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TV Safe - A Thing Of The Past?

Published : 29th August 2004


Hello everyone!

After working with one of the BIG ad agencies for a week and having many many conversations [and little drawings on monitors and samples from ASC books..] I realize terms like 'action safe' and 'title safe' are never covered in any advertising school [which we all knew]....And, besides that, the question of whether we really NEED these framing guides in this day and age of high quality, raster to raster, LCD & wide-screen home television sets.

Should action & title safe be retired?

In the days of rounded picture tubes, where the chassis mask was a bit different from set to set and manufacturer to manufacturer, this was the only way to guarantee that important picture area be transmitted to everyone regardless of their set...but today's TV's may not need this safety factor.

What do you all think regarding this?

Should we push this one way or another?

Cheers,
Jeff Barklage, s.o.c.
US based DP
www.barklage.com



>whether we really NEED these framing guides in this day and age of >high quality, raster to raster, LCD & wide-screen home television sets. >Should action & title safe be retired?

If only it was the case! I have a digital wide-screen home television and I have help set up many others and unfortunately they all still cut off image area to different degrees. The modern sets are better and I consider action safe a sufficient guide for these. But when staying in hotels where they always have cheap and nasty TV sets I am amazed how much image is chopped off and title safe seems a better guide for these.

When making framing decisions my framing is biased to the 16:9 frame and I am happy to put action near the edges.(except TVC's) People with modern TV's and people with 16:9 sets care about images and people who own 20 year old sets or $300 cheapies care less. A terrible generalisation but when I make a framing call its the guide I use. I should qualify that framing close to the edges can bite you on the bum!

Many Thanks
Tom Gleeson
www.cinematography.net



Jeff Barklage writes :

>The question of whether we really NEED these framing guides in this >day and age of high quality, raster to raster, LCD & wide-screen home >television sets.

Are we certain that all flat-screen TVs display the entire image? A certain amount of masking by the front bezel is to be expected, as an alternative to close (hence, expensive) manufacturing tolerances.

>Should action & title safe be retired?


Maybe in another 15 years or so, when all but a few CRTs will have disappeared, cinema screen masking is digitally controlled to an astronomical degree of precision, and framing atrocities in general are punishable as crimes against art!

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA



I tend to still use safe action area, but use that as safe title :

If people have sets that are so bad that safe title comes into play then bollocks to them! They don't deserve to see all the picture anyway...

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based
www.cinematography.net



>If people have sets that are so bad that safe title comes into play then >bollocks to them! They don't deserve to see all the picture anyway

Agreed...I mean, it's $129 for a 27 inch color set at Wal-Mart these days...fork over and put the RCA 17 inch valve set out to pasture already. Fifty chest X-rays a month is a little over the top anyway.

Jeffery Haas
freelance editor, camera operator
Dallas, Texas



Geoff Boyle writes :

>If people have sets that are so bad that safe title comes into play then >bollocks to them! They don't deserve to see all the picture anyway

They certainly won't miss what they're not seeing. A friend who repairs TVs -- yes there still are people who do -- said he used to routinely adjust them to correct for over scanning. Now he leaves the scanning alone unless someone specifically asks. People complained he was making the Sitcom stars too small.

I was once fired from an operating job because the producer was watching the dailies on the TV in his hotel room.

I considered myself fortunate to get off that job early.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP



Brian Heller wrote :

>I was once fired from an operating job because the producer was >watching the dailies on the TV in his hotel room. I considered myself >fortunate to get off that job early.

Yikes! They probably judged color correction from that tv too!

Tom McDonnell
Director/DP
New Orleans, La



>I was once fired from an operating job because the producer was >watching the dailies on the TV in his hotel room. I considered myself >fortunate to get off that job early.

I think Greg Andracke used to carry a beat up Sony Trinitron to set every day if we were shooting on tape... - chroma too high, reds pumping, crappy DC restoration etc etc

He would use it as an additional reference on the grounds that "that's how the client is going to look at it."

