June 30, 2008

Criminal Justice

Thanks to the BBC switching the tennis to BBC1 on Monday evening everyone (like me!) recording Criminal Justice episode one on the V+ will miss the last half hour or so. Two choices: either watch it on iPlayer, or wait for the HD showing starting July 10th at 9pm.

June 29, 2008

Bonekickers coming to BBC HD

Just a quick heads up that Bonekickers, one of the BBC's summer highlights will be shown in high definition, starting on Tuesday 08 July at 9pm. Starring Adrian Lester and Julie Graham and from the creators of Life On Mars, this really could be something. Here's the blurb from the Radio Times:
Archaeological drama series. The excavation of medieval soldiers from the Crusades leads to the hunt for the True Cross. Brilliant archaeologist Dr Gillian Magwilde and her team race to uncover the truth, as a fanatical right-wing Christian reawakens a force of violent modern-day crusaders.

Also, on Thursday, July 10th Criminal Justice begins on BBC HD for those who aren't planning to watch it on BBC1 this week - it's to be shown weekly on BBC HD, rather than the five consecutive night scheduling it's having this week.
And if that wasn't enough, how about both volumes of Tarantino's Kill Bill? Showing on Friday July 4th and Volume 2 on the 11th.

June 28, 2008

BBC HD - the longest day!

Almost 14 hour of BBC HD today (Saturday). Here's the full line-up:

12:10pm Football Focus
12:45pm Wimbledon 2008
9:00pm That Mitchell and Webb Look
9:30pm Glastonbury 2008
10:30pm That Mitchell and Webb Look
11:00pm Hotel Babylon
12:00-2am Glastonbury 2008

June 26, 2008

Three new feeds added

For those looking for more information on Virgin or HD services I've added a trio of new RSS feeds to this blog towards the foot of the main page:
  • InsideVirgin is an informative blog put together by Virgin1, covering all of VirginMedia's services (notably broadband services)
  • HDTV is a site that looks at all aspects of the HD world, including new equipment and services
  • Trusted Reviews is equipment reviews for the regular guy: not as gadget-focussed as some and not afraid to denounce hardware that doesn't deliver what it promises.

June 25, 2008

Angels in America update

We now have episodes 1-3 in my area in high definition

HBO's Angels in America in HD

More new HD content from HBO: two episodes of the highly acclaimed Angels in America have appeared, albeit episodes 2 and 3. Let's hope they hang around for a little longer than When the Levees Broke (available for just a couple of days).
I recall this being shown in two three-hour parts originally on Channel 4, but HBO has subsequently broadcast six hour-long episodes (far more palatable to be truthful - it's heavy stuff).
The interstella cast includes Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Jeffrey Wright, Justin Kirk, Ben Shenkman, Patrick Wilson and Mary-Louise Parker.
For those wanting to watch it all there are five of the six episodes available in SD, but only showing "20 days left". As always when embarking on these HD series via TV Choice On Demand, there's an element of risk as Virgin Media have a track record of putting up content in the most chaotic manner.

June 24, 2008

Sopranos and ER in HD ?

Virgin Media have the first six episodes of The Sopranos available On Demand in "High Definition". I know that from the second season the show was filmed in HD (see story here) but was unaware the first was available in HD. Dates from 1997
Also the pilot of ER is listed as HD. I watched this last night and I don't think this is high definition either. Cracking bit of TV, but it dates from 1994 and unless it was shot on film I suspect it's been upscaled. According to Wikipedia:
ER is unique in that the series was filmed in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen from the start, even though it did not air in widescreen until the seventh season when it began appearing in the 1080i HD format where NBC was being broadcast digitally.
Anyone know more?
[see comments below for an update : ER is SD, but The Sopranos is high definition...and looks great!]

June 23, 2008

BBC HD update from the Head of BBC HD

Seetha Kumar, head of HDTV at BBC Vision, has posted another entry on her interesting blog on the challenges facing BBC HD. The latest entry can be found here
In it she talks of the challenges of doubling HD output in a relatively short space of time, gives more details on some of the summer programming such as Criminal Justice (which will be showing in HD from July 10th due to Wimbledon coverage) and talks openly about the Eurovision sound problems. Great stuff, and top marks to the Beeb for being so open on this.

June 22, 2008

New Drama on BBC HD - but when?

Starting on June 30th is a brand new drama by Peter Moffat Criminal Justice. It's showing on five consecutive nights on BBC1 at 9pm each evening and is also being touted on the BBC HD web site. Because of the wall-to-wall Wimbledon coverage though it is not listed as being on BBC HD that week but if the Beeb says its coming to HD chances are it will follow shortly. Watch in SD or wait for it on HD? I'll keep an eye on the listings and will post once it appears.
More details of the drama and its cast can be found here.

June 21, 2008

Petition letter - comments please!

