favors a higher spatial resolution (more pixels), with a lower maximum framerate while maintaining progressive video. Considering that traditional films have a low framerate (24, which is often conformed to 23.976 for TV in NTSC or ex-NTSC areas, or to 25 in PAL or ex-PAL areas), many movie networks chose 1080 so they could have higher spatial resolution (1920×1080 progressive pixels) especially since their framerate is naturally low. On the other hand, many sports and some news networks preferred (and continue to prefer) to have a very high temporal resolution (50 or 59.94 progressive frames) with less spatial resolution (less pixels). Many of them insisted that with a screen under 60″ measured diagonally, test subjects couldn’t perceive any difference between 1280×720 and 1920×1080 at couch distance.
Another 720p advantage for news networks is that they could often use an existing microwave link.
Response from AJA and Blackmagic
At NAB 2014, just after both companies announced their new cameras, I attempted to get the answer at their respective booths. Both were even more crowded than a retail Apple Store on a weekend. It was a miracle that I was able to talk to the camera product manager at the Blackmagic booth. At first he was surprised to hear that any US networks use 720p nowadays, and said he would check with the engineers. The following day, I saw him again, and he said that he had spoken with the engineers and that it was indeed feasible to add 720/50p and 720/59.94p to all of the new Blackmagic cameras that were already published as being capable of 50p and 59.94p at 1080 (which makes sense). He could not confirm how soon that might be added to the new cameras.
It was impossible for me to speak with anyone at the AJA booth about this. However, vía email,
AJA responded: “The CION (camera) doesn’t output 720p. An AJA UDC is all that is required to convert for live needs.”
See the related article:
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