TV TECH; HDTV: SCAN THIS!

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High-definition TV is not new. In fact, it's been mired in political gridlock for so long that many agency folk have cast it out of their universes as something to be worried about another day. "Except for some cutting edge shops, everyone is waiting to be dragged to the dance," says C. Texas East, co-director of broadcast production at Ogilvy & Mather/New York. "People are concentrating on day-to-day production, and clients are not really thinking forward about where we're going to be. It's not viewed as being top of the agenda."

But maybe it should be.

Here's why. The government has mandated that on Nov. 1, 1998, some stations in the Top 10 markets simulcast a digital signal alongside their NTSC signals. In 2007, after consumers have had ample time to buy digital sets, analog broadcasting will cease.

On the other hand, there is no requirement to broadcast in the high-def format. For each slice of bandwidth required to broadcast high-def, networks could instead choose to broadcast four channels of standard definition content, or two channels of content and two channels of digital goodies -- Web TV, stock quotes, even paging services. Most, however, have said that some HD content is being planned. But there are still so many questions to be resolved that few take the November debut date very seriously.

How do you keep up on all of this? Follow the money, says Barry Rebo, founder of Rebo Studios, North America's first HD production studio. Watch the TV manufacturers, a group that stands to make billions from the conversion. For the latest, check out www.e-town.com or www.cemacity.org.

The National Association of Broadcasters (www.nab.org) is another group that bears watching. As for government rules and regulations, see the Advanced Television Systems Committee (www.atscg.org) site, which includes all technical properties of the new transmission standards. For production and postproduction issues, the Telecine Internet group (www.alegria.com/ tig3/archives.html) covers the front end of commercial production and boasts a very professional discussion group. And, of course, talk to post houses like The Tape House and Post Perfect who are already starting to convert to HD.

Despite the confusion, most anyone who's seen even a sliver of HD is enthused. But after so much footdragging, a mild trepidation seems to have set in. "I think the new format is going to be exciting, especially for directors, copywriters and art directors," says Buzz Warren, deputy director of broadcast production at Grey Advertising/New York. "I'm only concerned that with all of the hype of HD, if the stations and cable people don't step up and deliver this

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