January 31, 2008

What’s NOT on BBC HD next week

Getting a bit bored of typing Torchwood, A Little Later and repeats each week, so here’s something slightly different ;o)

Missing on MONDAY

Whilst BBC1 viewers are treated to arguably the BBC’s biggest documentary series of the year, Attenborough’s Life in Cold Blood, BBC HD’s audience revels in yet another repeat of Dimbleby’s How We Built Britain.

Where is it on WEDNESDAY

England v Switzerland. Capello’s first game. Beckham’s 100th cap? The three lions showing those at Euro 2008 what they’re missing! On BBC1.

On BBC HD, a repeat of Great British Journeys. None of them going to Euro 2008, of course…

Thankless THURSDAY

To describe Ashes to Ashes, the sequel to Life on Mars as must-see drama is like calling Roman Abramovich “a bit flush”. This is THE drama of the season and essential viewing. On BBC1.

Meanwhile, over on BBC HD – Twenty Thousand Streets under the Sky. Showing for the 1,857th time, another opportunity to yawn with Auntie.

Forgotten on FRIDAY

Natural World (BBC2) and New Tricks (BBC1) for those craving novelty and value from their license fee. But the real excitement’s over on BBC HD where it’s ALL REPEATS!

Need I add more? Strewth...

BBC looking at interactivity on BBC HD

Interesting link here on the challenges and possible solutions for the BBC in introducing interactivity on HD channels. Not sure how Sky Sports HD handles the interactivity - anyone know?

ITV HD "testing"?

According to this post over at Cable Forum, ITV HD is "testing" in the Dundee area. Interesting.

Incidentally, anyone else agree with me that this season of Torchwood is a big improvement from season one? Three episodes now and they've all been top drawer in my book. I was also pleasantly surprised by how watchable the Monty Don Around the World in 80 Gardens was - I tuned in at the insistence of Mrs Nialli (who has greener fingers than me) and found it a thoroughly pleasant way of spending my Sunday evening, infinitely better than the Larkside soap/sitcom and positively eye-popping in HD.

January 28, 2008

England v Switzerland in HD...probably!

I emailed the Radio Times about the absence of Life in Cold Blood and the England v Switzerland game, and they've just replied; they don't know about the former, but they say they've checked with the BBC and the latter will be shown on BBC HD. I've let them know that www.radiotimes.com is saying otherwise. More, no doubt, to follow....

update: well, my printed Radio Times confirms the match is being broadcast in HD. Mind you, it also says that Torchwood, which starts around the same time as the second half, is also in HD...

No surprise that the Life on Mars sequel, Ashes to Ashes, is NOT showing in HD.

So what's on Virgin Media Analogue

Given the recent poll's high showing for Virgin to turn off the analogue network, I thought the following interesting - it's the current channel line up for the analogue customers. Given that turning off a single analogue channel frees up sufficient capacity for a couple of HD ones or up to five SD slots, this to my eye is ripe for some prudent cuts...personally, I think Freeview is a more attractive channel selection than this

03 - SciFi
04 - BBC Parliament
06 - Modulated Computer output of network monitor
08 - Animal Planet
11 - Hallmark
12 - British Eurosport
13 - Cartoon network / TCM
14 - Sky Sports 1
15 - Sky Sports 3
16 - Discovery Realtime / Discovery
17 - Movies 24
20 - MTV
21 - Sky Sports 2
22 - Nickelodeon / Paramount
23 - QVC
24 - UKTV History
26 - Disney Channel
28 - Trouble / Adult Channel
31 - Living / Television X
33 - Living
36 - VH1
38 - UKTV Gold
39 - ITV2
40 - CNBC Europe / E4
41 - BBC1
42 - Five
43 - BBC News 24
44 - Virgin One
45 - BBC2
47 - ITV1
49 - Channel4
54 - UKTV Documentaries
56 - UKTV Style
58 - Price Drop TV / Challenge
74 - BBC Parliament

January 27, 2008

New This Week on BBC HD


New to Sunday evenings, to wake us from our stupor after Lark Rise to Candleford, is the edge-of-your-seat Around the World in 80 Gardens. Hmmm. Monty Don apparently. Not my particular cuppa, but I'm not the only audience the BBC are after. Interesting that they're commiting the prime evening slot on BBC HD to this for the next ten weeks: that knocks on the head HD simulcasts of the Beeb's main weekly drama/documentary from BBC1. I see next week it's on 15 minutes earlier (followed by Judge John Deed) so it may be flexible.


Judge John Deed takes centre stage, followed by the first episode of Gavin & Stacey and episode 4 of the excellent US import Damages.


