As the UK prepares to officially switch over to digital TV on the 18th of April, members of Synaptic Digital’s London team share their experiences and musings on the end of the Analogue era and look towards our digital present and future.

Part 1:

On 29th March, a bunch of us from the office went to see David Hall’s 1001 TV Sets (End Piece) installation at the Ambika P3 gallery near Regent’s Park. The exhibit features…1001 TVs, which were tuned to the five analogue channels. On 18th April, all the screens will turn white as the analogue signal is switched off.

When I heard the review of the show on Front Row, my first thought was how I owe my living to the demise of analogue TV. I have made a career of helping clients get on TV, which was really only possible in the UK with the advent of a multichannel environment. Like satellite before it, Digital Television has meant there is a programme somewhere for nearly every story.

Today we take for granted the hundreds of channels on the TV (and the limitless online options). David Hall’s show reminded me that we often forget how simple and unobtrusive our technology has become. The cathode ray tube boxes with the flickery screens were real monsters in the living room and will be a true mystery to children who come across them in our dusty attics and basements in the future.

It’s 22 years since Sky Television and British Satellite Broadcasting merged to form British Sky Broadcasting Group and 10 years since Freeview launched. How we’ll consume content in 10 and 22 years from now is really anyone’s guess.

- Matt Thomson


Part 2: The Final Countdown

We are now 5 days away from the 18th April. A date all Londoners should have in their diaries – it is the day we are saying goodbye to analogue TV and switching to digital.

The countdown started way back in 1999 when the UK Government announced its intention to switch to digital by 2010. After much delay, the official go-ahead for the switchover in the UK was announced in September 2005. The process has been done gradually, TV region by TV region, until the final switchover in 2012.

The announcement was soon followed by one of the biggest public awareness campaigns ever launched in the UK, with TV channels also running their own campaigns.

One of my favourites has to be Channel 4 ‘Get Set for Digital’ TV adverts, resurrecting a TV creation of the 80’s, Max Headroom.

Here’s another one.

GMTV (now owned by ITV) was one of the first programmes to embark on a mission to inform the UK population.

Digital UK, the body in charge of the switchover, began a six-year campaign in 2006. They produced a series of more traditional TV ads, featuring the robot character Digit Al.

FIVE ran a campaign based on major world events you would not want to miss if your screen goes fuzzy.

Personally, TV might well be the greatest invention – a way to be part of history by witnessing all the great events of our time.

Now, the switchover will be sending me one step closer to the action – by providing my TV set with better reception, better colours, better pictures, and better choices.

Analogue is dead, long live digital!

- Delano Pansi


Part 3: From 5 Channels to 3D

A visit to my old University to see the ‘1001 TV sets – End Piece’ art installation brought back memories of too many wasted nights in the student union bar and too many afternoons spent watching daytime TV.

Hard to believe that little over a decade ago most of us in the UK were restricted to just five analogue channels. This made the typical student’s daytime TV viewing a rather dull affair. Having to choose between Kilroy, Trisha and Countdown turned me and countless other students over the years into lifelong fans of the latter.

Our present student population can choose among an endless range of programming to waste away their days through various digital platforms, which no doubt will negatively impact their chances of achieving that coveted first.

Unlike other mediums such as radio, whose evolution will always be limited by the nature of the device itself, TV sets have kept evolving and at a ever increasing pace. At CES this year, most major brands launched their latest 3D TV sets which will surely be the next big step in the industry. Even with the growth of the second screen, TV’s world domination is still unquestionable with an estimated 89% of households worldwide owning a set compared with only 7.8% who have a computer with access to the internet. A recent Nielson Report survey also showed that even in highly developed countries such as the U, an overwhelming majority of the population still consumes TV Programming/video on TV sets.

The art installation itself, placed in a dark cavernous basement of the University of Westminster in central London, attacked the senses with the vibrant colours and noise of 1001 TV’s blaring at the same time. It is a living, breathing piece and a fitting memorial to mark the beginning and the end of a new chapter in the history of the box in our living room.












