Six Things to Know about HDTV (and I have to)

Discussion in 'DVD Video' started by Derek Janssen, Jun 1, 2007.

  1. By way of Yahoo News, Audioholics published a For-Dummies guide column
    on where that over-air/cable HD programming is really coming from and
    whether you're getting it, for beginners:

    Nice basics--
    So, to spare me asking some underpaid Best Buy employee, and go straight
    for the niche geeks with my questions:

    I have neither the funding nor inclination to get satellite or digital
    cable (Netflix people don't *do* on-demand PPV), pretty much just want
    to invest in a large-screen for future post-'09 compatibility, use it
    chiefly as a monitor for whatever (coughbluafteroctober) hi-def disk
    player I end up buying the same year, and maybe tune in on whatever
    over-air HD programming wanders by...Oh, and small apartment, so it's
    only going to be 40" LCD, if that, tops.

    Question: If I see a letterboxed PBS documentary with that fancy "This
    show is filmed in Hi-Def" intro, or I see Jay Leno or Conan O'Brien on a
    big cavernous widescreen studio on NBC--both over normal
    basic-cable--*and* I have a tuner-ready set kicked in, may I assume I'd
    be watching those as nature intended?
    (And that's assuming the cable connection is direct, and not through my
    old component-VCR.)

    Derek Janssen (sometimes you have to roll up your jeans and wade in the
    geek pool knee deep) :)
    Derek Janssen, Jun 1, 2007
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  2. Derek Janssen

    Doug Jacobs Guest

    Good article. I especially liked the not-so-subtle bash against the HD
    DVD formats...
    To watch HD, you have to be watching a HD channel. To my pleasant
    surprise, my TV actually has built-in tuners to get unencrypted HD
    channels through my plain old cable (CBS, FOX, etc.) On my TV, these
    channels show up decimals. So, "2" is Fox, "2.1" is Fox in HD.

    I'm not sure how it works for standard OTA antennas. We bought Grandma a
    new TV for Christmas, and it also did HD, though Grandma only cares about
    Oprah and her soaps. Her TV had separate inputs for HD and non-HD
    antennas. I figure in '09 or so, we'll simply move the antenna connection
    from the non-HD port to the HD one, and that should be it.

    Also, be sure you know where your HD channels are being broadcast from.
    For me, most of the HD channels are broadcast from San Francisco, even
    though I live in Sunnyvale, about 45 miles SSE of there. I'd have to get
    a pretty powerful, directional antenna - definitely not something that
    would fit on top of the TV/entertainment unit, and definitely not
    something I felt like spending that much money for.

    If you have cable already, and your TV has a QAM tuner built into it (or
    you can buy one separately), you may get the over-air HD channels your
    cable provider carries without having to do anything more than simply
    telling your TV to auto-program itself. (I believe this is a legal
    requirement - not sure.)
    Doug Jacobs, Jun 2, 2007
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  3. Derek Janssen

    JackShephard Guest

    Wow... that was a tough one.
    JackShephard, Jun 2, 2007
  4. Derek Janssen

    Jay G. Guest

    Be sure to check the display's resolution. If you want to "future proof"
    yourself, you'll want to get a 1080p display, not the cheaper and currently
    more common 720p displays.
    You don't want an "HD ready" set, you'll want one with a digital tuner
    built in. All new models sold in the US are mandated by the FCC now to
    include an ATSC tuner, which is the new OTA broadcast standard, so this
    shouldn't be hard to find. Some may include a QAM tuner as well for
    digital cable broadcast, but that's not something you're interested in.

    You'll have to make sure you're watching via the digital tuner, since most
    TVs still include a tuner for the old NTSC standard as well. You may have
    to switch tuners manually, or the set may combine both analog and digital
    channels to select from.
    I don't see how having the antenna cable daisy-chained through your VCR
    should affect the tuners, provided you don't have the VCR's RF modulator
    engaged (the "TV/VCR" button).

    Jay G., Jun 3, 2007
  5. Is that going to be a compatability problem down the road?--

    Particularly as
    A) I've already mentioned the 40" max (and there aren't as many 1080p's
    below that, as that's cramming a bit too much into one screen),
    B) there's recently been some question as to whether the human eye can
    actually *distinguish* 1080p apart from 780p. They're still not sure.
    Our local system has the local network-HD channels up in the
    digital-cable stratosphere along with the Discovery Channels and HBO, so
    they may have me over a barrel there...I'll leave that open.

