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Beline Obeid

Living in HD

Fares Ksebati has many interests — photography, cinematography and swimming. When the 16-year-old South student devotes himself to something, he does it with full gusto.

Photo by john lundberg Fares Ksebati demonstrates his directing ability before the thousands of dollars worth of electronics he and his family received for Panasonic's "Living in HD" study.
January 10, 2008
Fares Ksebati became interested in photography early on. He would frequently chronicle his family's vacations for video display later.

So that is why it came as little surprise to his family that his essay was chosen out of hundreds submitted nationwide to participate in a High Definition electronic product study launched by one of the world's leading electronic companies.

"I became involved with electronics at a young age," Ksebati said. "It was something my family fostered and encouraged."

Ksebati began his photography "hobby" by working as a volunteer for the Grosse Pointe Artist's Association, where his mother, Hala, is first vice president. He videotapes art shows and converts them into a DVD format for viewing.

It was this passion that helped lead him to discover the project on Panasonic's Web site.

"When I learned that I was selected, I thought this was too good to be true," he said.

Between August 2007 and March 2008, Panasonic's Living in HD Program will select 30 families to live with a complete suite of High Definition technology products and related services worth an estimated $20,000. These include a large screen plasma television, HD camcorder, Blu-ray Disc player, digital still camera and other equipment.

The Ksebatis received their equipment right before the holiday season. Fares said he plans to make documentaries involving family trips and excursions, starting with the North American International Auto Show in Detroit later this month.  

One key element of Panasonic's search was hearing from families about what they would create in High Definition, and why they want to chronicle their lives in HD. A panel of judges selected Ksebati's essay submission to participate in the study.

But, why the study? Well, a survey commissioned by the company found that 98 percent of parents with children under 18 in the home say that it is either important, or very important for families to spend quality time together.

However, only 52 percent think they spend enough quality time with their children.

"My essay focused on doing things that are more family oriented," Ksebati said. "I felt using electronics and new technology was useful in bringing families closer together."  

It is a sentiment shared by Ksebati's family. Hala said Fares became involved in photographing family vacations and then converting them to a disc. Therefore, the family had an archive to verify the enjoyment they had on their latest vacation.

"When we look at (on disc) it's like 'wow, we really had fun,'" she said with a laugh. 

The families in the Living in HD program will be asked to take part in monthly challenges such as, "Make Dad Cry In a Good Way," that requires family members to work as a team and record their experiences in High Definition.

In addition, the families will participate in periodic surveys and interviews, to assess how their interpersonal relationships, attitudes and daily activities are affected by the use of High Definition technologies.

"They're looking for us to improve the product through us testing it," Ksebati said. "They're looking to get input from us. It is very interesting and very advanced. "This is the next generation of technology."

The content created by the Ksebati family will be available online and incorporated into a documentary film to provide a historical record for future generations that captures the transition and interaction of families encountering HD technology.

"Panasonic created the Living in HD program to more deeply understand how people's lives will change as they become aware of the full potential of HDTV," said Dr. Paul Liao, vice president and chief technology officer of Panasonic Corporation of North America. "Very few households are shooting video in HD today, but we expect that number will increase with consumer HD camcorders."

But Ksebati's interests are not isolated to his work behind the lens. He swims the 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard breaststroke for South. He also enjoys his classes at the high school.

The project is the center of Ksebati's attention for the next few months. Soon, Panasonic will be videotaping the family using the electronics.

"As we approach the national transition to digital broadcasting, it is important that individuals and companies understand how to use High Definition technology to its full potential, because it will affect social and professional interactions," said Dr. Connie Book, professor of communications at Elon University and the author of "Digital Television, DTV and the Consumer."

"My family tells me that God is rewarding me," Ksebati said. "The hard work is paying off big time."

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