Bye bye to analogue TV

Analogue TV has been shut off in most parts of Australia in the last few months.

Sydney was yesterday morning, and one enterprising bloke managed to record the last moments of all five stations. Have a watch, it’s great. Note Channel 7 (top right) which actually marked it by playing an old animation. The others just went blank as if in some horror movie:

Channel 7 also made an effort when their Brisbane analogue signal ended back in May:

Melbourne makes the final switch-off next Tuesday at 9am.

I assume most people have switched already, and thankfully the household assistance package has meant people shouldn’t get left behind.

The extra channels should have been motivation enough for most of us. And the government’s motivation? Lots of revenue from selling off the old analogue spectrum.

The big question will be when we start to get more high definition (HD) channels. Will there be another switch date in the future when standard definition equipment is no longer supported? How many SD-only setups are out there, who can’t get ABC News 24, 7Mate, and GEM?

Oh and by the way, if you’re culling the duplicate channels in your tuner, you might like to know that SBS HD and SBS1 are not actually identical. SBS HD usually shows SBS1, but sometimes shows SBS2 for movies and sport and other programming that benefits from HD.

Only one thing puzzles me about the big digital switchover — why does officialdom call the old system “analog”, US spelling without the ue?

Update 10/12/2013:

Melbourne shut down, all channels:

Channel 7, which marked the occasion with archival footage:

Mad As Hell episode synopses getting pretty weird (here’s all of them for this year so far)

Those who have been paying attention might have noticed that the episode synopses for Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell (seen for instance in the Electronic Programme Guide on most TVs) have been getting weirder and weirder.

Courtesy of the ABC TV web site, here’s a summary of them this year so far (including the next couple of weeks’):

Mad As Hell episode synopsisEpisode 01:

Shaun Micallef is BACK and he’s MADDER than HELL. We really should have changed the name but it’d cost us a FORTUNE in letterheads and we’d have to change the show GRAPHICS which also runs into MONEY. Anyway, he’s back FOR A SECOND SERIES – that’s the POINT. And THIS TIME he KNOWS what he’s DOING (slightly).

Nominated for an AACTA and HAILED by Fairfax Media as the ’20th WORST show ON Australian TELEVISION.

Episode 02:

When Shaun’s racist neighbour Mr. Grealy invites him over to eat some Japanese, Shaun doesn’t know how to take it.

Episode 03:

When Francis asks Shaun if he can change a word in one of the scripts, Shaun kills him.

Episode 04:

A convention for people named ‘Peter’ goes horribly wrong when Shaun is mistakenly invited. And hydrochloric acid starts streaming from the sprinkler system.

Episode 05:

Mongoose. Winter is closing in. It is not safe. Go into hibernation. Further instructions to follow. Cobra.

Episode 06:

Yo! Join Kook and the Bambino tomorrow morning at 7am on 103.6 Smash FM for your chance to win $10 playing Puzzling Noise.

Episode 07:

Voula, if you are watching this, I am so sorry babe. Please do not let the trust we have built up over the last two weeks go to waste just because I screwed another chick. Call me? Stav.

Episode 08:

Winning numbers in Tatts’ Everybody Wins Lotto Draw No. 001: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39 and 40.

Episode 09:

There’s a vampire loose in Las Vegas. No one believes or wants to believe it’s true. The police can’t stop him, people are dying, no one’s safe. How do you kill what’s already dead?

Not live, from studio 13 at Gordon Street

A little while ago I bought myself the Collected Shaun Micallef — a box set of numerous shows of his, including The Micallef P(r)ogram(me). The kids and I have been watching our way through it.

I remembered that I had gone to a recording of the show, but had no idea which episode it was. The other night it became very obvious that it had been the final episode of season 2 — in a sketch parodying The Price Is Right, there I was, in the audience.

In the audience at The Micallef Programme, 1999

Coincidentally last night we went to a recording of one of Shaun’s current series — Mad As Hell. We arrived about 5pm, and around half-an-hour later were let into a waiting area, then into the studio itself, with recording starting at about 6pm. With stops and starts and gaffs aplenty, it took until about 8pm to record the half-hour show.

It’ll air tonight.

Mad As Hell studio recording

Most unintentionally amusing moment: after numerous warnings to go to the toilet before recording started, the warm-up guy asked if there were any final questions before beginning, only to be faced with one gentleman piping up: “Is there time to urinate?” — he was whisked off to do so.

Best moment you won’t see on-screen: an audience member who is a musician from Morocco (who has just emigrated) being invited onto stage to play a guitar they’d found. He played a North African song which (if I got this right) is about a bloke who pays a dowry for a wife but is dudded by the father (who has dudded many suitors) and ends up alone.

I don’t think there were any shots of the audience filmed for the show, but the warm-up guy took a photo of part of the audience. I’m up the back, a blurry blob in the dark, waving.

Mad As Hell audience

Lots of fun… apparently they still need audiences for later in the season.

Every bomb you make / Every job you take

I’d forgotten this. A version of The Police’s stalker song Every Breath You Take — with new lyrics written by the Spitting Image team and sung by Sting. (Don’t be put off by Youtube’s preview frame — it’s not just a credits roll.)

There is some good stuff loosely in this genre these days, but I’m not sure we’ve got the level of no-holds-barred satire that Spitting Image and even our own Gillies Report provided.

Here’s a thought: even if Apartheid were still around, would they be able to broadcast Never Met A Nice South African now?

