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The Joys of HDTV 225

Iron Webmaster wrote to us with a recent feature regarding the trials of HDTV installation. It's a semiamusing story - but it also points out some of the major problems with the cutting edge stuff. I know from personal experience in the Boston-area that even digital cable is...not as good as the companies claim. The infrastructure for this stuff is just not in place, and many companies are betting their future on it.
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The Joys of HDTV

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  • From the FAQ:

    What is DScaler?

    DScaler is the old name for DScaler, we changed the name as people use DScaler to refer to digital television and this was causing confusion. In the source and on the website you will still see references to DScaler but please refer to the program as DScaler from now on.


    WTF?
  • The folks at Best Buy are right - an HDTV set wouldn't really help. The picture would look better, but at best you'd be feeding it upconverted NTSC video, which would be pointless and expensive. You *can* do HD on a g4 with FCP, but it requires a $10K Cinewave card and an assload of hard drives.

    Instead, I'd get a good NTSC monitor (*not* a television set...check these [sony.com] out) and hook it to one of the boxes found here [synthetic-ap.com].

    HTH,
    Phred

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Design us some bookcases," I said, "and leave room for this."

    No problem, they said, and $7,000 later, we had a beautiful built-in system, with spaces for all of my electronic components. But there was a problem, and you probably saw this coming. When the new set was delivered, it didn't fit. The hole [I think he means "recess"] was an inch too narrow and half an inch too low, and the TV went back to the store.


    Not only is the guy only semiliterate, but he asks for a custom cabinet with specs that cut so close to the TV that an inch or two off and it doesn't fit. Here's a clue for you: ventilation don't go through wood.
  • as mentioned elsewhere in a comment, there is an hdtv set w/ a built in decoder. rca's 38" 16:9 hdtv has been shipping for around a year.

    it's actually one of the cheaper direct view hdtv sets around. my dad got his for $2100 (floor unit), but they retail for around $2500. here's a pretty good online retailer [abtelectronics.com] that carries it for cheap.

    though you do lose out for paying less, the menus and UI suck my innards and it's RCA quality so I don't expect it to last too long. some other complaints have been its lack of digital video out. here [audioreview.com]'s a bunch of user reviews for the tv.

  • I'm guessing they've blown too much money on 'net ventures and can only afford two staff: Thomas to write some articles, and George, the night-watchman.


    Poor dears.

  • lol, nice sig. I loved my C64!

    As far as analog cell phones, the quality here in LA was for me much worse with analog. The cross-channel interfearance was so bad it was often like being on a party line, especially during the time just before and just after switching cell sites while on the move (when you could be physically close to someone on another cell site who is using the same channel).
  • You guys might want to check out DIRECTV. It doesn't matter how many people live in your area, the picture quality is the same. I've had it for a few weeks now, and haven't noticed any compression problems.

    You just haven't been looking at the right channels. DirecTV can choose different bit rates for different channels, and the ones that they have lowered the bit rates on (Food Network for one) has noticable blocks and pixellation.

    Of course, they use the higher bit rates for HBO and PPV.


    ...phil

  • Check this out: DScaler [sourceforge.net]. This is Free Software (GPL'd) that can turn a computer with a $50 Bttv capture card into a high end line doubler with 3:2 pulldown! It's windows only at the moment, but I'm hoping someone will port this to Linux soon.

    Basically with this, the guy in the article could have piped his normal cable and/or regular DirecTV into his HDTV set and had an excellent picture, especially on material that was originally shot on film. Check out the website for some screenshots of line doubling Laserdiscs and VHS tapes... There is even a contest to see if you can tell the difference between line doubled DVD and Progressive scan DVD!

    BTW, the project needs developers, I would especially like to see an industrious Linux programmer port this puppy over to Linux :)

  • Well, actually in thier tests they are comparing Dscaler to WinDVD, a software DVD player.

    I was under the impression that DVD MPEG-2 video was non-interlaced on the actual disc, and it gets converted to interlaced to be output to a composite video signal... Why on earth would they have made it interlaced???
  • by echo ( 735 )
    Yes, in fact check out Dscaler [sourceforge.net]. It turns a $50 bttv capture card and a PC into a high end line doubler. Check out the screenshots. You can make regular DirecTV/Digital Cable/Laserdisc/VHS etc look much better by piping it through something like this.
  • Get yourself a $50 BTTV capture card to fit alongside that one and you can line-double regular analog sources for your Barco as well with Dscaler [sourceforge.net], it's Free Software that turns your PC into a high end line doubler.

  • by slim ( 1652 ) <john@hartnup.3.1415926net minus pi> on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @07:05AM (#65250) Homepage
    He says HDTV is "like watching a DVD all the time", but unless I'm misinformed, DVDs contain an MPEG2 at normal PAL or NTSC resolution. Sure, it's less munged around than what you get off VHS or a UFH broadcast, but it's still 525-615ish lines. I was under the impression that HDTV was supposed to be a *much* higher resolution than this.

