Super Bowl XXXIX in HD

On Sunday, February 6, 2005, the 39th annual pigskin pig-out known as the Super Bowl is scheduled to kick off, with the Philadelphia Eagles against the New England Patriots in Jacksonville, FL. The game has become one of the biggest reasons that people buy an HDTV (and one of the biggest selling points for retailers), and those who have taken the plunge will not be disappointed—as long as they can receive the HD signal. This year, the Super Bowl will be broadcast in 720p on the Fox network via terrestrial and cable channels. DirecTV will also carry the high-def signal, but only in markets where the Fox HD station is owned and operated by Fox (for example, Los Angeles, New York, and Philadelphia, but not San Francisco or Miami).

New this year is a high-def flying camera that normally provides a view from behind the quarterback or kicker. In the past, this camera has been standard-definition, leading many to complain that the picture kept switching between HD and SD, clearly revealing the drawbacks of SD and impacting the enjoyment of the game for those who shelled out big bucks for that big-screen HDTV. There will also be several "turf cams" buried in the field to provide a mole's-eye view of the action; these will most likely be standard-def. (Would you want to bury an expensive HD camera where it will be trampled by 250-pound linebackers?)

The signal will be encoded at a variable bit rate by the Fox network using statistical multiplexing, which allows smoother integration of local and national commercials. Speaking of which, those national commercials are almost as interesting as the game itself. The erectile-dysfunction drug Cialis is back with a new ad that will likely be toned down from last year's offering, which warned of the dangers of erections lasting more than four hours. This led to as many troubling questions from kids as Janet Jackson's bared breast during the 2004 halftime show.

And what can we expect from the halftime show this year? It's unlikely that Paul McCartney will experience a wardrobe malfunction, allowing everyone to rest easy that our morals will not be assailed again, at least during halftime. (The moral turpitude of Cialis commercials is another question.)

As in years past, UAV contributor Pete Putman will be hosting his annual Super Bowl HDTV Party at his home near Philadelphia. (Who do you suppose he'll be rooting for?) This year, he'll probably have more than 10 HD displays running, including 50-inch plasmas from Pioneer and Mitsubishi, a 42-inch plasma from V, Inc., and smaller LCD flat panels from LG and Dell, not to mention his Sony CRT front projector. There'll even be a projector firing onto the snow outside with a Silicon Optix Image AnyPlace processor correcting the geometry of the image! Most of the displays will be fed by HDTV receivers decoding the terrestrial signal picked up by various indoor and outdoor antennas from WTXF-42; some connections will be digital (DVI or HDMI), while the rest will be analog component. A few of the displays will get the signal from digital cable. All in all, it should be a memorable afternoon.