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Television Media

Trimming Television to Sell More Ads 536

gambit3 writes: "Tech TV has an article about a device called a "Digital Time Machine", that does something called "Time Trimming", which is basically a way to cut single frames from different scenes in TV programs, which, over the course of a 30 minute program, can add up to 30 seconds, which is, incidentally, the perfect length to add ANOTHER commercial."
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Trimming Television to Sell More Ads

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  • by sulli ( 195030 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @10:51PM (#2911657) Journal
    It compresses the audio, taking out blank space, to fit in between 30 sec - 2 min an hour. Rush Limbaugh among others have blasted it for ruining the listener's experience.
    • Huh? Why wouldn't Limbaugh like it? It's obviously useful for increasing profits for big business, something no real conservative could argue with.
      • by SomeoneYouDontKnow ( 267893 ) on Monday January 28, 2002 @12:04AM (#2911939)

        There are several reasons he doesn't like it. First, in order for it to work, the program has to be buffered into the machine, which means it isn't live anymore. Second, listeners complained that it was too hard to listen to because natural pauses are eliminated.

        Also, it wasn't his network that was doing it; it was individual radio stations, at least that's my understanding.

      • Probably a troll, but I'll bite. "Real conservatives" do not have increasing business profits as their primary goal. Real conservatives stand for limited government and individual freedom as described in the Constitution. Sometimes (ok, often) conservative politicians will get bought by lobbyists and support anti-freedom initiatives like the DMCA, but exactly the same is true of liberals.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Cashbox [], actually.
    • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Monday January 28, 2002 @12:41AM (#2912049)
      Rush Limbaugh among others have blasted it for ruining the listener's experience.

      <audio style="rush-limbaugh-voice">

      Rush Limbaugh doesn't like it. Folks, I can't believe the... the... the.. gall this guy has. People, I can't emphasize this enough: The radio stations are there to make money for Clear Channel stockholders, not as some charity to provide the best possible experience for Rush's listeners.

      Look, folks, if Rush doesn't want this technology applied to his show, he's free to negotiate a contract with the radio stations that enforces his wishes. Anybody in this great country of ours can negotiate any contract they want. I hope that he's not going to try to get the government weenies at the FCC to meddle with the radio stations' livelyhoods.

      Sheesh. Sometimes, I just don't know. We'll be back after this...

      <riff genre="80's rock">


      • by osgeek ( 239988 ) on Monday January 28, 2002 @01:51AM (#2912237) Homepage Journal
        You seem to be trying to point out some kind of hypocrisy in Rush's position - that he has no right to complain because a business is trying to make money.

        His complaining is no hypocrisy. Now if he sought the creation of some kind of government program to remedy a free market assault on the quality of his show - that would be hypocrisy.
      • by gnovos ( 447128 ) <gnovos.chipped@net> on Monday January 28, 2002 @02:49AM (#2912385) Homepage Journal
        People, I can't emphasize this enough: The radio stations are there to make money for Clear Channel stockholders, not as some charity to provide the best possible experience for Rush's listeners.

        Any other medium, I would agree, but those airwaves belong to the people, friend. If they are going to take them away from us, they had better provide a little quality...
      • Let's apply the Cashbox time-shrinking algorithms and see what we end up with here...

        <audio style="rush-limbaugh-voice" mime-type="cashbox-audio-compressed>
        RushLimbaughdoesn'tlikeit.Folks,Ican'tbelievethe .t he.thegallthisguyhas.People,Ican'temphasizethiseno ugh:TheradiostationsaretheretomakemoneyforClearCha nnelstockholders,notassomecharitytoprovidethebestp ossibleexperienceforRush'slisteners.Look,folks,ifR ushdoesn'twantthistechnologyappliedtohisshow,he'sf reetonegotiateacontractwiththeradiostationsthatenf orceshiswishes.Anybodyinthisgreatcountryofourscann egotiateanycontracttheywant.Ihopethathe'snotgoingt otrytogetthegovernmentweeniesattheFCCtomeddlewitht heradiostations'livelyhoods.Sheesh.Sometimes,Ijust don'tknow.We'llbebackafterthis.

        <riff genre="80's rock" rpm="45">

    • by DiveX ( 322721 ) <> on Monday January 28, 2002 @01:48AM (#2912230) Homepage
      Another techniques used by radio broadcasters is to speed up music by 3-4%. This over time gives a lot more room for more commercials or even more songs (since many stations promote X number of songs per hour).

      One poster mentioned that this could be used on commercials, thus giving space for more commercials, but this technique would not be allowed. The contracts (at least those that I have seen) stipulate that such measures cannot be taken during their commercials, but that is not usually the case for music.