Repeats of Cranford, Hotel Babylon, Earth: the Power of the Planet, and Planet Earth


Among the usual repeats is Torchwood at 9pm. A repeat from the last series of Hustle is a welcome change from Jools Holland's mug in HD :o)


As I've never, ever watched anything from Casualtyland, the arrival of Holby Blue to BBC HD I can't really comment on. Fairy Tales continues at 9pm - very, very bad drama that even ITV 1 would be ashamed of. Only on Sky One would it stand out as quality...


Comedy on Fridays continues with Jam & Jerusalem and the usual repeats


Live sport returns to BBC HD with the first coverage of the Six Nations. England v Wales at 4.10pm kicks off an otherwise lacklustre Saturday's viewing, with France v Scotland following on Sunday afternoon.

New Attenborough series NOT showing on BBC HD

Attenborough's latest and last great documentary series, Life in Cold Blood, is NOT appearing on BBC HD. The series debuts on BBC1 on Monday, February 4th at 9pm but at that time BBC HD viewers are "treated" to a repeat of How We Built Britain.
I'm seriously disappointed, and I bet I'm not alone. Is this is a ratings ruse and the series is to later appear in HD once it's completed its first run? Was it shot in HD?? Either way, it undermines the BBC's commitment to show the best of its output in high definition. Planet Earth and Blue Planet were both in HD - to have such a monumental series in SD beggars belief.

postscript: it WAS shot in HD, too! "
Shot in high definition and costing around £800,000 for each episode, Life in Cold Blood is the final chapter in Sir David's epic "Life" strand which began in 1979 with Life On Earth."

January 26, 2008

High Definition On Demand programming

Here's an update (Saturday, Jan 26 2008) on the HD programming available currently to ex-NTL customers.

BBC (Home - 6 - 2 - 1)
Ant Attack
The Blue Planet: Introduction
The Blue Planet: Frozen Seas
The Blue Planet: Coasts
The Blue Planet: Coral Seas
The Blue Planet: Frozen Seas
The Blue Planet: Open Oceans
The Blue Planet: Seasonal Seas
The Blue Planet: The Deep
The Blue Planet: Tidal Seas
Desert Lions
Diana - Last Days of a Princess
Great Natural Wonders of the World
Hotel Babylon Season Two episodes 2 - 8
The Innocence Project 1-8 except episode 4
Planet Earth: episodes 1-5
The Quatermass Experiment
Rick Stein and the Japanese Ambassador
Superstorm 1-3
Supervolcano 1-2
All saying "79 days left"

Filmflex HD (all £4 unless mentioned)
Alpha Dog
Black Christmas
The Breed
Gone in Sixty Seconds
The Messengers
The Painted Veil
The Queen (£3.50)
The Village

TV Choice On Demand (Home - 5 - 9 - 1)
Criminal Minds Season One 1 - 22
Day Break 1-12 (missing the season finale, 13!)
Dog Fight 2 episodes
Engineering an Empire 3 episodes
Ghost Whisperer Season One 1 - 22 except 21
Mega Movers 3 episodes
Lost Season Two 1 - 24

January 25, 2008

Football on BBC HD - Update

A few folk have asked, so here's what I know...
The BBC have the rights this season to show live the England home games, a pick of games from each round of the FA Cup, and Euro 2008. All of the England games should be simulcast in HD however the first game under Capello has mysteriously been removed from the schedules. Bizarre. With the FA Cup, they plan to show the semis and the final (just like last year) and may show an earlier match in HD if they can schedule it. Euro 2008 was specifically mentioned by the Head of BBC Sport as being an HD showcase, but I guess with the lack of home sides that may slip down to just the bigger games being shown.
Next season, the FA Cup and home internationals move to ITV. They've also, of course, got the Champions League. ITV intends to launch its own HD channel by June (in time for Euro 2008) and it's most likely to be carried on VM as well as Sky and possibly FreeSat, especially given Michael Grade's current dispute with Sky and the current OFCOM inquiry; if ITV HD were to only be carried by Sky, OFCOM and Grade would have a fit.
Edit: Spoke too soon: ITV has announced this afternoon that they will not be covering the Final live of Euro 2008, suggesting the whole tournament's coverage is to be reduced (story here). What this means for ITV HD is anyone's guess...

January 23, 2008

Six Nations confirmed in HD

BBC HD will show a number of the Six Nations matches this year, starting with England v Wales on Saturday, February 2nd at 4.15pm, followed by a half hour "Six Nations Forum" programme at 6.30pm. On Sunday Feb 3rd they have the Scotland v France game on BBC HD at 3pm (again with the Forum following).