Current earworm: The Professionals theme

Who remembers The Professionals? I for one was hooked on this as a teenager, despite it being, as Martin Shaw described it, a one-dimensional show.

It was a major inspiration for the amateur action video series “STRIKE” which I helped on in high school.

It’s amusing to look back on the original Professionals title sequence now — perhaps the frame rate or other artefacts in Youtube make it look particularly cartoon-like, but it’s not hard to see why they changed it:

From season two it was re-done to this more well-known (and I think markedly better) title sequence — and I suspect re-edited into most season one episodes as well:

The music is very 70s, isn’t it. Now I have it as an earworm.

For Profesionals fans, check this different version, which include Gordon Jackson/George Cowley introducing the premise of the show… perhaps this was the export version, a bit like non-UK versions of recent Doctor Who episodes have included an introduction from Amy.

Pre-Professionals, there’s also this scene from the New Avengers, which featured Martin Shaw and Lewis Collins working together before they appeared as Bodie and Doyle.

DVD vs Blu-Ray picture quality

I never quite believed I’d see much of the difference between DVD and Blu-Ray on an 80cm (32 inch) TV. But with brand-name Blu-Ray players now below $100, and releases such as the complete set of Star Wars movies out on Blu-Ray, this past Christmas seemed like the right time to jump in and try it.

One of the presents I got was the Blu-Ray of Tron: Legacy, which also included the original Tron movie. Since I already had the DVD of the former, I’m able to compare the DVD against the Blu-Ray versions.

The scene from Flynn’s arcade had a lot more detail on the Blu-Ray, but you can’t really see it in a photo, so I won’t post it here. Jeremy and I looked carefully at this scene and were able to identify the names on some of the machines, for instance, which is impossible using the DVD.

More stark is the difference in this shot from the lightcycles scene, first on DVD:
Tron: Lightcycles on DVD
(See it bigger)

…and on Blu-Ray:
Tron: Lightcycles on Blu-Ray
(See it bigger)

There’s a lot more contrast in this scene on the Blu-Ray version. I think it’s not just a format question, it’s also that they’ve taken a lot more care in remastering the video. But the resolution being better also undoubtedly helps, and this is particularly noticeable (on the TV, perhaps not in the photos) with the grid lines.

Things to keep in mind:

  • The DVD was from before the sequel movie was made, and it’s entirely possible that not a great deal of care was taken in the mastering. In comparison it appears they took a lot of care on the Blu-Ray version. It’s entirely possible that the current edition DVD is better.
  • These comparisons were snapped off my TV with a camera, with the blinds drawn to reduce light. The snapshots were not taken under ideal conditions. (I don’t currently have any Blu-Ray drives in a computer, so I’m unable to grab a Blu-Ray image directly.) As noted above, it’s difficult to convey the difference seen on the TV in a photo.
  • I’ve used the freeze frame, which may impact the picture.

There’s no denying the higher quality of Blu-Ray, even on an 80cm screen.

Question is, which movies or TV would I consider worthy of upgrade, and at what cost? I can’t see myself shelling how lots of money for discs of movies I already own. But for future purchases, I’d certainly lean towards the newer format if the price is not prohibitive.

(I did find The Life Of Brian on Blu-Ray, with lots of extras, for $8 yesterday at K-Mart.)

How to get ABC iView on your Samsung television

Samsung TV ABC iViewI’d heard ages ago that there was a Samsung ABC iView app in the works. It’s now out, but some kind of screw-up means it’s visible to newer (2011) Samsung television owners, but not owners of last year’s models.

Thanks to wiser people than me on the ABC iView forums, here’s how you do it, by changing the TV’s country and thus getting it to re-install the default apps:

(Note: take care here; this is at your own risk. As noted in the comments, MitH had problems with this after misreading the instructions. If things go wrong, you may need to contact Samsung support.)

1. Start @Internet TV

2. Press Fast-Forward, 2, 8, 9, Rewind. Leave about half-a-second between each button press and it should go to a menu that allows you to choose the country.

3. Choose something other than Australia. Go through the terms and conditions and wait for it to install the default apps for that country.

4. Do steps 2 and 3 again but this time choose Australia.

You should find the ABC iView app has appeared.

Samsung TV ABC iView

Yes, it’d be nice if it just appeared automagically on its own. Perhaps Samsung just aren’t publicising it yet, getting ready for some big launch.

I’ve played around with it, and it looks excellent. The navigation is never going to be as easy as via a computer, and unfortunately it’s not on iiNet’s free zone, but it’s much nicer to be able to watch programmes on the couch than sitting by the computer.

There’s only one puzzling thing: why do the Internet@TV apps (any of them) occasionally refuse to start, citing “Network interference”?

It’s not wireless interference, as I’ve got a LAN cable plugged into the back of my TV. It doesn’t seem to kick-in when there’s particularly high usage of our internet connection.

Just one of those mysteries; something I’ll investigate further as I get time.

What does WTFN stand for? (Keep it clean)

When their logo pops up on the telly at the end of some production, I often wonder what, if anything, WTFN stands for.

Their offices in Hawthorn East have the logo above the entrance.

WTFN?

Any suggestions welcome. But keep it clean.

(If the photo looks distorted, it’s because I took it from the tram zooming past. The original picture looks even more skewed, proving that my new phone may be rather nifty, but like the old one it has issues with objects moving sideways at speed.)