Are you familiar with HDTV basics? Are HDTV and DTV the same thing? What do I need to know before purchasing a new TV?
Are you thinking about buying a new TV right now, or at some time in the near future.
Is your Television Ready for the Transition from Analog to DTV on February 17th, 2009?
THIS DATE is much closer than you realize.
A better understanding of the transition to Digital TV, and knowing these HDTV basics, will help you to be ready when it’s time to consider a new television.
Buying a new television today can be overwhelming and involves more than just visiting your local television or electronics store. Shopping for a Digital TV or an HDTV can be confusing with all the abbreviations, terms, resolution, dpi, formats and the options that you can get on televisions today. And you thought that purchasing a new car was bad.
So What Do Consumer’s Need to Know
There are so many decisions confronting today’s unprepared consumer, just trying to navigate through this complex maze can be a daunting experience. However, many of these frustrations can be avoided by doing some homework before hand.
Things To Know Before You Go
What is Digital TV … and is Not. What is the Digital TV Transition… and how it will affects you. How is HDTV different from all other television formats … and How. Understand what you want and need, so you’re not Sold something YOU don’t want or need!
So Where Do You Start? Familiarize yourself with the different Terms and Classifications
NTSC Analog TV- (National Television Systems Committee), Traditional TV; now being phased out on February 17th.
ATSC Digital TV – (Advanced Television Systems Committee), DTV;
This is “SDTV” – Standard Definition TV – the new, (digital) TV Standard;
replaces NTSC Analog TV.
Integrated HDTV – or simply, HDTV; DTV with an Internal (built-in) High Definition TV Receiver.
This is able to Receive and Display all ATSC TV Signals – Including HDTV Signals.
Digital-HDTV – ‘Capable’ or ‘Ready’- Digital TV that is able to DISPLAY HDTV – BUT ONLY with the addition of an EXTERNAL HDTV Receiver.
EDTV – Enhanced Digital TV – a classification* describing Digital TV’s that are basically ‘high-end’ SDTV’s. While these often include some type of technical features, added by the Manufacturer to enhance the picture, nevertheless, the picture quality does NOT equal HDTV. Technically, there is virtually no visual difference between an SDTV and an EDTV – with the possible exception of the higher price.
* For many Consumers, this classification is of questionable value; by paying more for a TV tagged “EDTV” the consumer is only getting what can best be described as an ‘upgraded’ SDTV. The question is, how ‘up-graded’ is it, if the TV simply meets the standard for SDTV?
Different TV Display Technologies:
CRT – (Cathode Ray Tube):Traditional TV Technology – The established standard for television displays; best overall value – picture quality and cost; major drawback is bulk and mass as size increases. Plasma Display – Ultra-thin design, High Contrast Ratings, ‘Fixed Pixel’ Display: Size up to 60+ inches; some display limitations – costly, high burn-in risk; picture quality affected by inability to display black-color; displays are extremely heavy and fragile; picture quality lost as pixels fade; many Plasma Displays do not display HDTV resolutions. Development continues.
LCD – Liquid Crystal Display: Thin design, size limitations; good computer monitor; sharp picture for static displays; problems displaying images in motion; many LCD Displays are not HDTV capable. Development continues.
LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon) – Improved LCD Technology, may hold promise for future HDTV display; costly; manufacturing problems continue; development ongoing.
DLP (Digital Light Processor) – Uses Chip and Software Technology – exciting, alternative display technology; excellent HDTV display; eliminates most short comings of other technologies; moderate cost; some viewers question “softer” picture, and use of “color-wheel;” promising future – development continues.
TV Display Configuration:
The width to height ratio of a TV Monitor or Program.
Aspect Ratio can apply to either the television monitor (hardware), or to the TV program format.
Traditional – (4:3) aspect ratio; the display has ‘square’ appearance. All Analog TV programs are in 4:3 aspect ratio.
New ‘Wide Screen’ (16:9) aspect ratio; the display is rectangular.
Digital TV (SDTV) programs can be in either 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio.
HDTV is always in 16:9 aspect ratio.
As you can see, consumers have a number of decisions to make, long before making their final buying decision. Understanding the basics of HDTV requires us to become familiar with an array of strange-new ‘tech-speak’ terms.
Aspect Ratio – width to height (4:3) or (16:9); refers to the TV Display and to TV Programs.
Picture Resolution – 720-p; 1080-i; 480-i/p; – and recently added, 1080-p.