Sorry to say but I can't find the Superbowl showing on the BBC in HD - I think that's a Sky Sports exclusive, but if you enjoy loud, over-the-top American pyrotechnics you may take some comfort in the BBC showing Pearl Harbor in glorious HD the following Tuesday!

January 22, 2008

Five additional HD channels coming to Virgin Media in 2008?

According to a posting from "TV Boy" over at Cable Forums;

I have got info tonight that Virgin Media are looking to start up Channel 4 HD, ITV HD and THREE other HD Channels within the year 2008.

Note: Channel 4 HD will start before August, Virgin are still in talks with ITV for their HD Channel.

The three unknown channels maybe the following:

Discovery HD
National Geographic HD
History Channel HD

He's normally quite accurate, so here's hoping he's on the button with this one! I would personally prefer a Five HD and Film4 HD over the History Channel or Discovery, but beggars can't be choosers.

January 21, 2008

BBC Six Nations coverage

Looking at the schedules a fortnight away I can't see any Six Nations coverage on BBC HD appearing yet. However, Capello's first England game on Wednesday Feb 6 is supposed to be on BBC HD, which will mean Torchwood that evening is going to be shown later than normal. I'll confirm later this week.

January 20, 2008

The Glory of HD...

Anyone doubting the glory of high definition television will surely have had any lingering doubt blown clear out the water by the sight this week of John Barrowman's brilliant teeth. Nothing short of the full HD experience could capture the glory of that supernaturally white smile! Sure, we knew HD was good - Alan Hansen's dandruff was testimony to that - but did we ever imagine a spectacle like Captain Jack's dental deities? My eyes are still smarting...
Seriously though, the return of a very in-form Torchwood demonstrated two things; that a good story with a nice humour is every bit as important as picture quality, and we've been in need of something with a bit more bite in our HD fare from the BBC for some months. I also noticed for the first time how few FX there are in Torchwood - it's concepts rather than CGI that are in plentiful supply down at the Cardiff time rift. Bravure BBC - this will keep us happy until the return of our HD Heroes in the Spring.
The coming week on BBC HD is a mix of repeats and some rather excellent first-timers. Damages has moved to Mondays, to make way for Marc Warren in Messiah (Sunday and Monday, both at 9pm). Also on Sunday is Lark Rise to Candleford (more bonnets and bonhomie), and on Thursday, be sure to miss the latest in the truly awful Fairy Tales. No films this week and still too many musical repeats, but with Sir David A's new series in the wings, things are definitely picking up on every VM customer's favourite HD channel...

January 19, 2008

Lost Season One - Lost!

Lost Season One has been removed from the HD On Demand listings in my area. However, Lost Season Two is now showing as complete in HD, with all episodes IN THE RIGHT ORDER! Strewth.
Ghost Whisperer in HD season one has the whole season...except 21.

January 18, 2008

BBC iPlayer coming to Virgin Media "in the spring"

According to a news story on Digital Spy, the BBC is saying that the port of its iPlayer to cable TV is a top priority and likely in the spring. Although the iPlayer has had a long, protracted birth, anyone who's used the streaming version launched just before Christmas will know that this is a simple but impressive interface for video on demand content, and will be a big improvement over the current EPG for BBC VoD programming.
Taking the speed of the software demoed here with a pinch of salt (presumably running on a dedicated PC rather than a set top box), this demo video may whet your appetites further (apologies for the distinctly non-HD picture quality!)

January 17, 2008

New poll - what would you prioritise in 2008

This week's poll asks what you feel that Virgin Media bosses should have as their number one priority in 2008. Although this is an HD blog, I think the results will perhaps be a little less predictable. I've turned off the "multiple answer" option on this one - so if it was you running the company, what would you do first? Answers in a week!

