The Journey of a TV Spot from Production to Broadcast (Part 3)

Back to our journey…

6) The production company compresses the digital file per the specifications of DGFastChannel and/or Cox Spot Express and uploads the heavily compressed file into DGFastChannel’s upload system and/or into Cox Spot Express spot upload system.

7) DGFastChannel and/or Cox Spot Express receives the compressed TV spot from the production company per their file specifications. Once the digital file is received, a confirmation is sent to the production company. At this point, quality control of the spot is completely out of the hands of the production company.

DGFastChannel and/or Cox Spot Express then and do a quality control check of the digital file to make sure it was successfully uploaded, however in our experience the quality check is sometimes done and sometimes not, at the discretion of DGFastChannel and/or Spot Express. The spot is then digitally distributed to the stations where a media buy has been placed by the advertising agency.

8) DGFastChannel sends the spot to the TV stations included in the media buy. Cox Spot Express loads the spot into their servers per the media buy.

9) If the TV commercial is to be broadcast on network stations:

The television stations receive the spot from DGFastChannel. Each station has a different system requiring a specific digital file type in order to work in their system. In many cases a television station may not be able to use the digital file type provided by DGFastChannel so the station may transcode (re-compress) the file to yet another format that is compatible with their servers. This is another possible point at which the TV commercial may be compressed yet again, reducing quality. Once the spot has been transcoded to a file type that will work in the station’s system, it is loaded into the stations’ servers and broadcast per the media buy.

10) If the TV spot is to be broadcast on cable:

The cable company loads the spot onto their servers, but there’s another gauntlet your commercial must pass thru before it reaches the consumer’s TV set.

Cable companies have a limited amount of data they can send down the cable to your home. If they want to add more stations to their cable service, they have a problem; how to send more data down a wire with finite capacity? They way they get around this challenge is to remove some data going down the wire to make room for more data. You guessed it, they compress their entire feed! So now your TV spot has been compressed yet again! While this saves the cable company money, it makes the TV spot lose even more quality.

11) Finally, the TV spot arrives at the consumer’s flat screen television set. It has been significantly compressed up to three times, each time losing quality. Now the TV spot must endure one last quality degrading process; flat screen TV sets are designed to display large HD video. SD video is much smaller in size than HD so it must be enlarged to fit the flat screen TV. When SD video is enlarged, it looks worse. For example, have you ever taken a digital photograph and blown it up really big? If so, you’d have noticed that the more you enlarge it, the worse it looks. Same thing happens when you enlarge SD video; the more you enlarge it, the worse it looks. In addition, the TV set has two options on how to display the SD TV spot; it can either display the TV spot with black bars on either side of the spot (pillar boxing) but the spot won’t fill the entire screen, or it can stretch the spot out wide and fill the whole screen, however when it stretches the TV spot out wide, it distorts the video. Another (!) quality degradation.

In Part Four we’ll look at the end of your spot’s journey.

By: Earworks Media

2 thoughts on “The Journey of a TV Spot from Production to Broadcast (Part 3)

    • Hi Kathy, thanks for your question. I wrote this a couple of years ago now so things have changed. But even when I wrote this, the TV stations in our market (ranked 38th at the time) had stopped accepting tape and would only accept a digital file per their specs, and each station had different specs. And all of their digital video file specs required compression beyond belief which resulted in a very crappy looking video on the air. In our market things have improved, but I can’t speak for other markets.