I spent a goodly portion of the New Years holiday weekend watching football (yes, football) and some way-cool outdoor ice hockey on ESPN HD and FOX HD. When we switched back to good ol' analog ABC to view another game, I thought my eyes weren't working right. The screen was all jagged with compression artifacts, the graphics were illegible. I could see blobs moving around the screen, but couldn't tell if they were linebackers or amoebas.
And then, I tuned in tonight to CNN's coverage of the Iowa caucuses on their CNN HD channel.
Even at 480i, every mole, every zit, every drop of spittle on the faces of Wolf Blitzer, Jack Cafferty, Bill Schneider and the rest of the motley middle-aged broadcast crew were rendered in breathtaking detail.
And these were the people slathered in professional makeup jobs, their most outstanding flaws painstakingly hidden from the public eye. The poor folks caucusing away in their midwestern homes, schools and granaries didn't have the same benefit. Howard Dean looked pretty rough too, beamed in live from the DNC dirigible droning in orbit around Des Moines.
That begs the question - do I really want to see the sparkling detail Anderson Cooper's lazy eye, or the voluminous folds of Cafferty's saggy eyelids? And further, what does this mean for broadcaster wannabes of the future?
I predict that when HD becomes the standard (in 2009) we'll have to replace our current fleshy talking heads with porcelain skinned, perfectly coiffed animatronic doppelgängers - otherwise we'll never be able to eat pizza while watching the 10 o'clock news without running the risk of gagging on our pepperoni when the camera pans across to the sports guy's herpes flare up.
Note: I guess I'll find out how bad us normal folk look when I get my own turn on the high-def screen in a few months.