Home > Uncategorized > Digital Transition (Part 2): 480, 720, 1080…P…I

Digital Transition (Part 2): 480, 720, 1080…P…I

If you have haven’t visited Part 1, I highly urge you to do so. You’re ready to junk your entire television setup because you can only get digital television through a high definition set, new antennas, or a new satellite system? WAIT!!!! First ask yourself, what you have now and what you want. As I said before, there are common ways to get television aside from the Internet: satellite, cable, and over the air. I’m mostly concerned with over-the-air people since the satellite or cable provider will take care of you except for a new HDTV if you want to go that route.

Let’s first talk about those crazy numbers in the subject. You will often hear about and see two two-letter characters SD and HD, Standard Definition and High Definition respectively. The United States and a number of other countries use the NTSC (National Television System Committee) standard of 480 lines of resolution. It’s actually supposed to be 525 lines but some lines are hacked off to include data such as time base correctors (V-Hold), color-burst and closed captioning. Thank god our eyes can’t discern that many separate lines or else we’d notice. So this is where the 480 comes from…standard definition. Your typical, everyday TV has a resolution of 720 lines vertical and 480 lines horizontal. We’re only concerned with horizontal resolution.

When you start using the numbers 720 and 1080, you’re talking about high definition, typically in a 16×9 or widescreen instead of 4×3. Don’t like the black bars on the movie you’re watching on your TV; that’s because it was shot in widescreen and whether you believe it or not, you’re seeing more of the image. 720 isn’t a lot more than 480 but 1080 is, so why is 720 considered high definition, well that’s where the I and P come into play.

When shopping for a new high definition television, you may see 720p or 1080i/p. I stands for Interlaced whereas P stands for Progressive scan. What happens in interlaced is your television draws every other line in a frame and then draws in the others once that half frame is complete for 30 frames a second. So in a 480i set (standard definition), 240 lines will draw followed by the other 240. In progressive scan all the lines are drawn one directly after another so in the time it takes for interlaced to make one frame, progressive can do two frames. That’s how 720p is high definition; 720 lines at 60 frames per second instead of 30.

1080 is such a high resolution it doesn’t need to be progressive to be considered “high definition” even though some people will say 720p looks better than 1080i. This is highly subjective. The Holy Grail for high definition in home is 1080p, 1080 lines of resolution at 60 frames per second. Many TV’s today don’t even accept a 1080p input or will fake it internally. There is no broadcast 1080p content available. Film is actually 4000+ lines or resolution or what we refer to as 4K, but don’t expect to see that at home anytime soon.

So you’re the man or woman on the mountain that only received television over the air through a roof-top antennae or rabbit ears and you want to keep getting your television. I have some bad news and some good news. You will need new hardware, but the good news is you will only need one new piece of it. Antennas that have been around for decades are already receiving a digital signal…it’s true! The problem is televisions more than a few years old lack the digital tuner to decode these channels so you can take one of two routes.

Presently, all new televisions sold MUST come with a digital tuner built into them, even the small tubed TVs. So you can replace your older model with a newer one, and the prices are coming way down very fast one these. These second method is to add a new piece of hardware to your existing setup. It’s called a digital to analog converter. What it does, when you plug your antennae into it and then hook the converter to your TV is take the digital signal and convert it into an analog one your television can understand. The best part about this is Congress has approved a program where a household can receive two $40 vouchers to cover the cost of this box and most aren’t any more than $80. Once you have that hooked up you’re set to go with more free broadcast channels than you had before at a minimal cost.

Now if you want to receive high definition over the air, you will need a high definition television than can display 720 or 1080 lines of resolution, which will cost a bit more than an SD TV but will display GORGEOUS pictures. It’s up to you, but in order to just make the digital leap, the worst and cost is extremely minimal. It’s entirely up to you to go as small or as big as you would like to go.

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