      I worked in the IT department of a local radio network that owned several local stations (I left when Clear Channel bought them out) for a couple of years.
  • Yea! (Score:2, Funny)

    by soupforare ( 542403 )
    Let's degrade the already not-that-great video quality from broadcast television!
    Though, I suppose it won't matter in a few years when we all have HDTV over DSL and a free DMCA Skullfucker 4000 Market-Reaving Device free in the box

    ::hugs his LDs and shortwave::

    • ...when we all have HDTV...

      Taking a cue from all those advertisements that have been chopping the bottoms off the screen and overwriting part of the action with a semi-transparent channel logo I hereby predict:

      When HDTV arrives with its wide aspect ratio, old style TV programs that do not expand to such a wide panorama will be buttressed with sideways letterbox format, which will rapidly be filled with advertisements.

      Remember, you read it on Slashdot first!

  • Its an application of inter-frame interpolation. They've been doing it for years.

    Everytime you watch a movie and it starts with that little stop watch symbol next to text that says something like "This movie has been modified for time" its in use.
    • Re:Yep nothing new (Score:5, Interesting)

      by thogard ( 43403 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @11:07PM (#2911737) Homepage
      The time modifed means they may have cut out entire scenes.

      Many years ago you would offten find M*A*S*H running at one of the time slots between the 5:00 and 6:30 news. The reason is that it had so many sub plots they could cut out huge amounts of it. It started out as a 30 minute show and I've seen it run in 1/2 that. I was told that a TV station would get the show from the distributers, it would be sorted by run lenght and so if they ran the news over by 7.5 minutes, they could go pull out a shortend show and then they would be back in time for the all importaint 7:00 primetime network slots. This became very clear when they showed the same epposide two days in a row and they were different cuts.
    • Re:Yep nothing new (Score:4, Informative)

      by Spoh ( 241279 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @11:14PM (#2911768)
      Not true.

      When you see that "This film has been formatted to fit this screen and edited both for content and to run in the time allotted," the editing to run in the time alotted is not done through some mystical automatic process; it is done by humans deciding which pieces of a film will be cut. Although frames can be trimmed, the removal of words, sentences, and even whole scenes is much more common.

      The only "inter-frame interpolation" that occurs in the broadcast of a movie takes place in the conversion of a movie from 24fps to 29.75fps (or 25fps) for playback in NTSC or PAL. This process (called 3:2 or 24:1 pulldown) does not affect the running time of the content.

      For what it's worth, I'm a broadcast editor.

  • No one these days has enough time to do anything they want to do anyway... why not do something useful with that 30 seconds? Perhaps this means you'll be able to get more done during commercial breaks now. The whole point of the system is that you won't notice if the show is made 30 seconds shorter anyway... so will you?

    Or, you could just not watch TV and gain 1/2 and whole hours at a time!
    • It is the principle. Do we really need another ad? You seem to be taking the "there's a silver lining to every cloud" or "look on the bright side" mentality. If we keep looking on the bright side of all these stupid ideas, we'll break our necks trying to find a bright side soon enough.
    • by 1010011010 ( 53039 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @11:20PM (#2911787) Homepage
      What pisses me off is that Fox went to all the trouble to pay for Futurama and The Simpsons, and then they keep running the "NFL Postgame" over the Groening time slots. Sometimes they "join the program already in progress," i.e., roll the last scene and credits for the show that "Howie" has blathered over for 25 minutes. Retarded. Shut up, Howie. We all saw the game already.

      The one hour of TV I want to see during the week, and they fill it with redundant lip-flapping that contains no new information. Fucking football.
  • Just what we need. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Restil ( 31903 )
    Isn't 33% of the showtime for commercials enough already? I guess not.

    So which frames are they cutting, and do they plan to cut the audio too? I suppose during moments of intense silence, cutting a 24/th of a second of audio won't be a big problem, but still.

    I just hope its not something that chirps..or is otherwise obvious what they're doing.

    • by augustz ( 18082 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @11:01PM (#2911714) Homepage
      Did you read the article?

      The article clearly says that it does not pop or chirp, and that over 170 stations are already using it. I mean, if it was poping and chirping first of all everyone would know, and second of all the stations wouldn't use it.
    • by klparrot ( 549422 )
      So which frames are they cutting, and do they plan to cut the audio too?

      I would imagine the difference would be virtually unnoticeable if they cut out the first and/or last frames of each scene. Thing is, the number of scene changes varies significantly depending on the show, and the process could be difficult to automate (fast action could be mistaken for a scene change, and that's the last place you want to pull frames). Also, now that I think about it, this method probably won't get 30 seconds of extra time per 30 minute show.

