Author: Yogi Schulz
High Definition (HD) television is promising us a wider, crisper picture and higher-fidelity sound in our living rooms and home theatres for some years now. Is now the time to jump in?
While only a few channels are being broadcast in HD format today, we can expect the number of HD channels to increase steadily each year into the future. For example, Star Choice, a satellite television provider, just announced about another dozen HD channels. Similarly, many DVD’s are now published in HD format.
The transition period to HD television, being formulated by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) but not yet final, calls for analog broadcasting to cease sometime after 2007. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently expected to end analog broadcasting in 2006. Once analog broadcasting ceases, all television channels will only be available in HD format. At that point, if you haven’t bought a new television set or a set-top box that understands you don’t have an HD-ready television set, you will see a blank screen.
Here are the factors to consider when making the leap to an HD-ready television set.
If your current television set just imploded and a repair is not sensible, then the time to invest in an HD-ready television set is at hand.
A variety of models are available in a wide range of sizes. The display technology alternatives include CRT (what analog televisions use), LCD (what laptops and flat computer screens use) and rear projection based on either CRT (well established) or LCD (quite new). For those determined to create a wow experience in their homes, the pricey plasma displays will be a smash hit.
HD-ready means that the television set will deliver an HD viewing experience provided the television channel is being broadcast in HD format, is being delivered to your home in HD format and you are using an HD decoder set-top box. If one or more of these conditions are not satisfied, your HD-ready television set will show a picture with the same or better quality as a basic analog television set.
If you’re happy with your current analog television set, waiting will likely save you some money as the price of HD-ready television sets continues to decrease while the reliability continues to improve.
If you enjoy watching DVD’s at home, an HD-ready television set offers a number of advantages.
First, an HD-ready television set delivers a materially better picture from DVD content than an analog television set. Unlike a VHS tape, a DVD contains enough resolution to enable the HD-ready television set to deliver on its improved viewing experience promise. You can maximize the quality of the HD picture by connecting the DVD player to the HD-ready television set via the SVideo or the component connections as opposed to the yellow RCA video jack.
Second, an HD-ready television set has the same 16:9 (Width:Height) wide-screen aspect ratio as a screen in a movie theatre. This aspect ratio is important because almost all of the movies we like to watch on DVD were shot with a 16:9 wide-screen aspect ratio. By contrast, the act of transferring the image to VHS for the 4:3 aspect ratio of analog television chops off the sides of the picture to fit it on the television screen.
Chopping is what the polite message “This movie has been modified from its original version – It has been formatted to fit your screen”, we see when we play VHS tapes, really means.
Third, an HD-ready television set delivers excellent sound from the digital audio recorded for the DVD using either the Dolby Digital or DTS audio encoding format. By contrast, VHS audio is lower fidelity, higher noise analog.
Fourth, most HD-ready television sets have the capability to horizontally stretch out the 4:3 aspect ratio of VHS tapes to create a wide-screen experience from the smaller recorded image. All the actors look a little fatter but not so much that the audience snickers.
These advantages explain the huge rise of DVD purchases and rentals of the past two years.
As a subscriber of Shaw cable television service, you can receive 6 HD channels if you purchase the pricier HD decoder set-top box and subscribe to one of the digital channel packages. In Shaw terminology, digital does not imply HD. Digital simply means that you have installed a decoder set-top box that can decode channels 55 to 465.
Both the Bell ExpressVu and the Star Choice satellite television services offer about 10 channels that broadcast in HD format today. If you’re thinking about subscribing to either satellite television service, upgrading to an HD-ready television set likely makes sense. Both satellite services offer the necessary HD decoder set-top box.
Don Johnston, my neighbor and long-time satellite television subscriber, likes the ability to watch programs at a convenient time for him. Having the same program available from 3 – 4 different time zones makes this feasible.
HD television is becoming a reality after many years of hype and discussion. You’ll want to make the leap in the near future to enjoy a higher quality television viewing experience.
Interview with Don JohnstonHD Picture is definitely sharper but may be oversold. Sees more marks on football field and more detail on human features. Owns a rear projection 51” television. Questions if the price is worth the improvement.
Picked Star Choice satellite because it offered more local content 3 to 4 years ago when they wanted satellite TV. Paying $80.00 per month. Doesn’t subscribe to Shaw.
Satellite 1080i or DVD 720p look identical to Don.
HD receiver and decoder locks occasionally when surfing using the up-channel control repeatedly. Does not lock up when channel number is entered. Installed in November 2003.
Moisture, rain storms, snowing, snow build up on dish all reduce picture quality by way of pixelation, loss of audio, blank screen. Clouds have little impact.
Programming availability is the attraction of satellite TV. Likes to watch programs at a convenient time. Having the same program available from 3 – 4 different time zones makes this feasible.
Despite the many channels there are still times when there’s nothing interesting on.
Don quit subscribing to satellite program guide as a book; likes the online guide. More up-to-date and reliable.
DVD’s offer a little bit better picture on an HD set.
Satellite City 230-9449http://www.satellitecity-tv.com
Shaw CableClick on Channel Listings to display the list of HD channels
Bell ExpressVuHow many HDTV channels does Bell ExpressVu offer?
Currently Bell ExpressVu offers up to 20 HDTV channels including: CBS, ABC, FOX, NBC, and PBS from Boston and Seattle, CHUM Television’s CITY-TV from Toronto, TSNHD, DiscoveryHD, one channel featuring HD movies from Movie Central or The Movie Network and three pay-per-view channels.
Star Choice vs. Bell ExpressVuA Comparison Updated January 2004
FCC DTV FAQhttp://www.fcc.gov/oet/faqs/dtvfaqs.html
Canadian DTV FAQhttp://www.cdtv.ca/en/faq/
CRTC Announces Its Regulatory Framework for the Transition to Over-The-Air Digital Television Services, June 12th, 2002
We believe the proposed ten-year time period—to the end of 2007—should provide all parties, including consumers, with a reasonable opportunity for transition planning and implementation.
The DVD AdvantageNov 11, 2001