    Frankly, however, standard TV resolution should be enough for anyone, as anyone with a DVD should know. It's a shame that Americans are being denied digital TV and widescreen, unless they buy into HD.

    In Europe, by the way, digital TV is not a byword for HDTV as it is in the US. Companies are fairly successfully broadcasting digital TV at normal PAL resolution (often in widescreen mind you) over cable, satellite and terrestrial transmitters.

    It's usually a better picture than analogue (apart from the occasional over-compressed MPEG stream), it's a far more efficient use of bandwidth (more channels - a treat for us Brits who are used to 4 terrestrial channels). I only with they'd bothered to embrace 5.1 digital audio while they were at it.
    --
  • I admit PAL has slightly better resolution, and better color rendition (ob. NTSC- Never Twice Same Color) (which doesn't bother me much; I'm moderately R-G color blind). What does bother me about PAL is the refresh rate.. 50 hz is just nasty. 60 is a much better; 24 (film) often gives me headaches, especially with stupid directors that like strobe effects..
  • What do you mean digital cable is not as good as the companies claim? What can they claim other than "You get 250+ channels!"? Have they promised it will clean your windows, mow your lawn, vaccuum your apartment, or walk your dog, and I just missed it? It isn't like they've ever promised better picture quality or better quality programming because of it, just more channels.

    Of course, it's only worth it to me because I also have TiVo, so I haven't watched an ad for anything, including digital cable, in a long time. Maybe they are promising all those things. In which case you're right. Otherwise I have no idea what you're talking about.
  • by Paul Carver ( 4555 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @06:14AM (#65256)
    Where does a newspaper reporter get the money to throw away thousands of dollars on a TV set? He didn't seem to care whether he got anything that worked. He just kept throwing around a couple hundred here and a couple thousand there regardless of whether it actually bought anything useful.

    Does he put this on an expense report? Does the LA Times pay for home entertainment for their tech writers? Do they have any expectation that their tech writers do any research before throwing money to the wind?
  • ... with multiplexed NTSC and data services to boost their bottom lines.
    Maybe the data services will "boost bottom lines" somehow, but I fail to see how multiplexed NTSC will do squat for broadcast profits. The problem is this: you can't create more eyeballs (or more consumer spending dollars per eyeball) by simply having more channels. Creating more channels isn't going to make advertiser's pockets deeper, either. If anyone has a viable theory of how broadcasters will do better than break-even with this (and I think they could even lose money), I'd love to hear it...
  • by juuri ( 7678 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @06:08AM (#65263) Homepage
    ... no really.

    If you live in an area with a high congestion of people (aka a cell with tons of people) digital cable has *much* worse quality than normal analog cable. Luckily for those of us in at&t cable land we no longer have a choice! The nice cable monopoly has decided we no longer no need analog cable and will only give us the hook up with their inferior digital product.

    I really love horrible mpeg stutters, bad picture quality and spikes in sound. Thank you digital cable for showing me the error of my ways! Now I can get pissed at tv quality on four times as many channels!
  • Using probably the same box I get digital cable through Cogeco (in Ontario). While the picture is fairly good generally on the movie networks (while they hype digital TV, in reality only the movie network and a couple of other token channels are actually digital...I was quite surprized discovering that when all the ads simply talk about "Digital TV", yet 90+% of the channels are still analog), there is some wicked posterization in scenes of gentle color gradients (obviously they are overcompressing) and the picture in general most certainly is not "DVD quality" that they love to spout.

    One funny thing about the digital cable box: Because it changes channels so slowly (even for analog stations) I never, ever "channel surf" anymore, and always check the online guide to see what's playing. This has been a revolution in television watching because now I'm much more selective and don't just watch what has the naked boobs (yes I had to say it...) visible when I flick by.

  • by dschuetz ( 10924 ) <david&dasnet,org> on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @06:22AM (#65271)
    Actually, the resolution for HDTV is either 1920x1080, 1280x720, or a few DVD-quality tv resolutions

    Yes, but how many TVs actually display the full resolution? I've been watching HDTV sets for a while now, and I'm not sure I've seen any that support 1920x1080. I've seem a few that support 1080 (many just do 720 vertical), but those that do only support, for example, 1280 or so horizontally.

    So, even with a good signal and a $3000 TV, you still might not get full HDTV quality. They really need to be more specific in their branding -- HDTV-ready vs HDTV-compatible (that might downconvert to 1280x1080, for example) vs fully-HDTV-compliant-in-input-and-display. Urgh.