Mark Weingartner
LA



Tom McDonnell writes :

>Yikes! They probably judged color correction from that tv too!

Oh, yeah. They fired the DP a couple of days later --everything looked orange back at the hotel -- and went through another operator or two. I believe they eventually replaced the producer. The new producer hired me back as 2nd Unit DP.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP



Brian Heller writes :

>I was once fired from an operating job because the producer was >watching the dailies on the TV in his hotel room.

Brian :

Where was your DP during this episode? Why did he/she not explain to the Producer the errors in watching dailies this way? Is it becoming SOP to let your subordinates swing in the wind so you can protect your position in the food chain?

What has happened to integrity in this business, especially with the worker bees? I am never surprised anymore by the stories I hear and that saddens me.

Sincerely,

John Sheeren
Camera Operator
1st AC
Houston, Texas



>I think Greg Andracke used to carry a beat up Sony Trinitron to set >every day if we were shooting on tape... - chroma too high, reds >pumping, crappy DC restoration etc etc

The Auratone - if not the NS10M - of video monitoring !

Not always the worst idea....(I used a Sears Silvertone TV in
not dissimilar fashion at one point)

Sam Wells



Jeff Barklage wrote :

>And, besides that, the question of weather we really NEED these >framing guides in this day and age of high quality, raster to raster, LCD >& wide-screen home television sets. Should action & title safe be >retired?

There's a short write up regarding safe action written by Dave Kenig of Panavision in the American Cinematographers Manual (Eight Edition). Here are some relevant tidbits pulled from the article :

"Recent statements to the effect that TV Safe is a thing of the past have been made. The logic put forth is that TV sets no longer have rounded corners, TV sets are more accurate because they have solid state electronics...None of these statements are true with regards to TV Safe Action."

"All conventional (picture tube) television receivers and monitors, no matter how sophisticated, have a property called overscan...Modern TV sets exhibit anywhere from 8 to 12% overscan depending on brand and manufacturing tolerances. In fact, TV set overscan has not improved much since the first scientific survey conducted in 1957...

"The TV Transmitted area represents the area of the picture that the TV station broadcasts. This is also the area that is transferred or scanned in the telecine session by the transfer facility...Note that while all telecine houses and broadcasters map to the TV transmitted area, the monitor or receiver in the home will still cut off as much as 10% of the picture. For this reason, it is necessary for the cinematographer to have the TV Safe Action area in the finder to be aware of the consequences of overscan."

Interesting thoughts there...also there is a SMPTE specification for 1.33 safe action/title (SMPTE Recommended Practice, RP 27.3-1989). As far as I know there has yet to be a specification for safe action for the 1.78 frame. Obviously with plasma and LCD monitors the overscan tolerance is tighter than with a tube...But until everyone has $5000 (US) to go by one we're still largely stuck with tubes. So conventional wisdom seems to be that as long as tube technology is around it is prudent to continue framing for safe action 5% (each side...or 10% overall) below the aperture dimension.

My two cents worth...

Dominic H. White
New York
[DIRECTOR][EDITOR]



John Sheeren writes:

>Brian Heller writes : Where was your DP during this episode?

>Why did he/she not explain to the Producer the errors in watching >dailies this way?


The kindest thing I can say is that he wasn't a bad guy and had his own problems to deal with. He was not at all familiar with the potential pitfalls of video dailies.

By the time we figured out what the root cause of the problem was, it was too late. The word came down that the producer was very upset with the framing. I went to the office in the hotel and went to his suite where he personally wanted to show me why I was being replaced. I said something to the effect that if I had framed shots that way I should be fired, but that he was not seeing what was being shot. He wasn't a bad guy, he just did not know the difference between a TV set and a monitor and couldn't believe that a TV could be off by so much. The cross hairs extended out of the picture screen. It was impressive.