I've drafted the following to accompany the petition when I send it to Virgin Media MD Neil Berkett next week. Any comments welcome.
Dear Mr Berkett
I am writing to you to make you aware of the strength of feeling in Virgin Media’s customer base regarding the lack of high definition services on your cable TV platform.
For the last eight months I have produced a website promoting Virgin’s high definition services. During this time the site (www.vmhd.blogspot.com) has had almost 50,000 visitors. To me, that’s a good indication that there’s a lot of interest in the availability of HD programming on cable TV in the UK.
Unfortunately, Virgin Media’s HD services do not satisfy that enthusiasm or level of interest from your customers. One part-time channel and a diminishing selection of On Demand programming (that appears in a chaotic, incomplete fashion) is extremely poor value for your premium customers. Filmflex HD movies come at a considerable additional cost.
To capture the opinions of this frustrated community I set up an online petition (http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/VirginTVHD) calling for signatories to support a demand of Virgin Media that you increase and improve your high definition TV services. Even I did not expect such a sizable, rapid and vocal response. Please find attached the signatories collected in a single week of the petition – 615 in total.
I appreciate that Virgin Media believes that its broadband and On Demand services are its USP. I understand that infrastructure and technologies are undergoing significant upgrades at considerable cost. But surely you cannot ignore your highest paying TV customers who at the very least should have high definition services on a par with those already promised by Freesat and Freeview.
Like so many others, I have selected Virgin Media over Sky and BT for my TV, broadband and telephony services. Like other VIP customers I’m paying over £1,000 a year for services – that’s a premium rate for what should be a premium service. The current TV provision is very clearly not seen by your customers as of a premium standard, particularly with regards to the availability of high definition programmes which are so clearly the future of quality TV services. Unless something is done soon by the Virgin management I fear that there will be a migration to Sky by your highest paying customers that will dwarf the impact of the loss of the Sky basics in 2007.
I await with interest your response to the signatories on this petition.
Kind regards, etc etc

Channel 4 HD - what HD?

We all know that Channel 4 HD has been something of a disappointment since its launch late last year. For Sky customers there's precious little actual HD content; for Virgin Media and Freesat customers there's precious little sign of the channel at all. (And don't get me started on the C4 HD On Demand we were promised.)
At launch and around Christmas it looked like VM customers were really missing out as there were some pretty good films on show on C4HD. Then as we headed into the new year and the US imports started their annual runs there was quite of a bit of HD scattered around the schedules, albeit none homegrown.
Now it has all but dried up. I see that Hollyoaks is now HD...but that's about it. Most US series are now debuting on E4 or More4 (neither HD services) so there's even less high def than there was a few months ago. Even the films are down to one or two minor titles a week, normally in the wee hours.
So, something of a damp squib. Maybe the Channel 4 HD capability would be better used going 'a la carte' like BBC HD, showing a selection for the 4 stable of C4, E4, More4 and Film4? It seems a waste as it currently broadcasts, and I feel we're not missing much on VM without it.

June 19, 2008

Glastonbury 2008 on BBC HD

Considering the BBC has been promoting Glastonbury 2008 as one of its high definition highlights for the summer, there are surprisingly few hours being broadcast in HD next weekend. Maybe, like many festival goers themselves, the BBC has had second thoughts about the mediocre line-up? Anway, those who are happy seeing the rain n mud in standard def will find blanket coverage on BBC3, whilst those watching on BBC HD get just
  • Friday, 27 June 11:00pm - 2:00am
  • Saturday 28 June 9:30pm - 10:30pm
  • Sunday 29 June 11:45pm - 2:00am
The bizarre one is the Saturday; just an hour, with the rest of the evening featuring repeats of Mitchell & Webb and Hotel Babylon. If BBC has the equipment in position for an hour's broadcast, why not keep the cameras rolling for the rest of the evening? Very odd indeed.

June 16, 2008

Wimbledon week one on BBC HD

Details of the BBC HD coverage of Wimbledon have been posted up on the Radio Times website.

It'll be running from 1pm each day next week. On Monday and Tuesday it will run through to midnight; on Wednesday until 7.30pm (followed by a Euro 2008 semi); on Thursday until 9pm (penultimate episode of Heroes following - no BBC3 early preview of the season finale though) and Friday's coverage ends at 11pm (when the Glastonbury live broadcast takes over) . Saturday it runs to 9pm.

One would imagine BBC HD has plenty of repeats up its sleeve to fill the schedules if rain stops play ...

June 15, 2008

Virgin Media HD petition

Enough! Time for a call to arms!
I've created an online petition calling for Virgin Media to increase their high definition services (both channels and on demand programming). The petition will be sent to Neil Berkett's office at the end of the summer, so please spare a few seconds and sign up at


June 12, 2008

HD vs SD

Anyone wanting to see some good example of high definition pictures versus standard definition should check out this post from "Supremus" (not his real name, but wouldn't it be cool if it was?!) over on Cable Forum.