  • I have a Canon XL1 MiniDV camcorder, and a semi-professional editing system (Macintosh G4 450 dual processor, Final Cut Pro, etc).

    When I view my productions on an external NTSC set, the quality problems break my heart.

    Would the better quality of a HDTV set help me? Is there any way to go digitally from FireWire to whatever inputs HDTV sets require? The folks at Best Buy say no, but I'm betting Slashdotters have a better idea.

    Thoughts?

    D

    ----
  • Thanks for the links!

    All the converter boxes do, of course, is what my camera does when I hook it up to the G4. I should probably get one, or maybe a MiniDV VCR, just to minimize wear and tear on my camera. I was pretty surprised at how expensive most of them were; the VCR wouldn't cost that much more, I don't think, and I'd be able to record my productions without using my camera.

    Sony's web site is pathetic. It didn't view at all on my Linux machine running Netscape. Ironically enough, it only works on Netscape on my Macintosh. I don't understand why developers produce such user-hostile content.

    Where does one get a Cinewave card? That sounds cool. Pity the only HDTV camera I know of is a $130k Sony. Do you know of any less outrageously expensive ways to shoot in HDTV?

    Thanks again.

    D

    ----
  • I researched it, and the only HDTV camera I know of runs $100,000 for the body, $30,000 extra for the lens.

    If anyone knows a cheaper way, I'd love to hear it. HTDV strikes me as a pretty cool format for lower-cost filmmaking when it matures, but at those prices, well, it's not going to be lower cost anything :-(.

    D

    ----
  • I know of someone who has a TV that's about 20 years old. Why change it?

    Of course the picture is so bad as to be unwatchable, but she doesn't care.

    For this reason, I can't say I like the government's proposal; why force people to upgrade when there's no reason in the world for them to do it? And I say this as the owner of an (expensive and newish) Sony VEGA.

    D

    ----
  • Aw shoot ... whatever it is, it's a great TV :-).

    The logo on the box with the two Vs forming a W made me confused.

    D

    ----
  • Ahem I still use my laserdisc, and I bought Episode 1 - star wars WAY before all of you were able to get it on DVD.

    Laserdisc is still going strong, and new titles are coming out weekly.

    Oh, and I dont suffer from that stupid region coding.... I have a KILLER animie collection that most of you will never have because of DVD's limitations.
  • WE laserdisc users can get tings that DVD people cant.

    I was watching Episode 1 of star-wars on my big screen a full month before it was even rumored to be released on DVD.

    DVD? no way man.
  • "A fool and his money are soon parted."

    :)

  • by Ripp ( 17047 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @06:03AM (#65282) Journal
    ...to have that much money to just toss around, AND THEN not even realize that yes, Virginia, about the only HD signals out there are broadcast over-the-air currently (apart from the HBO mentioned.) Do your homework, ace reporter.

    I don't think *any* sets are shipping with built in HD tuners/decoders yet, and worse still, has ANYONE decided on even a few standards to broadcast in?

    Dollars-to-donuts ALL of his brand-spankin-new HD kit is quickly made obsolete and unusable when "they" decide to encrypt and license everything broadcast, or decide on a broadcast spec which his set and/or box doesn't handle....
  • by complex ( 18458 ) <complex@@@split...org> on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @06:20AM (#65285) Homepage
    i actually feel sort of sorry for this guy. not because he had so much trouble setting up hdtv, or that he spent so much cash. i feel sorry for him considering he did so little research.
    True, one of the HDTV channels is HBO. That's OK, I guess, but not particularly better than the digital signal I get from my cable box. And that second channel? A 90-minute demonstration program played over and over and over and over. . . . No programming. No Super Bowl. And, of course, when I plugged my digital cable into the decoder, what did I get? The same signal I was getting before. No HDTV.


    c'mon. he didn't ask his cable provider if they offered hdtv service? granted, the average consumer may not realize this, but this guy confesses up fornt he is a gadget junkie. this is a bit like buying a car that runs on natural gas, and then complaining that your favorite gas station doesn't have a natural gas pump.

    as a public service, let me help out with what one needs for hdtv service.

    an hdtv. with built-in decoder, or seperate decoder.

    and hdtv source. be it directtv (like the article says, they have very few high definition channels), or over the air, or a cable provider that offers it (very very few i've heard of).

    for over the air, you'll need an antenna, as he discovered. there are small discreet ones you can mount to your dss dish if you have one, or hide along your gutter pipes to avoid your neighborhood's largest eyesore.

    that's it. be aware that getting an hdtv feed is the hardest part. :)

    complex
  • In 1998 I purchased a Dish Network receiver - the JVC DVHS unit (DVHS and Dish 5000 receiver all in one) with the expectation that I would be able to use the unit for a while and easily hook it up to my future HDTV.

    Lotta good that thought pattern did.