Progressive Scan – display method (“p” in 720-p)
Interlaced Scan – display method (“i” in 1080-i)
D/A – A/D – digital to analog and analog to digital converter
STB – Set-top Box (aka: Receiver, Tuner, Decoder or Descrambler)
OTA – ‘over-the-air’ or ‘off-the-air’ – refers to Local TV Broadcasts
These are just a few of the new terms you will encounter.
The Digital TV Enigma
As consumers begin their quest for information about the Digital and HDTV, they soon notice what seems to be an “Information-Void.” Trying to get Useful, and Reliable information about what is needed to buy a digital television set can seem difficult.
Try asking questions regarding basic HDTV; for example: Does the Transition from Analog TV to Digital TV mean that everyone is forced to buy an HDTV? or, What is the difference between SDTV and HDTV; or What is needed to have High Definition TV reception in your home? Now compare the different answers you get or the lack of knowledge on the sales persons part.
Note: The seller must disclose or have posted information regarding the lack of digital capabilities of any television for sale to you the consumer. This is a government mandate.
In stark contrast, at the opposite extreme, is the continuous flow of ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation.’ This flood of unreliable information has inundated the general public. The path to useful and reliable information is littered with inaccuracies, fallacies and myths. And this is further aggravated by misleading advertising and marketing ploys.
As an example, here’s a question asked repeatedly by perplexed consumers concerning the transition from Analog TV to Digital TV:
“Can you tell me if it’s true, that “normal” TV is going to be stopped and everyone will be forced to buy an HDTV? I don’t believe they can do this … But if it’s true, when will it happen?”
Okay, that’s really two questions…
The answer to the first, is of course – NO, it’s not true. At least not in the way the question is posed. While it is true that “normal TV” (meaning traditional NTSC-Analog TV) will end, replaced by ATSC-Digital TV, you will NOT have to buy an HDTV!
IMPORTANT NOTE: The FCC’s mandatory transition from Analog TV to Digital TV does NOT refer to, nor mean ‘High Definition Television!’
Note: If you choose to keep your analog television you can purchase a converter box that will make viewing your television possible. There are coupons to help with this purchase on the website listed below and it is free to print.
This highlights one of the primary sources of so much of the public’s confusion concerning Digital TV and HDTV. These are two discrete terms, yet they are frequently used incorrectly – as if they were interchangeable words with the same meaning. They are NOT the same; they designate two distinctly different classifications of television.|
High Definition Television is ‘digital’; however, HDTV is just one (1) of eighteen(18) ‘Digital TV Formats’ designated in the ATSC Standard.
It is important for consumers to understand that ‘Digital TV’ does NOT mean HDTV.
Digital television’s “Standard Definition TV” – SDTV – is NOT equal to HDTV – High Definition Television.
So, it’s up to each consumer to inform her/him-self on the basics of Digital-HDTV.
But – Be careful!
Don’t take anything for granted; don’t accept statements at face value.
Verify everything you hear or read about Digital-HDTV, comparing it with different sources.
The Digital Difference
Digital TV signals are made up of coded instructions – (the same ‘bits’ of ‘ones and zeros’ that make your computer work, and give life to ‘CD’s’ and ‘DVD’s’) – which are transmitted to your Digital Receiver, (aka: Tuner, Decoder or Set-Top-Box “STB”) which in turn deciphers the code.
A Digital TV receiver isn’t concerned with signal strength, or what conditions exist between your set and the transmitter. As long as the signal gets to the receiver, and the code can be read, the Digital TV is able to reproduce a near-perfect picture – virtually identical to the original, back in the TV Studio.
A distinct advantage of digital broadcasting is that bad reception is a thing of the past. One reason Cable TV caught on is because it delivers clear TV pictures without regard to the viewer’s location. Viewers don’t have to be constantly adjusting the antenna in an attempt to “tune-in” a weak signal from a distant transmitter to get a clear picture. Digital TV (DTV) eliminates the “snow” and “ghosting” caused by the weak signals from distant or blocked transmitting towers. If the analog television set does not receive a strong, undistorted signal from the tower, you will not get a perfectly clear picture.
Both digital and analog television signals weaken, the farther they travel away from the transmitting tower. On an analog TV, the picture slowly deteriorates from bad to worse as the distance between tower and receiver increases. However, the picture on a digital set will stay perfect until the signal becomes too weak for the receiver to distinguish between a (1) and a (0), at which point the image disappears completely.
