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How HBO Makes Older Movies & TV Shows Look Great

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Learn more about premium OTT at Streaming Media East Connect 2021.

Read the complete transcript of this clip:

Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen: How do you deal with consistency for older digitized, original content to the end user? How do services deal with that lack of consistency, or try to improve the quality of that older digitized content?

Tim Siglin: And I'll even add in 4:3 content, because it's amazing to me--Disney recently launched Dinosaurs, which was something from my childhood. And when I went to watch it, of course it's 4:3 aspect ratio, which is the only way that you really should watch it. So, so that's a really good question, Eric. CJ, Ian, I'm going to open that up to you. How do you balance that piece of really high quality and then nominal quality? Because the source content itself may not have been the best.

CJ Harvey: There's three things, and if I lose track of the third thread in my head, someone please remind me. First, obviously, is up-rezzing every master. We prefer remastering to uprezzing, always. If you could imagine just sort of a brute force, everything looks better, but we stretched the 4:3 so much it fits 16:9, and weren't so mindful about what we might've cropped. The Simpsons had a sort of headline Twitter storm-worthy moment around uprezzing vs. remastering. So we do remaster select titles for the platform to make sure people can experience it in all of its premium glory.

That said, remastering isn't right for everything--the Fresh Prince, for instance. Just watch it in 4:3, and it feels great that way. Again, managing expectations from a user experience perspective, making sure the badging and the sort of messaging around what this person is going to get from the asset details perspective is very clear, so when they click Play, there's no shock and annoyance based off of a misalignment between expectation and reality.

The third thing is things we can do on our side. This wasn't exactly the question, but I think it's germane and relevant as well. When you think about any of your extra content--behind the scenes, previously on, next on, your occasional promo--ensuring that the quality of all of those sidecars that are going to be playlist or stitched onto the actual content--A) prevents their player from having to do gymnastics to flip back and forth, and B) also prevents your user from quality whiplash and seeing a promo in 1080, but then all of a sudden the content starts up in 4k.

And we make sure all of those things are lined up with great messaging, so you know what you're going to get. And of course, as far upstream as possible, doing the remaster or a cautious up-rezz where appropriate, are the three tools that we use at HBO Max to make sure people are getting the best that they can in that moment.

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