Production of High-Definition (HD) Television Commercials

October 24, 2006

The Question 

An ANA member sought insights from peers on their activity in the area of current and future production of high-definition (HD) television commercials. Specifically, the member asked:

  1. What % of your 2006 commercials were shot in HD?
  2. What % of your 2007 commercials do you project will be shot in HD? 
  3. In your experience, what have been the positive factors of working with HD?
  4. In your experience, have there been negative factors? 
  5. How are you finishing commercials shot in HD?
    SD xx%, HD xx%
  6. Do you have any HD-specific guidelines in your production policies and procedures, or is the decision to shoot in HD at the discretion of your agencies?

Response #1

Currently we do not and are not anticipating HD production. When the agency recommends HD, we will move forward; unless we learn more in our favor before then. Sorry, have no info to draw from.


Response #2

I don't believe [our company] has shot anything on HD. We also have no specific finishing/post production policies at this time, although we have discussed developing guidelines for the future. Hope this helps.


Response #3

We have shot approximately 4% HD spots in 2006 and 2007. By “shot” I mean with HD TV equipment. We finished in standard definition, and did not broadcast in HD. All the rest were film, and finished in standard definition, though some were “letterboxed.” Our sound was standard stereo mix, not 5-point surround.

HD is at the discretion of our agencies, but we are always pushing to try it out more. But our audience is not currently on HD channels. Also, we’d not really save money on it (HD front end, HD output will be about the same costs as film front end, digital video back end, but again, our audience is not on HD currently. So, no matter the origination, film or HD, if we output HD back end, we’d have to also output SD, and the two outputs will increase our post costs by about 20%, just to preserve HD while we broadcast almost exclusively in SD.

I really think the resistance is from Directors and Directors of Photography and crews, who are so well versed in film, and comfortable with film, that they have little incentive to risk the production on a new medium. Our leverage to shoot video (and now that is practically synonymous with shooting HD) is if we’re shooting a lot of footage, generally interviews* [see note below]. Otherwise, there’s not much financial difference shooting film vs. HD. If our audience lived on an HD channel, we would have another incentive to finish HD.

Observations:

I am continuously polling local (Bay Area) post houses, and Los Angeles post houses to see if anyone in the commercials’ arena is using HD origination and finish.

  • Some origination, no finish unless going to cinema.
  • Originating in HD—no additional costs over film, if the film footage is reasonably small (5-10,000’).
  • Converting from film to video in HD, and editing HD, with a second conversion from film to SD for formatting issues, is an approximately 20% increase in costs, which is not practical for us now.
  • With a heavy effects finish in HD, costs will really increase, as HD, with its increased resolution, takes more time and more storage to crunch the effects.
  • Consumers are really confused over the issue. 22% of households are still over-the-air, and will have to convert to digital somehow, soon. That’s digital, not HD. HDTV sales this year are approximately 14% of the market, and are increasing. But 86% of current sales are standard resolution 4:3 sets, with a life span of maybe 20 years. Of the 14% who own HDTV (14.5 MM households, a respectable number), not all have HD tuners. Forester Research estimates are that only 7% actually watch in HD. Further, HDTV is only unified by an aspect ratio of 16:9. Its resolution varies according to broadcast protocols of 1080i, 1080p, 720i, 720p, 480i, etc.

A Scientific Atlantic survey of HD users in 2006 reported:

  • 49% of HDTV owners were not receiving HD channels because they did not have a set-top box or tuner for HD.
  • 28% of HD owners did not get special equipment (tuners, set-top box) because they said the picture quality was already improved with the purchase of their HD set.
  • 23% of HD owners did not invest in special equipment because a message at the beginning of the program tells them that those programs are being broadcast in HD.
  • 18% of HD owners believed that their TV would give them HD programs without any additional equipment.
  • Net, the audience is confused, and few are actually watching HD in HD. Every public place I go into (except the Burbank Airport) has a flat screen 16:9, stretched out to fill the screen with standard TV.
  • That’s the current landscape. I expect it to change rapidly. But just when that change will occur, I don’t know. We want experience, so that when the change happens, we’ll be ready. Otherwise, we’re comfortable where we are.

    *Note: Later the member clarified:


    “I meant to say that we have an incentive to shoot video when we have to shoot interviews, like real people, or Direct Response TV with testimonials – where we'll plow through a lot of footage. Then we push for video. That video now is generally shot with HD cameras, even though we compose 4 x 3 TV format. I think those HD cameras, being the latest generation of cameras, have the best electronics and give the best picture to date, so there is a slight advantage to using them, even though we are not using them for their HD format I consider that a baby step to HD; anything to get our agencies, directors and crews more used to HD.

    "Our agencies have pushed back when we shoot interviews involving food products. They say that film can be better enhanced, better controlled, and is easier to handle out of doors. I generally agree with that, but will insist on tape for DRTV testimonials or similar work. If I saw a huge cost advantage for HD, I'd push harder for it, but don't see that at all when shooting a conventional commercial with 3,000-5,000 feet of film. You need the same crew strength, the same lights, about the same money for the HD camera package as the film camera package. The savings is in film and developing, but that's currently more than offset by the dual SD and HD finishing we would be faced with now.

    “This all will, of course, change radically in the next few years.” 