- Jose Bonito


Part 4: Analogue to Digital, Time for a Big Switch

I was amazed by the bright and noisy installation by David Hall “1001 TV sets” to herald the UK digital switchover in London. Hall’s fascinating exhibition of bulky vintage tellies laid on their backs, evoked a sense of nostalgia: it reminded me of my old cathode ray tube that was in my flat when I was a student: it was a small black TV with a thick screen and a loop antenna, already much obsolete for that time, I admit. Over the years, there have been important changes in broadcasting. Changes that we have seen in improved visual output, but mostly in the way we behave in the new media age. With multiple channels offering innovative and thematic programmes, interactions with devices and applications, watching TV can now be a completely different experience. The switchover is a major milestone in the history of television and in the British culture, with an estimated four million analogue sets still to be converted. Among them there is my old TV which, you will be surprised to know, is still functioning. It will turn blank like Hall’s 1001 TVs on April 18.

- Silvia de Candia


Part 5: Beyond Digital TV

1001 TV ray tube sets which are exhibited in David Hall’s End Piece will mark the end of analog TV and the 18th April the end of the analog signals will gradually change the utterly deranged soundscape in the exhibition into a hiss of white noise.

A big moment? I would rather call it a phase, a phase of the Digital Revolution. Claude Shannon, a mathematician, is credited for having laid out the foundations of digitalization in a pioneering article called “A Mathematical Theory of Communication,” which he published 1948. I think that was big.

So does the switch from analog to digital TV feel like a big step for me?

No, not really. The shift from analog to digital has been on going since my birth back in the 1980s and it doesn’t feel like this specific UK switch makes that much difference for me personally. I use my computer and the Internet to watch News, TV shows and films and I’ve used it as my primary news and entertainment source for many years now. The Digital Revolution, which basically converts technology that previously was analog into a digital format, however has made a huge impact on our lives. It’s made it easier to access information and some even said that it led to the so called “Revolution 2.0” across the Middle East. It also led to greater interconnectedness and easier communication via Internet, email, mobile phones etc. So I must say I’m looking forward to the future and what it will bring beyond Digital TV.

- Kristin Eketoft

Part 6: The Digital Dream

So the switch off is upon us. [insert white noise]. From April 18th 2012 the UK will only broadcast a digital signal… “But why?” I hear you ask?

We can all agree that analogue was great, but like Tony Blair’s 1997 election campaign “things can only get better.” Analogue channels are outdated because they use significantly more aerial bandwidth than digital signals. Where you used to have 5 terrestrial channels, you now have a minimum of 50 television channels and 24 radio stations. This means audiences are becoming more fragmented than ever. What is already starting to happen is brands are updating their market research techniques. They are starting to use the latest tracking technology to find out more information about you. In a digital age, it is so much easier to track consumer habits. Marketing to the ideal consumers will become easier and easier. It will change, you, from a potential customer, to a near definite sale. As a television/film producer, this will mean tighter briefs, smaller audiences but untimely larger positive impact on the bottom line.

There is also a two letter acronym that the digital age offers us, HD. With a high definition television and freeview you will be able to receive a select few HD channels. If you know anyone still shooting in standard definition (SD), pick up your briefcase and leave the room. What is most important I find is not the actual output today, it is the archive. As we can see, the standard of television and distribution quality has increased massively over the past couple of decades – imagine where it is going to go in a couple more. That is why it is so vital to keep the master files of your output, future proof, future proof, future proof. In 10 years time, you want to have that speech that guy gave that one time in 2012 and it looks awful because you only kept a low bit rate HD file. No good. Most cameras come fitted with a HD-Sdi output which is basically the raw feed from the inner body of the camera. Some cameras compress differently internally, but if your camera has this, you will be able to record a full HD output, a minimum of 50Mbps. From this port, you are able to attach any kind of card recorder, for example, a compact flash recorder. Make an archive copy of these cards and store them somewhere safe. My next blog may just be “so the HD switch off is upon us, bring on 3D TV.”

Enjoy the digital dream!

- Peter Rossiter

Further Reading

If you haven’t hit your saturation point yet, here are some good articles on the switchover from our friends in the newsroom: