I was a skeptic at first. We got the 46 inch LCD TV for Christmas but I was utterly indifferent to High Definition. It sounded like a snow-job to me. But Aaron insisted, so we got the new box and set up the new connection. Within seconds, I was hooked. Not since Gillette's Mach 3 and the iPod have I been as impressed with a new technology. You think it will look better - but not that much better. The best way I can express this is: It is as if they took the lens off the camera.
If you're into sports, it's a must (I'm not). My own guilty pleasure is the Discovery Channel, National Geographic television, and other nature shows. I loved them before HDTV; but now they're astonishing. The clarity that allows you to see nature as if you were there, in your own living room, is a window onto the entire world. I watched a broadcast from the Space Station, to take a simple example. I've seen plenty of TV from space before, but always as if through a blizzard or a fuzzy lens. The image always made space seem somewhere else entirely, a different dimension, unlike anything on earth. but HDTV changes all that. To see someone floating without gravity as if they were in front of you creates a whole new perspective on what space travel is actually like. It makes it real - for the first time in human history. If I were NASA, I'd do nothing but get HD images from space to the American public. It would reignite enthusiasm for space exploration.
But my favorite is a Discovery On Demand channel, which has a series called "Sunrise Earth." Yeah, I know what you're thinking. Put down the bong. But you need no bong to be entranced by the simplicity of the series. It takes the highest quality video cameras around the world and captures 50-minute scenes of the dawn in a variety of spots on this water-planet. There is no narration; no music; just natural sounds. Here's one review:
When seen in vivid, crystal-clear HDTV, the effect is hypnotic. Few viewers will fail to have an impulse to immediately book a flight to join the fun. After watching last night's program on the Cadillac Mountains at the Acadia National Park in Maine, I quickly checked my work schedule for vacation dates. When seen in high-def, the burnt orange skies lingering over the Maine mountains was enough to make me forget, well, nearly everything.
Again, like Kubrick's "Dawn of Man," Sunrise Earth lets the high-def pictures do the talking. There is no narrator getting in the way; only an occasional graphic reveals the location and the time of day. It's a powerful technique. By eliminating the human altogether, Sunrise Earth makes you feel like what you're seeing could be what you would have seen hundreds of years ago. It's nature unplugged.
I've become obsessed with three so far: the town square in a Cambodian village with a Buddhist temple, as the monks chant in a new day; an Icelandic waterfall; and the foothills of a Turkish mountain range, dotted with Roman ruins. However stressed your day, this devastatingly simple project soothes the soul. It's a video version of the Dish's Views From your Window, a reminder that however grim things look, the earth turns, the sun rises, and nature endures.
(Photo: David Conover, series director and photographer, on the River Li.)