Monday, May 19, 2008

Driving Outside the Averages

Have you ever heard that the average speeder only gets to their destination ten seconds earlier? I have, or at least something to that affect. I think this ignores the obvious in trying to influence people. Life is not about the averages, it is about the rarities. Almost everyone lives for the rarities.

The average is the day that traffic moves normally, whatever normally is for your commute. The rarity is that you get stuck behind that slowpoke who drives exactly the same speed as the person next to them. The average is that you come to a red light and can turn right on red. The rarity is that you find yourself behind someone too pensive or distracted to make the turn. On the average day you get that same parking space, but sometimes you've been beaten to it.

The cumulative effect of this is that you remember those rarities, while the averages all blend together and don't matter. So, what do you do? Go a little faster to try to get there earlier. Pass those last few cars before you take the exit. Maybe, if you've got time to spare, you leave earlier, but that's a hassle. So, despite what the averages tell you, you rush to get there a little faster.

The result is that on average you get nowhere. The rarity is that you make in before the pensive, slow poke whose after your parking space. Is it worth it? You decide.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Stop the HD Stretch

After months of having people hit this page from searches for HD stretch I've decided to add this section. I wrote this for an update post, but that one never took hold with the search engines.

It seems that it is high in the results on Google when you search for... "HD stretch," go figure. Well, if you've reached this site looking for advice I apologize. You may feel heartened that I feel the same way about picture stretching that you probably do. Until the time that I take a deeper look into how to fix the issue, may I suggest the following:
  1. Try a more specific search, such as "brand [and model] hd stretch."
  2. Check your user manual or check if you lost your copy.
  3. Go to the AVS Forums and look around. If you need, ask about your problem there.
I'm sorry I can't be of more help. I hope you find a solution somewhere. If you do, post a comment telling others how. Maybe the next person to stumble by won't have to search as much.

And now, on to the original post...

I bought an HDTV last year. It was the largest entertainment purchase I've ever made. I had high hopes, and they've been met for the most part. HD content, DVDs, and even standard TV all look great. There is one caveat to HD, stretched content.

See, there are people who are willing to pay huge sums to get a better picture on their TV, yet they defy all logic and set the TV to stretch normal content. I was fine with this when I bought the TV, let those people watch 90% of the available content with atrocious distortion and horrible picture quality. I picked a TV that would show 4:3 content in its native aspect ratio, it displays black bars on either side but the actual content looks great.

Unfortunately, the predisposition to stretch content has wormed its way into the media. The more HD channels I watch the more apparent this is. Mostly commercials are stretched, but occasionally it's whole shows. This is unacceptable. Why pay to have HD content delivered only to get low definition content that is distorted to look worse than it originally did? Even when the upsampling is done well, stretching the content makes everything look odd.

What's the point anyway? Why would you sacrifice the image quality just to avoid some black bars? I suggest that these stations develop a tasteful graphic to show in the empty areas. I'd love to see some of them dedicate broadcasts to HD, instead of using the same stream downsampled for standard television. This way they could adjust their graphics, show station identification and show advertisements on the sides while keeping the content at its original quality. Advertisers should use this extra area to deliver more information so that they only have to make one version of the ad.

Happily, I'll never be on television. If I were, I'd hate to imagine myself stretched like that. At least my TV can display 16:9 content in 4:3 aspect, I once thought it was a useless feature