The ATC Report

"In Control" - Vol. XII, No. 2

Since the advent of High Definition TV, we've often wondered exactly what you "Low-Def" types have been seeing when watching The Amazing Race. For this column, we decided to do some research into this question. Turns out it isn't too pretty.

For example, here's a standard 4:3 Low-Definition image from last year's ASTAR® that we got from an acquaintance:


Danny and Oswald approach the mat in 4:3 Low-Definition.

See how grainy the image is? That's what "low-def" will do for you. Here's that same scene, only in "High-Def":


Danny and Oswald approach the mat in 4:3 High-Definition.

The picture is much clearer and crisper in HD. It's almost like you were there yourself. But there is still something missing. Here's the same scene for a third time, only in 16:9 (widescreen) High Definition:


Danny and Oswald approach the mat in 16:9 High-Definition.

THIS is what we are talking about when we say we wonder what all you "LD" types are watching. Notice that the picture is still crisp and clear, but now we can actually see a couple of the production people in the shot. Unfortunately, this is what you see most often in the HD 16:9 version of the show. But still, those of you who are watching TAR in 4:3 low-def, or even in 4:3 high-def are missing a great deal.

Notice that in the above, the shot that you "non-widescreeners" are seeing is from the left-most part of the scene. That's actually pretty unusual, since in most cases the 4:3 scene is just the center of the 16:9 scene with the edges chopped off. Here's an example of what we're talking about:


Scene from TAR12 in 4:3 Low-Definition.

As before, the scene seems to have quite a bit of "noise", and the colors are a bit off. Here's the High-Def version:


High-Def version of the same scene.

Once again, things are much better in the HD version. But again, the 16:9 version below provides so much more:


High-Def 16:9 (widescreen) version of the same scene.

Notice how the scene in the 4:3 version of the picture is from the center of the 16:9 version. This seems to be how most scenes are "cropped" to fit into the smaller screen area of a 4:3 television set. But when you see the full scope of the scene as presented in the widescreen format, we have a hard time believing anyone will be satisfied going back to the narrow 4:3 view.

At first glance, you probably missed the really unique thing about the above shot. Right away you can see that it was taken below, and to the left of the racers. Most shots of the racers performing this challenge that were shown on TV were taken from above and to the right, but in both cases the camera and production people were out of the other's view. This is rather unusual for those of us who watch the show in 16:9 HD, since it seems that one of the views (in multiple-angle shots of the same scene) always captures at least another cameraman. (Or do you spell it "camerman"?)

Then there are the "unexplainable" images that can only be seen when watching the show in true 16:9 HD. Here's an example of what we're talking about:


BJ and Tyler about to win TAR9 (4:3 Low-Def).

Above, you can see BJ and Tyler sprinting for the finish line in The Amazing Race 9. As expected with a low-definition picture, there is a lot of "noise" and the colors seem a bit washed out. Here's the same scene in 4:3 High-Definition:


BJ and Tyler about to win TAR9 (4:3 High-Def).

As usual with a High Definition image, the noise is virtually non-existent, and the colors are quite a bit more vivid. (Note that in print media such as this, it is sometimes hard to faithfully reproduce a High-Def image, which is why the snow in the background may appear washed-out). And now, look at the 16:9 High-Definition image of the same scene:


BJ and Tyler about to win TAR9 (16:9 High-Def)

Same scene, MUCH different view. The noise is gone and the colors really pop. But in the right-hand side of the image, some people claim that they can see something that appears to be a "ghost". Others have gone so far as to claim that said ghost is Boston Rob. We must admit that we've never actually seen this "ghost", but we would like to point out that Boston Rob is technically not dead (except for his TV career), so it is highly unlikely that his ghost is visible here.

There are also some scenes that make no sense to us at all. Take this one from last episode, for example. (By the way, we figure that you "get" the fact that the Low-Def scenes aren't as good as the High-Def ones, so we're going to skip the LD images from here on out. We'll still show you the 4:3 HD images, though. You can just squint or glue sand over the 4:3 HD image to show what a LD image would look like - if you really need to.)


Racers load peat onto donkeys – 4:3 High Definition.

Above you see the racers completing the task of loading peat bricks onto their donkey and heading for the checkpoint. This is what all 4:3 viewers saw. Now look at the 16:9 view:


High Definition 16:9 view of the same scene

The McDonald's sign in the background is not visible to those of you who don't have a 16:9 HD set. In this printed article it might be a little hard to read, but it says, "The Amazing Race 12 Stops Here This Wednesday For A Roadblock Challenge". This is what we're having trouble understanding - why weren't there more spoilers out there this season? Heck, we had to do a freakin' interview with one of the teams just to... On second thought, we just want to know why there aren't that many spoilers this season.

And finally, there are those scenes that let you know that you're watching the greatest reality show, ever. Here's what we are talking about:


Phil prepares to tell racers to, “Say hello to his little friend” in ASTAR®.

PThis is another of those scenes where the 4:3 viewers didn't see the center of an expanded view, but instead saw the right-most portion of it. Here's what they missed:


Phil and his little friend. And some other friends, too.

Yep - that's the Donald, Seacrest, and Probst in the background. Looks like they're taking notes on how to win an Emmy. (Unsuccessfully, naturally.)

So why are you still reading? (Outside of the captivating journalistic style, we mean.) Why haven't you rushed out to plunk down the cash on a 16:9 HD set yet? Don't think that we are going to do an article like this every episode - we've already bought our sets.

Join us again next week when we do a fascinating study on knot tying and pole-vaulting. Perhaps a week too late, but still...