This has been referred to as “the cliff effect” – the picture remains stable until it abruptly “drops off” the screen. This might be compared to sending Morse Code. As long as the person at the other end can make out the dots and dashes being transmitted they will be able to read the message. Once they lose the distinction between a dot and a dash they lose the message. Digital TV acts the same way; instead of sending dots and dashes, it sends millions of (1’s) and (0’s) every second.
As long as the TV Receiver can read the (1’s and 0’s) it displays a virtually perfect picture. The bottom line … you either receive a 100% quality image, or nothing at all. What this means to the digital television viewer, is not having to worry about getting a “bad” picture. Either you have a picture or you don’t. However, if you are receiving over-the-air, “OTA” (Over the Air) broadcasts, it is crucial for the antenna to be accurately directed towards the signal source – the transmitting tower of the station you are watching.
Adding an “H” to ‘DTV’ = W O W! While our objective is to become familiar with HDTV basics, so far we have focused mainly on Digital TV – DTV. What then is HDTV – High Definition Television? And what is the difference between DTV and HDTV?
DTV differs from NTSC-analog TV in the technology used to transmit the signal. And we looked at some of the reasons why Digital is better than analog. But when comparing Digital TV or “SDTV” (Standard Definition TV) to HDTV, the difference is as night and day! High Definition Television is digital television – BUT … It’s IMPORTANT to understand that Digital TV does NOT mean HDTV! HDTV is just ONE of (18) ATSC designated formats that comprise Digital TV. In High Definition Television, the picture displayed on your television screen begins as an HDTV signal captured by HDTV Cameras, (or converted from film or another format with HDTV Equipment). The HDTV Signal is transmitted to the HDTV Receiver and finally displayed on an HDTV-Capable TV Monitor. But it must also meet the ATSC Standards for High Definition Television in order for it to be “true” HDTV.
Note: It is more than likely you will confront mis-information stating that Digital TV in various configurations is ‘high definition television.’ This is NOT True! You may also be told that as long as the TV meets one or two criteria, or if it has been enhanced by the Manufacturer, using some proprietary engineering “magic,” this makes it – “as good as” – HDTV. Again, NOT TRUE!
If what you want is HDTV, be sure the television you are considering, is really “True” High Definition Television. How Do you Know a TV is – HDTV? To answer this question a ‘bit’ of basic TV technology will be helpful.
It will be helpful in understanding some of the basic elements of HDTV by educating yourself. After all, this is a discussion about Digital-HDTV – possibly the most significant ‘leap forward’ in consumer-technology to impact our society in more than a century!
The image you see on your television screen is comprised of a series of horizontal lines. An electron gun ‘shoots’ energy beams (light) which strike a layer of phosphor on the inside surface of the picture tube, causing it to glow. These glowing lines create the image displayed on your TV screen. How they are formatted, which resolution is used, what standards are met, are some of the factors that determine the type of television picture you will receive.
TV Resolution.The quality of the picture displayed on the TV screen is primarily the result of the television’s “resolution.” Put simply, TV ‘resolution’ refers to how many horizontal lines are displayed on the TV screen.
Note – Although the horizontal lines are counted, (in this instance) this is referred to as the “Vertical resolution,” because the lines are counted from top to bottom – or vertically. TV Resolution is sometimes expressed as the total ‘pixel’ count, which is a product of the number of lines and number of pixels per line
Why Is “Wide-Screen” TV The DTV Standard?
DTV sets are sold in two ‘Aspect Ratios.’ Aspect Ratio refers to the ratio between the horizontal (width) measurement and the vertical (height) measurement of the screen. This ratio is also used in reference to how the picture is transmitted and displayed on the screen. The two aspect ratios used in DTV are (4:3) and (16:9). That is, (4) units wide by (3) units high, and (16) units wide by (9) units high respectively. Your NTSC-analog television has an aspect ratio of (4:3); the screen appears almost ‘square’ because it has just slightly more width than height. For instance, a (4′) wide screen would have a height of (3′).
Go to the link below to find more information on the Analog to DTV Transition on February 17th, 2009 before your left in the dark.
This brief introduction to Digital TV and HDTV basics, provides an overview (intentionally simplified) of how DTV differs from traditional Analog TV, and how HDTV differs from Digital-SDTV; and a little about the Transition from Analog TV to Digital TV. This is just a start towards a better understanding of Digital TV. Now that you’re familiar with some of the basics, you are better prepared to begin considering which Digital HDTV is right for you.