    Dish dumped the HDTV upgrade for the DVHS unit. Then they said the DVHS did not work with HDTV (even though the unit is able to record a 19Mbps bitstream). Then the stupidity started....

    On one of the Charile Chats with Dish CEO Charlie Ergen, the HBO guy was on talking about the HDTV upgrades and how HBO was fully behind HDTV. He was right - they were fully behind HDTV but were doing other things back there instead of supporting it. What were they gonna do with their brand spankin new HDTV feed? They were gonna send down the movies in 4:3 aspect ratio at 480 lines. Huh????

    That is when I pretty much made up my mind that HDTV was a joke. We ain't gonna see it any time soon.
  • > I make it a rule, despite my huge craving for anything new and shiny, to hold off on buying the first versions of anything.

    As for \me, I'd rather see them spending the money improving content rather than improving format. High-definition crap is still crap, and so is most of what I see on the telly.

    --
  • With DVDs officially a "mainstream" technology (meaning that Blockbuster rents them), how many companies are going to continue producing laser discs? When the two choices where cheap crappy VHS and expensive high quality laser discs, there was certainly a niche there. Now with three choices, you have cheap crappy VHS, fairly cheap high quality DVDs, and expensive slightly higher quality (says you) laser discs. Laser discs may be the medium of choice now, but basic economics are going to make them a medium of the past very soon.

    -B
  • by Finni ( 23475 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @06:33AM (#65289)
    Well, he's not a tech writer. So I doubt the Times dropped much money on that aspect of it. If you notice, at the end of the article, it says he covers medicine. Maybe he's got some medical background?

    Not to jump to conclusions, but his name is Thomas H. Maugh II. Maybe he's got family money? Most people that are 'II' content themselves with 'Junior.'

    This link [discovery.com] tells us that he is a Ph.D. It also appears here [see.org] that he's been writing for a while. See

    Maugh, T. H., II. "LSD and the Drug Culture: New Evidence of Hazard." Science, 23 March 1973, p. 1221.
  • I'm still watching crap, but at least it's clear, crisp crap!!!

    Really now. This guy needs to get a life and go buy a ticket to a play, or a book. Then he could get real resolution and could really feel like he was there. Where the hell does a non-executive get $12,100 to spend on a TV and some bookshelves?

    My opinion is that this is a fluff, 'consumer education' piece. Not education in the 'here's something you need to know' sense, but in the 'this is what you should believe' sense. Consumers must be re-educated to believe that they need to spend $(N x 1000 + 100(M x num_months)) just to watch the crap the mega corporations spew at us.

    Hey, buddy. I only spent $600 on my 36in TV, and it came with a stand. I didn't have to buy an extra 'decoder', and for the few shows I like to watch (the few with character deeper than a sheet of cardboard), I don't even notice the small amount of snow from the broadcast. Hell, the snow would disappear if I'd spend $50 on a decent antennae, but why would I? Me and my woman can have a lot more fun with that $50 in 90 minutes than you will have watching that preview station 8*)
  • by Flower ( 31351 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @06:42AM (#65293) Homepage
    Does this guy know that when HDTV finally rolls out that there will be copy protection on the signal and did he make sure to check that his TV will be compatible with that proposed standard. Which iirc, no current HDTV is atm.

    All that money, only to be spent on something that in a few years will probably be the biggest brick in his house. Reporting for the LA Times, I wonder if he'll get permission from the MPAA to complain about it.

  • Sorry man, but they are not better quality. Allow me to explain.
    In video or audio, compression is a means of maximizing usage of a given amount of bandwidth. You start here by thinking of the bandwidth as a fixed quality. For example, we all know that uncompressed 44khz/16bit CD audio sounds a lot better than a 128kpbs MP3. However, which sounds better: a 128kbps MP3, or uncompressed audio at 8 bits, 16khz (a 128kbps uncompressed audio stream)? Try it sometime.
    So you have to realize that in most cases, a compressed stream will look/sound better than an uncompressed one of the same bandwidth. So your hypothetical 704kb/s MP3 would have the potential to sound better than CD quality. Granted, there are always flaws in the algorithms, and sometimes you will see an artifact. In the case of DVDs, this depends a lot on the amount of computational time spent on the MPEG encoding.
    Now granted, an LD, uncompressed, could still look a lot better than a DVD if the LD had a higher image bandwidth. Problem is, it doesn't. A frame of a DVD flatly contains more information than a frame on an LD. So even an uncompressed DVD would still look better than an LD.
    The compression on DVD is not so that you can fit a movie into a smaller space. It is so that a movie fit into a given space will look as good as possible.
    I hope this clears things up for everyone.
  • by schussat ( 33312 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @06:04AM (#65298) Journal
    That's when I learned how hard it is to get HDTV.

