28 April 2008

Bugs, Bugs, BUGS!!!...and Banners

HEY, I'M BACK! Yeah, yeah...

The latest trend on italian television is promo banners during programs. Everywhere in the world, i imagine, you pay for television either in the form of advertising interruptions, license fees, cable/satellite service or a combination thereof.

This is an example of any program on any TV station years ago...

Example 1: the transmitted picture and only the transmitted picture.

...exactly that: an image. A transmitted image. It probably would have been in black and white as well, but that's beside the point.

A cathode-ray tube TV screen "eats" an amount of the outer picture (anywhere up to ten percent). I say "anywhere up to ten percent" because, unlike paper with a bleed margin, no two television monitors trim the image exactly the same. Pay attention the next time you're in an appliance store with their wall of TVs. No two TVs are pixel-identical. So effectively you are seeing only this much of the transmitted image...

Example 2: normal 10% picture loss.

For some years now viewers have experienced this type of graphic called a bug on their TV screens (in the lower right corner in this example)...

Example 3: a "bug" in the lower right corner of the picture. Note that the bug
is placed INSIDE the safely trasmitted area which is known as "action safe".

This bug was invented to identify the channel being watched at a glance, among other reasons of varying degrees of legitimacy. And most bugs are relatively unobtrusive when they are semitransparent.

In the next example, you see that we are losing even more of the transmitted 4:3 picture thanks to purely stylistic uses of "letterboxing"...

Example 4: fake 16:9 letterboxing.
While i usually believe "less is more" , here "less is...LESS!"

It's honestly been a while since i've had the...opportunity...to view other countries' programming but here in Italy, normal PAL programs and commercials add letterboxes, presumably to give the product a cinematic look. I'm sorry...i personally call "bullshit". Who is gonna buy that the perfume ad you are watching was really shot in Panavision? Oh, is this pseudo-news program really in 16:9? Especially, as in the next example, when a second bug is added in the letterbox!

Example 5: Working so hard to create a cinematic look
that's fooling no one and then sticking a clown's bowtie on it.

The whole letterbox idea is to present a cinematic work of a widescreen format in television's 4:3 context without having to pan and scan, losing significant portions of the shot. If you start taking advantage of that space, you're just trying to pull a two-bit con. And you probably wear white tube socks to a formal engagement. And the above example is tame tame tame. I've seen commercials with letterboxing, product logo as a bug and even a supermarket-style burst expousing "50% off" or some other life-changing message. Or even a programming block with channel bug, block bug and program bug, sometimes even ANIMATED. A regular "cazzotto nell'occhio."

But WAIT! It gets worse! The latest trend is to interrupt the viewer with an inline promo! Example, please...

Nice, huh. This is your standard scroll taken to ludicrous lows, no matter how nice the graphic is. And it's animated. Boy, is it animated! There is no way a viewer is gonna miss that blooming and booming across the lower third of the screen during a program. As if commercial interruption wasn't enough (especially US broadcast TV but that is for another rant). As if your cable/satellite bill wasn't enough. As if the license fee isn't enough. As if the combination of those three wasn't enough to assure you a relatively tranquil viewing of a program that interests you. It's not enough that we are losing more picture content every day with cheap gimmicks like this.

It's never enough.

Television flowflow.

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