January 15, 2008

BBC HD highlights this week

Sorry, a little late with the regular update this week - hope the Mel Gibson groupies caught last night's showing of Signs.
Anyway, nothing new tonight (repeats of Cranford, Hotel Babylon and the excellent Earth: The Power of the Planet) but tomorrow sees the first episode of the second season of Torchwood, followed by an HD repeat from the third season of Hustle. I have to admit I didn't warm to the Doctor Who spin-off's first season, but they're promising it'll be more engaging this time around. PQ will be excellent though and it will no doubt be repeated ad nauseum for the rest of the year if you miss it this time around.
Thursday's only new HD programming is the dire Fairy Tales. Last week's was, as I've already posted, unwatchable. This week's cast of Maxine Peak and James Nesbitt suggests an improvement, but I won't be watching.
Friday night is comedy night, with new Jam & Jerusalem and HD repeats of Vivienne Vyle, Saxondale and Lead Balloon. The latter isn't the one to blow your neighbour's socks off with the picture quality but is good for a laugh or two - smarter than the average sitcom.
Robin Hood double bill on Saturday followed by musical repeats. On Sunday Lark Rise to Candleford moves to its regular 8pm time and Mark Warren debuts in Messiah, the highlight of the next seven days by a long shot. Concluding episode is on Monday at 9pm. Fans of the outstanding Damages shouldn't panic over its absence from Sunday's schedule - it has a new slot on BBC HD of 10.35 on Mondays.
There's no doubt that the BBC HD programming is picking up now that the new series are arriving on BBC1 and BBC2. Still limited hours though, which is disappointing. Next week sees Holby Blue in HD and the following week sees David Attenborough's final megaseries arriving - but will it be shown in HD? Stay tuned...

January 12, 2008

Standard Definition on the V+

I've just posted the comments below on a thread over on AV Forums discussing the upscaling capability of the V+. I think Virgin's box is so good with standard definition it sometimes undermines the case for more HD, especially for those with screens smaller than 32in. Anyway, here's the post - let me know what you think.

I've got a V+ (HDMI connection), Freeview on my Toshiba Regza 32WLT68 and also Freeview on my Panasonic HDD DVD recorder (also upscaling via HDMI), so I've made direct comparisons.
On BBC1 and BBC2, the TV's Freeview picture is just beaten by the DVD recorder's. ITV1 is pretty similar on both. But once you move beyond channels 1-5, the Freeview PQ on both devices deteriorates rapidly. Although BBC4 and News24 are good, E4, Film4, ITV3, ITV4 and particularly More 4 all have what I would classify as "poor" digital pictures - no breakup (I'm only a few miles from Crystal Palace and have excellent Freeview reception) but they don't handle dark background, flesh tones or rapid movement at all well. On Film4 and More 4 even faces can appear 'blocky'.
The V+ SD pictures are so superior there's no comparison you can make without sliding into superlatives. Skin tones, movement, muddy backgrounds - all near perfect. And that's true of all the channels available on Freeview when viewed on the V+ - even Dave. Picture quality when viewing HD-filmed content, such as Cranford or Sky Sports main matches, is close to HD when viewed from around 9 feet away. There is a difference when switching to the BBC or VOD HD content, but it's not that dramatic. That's not just my eyes, but the whole family who were round at Christmas - the PQ drew many envious comments, including a Sky HD customer who was pretty much blown away (and was subsequently talking about moving to Virgin).
It's not scientific, but I'd always trust my eyes over a bunch of stats in a Home Cinema title compiled under lab conditions rather than living ones :)

January 11, 2008

Worst programme on BBC HD ever?

I could only stomach ten minutes of the BBC's much-lauded Fairy Tales - surely this is the worst programme to be shown in HD to date?? Absolutely ridiculous, a complete waste of time, money, bandwidth EVERYTHING!
When the current poll ends this week, I'll put a quick one up on the Worst BBC HD programme...any other suggestions?

No episode 13 - sorry

Just spoke to VM - episode 13 has not been posted up on Video On Demand...yet.
The series is released in the US on DVD on March 11th, although one would hope the missing episode will appear on VM before that.
Although I have never used BitTorrent myself, if you're desperate for 13 and cannot wait for VM to sort it out (and there's been pretty much no new HD On Demand programming added for almost two months now) then a quick Google for Day Break will uncover a number of sites where you can download the entire series in English, including 13. Personally, downloading TV is not my thing, but those desperate to see how it all turns out may wish to explore that option.

January 10, 2008

Day Break episode 13

I can't find this myself, but it's been reported on a Cable Forums' V+ thread that the missing HD episode of Day Break (13) is now listed in the TV Choice on Demand / Bravo section in some areas. [Edit: but not all! Apologies to those who can't find it - apparently it's there in some regions but not in others.]