      To get 30 seconds out of a 30 minute show (which is really only 22 minutes long plus commercials), you have to remove one out of every 44 frames. By timing them right, it shouldn't be noticeable in most shows. The audio is analog, so it should squash without a noticeable loss in quality. As much as I hate the principle of this thing, I don't think we can complain on grounds of it decreasing the audio/video quality of our shows.

      • by gilroy ( 155262 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @11:48PM (#2911882) Homepage Journal
        Blockquoth the poster:

        As much as I hate the principle of this thing, I don't think we can complain on grounds of it decreasing the audio/video quality of our shows.

        The audio or video quality, no. The dramatic quality (such as it is) is another thing entirely. I don't know if losing one frame out of 44 can really alter our perception of a dramatic pause -- are there any editor/director types who claim that sort of precision? But that's not the issue.

        It's another 30 seconds out of 30 minutes that you're not watching the program. It stretches out the commercial breaks by padding them even more. This in turn adds to the break in dramatic continuity and of course makes it even more tempting to just walk away and do something else during the commercial break -- perhaps indeed during the rest of the show.

        I mean, I already notice how excruciatingly long commercial breaks are now. It's getting to where you can forget what you're watching, for the love of Pete. This is just another way for broadcast TV to commit suicide in slow motion.

    • Yeah, when I'm 85 and dying in some smelly nursing home someplace, I really want to remember the good times I had watching 18.5 minutes of Sienfeld and 11.5 minutes of commercials every day after work.

      Pardon my cynicism tonight, but anybody who watches tv deserves just what they get.
  • by LordOfYourPants ( 145342 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @10:57PM (#2911690)
    Here in Canada, we have the CRTC which regulates how many minutes of commercials a Canadian station can show within the period of 30 minutes. On top of that, stations also have requirements for what ratio of Canadian programming to foreign programming can be shown during primetime hours, etc. Stations which violate these licenses enough times likely won't be renewed.

    Basically, this device would sell up here about as well as bottled yellow snow.
    • The US has the FCC, which is supposed to regulate the airwaves, but they gave up any real responsibility years ago.
    • by mindstrm ( 20013 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @11:42PM (#2911858)
      The Slash summary is just misleading as usual.

      These devices are used in order to compress a program into the right amount of time so you CAN put the required amount of commericals in.

      It's not at *all* a way to 'scam' the consumer into watching more commercials.. just a way to 'shorten' a show so it fits your schedule.

      Canadian stations use this too, you can bet on it.
      • by a42 ( 136563 ) on Monday January 28, 2002 @01:17AM (#2912153)
        It's not at *all* a way to 'scam' the consumer into watching more commercials.. just a way to 'shorten' a show so it fits your schedule.

        Survey says... get real. It is absolutely a device to squeeze more commercials into a given time period. That's why it was made, how it is marketed, why it will be bought. Did you miss the part about the millions of dollars of extra ad revenue?

        I remember from a year or so back (when I used to write closed captioning software) a couple of networks doing someting like this already. (I seem to recall PAX being one of them but wouldn't swear to that.)

        The reason the whole thing sticks in my mind is that dropping frames like this plays hell with caption data and any other VBI data such as Web TV, VCHIP, etc.

  • PAL Format (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ooblek ( 544753 )
    They would probably have to be pretty selective in trimming frames in places where PAL is the video standard (Europe). It might make the show look like a bad Wang Chung video.

    If the show is running in NTSC, they could probably get a lot more out of it than 30 seconds.

    The problem with these types of "automagic" machines is that it can never do it perfectly. HP has a device that fits in 1U on a rack and it will force video into your programmed specifications. We used to use it when transferring rented videos into an online editor so that we could cut preview spots together for DTV. The problem is that the video usually looked like crap after it was transferred. I'm sure it didn't make a good case for purchasing the pay-per-view version of it.

  • by bethorphil ( 241623 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @10:59PM (#2911700) Homepage
    Maybe this technology could be used for GOOD! Instead of adding 30 seconds of commercials, they could squeeze one or two more jokes in the the Drew Cary show? Or one more idiotic plot twist into the X-Files?

    You guys are always naysaying! Why don't you come up with an invention like inward sing--- oh wait, wrong rant....

  • by beiaterm ( 552507 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @10:59PM (#2911702)
    They could use this to cut out frames from other commercials! Also, isn't there black space between commercials as it it? They could just cross fade everything into everything else, Just like on the more annoying radio stations. No wonder I don't own a TV! ::alan
    • Good idea! They could even go so far as to divide the screen up into four pieces, and play four simultaneous ads. The top two frames would get left and right audio, while the bottom two would get closed caption and rear surround.
  • by Ezubaric ( 464724 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @10:59PM (#2911704) Homepage
    If only I had a patent.

