SD, HD, Videos, Oh My!

contractpeeperWhat a pain it’s been trying to figure out how to process videos for cable access centers. For those who don’t know, there’s a law that says cable companies (like Comcast) have to provide three access channels to each community with whom they contract to provide TV via cable. The channels are for Public, Education, and Government – or PEG.

I’ve been involved in this for about a dozen years and it’s been a lot of fun providing independent content. Lee and I do this by having produced shows like…

  • Thyme In The Kithen
  • Bloomin’ With The Bemis’
  • Behind The Lens
  • Ooma’s Cookie Jar

…and many years of covering school committee meetings.

Most of the cities and towns have SD (standard definition) capability, which is the old square-ish TV style. It’s low resolution and DVD’s were designed to play on these kinds of sets.

Anonymous_pen_pencilOver time, HD started taking over and some cable access centers are adopting this higher-quality video. But, this usually happens when new contracts are negotiated and current contracts can run for many years before negotiations happen. So, the conversion from one to another will take time. I’d love to see SD obliterated.


  1. Most new TV’s are HD capable. That means they will still display SD, but it will look weird. Some TV’s will stretch the picture to fill the wider HD screen. It makes everyone in the programs look fat.
  2. HD, when played on and SD TC, looks weird, too. It can be shown as “letterbox”, which means there’s black on the top and bottom – so everything looks small. Or, the HD gets converted to SD, in which case the left and right side of the show gets lopped off.

This lopping off thing has been going on for year. It’s nothing new. Many movies that had been shown on TV, which were originally wide screen extravaganzas, had to be edited to the narrow SD format. Movie directors and editors hated that because it detracted from the “vision” the directors had in making the movies in the first place. With such editing, the action would pan from left to right, keeping the important things in the center of the screen. But, it was clumsy and often ruined the beauty of a well done movie.

So, now, we have this problem all over again…with locally produced content. Shoot it in HD, load it up to Youtube (or Vimeo or whatever) in HD, and it looks great. Give it to a PEG access center and it’s got to be SD.

computerHere’s another problem. Who’s going to do all this work? …well, it’s me and people like me. Some distribution facilities ( only work in SD. Some (TelVue) work in both (and will do conversion). But, not everyone has access to these. We have over 600 subscribers to our Youtube channel (Ground Glass Productions). So, we will keep using Youtube for HD. But, you can’t download from there. You can on Vimeo. So, maybe we’ll start using that. But wait, if I upload HD to Vimeo, who is going to convert to SD? So, will I need to upload SD to Vimeo? And, how many people actually access our videos to show on their stations? (I think the numbers are small…which makes one wonder if it’s worth the effort in the first place.)

I know I can put videos into stuff like Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon Web Services. Some of these are free (but limit you in how much you can store). Others let you store more, but there’s a price.

Now, we don’t get paid for any of this. No grants. No under-the-table stuff. We just like making the videos and, in fact, love it that our Youtube viewership is growing. Folks there actually send us email with questions and comments. That’s nice. So, we will likely keep supporting Youtube. The rest? …we’ll give them at try and hope for the best.



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