    Derek Janssen
    Derek Janssen, Jun 3, 2007
  6. It's not impossible to find, by any means. I have a 37" LCD set
    from Mitsubishi that's 1080p. I remember looking at models from
    Sony, Samsung, Phillips, and Sharp which also did 1080p at under
    Aaron J. Bossig, Jun 3, 2007
  7. I've seen them, and they're a jump up in price, which isn't an issue
    this far off--
    Thing is, although 60"+ screens need the high amount of resolution,
    there's a point at which getting a "small" bigscreen with 1080 becomes
    like getting an iPod with 1080: How much difference is it going to
    MAKE?? ;)

    Derek Janssen
    Derek Janssen, Jun 3, 2007
  8. Derek Janssen

    Jay G. Guest

    Not a compatibility issue *per se*, since 720p HDTVs are capable of
    receiving at least 1080i signals from the tuner, component, or digital
    input and downconvert to it to the TV's native resolution. You just won't
    be getting the fullest possible HD, so you'll likely want to upgrade a 720p
    set faster than you would a 1080p set.
    TVs exist that are below 40" and are 1080p. Hell, there's HD projectors
    that cram 1080p resolution onto an even smaller screen.
    People can distinguish between anamorphic and non-anamorphic DVDs, and
    that's only a 20% increase in resolution. 1080p is *twice* the resolution
    than 720p, so it's definitely noticeable.

    The important thing to notice the difference is to be close enough to see
    it. This site can calculate how close you need to be to get the full
    benefit of 1080 resolution.
    Locals typically look better OTA than over digital cable, provided you get
    good reception. As for the others, you can always get a cable tuner later
    on. Time Warner provides an HD DVR for no more cost than a regular digital

    Jay G., Jun 3, 2007
  9. I'd say that point is well below 37", but YMMV.
    Aaron J. Bossig, Jun 3, 2007
  10. Derek Janssen

    Jordan Guest

    Rule #1 - Don't assume anything. :^)

    I have an HDTV and an HD DVR box. The DVR is connected to my Comcast
    cable as well as an antenna. When I tell it to look for channels it
    scans both the antenna and the cable.

    It turns out that Comcast is feeding HD channels even over basic
    cable. For example:

    My local PBS channel is 10. The HD PBS channel is 10.1 and then
    there's a special PBS "Create" channel on 10.2. They also just added
    some kind of local government channel on 10.3.

    If you're watching a show on channel 10 then it's NOT HD. Even if it
    says "available in HD", all that means is that if you want to watch it
    in HD you have to flip over to 10.1 to see it in HD.

    The same goes for network programming. Again, locally for me NBC is on
    channel 8. The HD feed is on 8.1. 8.2 is an all local weather channel
    from that same station. Conan O'Brian in SD? - Channel 8. Conan
    O'Brian in HD? - Channel 8.1. Letterman in SD? Channel 6. Letterman in
    HD? Channel 6.1.

    Most HD televisions have an "info" button to tell you what resolution
    the channel you're watching is being fed in. If it says 480i or 480p
    then you aren't in HD land.

    - Jordan
    Jordan, Jun 3, 2007
  11. (Comcast, that's what we've got in our area--
    And just *try* fighting off their efforts to sell you the digital
    on-demand package, so no help asking them about basic-HD.)
    Which (hopefully built-in) tuner would I be looking for WITHOUT the
    HD-DVR box?
    Up till now, I've always fed my standard-cable signals in through the
    cable-ready VCR (which's why I've never gone for standard-DVR either),
    as I like to skip the monthly box shakedown.

    Derek Janssen (and if it seems like I'm stretching this out, remember,
    one more on-topic post is one less by You-Know-Which-Jerk)
    Derek Janssen, Jun 3, 2007
  12. Derek Janssen

    Jordan Guest

    If your TV has a built in ATSC tuner then that's where you're going to
    find your HD channels. My set didn't come with a built in tuner which
    is why I use the DVR. Prior to the DVR I had an ATSC tuner/
    upconverting DVD player combo unit. What make an model TV do you have?
    I can virtually guarantee that the VCR doesn't have an ATSC tuner in
    it so it is not going to detect or tune HD channels.

    - Jordan
    Jordan, Jun 4, 2007
  13. As for HD, none yet.
    As for standard, one of the new digital "flat tube" Toshibas (not
    flatscreen or WS), with YCbCr capability from approx. two or three years
    (Unless you want the make and model #.)

    Derek Janssen
    Derek Janssen, Jun 4, 2007
  14. Derek Janssen

    Jordan Guest

    Gotcha. So when you go for an HDTV make sure it comes with it's own
    ATSC tuner. When you search for channels you will find digital
    channels typically are on the x.x format.