    Each year, I prepare for the Super Bowl. Not that I like the Super Bowl, but apart from knowing the score at each quarter, the only knowledge you need to prove that you watched the game is what commercials were shown.

    After programming my VCR to record the game, I watch the amusing commercials and fast forward through the game itself. This new-fangled "Time Machine" just gives you the illusion of actually watching the show between ads.
  • bah (Score:2, Funny)

    by nomadic ( 141991 )
    What kind of soulless, greed-driven monster came up with this? I mean, what kind of person do you have to be to work in television? This isn't rhetoric, or hyperbole; I seriously just can't fathom the mental processes of the people who spend their lives doing this kind of stuff.
    • What kind of soulless, greed-driven monster came up with this?

      I know!

      And after they have given us all of that television for free, you think they would be more understanding.

    • "Television is called a 'medium' because when it's well done, it's rare." -- Ernie Kovacs (famous television personality)

      Also attributed to Fred Allen (famous anti-television personality)
  • by QuasEye ( 98125 ) <prussbw@yah[ ]com ['oo.' in gap]> on Sunday January 27, 2002 @11:00PM (#2911707) Homepage
    Think about it - it's commonplace now to re-edit shows for syndication. Lots of times they cut out a whole gag on The Simpsons to get more commercial time. If they can garner the same amount just by removing the occasional barely-perceptible frame of deadwood, I say go for it. On the other hand, if this is implemented as making every transition between scenes sudden and jolting, it will be much less preferable.
  • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @11:00PM (#2911709) Homepage Journal
    Don't look at this as being "another commercial" - look at it as "overclocking your TV" - just think, that's thirty seconds less time per show you have to watch, just by skipping over it with your Tivo.

    Heck, I've often wanted the ability to do just this - compress a TV show I want to see so as to be better able to fit it into my time.

    Now, if we could just compress the time wasted by laugh tracks....
  • They employed something similar, or this device during a football game somewheres. Now, heres a good question, what happens when you take something thats happening live, and start cutting out frames? It gets desynched very very quickly, people were freaking out, plays were happening on the radio before they saw it on 'live' TV. The NFL spasmed on the station that did this, and any other station even attempting to do something like this is fearful of the NFL and a army of Lawyers.
  • "We don't change the pitch, you cannot detect that the images aren't there. You see everything, you hear everything, just in a shorter period of time."

    - Bill Hendershot of Prime Image
    s/period of time/number of words/

    Is it just me, or does that start to sound alot like Coles Notes?
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @11:04PM (#2911727)
    This is only vaguely on topic, but what I don't understand is why no PVR maker offers this feature - let me adjust the playing speed from -100% to +100% (possibly faster), pitch shifting the sound back to normal (just like most voice-mail systems let you do now).

    I'd be more keen to watch some things if they'd take a lot less time - I think I might not even skip ads if I was watching at 200% normal speed.

    Am I wrong, and Tivo or RePlay offers this feature already?
    • This is only vaguely on topic, but what I don't understand is why no PVR maker offers this feature

      Yes! This would be an excellent feature. Please request this from TiVo [] - they are asking for feature suggestions. I requested this very feature a few months ago, and if enough people chime in with the same request it might just catch their attention.

      To answer your question, my guess is that no PVRs offer this feature simply because PVRs have only been around for a relatively short amount of time and they just haven't had enough time to add all the features that somebody would want yet.

  • I just thought - what do the actors who's delivery is being altered by this think? Since I know of at least one SAG member [] who reads this board regularly, maybe we can get some insight what the pros think?
  • blipverts [] are on the way.

    Banned from Moderating? []
  • Just shorten the commercials instead. Duh. :)
  • time compression (Score:3, Interesting)

    by abraxas ( 19266 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @11:08PM (#2911743)
    Imagine working for a movie studio taking older films and time compressing them to make them more palatable to today's market. Punch up slow scenes with digital effects such as camera jitter, zoom and cut, or any of a dozen very accepted post-modern camera techniques to increase the cut pace.

    I can't take credit for the idea but when I read this in a science fiction novel years ago, it really made me wonder what the average attention span will be in twenty or thirty years.
  • old hat (Score:2, Interesting)

    I remember in '86 or '87 seeing a program on TV (ironically) about speeding up films on TV to make room for advertising. They had a nice comparison between Humphry Bogart smoking in "Casablanca" at "true speed" and "on speed" (weeeeee!). The latter looked ... unreal - but just in direct comparison mind you.
    'Course - I have no link, because them there were (gasp) pre-web days.
    Kind of an obvious use of vid-tech though, innit?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 27, 2002 @11:11PM (#2911754)
    I actually watched TV. At least with commercials, they are 'honest' in how they are selling me things based not on value or efficiency/effectiveness of the product, but merely inconsequential and superficial noise that bears no real value in anyones life (based upon an assumption that one has a life).

