I've just watched two wildlife programmes in HD back to back and I have to say that the quality of BBC HD is still sadly lacking when compared to National Geographic HD. First up I watched an episode of Nat Geo's incredible Wild Russia (Sunday evenings, 8pm) and was blown away by the detail in the footage of the polar bears, reindeer and the stunning floral meadows. Strangely enough, the episode of Life I watched straight after also had reindeer and polar bears. But it looked flat. Dull even. Some of the later shots of the humpback whales were incredible, but not for the picture quality, more for the drama of the "heat run". Having seen the effort the cameramen went to for these pictures, one can only wonder how they felt to see all their excellent work buggered up by the BBC HD channel's transmission shortcomings.
To rub salt into the wound, I then watched a programme on the Claridges hotel on BBC4...and the PQ on that was vibrant and so much more alive...than Life in HD!
So what's going on? How come BBC HD, for so long the quality standard, has dipped so low of late?
Lower bit rates and new codecs at the BBC apparently, brought in for the launch of HD channels on Freeview which is of little comfort for customers of satellite and cable. Head of BBC HD Danielle Nagler and top techie Andy Quested have posted extensively on the BBC's blog on the topic and have offered assurances that it's all okay, but I ain't convinced. Check out this thread from the BBC's own Blog: I'm not the only unhappy customer - there are over 800 comments on this post and they're still appearing daily.
Meanwhile - Sunday, National Geographic HD, 8pm. Wild Russia. You will not be disappointed...