 Response #4

  1. What % of your 2006 commercials were shot in HD?

    10%

  2. What % of your 2007 commercials do you project will be shot in HD?

    25%

  3. In your experience, what have been the positive factors of working with HD?

    Ease in shooting without having to change film reels, more footage obtainable for better cost.

  4. In your experience, have there been negative factors?

    Agency art director reluctance to use.

  5. How are you finishing commercials shot in HD?

    SD 100%
    HD 0%

  6. Do you have any HD-specific guidelines in your production policies and procedures, or is the decision to shoot in HD at the discretion of your agencies?

    Nothing in policies regarding HD use, done at recommendation of agency.

    Additional insight from another member at the same company:
    The positive factor was achieving a filmic look but having the freedom to let the camera roll for long periods of time, uninterrupted.

Response #5

  1. What % of your 2006 commercials were shot in HD?

    Zero shot in HD, though 20% were FINISHED in HD.

  2. What % of your 2007 commercials do you project will be shot in HD?

    None will be shot in HD, though we will finish 20% of the spots in HD.

  3. In your experience, what have been the positive factors of working with HD?

    [No response]

  4. In your experience, have there been negative factors?

    Cost, not from the production end, but from trafficking.

  5. How are you finishing commercials shot in HD?

    SD 80%
    HD 20%

  6. Do you have any HD-specific guidelines in your production policies and procedures, or is the decision to shoot in HD at the discretion of your agencies?

    No HD-specific info in the guidelines. But the decision to finish in HD rests with Advertising Production. We look at our media buy. If the percentage of media running in HD is high enough (60% is our benchmark), we'll finish in HD.

Response #6

  1. What % of your 2006 commercials were shot in HD?

    All [of our company’s] commercials are shot on film and finished in HD.

  2. What % of your 2007 commercials do you project will be shot in HD?

    I believe all of our commercials will be shot on film in 2007 and finished in HD for either SD or HD broadcast.

  3. In your experience, what have been the positive factors of working with HD?

    We have not used HD digital video and I am not directly involved in the production of commercials shot for our Consumer Division.

  4. In your experience, have there been negative factors?

    I am not directly involved in the production of our commercials and as stated previously, all of our commercials are shot on film.

  5. How are you finishing commercials shot in HD? 

    HD 100%. All of our commercials originate on film and are finished in HD.
     
  6. Do you have any HD-specific guidelines in your production policies and procedures, or is the decision to shoot in HD at the discretion of your agencies?

    I do not know.

Response #7

  1. What % of your 2006 commercials were shot in HD?

    All of our 2006 general market and sports spots were shot in HD.

  2. What % of your 2007 commercials do you project will be shot in HD?

    Currently all of our spots for 2007 will be shot in HD as well.

  3. In your experience, what have been the positive factors of working with HD?

    HD is leading edge technology and with that comes the cache of being one of the leaders or one of the first to adopt a new technology. The look of HD is spectacular.

  4. In your experience, have there been negative factors?

    Editing the effects takes longer because the picture has more information on it and therefore there is more to clean up, composite, etc.

  5. How are you finishing commercials shot in HD?

    We are finishing all commercials shot in HD in both HD and SD because currently there are limited outlets for HD.

  6. Do you have any HD-specific guidelines in your production policies and procedures, or is the decision to shoot in HD at the discretion of your agencies?

    Nothing currently in the production guidelines for shooting in HD but we are updating the guidelines so there may be a mention in the updated guidelines. Often network requirements dictate how we finish in HD.

Response #8

  1. What percentage of your 2006 commercials were shot in HD?

    Two+ spots, out of 28--about 7 percent. (This includes all brands, general market, Hispanic, Puerto Rico, etc. Does NOT include all the edits, remixes, alternate versions and ancillary material that was produced.)

  2. What percentage of 2007 spots do you project will be shot on HD?

    None.

  3. In your experience, what have been the positive factors of working in HD?

    Like the immediacy of being able to see shots on-set, rather than waiting for dailies. Also, the look can be stunning.

  4. In your experience have there been any negative factors?

    When it comes to finishing, you are more limited in the extent to which you can blow up shots vs film. You are also limited in slow-motion work (over-cranking a film camera vs the limited frame rates on HD.

  5. How are you finishing commercials shot in HD?

    The two that were shot in 2006 were finished in HD.

  6. Do you have HD-specific guidelines in your production policies and procedures, or is the decision to shoot in HD at the discretion of your agencies?

    At the discretion of the agencies—with client approval, of course.

Response #9

  1. What percentage of your 2006 commercials were shot in HD?

    None.

  2. What percentage of 2007 spots do you project will be shot on HD?

    1 to 2 percent.

  3. In your experience, what have been the positive factors of working in HD?

    Shooting on film, but finishing in HD has provided the most flexibility in filming and finishing. Shooting 16MM is even better than 35MM when finishing in HD.

  4. In your experience have there been any negative factors?

    Only negative thus far is that you can’t pull a frame grab from HD like you can from 35MM.

  5. How are you finishing commercials shot in HD?

    [No response]

  6. Do you have HD-specific guidelines in your production policies and procedures, or is the decision to shoot in HD at the discretion of your agencies?

    Shooting in HD is strictly a creative decision. “Finishing/Editing” in HD is a business decision based on the brand strategy and media plan.
Source

"Production of High-Definition (HD) Television Commercials." ANA Production Management Committee, 10/24/06.