    I no more buy products because some clown makes me laugh, or some half naked girlie makes me excited. So what is the difference when instead of 'directly' selling me something, they are pushing some agenda that must use a fantasy environment (the fantasy environment created by ANY book, film, theater, etc) to make it sound plausable?

    As long as Discovery, et al don't fall prey to this I imagine I will not even notice it.

  • KDKA did this / does this with the steelers. If you're a god fearing 'stillers' fan you watch the game on TV but listen to Meyran and boys on the radio. A few months back, while doing this I realized that there was about a 20 second gap between what Meyran was screaming about and what was on tv. Needless to say the radio was ahead... So I kept the head phones on and was calling the plays left and right for my friends who were just watching the tv . (Sacrelig) They thought I was psychic. But anyhoo. Others noticed it too and I believe the station got in alot of trouble for that.
  • Some more linkage (Score:2, Informative)

    by headkase ( 533448 )
    The device itself [] and another story [] for the article.
  • by ColaMan ( 37550 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @11:20PM (#2911786) Journal
    I'd prefer it to drop a few frames here and there than drop whole scenes.

    I noticed this scene-dropping one day on a re-run of "the simpsons" ... some scenes had been removed - it was quite noticeable (and irritating).

    But still, yet another ad can be squeezed in. I can't wait.

    A few more years, and broadcast TV everywhere will be all shot to hell. The only channels left worth watching in Australia are the ABC (which doesn't have ads, being gov't funded),and SBS (who at least lumps their ads together at the end of each show). The other 3 networks are crap, with over-sensationalised news (how many more "shocking","horrific" news stories can there be?) and it seems more ads than content.

    Who's up for making the next slashdot on the internet2 with video comments instead? Count me in :-)
  • I just had an epiphany! What if we had the option to pay a flat fee per month for more than basic air reception service?... oh yeah, it's called a CABLE BILL.

    But wait, with this service it is atleast 1/3 unsolicited forced "spam!"

    I understand commercials are a necessary evil that we have become acoustomed to, but why can't I have the option to pay a little bit extra for no commercials. Here's how I think the ideal situation would work...

    Most television programs are filmed where approx. ten minutes of every thirty minutes are for commercial sponsors. Why not play the programs back to back, and be able to broadcast three episodes in the place of two episodes with commercials. Hopefully the concept would catch the attention of the masses and have a wide subscription clientele to make up the lost revenue brought in from commercials.

    I realize that there wouldn't be much incentive for any parties other than the consumer, but I can dream - can't I?
    • I understand commercials are a necessary evil that we have become acoustomed to, but why can't I have the option to pay a little bit extra for no commercials. Here's how I think the ideal situation would work...

      Because, as nice as it would be, it would be a huge pain in the ass for the cable companies, TV networks, etc. to coordinate among each other. Remember, the commercials aren't paying your cable company's expenses -- they're paying the stations' and networks' expenses. And in most cases, cable companies and networks are not run by the same company (except for FTC antitrust screwups like AOLTW*). Sure, it *could* be done, but the operating costs would be outrageously high. And guess who would end up paying those costs? That's right. You.

      * Going a little bit OT here, but does anybody else think that AOL being able to run free ads on such high-profile stations as CNN is a huuuuuuuuuge anti-trust problem? Remember, they own the network. They can run whatever they want on it and not have to be charged a cent. And anybody who watches CNN at all will know that they run lots and lots of AOL ads.
  • Just wait until they start airing the Blipverts!
  • So another company has been awarded a patent for a device that has existed for more than a decade. Only time will tell when they sue Lexicon for enabling 1" type-C machines with the same capability. Or does the fact that it handled digitally make the idea completely different? This is not novel, folks. The shifting up-and-down you've been seeing for years on TBS SuperStation is time compression. And before you jump on the "delay" feature, that has been done too with even older "quad" format. (Klunky, but it worked.) I'd love to see Lexicon go after these guys. RCA can't because their "delay" was well over 20 years ago.
  • Playing a 30fps program at 30.5fps will not harm the average user experience, and it means Enterprise is shorter! Combined with cutting the theme tune and credits you can nearly get 2 episodes on a VCD!
  • 30 minute Shows?? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by christooley ( 215314 )
    How many half hour shows actually have 30 minutes of the show to compress? Aren't most shows only 20-24 minutes anyway? That means you're not going get a full commercial in every show unless they are going to compress commercials as well. Which means there are probably going to be some upset advertisers.
  • My DVD player lets me watch movies at twice the normal speed... wait for the next generation of tv shows and commercials. 10 minutes of super speed show, and 20 minutes of ssllooww speed commercials.
  • I saw a segment on TV about this months ago. The machine looks for consecutive frames where not much has changed and removes them.

