CAMPAIGN CRAFT FORUM: Widescreen conversion - are we ready for it?



Technical director, Widescreen Conversion Company

C Day (Conversion Day) will affect every TV ad on air in the UK spanning

the 1 July dateline. This means everything, from corporate campaigns to

the ad for the local takeaway.

The understanding of the issues raised is patchy. Like most things in

life ignorance is bliss, but if you work in TV advertising you cannot

ignore how C Day will affect you.

Broadcasters have held public seminars and worked with professional

bodies such as the IPA. They feel they have done their bit. My company

has conducted seminars for the more proactive of the London agencies,

facility companies and the advertising trade body ISBA. However, the

knowledge still only fits where it has touched.

From 1 April you can deliver new and redeliver existing ads in 16:9FH

compatible form. If you know the lifespan of a campaign runs beyond 1

July, act now. Extra playout time will be made available, but soon

demand will exceed supply.

Even then, the factor of international campaigns remains. The UK will be

the only widescreen territory for at least two years.

Available soon, in collaboration with the IPA/AFVPA, a CD-Rom entitled:

A Comprehensive Guide to Widescreen Television Advertising.


Head of TV, Roose & Partners

I started working on widescreen projects a year ago. I thought it was

going to be straightforward. It wasn’t. I thought everyone would know

what they were doing. Wrong again.

Since then the whole process has become easier. Everyone is more

comfortable but we are still on a learning curve. There are no short

cuts and the whole process can be rather confusing.

Learn as much as you can about the process - don’t rely on anyone


Make sure the production and post-production companies have talked to

each other before the shoot and agreed exactly what’s required. Mask off

the 16x9 area at the side of the agency/client monitor so everyone can

be sure that the important action is within the 4x3 area. Allow more

time in post to check and double-check the formats. Check whether

artwork or logos need to be supplied anamorphically. Educate your

clients so they understand the process (and why it takes longer).

Commercials being made now will have to be played out twice to comply

with the regulations, so make sure you know your media plans so you can

co-ordinate the changeover of masters smoothly. It’ll be a lot simpler

after C Day, when only one master is required. But even then, check,

check, check again. Or it’ll come back to haunt you.


Sales administration director, Carlton

The move to get commercials on to a widescreen format is a natural step

for most broadcasters. There are an increasing number of programmes

being made in widescreen both domestically and abroad and it is logical

for us to want to make our on-air presentation look as good as


From 1 July not only will commercials be in widescreen but promotions

and station idents will also be changing so that all programme junctions

will have the same appearance.

There was a long debate whether to go for a phased changeover or a big

bang and there are a number of technical reasons for choosing the


The main one is that to switch aspect ratios in between commercials is a

high-risk option and there is danger of clipping the start of the

following ad. Certainly not something that I would be prepared to


We have worked closely with the IPA and Jonathan Davies from Leo Burnett

who chairs the IPA digital working party and they were instrumental in

agreeing the way forward. The broadcasters would not have gone ahead

with the plan unless they had had their co-operation. The timing was

never going to be an easy or popular decision either. Whenever the

change happens there will always be a reason for doing it another



Managing director, Stark Films

The penetration of widescreen television ownership in the UK is more

than 60 per cent. This percentage is far higher among owners of larger

sets and 100 per cent for those who have bought into digital television

Some retailers no longer sell 4x3 screens. These figures would indicate

that the market is certainly ready to switch over to widescreen


Given the amount of access production companies have been offering to

the technology behind widescreen (be it through facility companies,

consultants, etc) there has been ample opportunity to understand any

impact the switch will have.

A number of clients have insisted on widescreen format on all

commercials produced for the past two years. So, although C Day might

seem to have crept up from nowhere, there has been a general shift in


The rest of Europe is lagging behind. However, manufacturers are

aggressively promoting DVD this year, with film distributors benefiting

from the simplicity of transferring releases on to widescreen video and

a dramatic increase in consumer demand. Europe may have to take on

widescreen much faster than we have had to. And I’m not sure they’re

very ready at all.