HDTV Goes Snowboarding

In the never ending quest to take over the world, Microsoft used the media dubbed “fastest growing winter sport” to make a promotional video with the latest in video technology, High Definition Television (HDTV). High definition television is a digital image capturing procedure that offers 1,125 lines per frame compared to the current 525 line technology, making the picture clearer, brighter, and almost 3-D.

Over the first few days in June Microsoft hired five northwest snowboarders to repeatedly huck off of a kicker at Mt. Bachelor and four surfers to slash some waves while the camera recorded the action. Since Snowboarding Online is a digital media, it seemed appropriate that we be on-hand to record what was going down. The film crew rolled in on Saturday afternoon looking like an entourage from Mission Impossible. A mini-semi loaded with cameras, an editing bay, and enough extension cord to run two football fields in length led the pack. As the swanky citified gang piled out of the vehicles, the ready and waiting snowboarders gawked. “This looks like a NASA operation or something,” said Andrew Crawford (the cover boy for the summer issue of Snowboarder). The huck cast included Morrow’s Crawford, Burton’s Marcus Egge and Tyler DeWilde, Sims pro Sabrina Sedeghi, and K2’s Heidi Nymark.

Saturday was a scouting day and Sunday was a shooting day for the snowboarding. Of course the northwest weather was behaving as it always does when a photo shoot is about to begin, it rained non-stop complete with lightening on Saturday. Fortunately on Sunday the weather decided to break up a bit and high, light clouds covered Bachelor on Sunday. The snow conditions were typically spring-like with dirty, sun-baked pock marks all down the slopes that softened to mashed potatoes by noon. The director of the video didn’t seem to worried about the dull conditions though. “Just wait until you see it,” he kept telling the riders. And after the filming the riders all huddled into the semi where the engineer played back the raw footage. Everyone seemed pretty amazed as the sounds and colors popped out bringing back to life the few hours of filming they had just done.

Filmer Randall Dark said he loved shooting the snowboarding for this video because it’s such a high-action sport. “Very few people get to be at an event where snowboarding is live. Shooting snowboarding in HD can get the viewer very close to understanding the feeling of snowboarding.”

While high definition television isn’t a new concept, it is constantly in the process of changing and the piece Microsoft was putting together was created to help sway important television decision makers that high definition should be the wave of the future. With HD the viewer can get a sense of being in the picture while the action is happening. HD users like Dark say that the current form of creates a bit of distance from the audience, which romanticizes the picture. HD provides a real feel bringing the viewer closer to the picture.

On Sunday after the snowboarding, the crew packed up and headed to the Oregon coast where the second part of the shoot would take place. Surfing is a more difficult sport to shoot because of the distance between the waves and the shore that is often present. Also, if the camera is off to the side of the waves ad a surfer heads away from the camera, the wave often gets in the way of the view between the surfer and the camera. The HD camera took care of the distance problem with an amazingly huge zoom lens that ggot so close the expressions on the surfers’ faces was visible.

In the case of sports, like surfing and snowboarding, it is often hard to capture the feeling of the activity because regular film is so flat and the motion of the activity blurs out the detail around the action. With HD, not only are colors and images brighter, but the viewer can actually see depth. When a snowboarder or surfer sprays some water or snow the elements around the rider are clear, and slow motion is as crisp and clear as more rapid movements. It’s difficult to understand HD because it isn’t really something being shown much on TV yet, but if Microsoft has their way, every home will have a high definition television in the next ten years. And if it really is as incredible as the early stages are making it look, there will be no reason to go to snowboard or surf events. Just have a seat in the living room, turn on the wide screen HDTV, crank the air conditioning to full blast, and experience the future of sports all from the comfort of your Laz-e-boy.