My parting words to him was that he didn't have to take anyone's word for it. Just get some film dailies and see for himself.

BTW, the DP was replaced a couple of days later. The producer said that everything looked orange -- which it did when viewed on his TV.

>Is it becoming SOP to let your subordinates swing in the wind so you >can protect your position in the food chain?

There is certainly a great deal of that going on, but I honestly don't think that was the case in this situation. It was merely ignorance. The producer was genuinely afraid that everything was going to have to be reshot. Of course, everything was fine.

>What has happened to integrity in this business, especially with the >worker bees?

I'm not sure that I would want to use the film business -- at any time -- as an example of integrity in action...

>I am never surprised anymore by the stories I hear and that saddens >me.

I'm afraid as things become more and more complicated, and more and studios are being run by cost accountants and people who have no clue about the process, this is a fact of life we are going to have to live with for a while. I wish I had better news.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP



In contradiction to what has been said on this topic, I still use TV safe as my MAIN framing guide when shooting for TV, albeit a square one, not the one with rounded corners.

I obviously protect and have a keen eye on the TVtrans section of the ground glass and it gives me one advantage : Most directors & agency people tend to like the framing a little tighter than my personal tastes and once told that the TV safe line is the one to watch (which it is in at least 90% of the screens that the work will be viewed) I hardly hear “a little tighter” anymore, thus getting closer to the framing that I like in the end result.

It sure would be nice to have a clearly defined frame reference but the reality is there hasn't been one for the small screen since its inception...

My 2 cents

Florian Stadler, D.P., L.A.
www.florianstadler.com



Brian :

Thank you for filling in the blanks. Take care.

Sincerely,

John Sheeren
Camera Operator
1st AC
Houston, Texas



Sam Wells writes :

>The Auratone - if not the NS10M - of video monitoring!


Sam's reference is to the Auratone loudspeaker, an 8" cube which many mixing engineers use as a reference for how their mix will sound on cheap speakers. IMHO, Auratones actually sound WORSE than most cheap speakers...but at least they're consistent...whereas cheap TVs are a crapshoot, with the emphasis on the "crap."

The Yamaha NS-10s are the "Trinitron TVs" of near-field monitoring (near-field = close up, so room acoustics are minimized). I think they sound worse than Trinitrons look, but the industry swears by 'em.

YMMV.

Dan "compassionately opinionated" Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA



>He would use it as an additional reference on the grounds that "that's >how the client is going to look at it."

My favourite is explaining why the company's logo on the commercial tag doesn't match the Pantone colour when viewed off-air in the client's den.

Naturally, the same client doesn't notice that the TV station has dubbed the spot with the levels completely out of whack so the blacks are at 15% and the flesh tones are purple....

George Hupka
Director/DP
Downstream Pictures
Saskatoon, Canada



An earlier survey of the displayed area on home television receivers is "Report on Home Receiver Image Area Test" by Roland J. Zavada, SMPTE Journal, April 1974, Volume 83, pp. 304-316

As a young Kodak engineer and member of the SMPTE, I helped compile the data for this published survey of 5,948 home televisions, volunteering through the Rochester Section SMPTE.

John Pytlak
Eastman Kodak Company
http://www.kodak.com/go/motion



In following the thread on Safe Title and Safe Action one thing surprised me - I didn't notice any mention of delivery specifications. All networks have published specifications and most will QC programs before acceptance (and more importantly - payment). If the material that's shot doesn't meet specs (we're only referring to safe area in this regard) then it is usually bounced back to the post house where they will "fix" it via a DVE.

Rich Torpey
VP Engineering
Rhinoceros/MultiVideo Group
50 East 42 Street
New York, NY 10017



Don't know if the US has on-line specifications, but the EBU is very good in publishing their technical specifications:

http://www.ebu.ch/en/technical/publications/Tech_3000_series/index.php

John Pytlak
Eastman Kodak Company
http://www.kodak.com/go/motion