    If they only used it on half hour crap sit-coms and talk shows it wouldn't be so bad. But It seems like it would ruin scenes from classic movies where a director has purposely inserted a pregnant pause or an uncomfortable silence in the dialogue or an actors face frozen in horror.

    But hey! If it makes someone a few more bucks then what the hell. Maybe they could frame the Mona Lisa with LCD panels and sell advertising on them.
  • The number of ads has kept going up and up. I don't know about you guys, but it just makes me flip channels more. It makes for distracting TV watching, since I end up surfing for something new every commercial break.
  • Backlash? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 90XDoubleSide ( 522791 ) <ninetyxdoubleside.hailmail@net> on Sunday January 27, 2002 @11:34PM (#2911828)
    We already put up with 1/8th screen, light-speed credits and having 30 mins of commercials crammed into network television premiere movies... how long before people get tired enough of this crap to start watching everything on TiVO/Replay/etc.? We've already seen this happen with web advertising: would many of us be using ad filters if they hadn't started doing pop-up/pop-under ads?

    Realistically 90% of people are going to put up with any crap you force on them, but still, this might make a lot of the type of people who read /. give up on live TV.

    I also think it is silly to argue that no one will notice... I agree that it will be subtle, but think about it, .5/23= about 2.2% of the show, and that's assuming it was still a 23 min long show. Don't tell me you can hear compression artifacts in a 160kbps MP3, but you can't tell that the show is 2% faster. Doesn't break my heart with many of the shows they are playing, but 2% could very well have an effect on the timing of a dramatic scene in a good show or movie, and I think the networks are far more likely to use this in addition to and not instead of cutting scenes.

    Well, it's a good thing many good TV series are coming out on DVD. And just keep watching Cartoon Network, since they have to follow the 6-min commercial limit ;)

  • by Muggins the Mad ( 27719 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @11:34PM (#2911829)
    I'd be really pissed off at the amount of screwing around with programs that the TV companies do. I mean, you spend days assembling your film so the story reads just right, the pacing is perfect, and it all hangs together and *feels* right.

    Then some idiot comes along and starts chopping bits out all over the place. If the program would have worked 30 seconds faster, it would have been *made* 30 seconds faster, and had an extra few scenes. Surely?

    - MugginsM
    • This is why some films and TV shows have rebroadcast riders that state they CANNOT be further cut. This was originally in response to the common syndicated-cable practice of chopping the beginning and end of each TV segment to allow more commercial time. This is also why you won't see certain shows on syndicated-cable -- they don't allow enough commercials to make the standard profit margin for channels that practice this "trimming".

      Back in the 1960s-70s, the film itself was physically chopped, so once a scene was gone, it was GONE. That's one reason the old ST:TOS were reissued -- not just wear and tear on the old film reels that made 'em look like crap, but also many copies in syndicated circulation had become remarkably truncated.
  • Restoring Homer (Score:3, Informative)

    by Dan Crash ( 22904 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @11:36PM (#2911838) Journal
    Every episode of "The Simpsons" broadcast in syndication has a few scenes cut for insertion of extra commercials. I wouldn't mind if they ran this process on each episode if it meant they were able to give us back those scenes.

    Of course, they'll probably do it anyway just to add *more* commercials, and save the deleted scenes for the DVDs, damn their moneygrubbing souls. Mr. Burns would be proud.
    • Re:Restoring Homer (Score:4, Interesting)

      by thesolo ( 131008 ) <> on Monday January 28, 2002 @02:07AM (#2912286) Homepage
      Every episode of "The Simpsons" broadcast in syndication has a few scenes cut for insertion of extra commercials. I wouldn't mind if they ran this process on each episode if it meant they were able to give us back those scenes.

      Good luck, but you will most likely never see those scenes in syndication.

      Not only do they cut out several (of the arguably funniest) scenes per episode, but they also fade out to commercials ridiculously early; I mean they don't even allow the scene to properly end. They will literally fade the audio out in mid-sentence of the last line of the scene, so that they can start the commercials earlier.

      If that wasn't enough, they then split-screen the ending credits so that they can show ads on half of the screen! This is especially frustrating since the Simpsons often puts gags in the credits, such as voiceovers, songs, etc., which get completely talked over.

      Then, as the coup de grâce, in each of the 3 scenes, they randomly flash a barely translucent "THE SIMPSONS ON FOX" banner over the top 1/4" of the screen, and they randomly put in promos for other shows over the bottom 1/4" of the screen!