June 11, 2008

Euro 2008 on BBC HD - week two

The BBC have three matches next week showing in High Definition. These are:

Monday 16 June 7:30pm -
Austria v Germany

Tuesday 17 June 7:30pm - 10:00pm
France v Italy

Friday 20 June 7:30pm - 10:00pm
Live coverage of the second quarter-final (tba)

Picture and sound quality this week have been outstanding; here's hoping they continue to keep up the high standard for the rest of the tournament.

June 10, 2008

When the Levee ... Broken

That must be a record...it appeared late last week, four episodes of Spike Lee's award-winning HBO documentary in high definition, checked in last night to watch the second episode and the whole lot have gone. What the hell's going on, Virgin? How incompetent can you be??

June 08, 2008

Heroes on BBC HD this week

This Thursday's simulcasts of Heroes on BBC HD are disrupted by the Euro 2008 coverage. Just the one this week, and I said in an earlier post it would be the BBC2 simulcast.
Wrong. Bad Nialli. It's actually the BBC3 episode (episode 9) that's showing on BBC HD at 10pm Thursday. The following week we're back to both the BBC2 and BBC3 showings, with the final episode of the season (just 11 thanks to the Hollywood writers' strike) to follow.
I've enjoyed this season, despite the poor reviews Stateside. I think they gave me low expectations, whereas it's been very similar to the first season - lots of promise but only limited delivery. Hiro's adventure in Japanese history was no duller than his and Ando's US adventure last season, but at least it looked spectacular in HD! Things have definitely picked up in recent weeks and I'm hoping for a strong finish. Fingers crossed.

June 06, 2008

All Change with HD On Demand

BBC content under "High Definition" is all back - no new additions. The absence of the standard definition series makes TV Choice on Demand a very light selection at the moment - it's all planned maintenance apparently, and will be back soon. (Hope they sort out the PQ on much of the library - watched an IT Crowd last night at the quality was decidedly second rate.)

Lots of changes with TV Choice on Demand HD. As warned, Band of Brothers has gone, as have other series. At the moment, little new of note except the HBO series When the Levees Broke. Highly recommended; Spike Lee's very personal films on New Orleans after the hurricane.

There are a few Cartoon Network series appearing in the same section: they're not HD. Also, Sopranos season five fans will rejoice at the arrival on a ninth episode, but despair that it's not ep. 9 - we have episode 12!

June 04, 2008

High Definition - why the fuss?

There's a thread over on Cable Forum about this old chestnut which I've just posted on. Would be interested to hear others views on this if you'd care to comment guys:
I think it very much depends on what you're watching. If something has been shot in HD, the PQ on the SD channels is notably stronger. I have watched the BBC's excellent Wild China on both BBC2 and BBC HD; the latter is stunning, but, unless you literally watch them back to back, the BBC2 version is pretty spectacular too. Ditto with Heroes and Mad Men. But if I compare PQ on Channel 4 programmes shot with SD cameras (pretty much everything home grown) and there's more of a difference. In terms of PQ, I think you can use this as a rule of thumb, from lowest to highest:

Filmed in SD, broadcast in SD via SCART - average
Filmed in SD, broadcast in SD via HDMI - good
Filmed in HD, broadcast in SD via HDMI - very good
Filmed in HD, broadcast in HD via HDMI - excellent

So what I'm saying is that the comparisons you're making with the V+ box are between "very good" and "excellent". I don't disagree with what you're saying btw - my wife cannot tell the difference (32" Tosh Regza viewed from 8ft, 720p) and if I'm recording something for her, I save on disc space by recording the SD version...

June 02, 2008

BBC HD On Demand returns

Four pages of BBC programmes have returned to the On Demand High Definition listing. Around 28 programmes have reappeared - not everything, but a fair amount. No new stuff.

Those watching Band of Brothers are advised to wrap it up quickly: it's now showing just 2 days left for all episodes...except 6, which in my region is showing as 1036 days left!

And now that it's finished on SkyOnc, if season four of Lost appears in On Demand in the near future don't you miss it...an absolute cracking return to form...I promise you won't be disappointed.

June 01, 2008

Euro 2008 on BBC HD

As promised, Euro 2008 is getting the full treatment on BBC HD. Here are the matches being broadcast live in high definition in the first week:

Saturday June 7 4.30pm
Switzerland v Czech Republic
Sunday June 8
Austria v Croatia (4.40pm)
Germany v Poland (7.30pm)
Monday June 9
Romania v France (4.45pm)
Tuesday June 10
Spain v Russia (should have been England! 4.45pm)
Wednesday June 11
Switzerland v Turkey (7.30pm)
Thursday June 12
Austria v Poland (7.30pm - No Heroes BBC2 simulcast tonight - the BBC3 one is at 10pm)
Friday June 13
France v Holland (7.30pm - should be the best of the early games, on paper at least)