    So, affluent man with too much time on his hands spends $7,000 on new cabinets and a TV, but has not yet done the research on actually how to get HDTV hooked up?

    Awww, I have so much sympathy that I'm practically bleeding from my eyes.

    -schussat

  • > Why doe one need to make a computer out Concrete?

    Hey, that "concrete computer" article was a joke, and was never intended to be taken seriously. Noticed the foot icon near the story?

    HDTV may be a joke too, but certainly has not been intended that way by its designers...

  • many many less than the masses who have sub-30' TVs



    Yeah, I only have a 25' TV. Takes up my entire wall...



    At that size, you would need more than 625 lines - hell you would need more than 1024 lines, non-interlaced!



    HDTV will happen in countries with space restrictions - smaller living areas, hence people sit closer to the TV, hence they will detect lower resolutions. Namely - Japan. PCs have high resolution - you sit 1' away from them. TVs have low resolution - you sit 10' away from them.



    At least HDTV will make those Internet boxes and everything worthwhile. No more 640x512 smudgy interface...

  • by NetJunkie ( 56134 ) <jason,nash&gmail,com> on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @06:24AM (#65309)
    I don't have an HDTV, but I know you need an antenna to get most channels for it. I wish I had an extra $10K sitting around to throw away like this.

    As for digital cable, I'm not impressed. We have Time Warner digital in Raleigh, NC. All of the network stations are still transmitted in analog, so you get no advantage there. Luckily though, I mainly watch Discovery and History Channel and those are in digital. The only problem is they compress the mpeg so much you can see the artifact blocks whenever the screen gets dark. This is really wonderful when watching a show on space on Science of the Deep and all you see are dark blue squares where the deep ocean should be.

    How about they take off a few unneeded channels and lower the compression a bit. Do we really need 5 different home and garden channels, or all those food channels?
  • bartle wrote:
    There is a shortage of stores that actually show HDTV samples on their HDTV sets, but if there's one near you go take a look. The differences are apparent, especially on standard CRT TVs (most of the rear projection, big screen models look like CRAP IMO).

    I think you miss his point. I've seen HDTV up close and in person, and I won't argue that the differences aren't apparent, but I will argue that my TV-watching experience isn't significantly enhanced by the extra resolution. I mean, how many of Jay Leno's jokes am I going to not get because I'm still watching him on an analog TV? I can tell you that my enjoyment of "Mission Impossible 2" wasn't significantly reduced because I watched the opening on HDTV and the end on regular analog.

    The point is that most people think that their televisions work well enough and don't see any crying need to make any significant changes. This is not the same as color television because it was generally acknowledged by the great unwashed masses that color was enough better than black and white to justify paying a hefty (at one point, on the order of 3-5 times the cost of the B&W TV) premium.

    Anyway, since there is no general acknowledgement, especially among the "aluminum foil-enhanced rabbit-ears" crowd that makes up the bulk of television audiences, that the improved display significantly enhances what people watch television for, it is not clear to me that the "progression is inevitable" or that the economies of scale will ever kick in and drive the costs of HDTV lower before HDTV itself is abandoned and the equipment can be bought on closeout for ten cents or so on the dollar.

    Yes, it looks better (when it works at all, and HDTV is significantly less robust than analog television) but it's a quantitative difference rather than qualitative. That's why HDTV is such a hard sell and why it's adoption is way slower than most HDTV advocates expected.

  • I'd like to point out that you still haven't explained what I'm missing at the lower resolution. To me, HDTV vs analog is like BetaMax vs VHS. BetaMax had a noticeably better picture than VHS, but most people who bought VCR's valued picture quality less than things that VHS does well. Most people who watch television simply don't care very much about picture quality. They're not wrong any more than those who do care deeply about picture quality. However, it is wrong to forecast sales or attempt to build a mass market based upon the idea that the average American TV viewer is just waiting to leap at the chance to watch their Saturday-morning cartoons on a wider screen and at higher resolution.

    With respect to the conversion to color television from black-and-white, it really was something that the "grass roots" end users wanted. The most certainly did not need to be "pushed" to accept it. When the only televisions were B&W, everyone expected that there would be an eventual conversion to color and that expectation drove the search for and the eventual widespread acceptance of a color television standard. That situation really isn't comparable to HDTV. HDTV isn't something that very many end users want. Instead, it was something that some electronics manufacturers sold to the US government as something necessary to keep the US up technically with the rest of the world. The end users didn't get any choice in the matter except the one they're taking: They simply don't buy the televisions or watch the programming.

    Barring a radical change in display technology, I don't think the prices for HDTV's are going to decline quickly any time soon. While the technology to build CRT's for computer monitors may be similar to that needed to make CRT's for HDTV use, the tooling is different and the details are different (there are significantly more holes in the shadow mask and each one must be very precisely drilled) and the production lines are not optimized for the 16:9 aspect ratio CRT's.