January 09, 2008

Ten predictions for 2008

A little late, but here are some quick predictions for what we can expect on the HD front from Virgin Media this year:
  1. Channel 4 HD finally makes an appearance on cable Probably in the spring. Forums instantly flooded by the same people who had complained about it not turning up at launch in December, now complaining about the lack of genuine HD on the channel
  2. ITV HD not on Virgin Media at launch I hope I'm wrong, but I suspect that it will be a late show on cable, especially if Sky retains its stake in ITV. Again, forums flooded with complaints about the lack of HD content on the new HD channel, many realising that ITV actually broadcasts mainly rubbish these days
  3. VOD HD grows in fits and spurts 4OD HD content sneaks out but at 99p a pop for the US imports. As the Hollywood writers' strike hits hard, there's very little new available
  4. BBC HD expands, but "events" take precedent over regular programming Kicks off as a genuine channel only with the launch of FreeSat.Throughout the summer the channel is dominated by Wimbledon, Glastonbury, the Proms, the Olympics, leaving little time for other programming. Things pick up in the autumn, but it's a long wait
  5. HD remains a niche product I think this will be true for both VM and Sky customers. The V+'s upscaling of SD is so good that for those without a TV 40" or bigger there'll be no great demand. Sky's pricing will drop but it will still prove prohibitive to the average viewer. HD versions of FX and a few more movie channels appear on the platform
  6. Sky HD will be impacted by FreeSat I don't think it will hit Virgin as hard as it will Sky. People who want HD, have a dish but don't fancy the Sky charges will opt for the Beeb-promoted "free" alternative for the main channels in HD (check out the Sky HD forums - lots of posts from people unhappy with the reliability of the Sky boxes and HD programming)
  7. Sky One and the basics return Wishful thinking? Not really, but it matters to many and the impasse will end because ...
  8. OFCOM report hits Sky...and Virgin Neither side happy with the findings from OFCOM into the pay TV market. Nothing of any real substance comes out but it does broker the return of the Sky basics to cable...but not in HD
  9. Tiscali TV and BT Vision struggle IP TV fails to make the grade; the former will be sold at a knock down price, the latter will remain a minor player
  10. Blu-Ray will become the new DVD HD standard But will still remain a niche product for the home consumer. Players will start to sell in larger numbers, but Recorders will be prohibitively priced. HD-DVD will die a fairly quick death without the support of the film studios

January 03, 2008

The BBC response on FA Cup in HD

Just noticed this post from Loz over on the AV Forums as to why there's no FA Cup coverage in HD this weekend on the Beeb

from BBC Sports
I have just got clarification on this. The reason is that we didn't get
permission to run the BBC HD channel until towards the end of the year.
In those circumstances, we weren't able to commit any spend to HD with
the exception (for various technical and logistical reasons) of the
Olympics. So the early rounds of the FA Cup in 2008 were never planned
for HD coverage, but the semi-final and final are scheduled for HD.

January 02, 2008

New poll: what next?

Whilst we're waiting for C4 HD, here's a bit of fun - what would be the next HD channel you'd like to see on Virgin Media? (I've deliberately missed off Sky One as that would probably be a landslide winner!) Give it some thought and please vote - poll will close at the end of January.

BBC HD favourite programme poll

This month's poll on the blog asked what was your favourite HD programme on the BBC in 2007. It didn't ask what best showed off High Definition picture quality (perhaps it should have done) which makes the final positions a tad predictable given the demographic of the blog's readership.
Anyway, first place with over a third of the vote went to Heroes, one of only two US imports to make my shortlist (the other being The Company that only got a couple of votes). I'd first watched the series on the Sci Fi channel, where the PQ was so-so and it wasn't even presented in widescreen. For me, it was good but not great, the pace being a bit slack mid-season and it only came good with the last five episodes. It wasn't the best showcase for HD, but its huge popularity as a show made it the standout prog on BBC HD in 2007 for you guys, so well done BBC for sticking it on HD (and keeping it consistently in the same timeslot for the entire run).
It was good to see an appreciation of great documentary-making score with you highly, as for me this is where HD lifts the enjoyment of TV to new heights. And in 2007 there was no finer example than the landmark series Earth: the Power of the Planet which came second in our poll with 19% of the vote. Volcanoes, the sea, even ice looked fabulous - if you ever doubted HD makes a difference, this was the series that would convince you. Okay, so some of the archive footage was barely SD, let alone HD, but the overall eyeball throttling brilliance was fabulous.
Another documentary series (and my personal favourite) came fourth in our poll: Galapagos. This was my first HD experience, but I found a second viewing over Christmas confirmed it as the year's highlight for me - breathtaking stuff.
Third in our poll was Torchwood, with the other BBC light drama series Robin Hood appearing fifth. As I'm not a great fan of either, I'll not pass comment.
Nothing else scored in double figures, and there were 161 votes in total. Probably my biggest oversight in compiling the shortlist was missing off the Top Gear polar special, so apologies for those who enjoyed that little gem. Happy New Year everyone; this month's poll will appear over the next few days.