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Report Card for The First NHL Game In HDTV - Grade: B Print E-mail
Friday, 05 October 2001
The first NHL game in HDTV was broadcast last night (October 4, 2001) with an amazing 1080I picture. Keeping in mind that the format of HDTV is just really starting to take off, this broadcast was very significant to sports fans (at least the ones with the most high tech TVs) all around the country tuned into Channel 199 on DirecTV to watch the action between the LA Kings and the Phoenix Coyotes. The picture quality was spectacular. I was truly impressed by the color accuracy, lack of motion artifacts and the amazing resolution and detail. What was most concerning were the abnormal camera angles. NHL hockey games have traditionally been shot so that the viewer sees most of the game from the perspective of someone sitting at center ice, 20 rows above the player bench. The HDTV broadcast last night as well as the Dallas Stars playoff coverage on the HDNet demo loop were predominantly shot from high above each team’s goal.

The cameras were forced to zoom in but they never had the correct, or perhaps most familiar, camera angles that we are used to as dedicated hockey fans. It seemed as if the cameras could never get close enough to the action to maximize the excitement of the game. There were alternate HDTV cameras positioned closer to the action and the director used those when possible but at this point, the NTSC cameras seem to have the best locations locked up for their broadcasts. It will be interesting to see if the HDTV cameras for the next 64 NHL games in HDTV will be able to claim better real estate depending on the arena that the game is shot at.

Other notable elements of the broadcast include very few TV commercials. Seemingly, ad agencies haven’t created spots for the new HDTV format and HDNet hasn’t been able to sell other advertisers on running traditional 480I 4:3 ads on the HDTV broadcast. I’d expect to see more HDTV and converted NTSC ads as we get further into the HDNet schedule of sporting and pre-recorded events.

While HDNet had access to the Fox Sports audio commentary and some of the live interviews, the HDNet broadcast was lacking any significant intermission show between the two periods. The first intermission actually included HDTV close ups of "Mites On Ice" featuring two teams of nine year olds skating around on the Staples Center ice during intermission. While one could argue that this type of coverage makes you feel like you were "at the game", I would have preferred to have the Fox Sports intermission wrap up so I could get the scores from the other games around the league.

For a first attempt, the first NHL game in HDTV must be considered to be a success. Could it have been better? Surely. Will it get better soon? I’d bet on it. Was the game good enough to inspire you to go out and buy an HDTV? Damn straight. AudioRevolution.com readers, ready that platinum card. It is time to buy a new TV!

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