    That means that it is not necessarily just a matter of time before $500 HDTV displays are available, and the cost per unit probably has to get down to about half that before it'll truly be mass-market. You'll have to wait for the economies of scale to kick in and that means that there has to be substantial demand for the product, which simply isn't materializing, for the cost to come down to the point where it'll be competitive with analog TV's.

    Go ahead and be confident, but if the people who are making budgeting decisions for their households don't view HDTV as "progress" then they won't spend the money to buy the equipment and what I have predicted will actually happen. I guess we'll see in a decade or so. I can wait.

  • What makes it even funnier is the sentence just below the article:

    Times staff writer Thomas H. Maugh II covers medicine.

  • You're paying WAY to much if you're paying $3500 for a 25" TV.

    I have a 34", 16:9, Direct View (read TUBE) HDTV, and that was $3000. If you drop to a 32" 4:3 ratio tube, they drop to $1700.

    Geez, I mean you can get a 51" 16:9 projection HDTV for about $4k-5k.

    The kicker is the $500 HTDV/DirectTV reciever you have to by... Only RCA has a TV with a built-in HTDV Tuner, and that's $3500 (34", Direct View, 16:9 aspect ratio).

  • You need to see to to believe it.

    Even on a conventional TV, an HD signal is PHENOMINAL.

    Several of the local stations don't have much true HD signals, so the just 'upconvert' their regular broadcasts... even THESE are better than the analog equivalent broadcasts...

    And, if DirectTV gets more than 2 channels, it gets even BETTER, 'cuz DirectTV, IMHO, blows the DOORS off cable...!

  • he saw the word "digital" in a few different places and assumed it was all the same thing

    The average person IS going to assume digital means HDTV. What average non-tech head has the patience to wait on customer service lines to ask for details from a phone rep who won't have a clue anyway. As you can see, he DID try to phone and email several people who SHOULD have known, but they gave him the wrong information (or just ignored him).


    ---

  • Laser Discs are still the medium of choice for the high-end videophile. The purity of the uncompressed high resolution images of most laser discs is prefered to DVD when you're dealing with large projector tube screens.
  • by G-Man ( 79561 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @07:37AM (#65325)
    I had a Laserdisc player for about six years before I switched to DVD, and it was *great*. During all the time others were watching crappy VHS, I had uncompressed digital video and CD-quality sound. I had no problem finding places to rent Laserdiscs. The Laserdiscs I bought were often cheaper than the VHS versions (go figure). My core collection of movies was relatively small, so switching to DVD wasn't that big a deal (and it carried the benefit of Dolby Digital/DTS/DVD Extras). It was also my CD player. Laserdisc was great tech for its time.

    So let's say I bought a $500 player and $1000 worth of discs (both those numbers are probably high) -- I got six years of enjoyment for $1500 of sunk costs. Compared to the money I've spent on computers and how quickly they become obsolete, Laserdisc was a bargain.
  • As we all know, journalists make fuck-all for money. Most of them have learned how to supplement their income by selling crack or whoring themselves off for money in their off hours. If he's a good crack dealer or a reporter pimp, the money he spent on that system represents maybe a couple hours' work.
  • I would be very, very surprised if they let him keep it. My guess is that it will end up back in the newsroom so they can watch the broadcast news reports.

  • [My apologies in advance for drifting off topic here...]

    Background

    I'm a Linux user.

    A few days ago, after about a week of research, I bought a TiVo.

    It looks like a great product for viewing time-shifted recordings off DirecTV and off the air NTSC broadcasts with S-video display quality. I don't mind paying for both the DirecTV and the TiVo services I'm getting. But.

    Observation

    There seems to be a precarious balance going on between convenience of fair use playback and the underlying recording technology here. As in, playing back on arbitrary devices and in editting any recorded video and in getting high quality input from arbitrary sources into digital video recorders

    AFAICT, TiVo's will likely save the video stream in a format that is not open. Worse, it looks like it will get more heavily encrypted with increasing generations of TiVo software and locked to such an extent that it can only be replayed by that particular TiVo (Write once, run one-where).

    So, the end result is: I can only view the recordings through a particular piece of hardware, even if I do manage to get a terabyte file server connected up to the TiVo through Ethernet (assuming future revision of TiVo software don't close out hacker upgrades such as big disks and Ethernet but do close out easy reading of video format).

    Are there any video capture cards with NTSC/PAL/S-video + (whatever is best) inputs that permit one to save quality video in an open digital format that can be played or editted at will?

    I fear the digital video revolution is being postponed until the cost of hardware encryption/decryption comes down enough that it will be incorporated into the ends of every I/O channel that is of decent quality.

