March 9, 2007
First South Park Episode in HD Available to Xbox Live Members

A few days ago, news broke that the first episode of South Park in high-definition would be made available to members of Xbox Live to download the episode to view on Xbox 360s.

The episode went up on Tuesday and will stay up for two weeks.

Best Buy is also going to offer the episode free as a promotional gimmick with the purchase of an HD DVD drive or an Xbox 360 if purchased from March 20 until April 3. The episode is actually a South Park from a few years ago, titled "Good Times with Weapons" and featuring ninjas.

Kevin Kelly with Joystiq writes, "The style changes from the traditional cutout look into anime style pictured above, and it will look, er ... extra-animated in HD. Couple this with the fact that South Park's new season starts this Wednesday, and new episodes will be on XBLM each following week, the fanboys and fangirls should be fairly happy."

Perhaps related, Xbox Live announced that it hit 6 million registered members four months before originally projected, as I found out from Rajiv Ashrafi at DigitalBattle.

The aspect ratio will remain standard, on the other hand, which was the root of a fascinating debate back in February surrounding King of the Hill airing in high-definition.

I first wrote about South Park potentially launching in high-definition back in December, when I wrote about some people's questioning as to what benefit South Park could possibly have in HD.

When I wrote about the King of the Hill episode, I linked to some fan threads in which the question of whether the episode was in high-definition or not obviously mattered quite a bit.

I wrote:

Fans debate whether the animation is HD or not. Since animation is not as easy to distinguish in HD compared to live action, and the screen size indicated SD, the fans debated whether enhanced visuals and sound really meant high-definition. The debate gets into frame-by-frame analysis to decide whether it was high-definition or not.

For instance, mrock12 asks:

Can someone explain to me how a show, where the actual video (not counting the bars on the side) has a 4:3 aspect ratio, can be called HD?

I have a chart from Miranda Technologies that shows all of the "Digital Production Formats" and only the ones that have a 16:9 aspect ratio are called HDTV. Is there another commonly accepted definition of HD? Are the network, satellite, and cable companies free to use the HD label any way they see fit?

There is no doubt that there are a lot of excited people watching the first South Park episode in HD, and one wonders if this initial episode will lead to more South Park episodes in HD to come.