      ...And Fox wonders why so many people are trying to download copies of the original episodes online...
  • In fact, it's very common.

    You will see moves on TV that are "Time Compressed".. (they yanked frames to very slightly speed it up).

    Radio does it.. songs play a wee bit faster in order to fit in more commerical time...

    and so on, and so forth.
  • Wouldn't the people who sell their programs (for whom I cant think of a name for at this time of night) to TV broadcasting companies not like this little bit of technology very much? Would they be able to sue if a TV station used it to modify, although only very slighty, the program which they were meant to air?

    For the viewer there would probably be no noticeable difference unless you closely examined the whole unedited program all the way through beforehand.. but for the big companies selling their shows it seems like it could be another chance to sue someone and get some extra spending money.
  • I realised I wasn't watching TV much any more. I paid a little more attention and realised that when the ads came on, I'd get up to go and do something else, and rarely remembered to come back. I think that's when the ad/program ratio crossed my magic point.

    And, I haven't really missed it.

    Sure, I still watch some shows, (Buffy, Time Team, etc) but it takes a conscious effort to remember to come back in time to catch the next bit of program.

    I guess I must be fairly unique in this, since if everyone did it, the TV stations would have to start actually showing *content* again.

    I'm in NZ, and the ads still take up less time than in other places - I've occasionally had a tape sent over to me from the US, and found it completely unwatcheable from all the channel promos, ads, screwing around with episodes, etc. I have trouble understanding why the Americans are so addicted to TV as a nation - perhaps it's similar to the cocaine addict who doesn't realise he's getting 95% talcum powder nowadays, just that he needs to buy more and more for it to work.

    - MugginsM
  • by shri ( 17709 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <cmarirhs>> on Sunday January 27, 2002 @11:43PM (#2911867) Homepage
    The cinemas in Hong Kong would run the western movies at about 22-24 frames/second to speed up the movies. They would also cut out scenes where there was a lot of "dialog". God forbid anyone would really want to listen to the movie. :)
  • by deacon ( 40533 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @11:49PM (#2911884) Journal
    The viewer of TV is the product being delivered.

    The harvester and packager of the product is the huge machine which keeps the TV screen saturated with images targeted to specific groups.

    The consumer of this product is the advertiser.

    As long as you keep that in mind, all of this makes perfect sense.

    The TV isn't on for YOU. It's on for them.

  • I guess it's because I'm not in "advertising", but I don't understand how advertisers think that more is better. I, and I'd imagine most others, have a fixed amount of money to spend on things. How much money I spend IS NOT proportional to the number of ads that I see.

    This is the reason that I don't understand the complaints that advertisers have with TiVo-like devices... it's as if they think I'll spend more money if I see more ads... and that's just not the case.

    Advertisers are just going to have to do better at being that one ad that "sticks" in my mind.

  • Often editors will go through a movie, or show, or commercial, and shave frames to the point where everything is still intelligible. It's not called "time trimming," it's called "frame fucking."
  • I have seen shows where this has obviously been done. The particular movie I remember was 'Starship Troopers'. Vast ponderously moving spaceships, except that every second or so they jerked forward about a tenth of a second's worth.

    Not that it was a bad thing to get that stinker over faster.

    This feature would be a great addition to Tivo, with a speed control on the remote to let you adjust the pace of a show. If the writers only had 17 minutes of script to fill the 23 minutes of a sitcom (sans commercials and credits), then speeding it up would give you the ability to compensate for the director's instructions to slow the dialogue and extend the laugh tracks.

    Most shows could be watched in half the airtime, leaving more of our precious lifetimes to read /.

  • this is the ugliest site [] i have seen in a while...and all this is from the company that sells a $90k device to TV stations?
  • I stopped watching television regularly several years ago. I go for months without it. I'm sure part of it is that I have a hard time just sitting there, though I do enjoy watching movies.

    I haven't noticed any decrease in my ability to attract beautiful buxom blondes with my beverage choice or to buy the toys and clothes that will make my children love me. Okay, I don't have any blonde friends or children, but I didn't before either...


  • I've noticed this since at least Sept 9, 1999 - see this posting:

    What's going on? Are they removing frames? []

    I've even started noticing it on video rentals.

    Since it seems this doesn't bother too many people other than myself, I guess the networks will get even more brazen in the future. Who knows what else they'll come up with to sacrifice quality for a few more bucks. Oh well, I suppose it's had a good effect for me personally in that I don't watch TV any more because of it, but I sure do miss it sometimes.

  • I am looking forward to 30 minute baseball games this spring! Wait, does that mean that there will be 2 1/2 hours of commercials per game?
  • by mlafranc ( 315895 ) on Monday January 28, 2002 @01:21AM (#2912164) Homepage
    Well here is the Evidence []

    Paramount has been playing all sorts of tricks with the UPN Voyager and Enterprise feeds [] at least since Mid to Late 1999, It's old news to me.