  • They are also better quality since the video is uncompressed.. Sorta like Beta was better quality then VHS.


    --

  • That's funny. I live in San Jose, one of the largest cities in the country, and given the high technophile rate here I'd expect a good digital cable adoption rate (everybody I know has it, at least).

    Our AT&T digital cable is great. No artifacts, no stutters, great color, great sound. Must be something other than just the number of people using it which is causing your lousy service.
  • by jejones ( 115979 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @06:27AM (#65348) Journal
    If your "digital cable" is like what we have in Des Moines, it's lousy (save for the improved selection). Des Moines started out with a low-quality cable outfit called Heritage Cable that only allowed for about 35 channels (and some of those were time-shared, so that just when the program you wanted on the Discovery Channel was about to come on, bam! it's pre-empted by Des Moines City Council meeting reruns...), which was later bought by TCI, then AT&T (and now another outfit is buying it). Rather than bother to provide people with a reasonable selection via analog cable, they opted to sleaze out and save bandwidth and give people bad MPEG, plus all the bother people may recall from the days of separate cable converters. (Oh, you say you bought a special picture-in-picture TV? Too bad; if the digital cable box is on, it's worthless. Oh, you want to watch one digital cable channel while time-shifting another channel, digital cable or not? Sorry, Charlie...)
  • by sik puppy ( 136743 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @07:03AM (#65353)
    Yes and no...The broadcasters were given the channel allocation, which does have a use it or lose it time. (Also, 1 of the 2 channels will have to be given back after the conversion, stations choice, pending FCC approval) Those stations that don't get their permits and business plans in order will lose their new allocation. Then there is the capital equipment cost. Transmitter: $1+ million; antenna (probably a new tower as well - most current towers are fully loaded): $500,000, without tower, add $1-2 million for new tower; manpower - there are VERY few teams of people who can build towers and install antennas. You try installing a large antenna array 200-500 feet off the ground while clinging to an 18 inch wide tower. Not many people do, and those that do are well paid and booked for years now. And finally, don't forget the power bill and back up generator. ($10,000-$30,000/month for power).

    Now the studio. Tape decks: $100,000 each. (at least 3 for air, plus 2 per edit bay, 3 or 4 edit bays...) Cameras: $50,000-$100,000 each (probably 3-5 cameras minimum). Router, distribution amps, etc.

    This is a huge capital purchase - $10-20 million disappear very fast.

    HD can be a huge success. The problem in lack of content. Why pay to watch all that crap with a better picture? It doen't make it any better. No content until there are consumers. No consumers til there is content. Loop.
  • So what are people's experiences with digital cable? Here are mine:

    We recently switch from RCN "regular" to RCN digital. This is in the Boston area.

    Negatives:
    1) The picture seems slightly worse. For example, the NYC scene behind David Letterman's desk shimmers, although Letterman himself doesn't.
    2) RCN took away the "force tune" option, which forces the tuner to switch to different stations at a pre-set time. This was useful when taping more than one show on a night.
    3) RCN screwed up our bill (sigh).

    Plusses:
    1) More channels, like VH1 classics, BBC America & more HBO channels (HBO Latino!). Also more music channels (no images, they're like radio stations w/o DJs).
    2) It's cheaper, if you have a cable modem.
    3) The TV Guide menu seems more useful, although it has ads now.

    There are also digital artifacts when you switch channels, although that's really brief & doesn't bother us.

    So, for now we're keeping it. Wish the image quality was better, although many channels have such variable image quality anyway that you get used to it. I've been spoiled by my DVDs. Everyone talks about how HDTV will give us such high quality video, but I think the broadcasters will just carve up the bandwidth & give us 4 crappy channels instead of one high-quality-video channel. After all, people will still watch it & they'll make more in ad revenue.
  • "Only RCA has a TV with a built-in HTDV Tuner, and that's $3500 (34", Direct View, 16:9 aspect ratio)."

    Paid less than $3000 for mine.


    Refrag
  • You're in the best city in the country for HDTV. WRAL recently started broadcasting their nightly news in HDTV. They are the first station to do that -- they were also the first station to broadcast anything in HDTV. You should be getting at least four stations in HDTV in Raleigh just as we Charlotteans. Heck, maybe even UNC-TV (PBS) has started HDTV broadcasts in the Raleigh area, they aren't doing it yet here, but plan to soon.


    Refrag
  • No, it isn't. Laserdisc's color bandwidth is seriously compressed which is why (particularly Technicolor) films look much brighter and more colorful than laserdisc. Roger Ebert also uses DVD as his main video source now.


