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HDTV User Guide
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Introduction HDTV

Whether you’ve already purchased a High Definition Television (HDTV) or are in the market to do so, there are a few key items you need to know. The premise of HDTV is simple: Deliver a picture that is up to 5X sharper than standard TV complete with digital surround sound that rivals the audio experience found in a typical movie theater. While this may sound simple enough in concept, enjoying all of the core benefits that HDTV has to offer can often be a challenge for consumers. A recent article by Peter Grant in the Wall Street Journal confirms this dilemma:

Anyone who thinks consumers understand high-definition television should consider a recent survey by Leichtman Research Group. It concluded that close to one-half of the 24 million households with HDTV’s don't actually watch high-definition programs because they haven't obtained the necessary hardware from their cable, phone or satellite operators.

And about one half of those viewers, about 6 million, don't even realize they're not watching HDTV.

To truly enjoy all of the benefits offered by High Definition television, you absolutely must have a source capable of displaying High Definition content and the appropriate cables to connect that source to your HDTV display. This HDTV Quick Reference Guide discusses your various options for HD content and provides an overview of HDTV cable requirements.

Amphenol stocks every common cable type used by today’s HDTV display technologies such as DLP, LCD, and Plasma. This guide will be updated regularly with new tips and tricks to maximize your HDTV experience.

The HDTV Transition

The analog technology behind standard definition television (SDTV) broadcasts in North America has remained largely unchanged for nearly half a century. Color television broadcasts using the NTSC (National Television Standards Committee) system started in 1953 throughout North America, Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines. This proven, yet in many ways primitive analog video system is heading for extinction. On February 17, 2009, all U.S. television broadcasters will turn off their NTSC transmissions for good, marking the end of the analog broadcasting era. NTSC color broadcasts are characterized by a resolution of 480 interlaced lines (480i) and an aspect ratio of 4:3 (the ratio between the width and height of the image).

This is an exciting transition for television viewers, as the concept of fuzzy, blurry, and ghosted reception will soon fade into history. High Definition Television (HDTV) has taken the North American market by storm; with 2006 marking the first year HDTV sales outpaced standard definition TV sales. The technology that makes high definition television possible has its roots in the digital video systems developed by NASA during the space race. The benefit of a digital signal is that it is less prone to the negative effects caused by interference over long distances.

Standard Definition TV (NTSC) Test Pattern

This core concept is what makes HDTV such a worthwhile upgrade, as it ensures crisp picture details, proper color rendition, and pristine audio from the source down.

The primary advantage of HDTV is its resolution.  Resolution is the quantity of distinct pixels that make up an image.  Resolution is often expressed in terms of “lines”, in which a line would represent a row of pixels.   Much like digital cameras, a higher pixel count will produce a more detailed image on-screen.  HDTV signals are characterized by a resolution of 720 progressive lines (720P) or 1080 interlaced lines

HDTV Resolution Comparison Chart
(1080i) and an aspect ratio of 16:9.  The widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio for HDTV was selected as a middle ground between the standard TV 4:3 aspect ratio and the 2.35:1 aspect ratio found in many films.   The HDTV content providers must chose whether to broadcast in 720P or 1080i.  While 1080i tends to be the more popular format due to its higher resolution, the interlacing used can cause distortion in some instances.  The 720P Progressive Scan format does not suffer from this type of distortion (shown below) and is the preferred format for televising live sporting events.  1080P is currently the “hot new” HD format, but very few sources of 1080P material exist to take advantage of it.   



HDTV Basic Setup Requirements

There are two pre-requisites that must be met for your HDTV to properly display High Definition content.  The most important consideration is having a proper source of HD programming.  This source is generally a separate HDTV set-top box leased by a cable or satellite operator, but can include other technologies as well.  Nearly as critical for HDTV viewing is selecting the appropriate cable to connect to your HD equipment.  Many of the common Audio/Video cable technologies simply are not designed to handle High Definition content.   

• Article Continues: HDTV Content Providers

• Article Continues: HDTV Cable Technology Overview

• Article Continues: HDTV Tips and Tricks

HDTV User Guide


HDTV Guide by Nick Blas Technology Editor


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