    The interesting thing here is that the Enterprise Feeds sent to Canada [], on Telstar 5 TP 16 [] for broadcast say on A-Channel [] don't have this

    What we know is that this is lucurative, and people who can't compare the two will not know what it is that they are missing.

    I suppose that these people [] will have to get a new name.

  • by anomaly ( 15035 ) <> on Monday January 28, 2002 @01:22AM (#2912165)
    The purpose of the TV medium is to park your eyeballs on commercials so that you will buy the products. From the pov of the TV folks, the shows are incidental.

    Unfortunately, you the viewer have demonstrated an unfortunate reluctance to immerse yourself in 30-120 minute blocks of advertisements.

    Until such time as TV producers find a way to convince you to do that, you can expect them to do as much as is technically possible to add commercials until you get frustrated and stop watching TV.

    The networks don't care whether you like the content of the programs. They only care whether you will watch the programs enough that a certain percentage of you see and or hear the advertisements.
  • Video Timing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hanway ( 28844 ) on Monday January 28, 2002 @01:27AM (#2912178) Homepage
    It's funny to hear some people's reactions as if this is the first time anyone has disturbed the pristine timing of their television shows.

    Consider all theatrical releases and most high-budget television drama that's shot on 24fps film: when shown at 30fps NTSC, it goes through 3:2 pulldown, which out of necessity assigns a varying number of video fields to each frame. Oddly enough, the resulting effect gives the material a "film look" that is usually considered a good thing. In fact, some processes exist that attempt to give a similar look to shows that are shot on video.

    And when the same 24fps film is broadcast in a PAL country at 25fps, all the broadcaster usually does is just speed up the film! That's much more drastic than removing selected frames, yet does playing the film 4% faster destroy it's dramatic value? Probably not, although it seems like musicals would suffer.
  • VERY Old News.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by rongage ( 237813 ) on Monday January 28, 2002 @07:18AM (#2912833)

    This is funny! Someone thinking this is "news".

    Television Stations have had this capability for over 15 years now. I remember back in college (1986) when I worked for the local PBS affiliate, we had just started to get in new 1" VTR's (Video Tape Recorders) - Hitachi's. These 1" units were to replace our aging 2" Quad machines. One of the neater features of the Hitachi's were their ability to time-compress or time-expand a show.

    For example, if we had a time slot of 58:20 and the show on the tape reel was 59:05, we could program the Hitachi to play 59:05 worth of tape in 58:20 with full frame lock. There was even an option available (we didn't buy it) that allowed us to connect the audio output to an Eventide Harmonizer to "pitch correct" the audio when you did this time correction to a program. This was in 1986.

    This is old news, about old technology. Move along - nothing to see here....

  • by Helmholtz ( 2715 ) on Monday January 28, 2002 @02:27PM (#2914723) Homepage
    The music industry convinced me to stop using their product. The prices have become exhorbitant, and the quality of the artistry has become lousy. Songwriters don't put out albums anymore, marketing departments do. So I have tossed them aside and stick with the old tunes that I still love. For new stuff I follow local bands and non-music-industry-affiliated bands I find here and there on the internet. I find that these guys, while they don't always have access to the best sound equipment, are producing songs of greater interest than the latest smash pop barbie/ken doll.
    The movie industry has almost convinced me to stop using their product. Movie prices keep rising, the quality of the theatres keep dropping. I find it unacceptable to go to a theatre and see 5 minutes of "black rain" when there's a bright white scene. I think that movies are also moving into the abyss, much like music, but at a much slower pace. There are still enough people making interesting movies to keep my interest alive. So if I shirk theatres that's no big deal; it's simple to make a home theatre these days. And then there's the whole DVD and HDTV mess ... I'm still hoping the MPAA and FCC don't manage to do to movies what the music industry has done to music.

    While I gave up on network TV a long time ago, I've found that many cable/satellite channels have quality entertainment in their lineups. Because of the sheer number of available channels, I always figured that cable/satellite TV would stay relatively unscathed by all the BS that has destroyed the music industry, and is gnawing at the movie industry. Then I read articles like this, and ones that talk about the fervent attepts to destroy the ability to record television programs. I can easily see television being the next media outlet that I throw away.

    If there are any music/movie/television industry workers reading this thread, I just want to make it clear that in your rabid pursuit to further unbalance the scales of product and profit you are at the very least going to lose this customer. And I can't help but think there are others who feel the same.

    I guess I'm done ranting for now.

As of next Tuesday, C will be flushed in favor of COBOL. Please update your programs.