    My channel lineup looks like this, all are SD unless marked HD.

    2 (ABC)
    2.1 (ABC HD)
    3 (the CW)
    4 (TV Guide Channel)
    5 (PAX / ION)
    6 (CBS)
    6.1 (CBS HD)
    6.2 (I haven't figured out the purpose for this one, appears to be a
    dupe of 6.1)
    7 (Discovery channel)
    8 (NBC)
    8.1 (NBC HD)
    8.2 (Local NBC weather channel)
    9 (WGN)
    10 (PBS)
    10.1 (PBS HD)
    10.2 (PBS Create)
    10.3 (PBS local government)

    The interesting thing is that 10 and 10.1 have unique programming.
    It's not a simple matter of having an SD and HD version of the same
    channel the way ABC, CBS and NBC are. Right now they overlap (showing
    "Nature" in SD and HD) but at 9 PM Pacific the SD channel changes to
    Mystery! while the HD channel becomes "Craft in America".

    All of these channels were detected over my standard basic cable. I
    don't have Comcast's digital package or anything like that. There are
    more than I list here, I just thought the first 10 show what I'm
    talking about.

    - Jordan
    Jordan, Jun 4, 2007
  15. Derek Janssen

    JackShephard Guest

    You forgot one other channel type designation.

    Most city's PBS carrier has multiple channels. A standard broadcast, a
    "digital" broadcast in standard aspect, and an HD digital broadcast.

    All three can carry different programming at any given time. Your city
    also happens to have a fourth PBS broadcast, likely digital (as all the
    channels not able to be received by a standard tuner are).
    JackShephard, Jun 4, 2007
  16. (...Look, it's a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT poster! And he CARES about
    topic!) ;)

    Derek Janssen (well, I'M convinced!)
    Derek Janssen, Jun 4, 2007
  17. Derek Janssen

    Doug Jacobs Guest

    I wouldn't worry about the 720p vs. 1080p thing. For one thing, there
    really isn't much difference between 720p and 1080p, and on a smaller
    screen (45" or smaller), the difference is going to be even less apparent.
    Furthermore, most TV/cable stations are only in 720p anyways, with only a
    few using 1080i. It'll be quite a while before everyone switches to 1080p.

    I think 720p should be fine - just make sure it's really 720p, and not
    something odd like 768, which tries to do a fakey 1080i... I'd just go
    with true 720p or 1080p (if you don't mind the extra price) - skip 1080i
    Doug Jacobs, Jun 4, 2007
  18. Derek Janssen

    Doug Jacobs Guest

    But that also assumes that the TV itself isn't upscaling. I have a 1080p
    set, however, it upscales everything to 1080p regardless of the source
    material and signal. So, on it, there's virtually no difference between
    720p and 1080p.

    Most source material is going to be at 720p, unless you plan on heavily
    investing in Blu-Ray/HD-DVD. So, even a 720p set which will downscale
    1080i/1080p signals will still look great.
    Doug Jacobs, Jun 4, 2007
  19. Derek Janssen

    Doug Jacobs Guest

    I get the OTA HD channels through my plain old, non-digital, cable
    connection. True, I don't get DiscoveryHD, or FoodNetworkHD, but I do get
    ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and about 5 PBS HD channels. For awhile, I even got
    History Channel (non-HD, but was channel 69.3?) and I still get a bunch of
    the stupid "digital music" channels which sound worse than my regular
    radio. And Comcast wants you to PAY for that service?
    Look for a set that has a QAM tuner. That should allow you to get the
    local OTA HD stations through your regular cable without needing "digital
    cable", or an upgrade to "HD". Just remember, if you have a non-HD-DVR,
    you'll need to use a good quality splitter (and maybe one with a signal
    booster built into it) so you can plug the cable into your TV for HDTV,
    and your DVR for recording non-HD channels.

    You can also purchase an external QAM tuner, unfortunately most seem to do
    stupid things like HD->Composite/Svideo, meaning they're intended for the
    eventual switchover circa 2009 or so when all OTA TV signals will go HD
    but folks like Grandma don't want to buy a new TV.

    At least, that's all my friend has been able to find. He's in an
    apartment building, facing the "wrong" way for his HD antenna to pickup
    anything, but he does have cable.
    Doug Jacobs, Jun 4, 2007
  20. Derek Janssen

    JackShephard Guest

    There are NO 1080i LCD displays.

    ALL LCD displays are PROGRESSIVE, idiot.
    JackShephard, Jun 5, 2007
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