    Refrag
  • The input that my RCA tube HDTV requires is simply a coaxial cable jack, just like standard cable; or a component video cable. What you need to worry about is formatting the signal into 480P or 1080i DTV modes before sending it out over one of those mediums. I unfortunately can't help there, but maybe Apple can (since they make Final Cut Pro).


    Refrag
  • DVDs can carry progressive video from film sources and it can carry interlaced video from interlaced video sources (if the video is progressively encoded the authors can flag it as progressive). The current problem is that the hardware decoders aren't able to pull down the progressive video. So, the fix is to either de-interlace the interlaced progressive signal (heh) in the digital realm (which provides very, very good results) or to de-interlace it in the analog realm, which still should provide better results than either an inexpensive external line-doubler or standard interlaced video.


    Did that clear anything up? I know Home Theater [hometheatermag.com] magazine recently did a good article on this using two Pioneer DVD players as an example (one high-end and one low-end).


    Refrag

  • I really just bought my widescreen HDTV with the intent to play anamorphic widescreen DVDs on it. That fact that I got four HDTV channels after hooking up my $20 antenna was totally a bonus. But, now that I have HDTV, I love it. I'll probably get cable or DirecTV once they start offering enough HDTV channels.


    Refrag
  • by Refrag ( 145266 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @06:20AM (#65364) Homepage
    I got a 38" widescreen HDTV television with built-in HDTV and DirectTV receiver for less than $3000. I can pick up four HDTV stations (not including their substations) with my horrible $20 antenna in Charlotte. And, since I don't have cable, this allows me to get The Simpsons in pristine quality for free, as well as watching various shows in HDTV including The X-Files, and almost every show on CBS. PBS will be the fifth channel to broadcast in HDTV and they will be going live shortly.


    Refrag
  • I have a Communications Degree (read Journalism) and an English Degree (read I can read) but I ended up a SysAdmin/IT Manager for the money!

    Clearly the real money is in Journalism! This guy dumped a ton of cash on a TV (In the end it is just a TV) so he must be doing much better than me!
    ---
  • For those who don't know, HDTV can work fine over IP. A lot of HDTV/IP work [washington.edu] is happening at University of Washington.

    I have seen 1.5Gb/s HDTV streams (and interactive video) at SC2000 [bnl.gov] (this particular demo wasn't over IP; University of Washington uses Gigabit Ethernet cards and interlaced HDTV: roughly 700Mb/s). It's quite impressive; now I know why I never want to watch movies on regular TV.

  • I have an HDTV, but no High Res signal. I've tried Digital cable from Shaw (my local cale provider) and was appauled! The picture is not any cleaner and the "digital sound" only supports pro-logic (not that well may I add). Since I've replaced it with a DirecTV dish and dumped Shaw all together, I am MUCH happier. Picture is crisp and sound is thundering by comparison. Now I just have to get a new decoder box to support HDTV. If only we could get Tivo in canada without having to setup a US mailing address!

  • $3000...

    That's only a little under 5 times more expensive than this 35" normal TV [walmart.com].

    Let's see: 3 times the resolution, 5 times the price. 3/5 of the benefit isn't going to make me rush out and buy one anytime soon.
  • Those stations that don't get their permits and business plans in order will lose their new allocation.

    That's what they're supposed to do. And it would seem the fair thing to do. But broadcasters have a long history of getting the rules changed after the game has started. This is only to be expected when such huge amounts of money are involved.

    __

  • Hey, I like my MiniDisc. Yeah, I know they'll never be as popular as they are in Asia (or Europe for that matter) but it does the job well for me. The perfect replacement for tapes. Until the price of Flash Ram comes WAAAAAAAAY down my MDs will do just fine.

    If you don't have anything nice to say, say it often.

  • And the picture? It's like watching a DVD all the time. I can't wait for football season to start again.

    Until CBS loses the bid to host the NFL and then it's back in the dark!

    It just goes to illustrate that these early adopters are the ones that pay for all the advancements while cheapskates like myself wait until everyone and their dog has one. But then my savings account is usually a bit higher than my peers as well. I guess I just don't care that much about TV.

  • He isn't a tech writer. It said at the bottom he's a medical writer.
    ---
  • But the 1920x1080 resolution is interlaced. Ugh. Computer users realized interlacing sucked way back in 1996 at the latest. I am sure eventually the HDTV's will up convert the 1080i resolution out of interlaced (sort of like what high end tv's and projectors do to NTSC now) but there will be all the problems and artifacts of interlacing that we have now with DVDs. What progress.
  • You don't even need to live in a high congestion area, I live in Wilmington, DE and the local cable monopoly offers digital cable for like $20 more than regular cable. What you get is compressed-to-hell mpegs with blocky, low color flesh tones and all sorts of artifacts. I can't beleive how many people have been suckered into getting it b/c the cable co has convinced them it is an improvement.
  • Nah, lets just de-interlace NTSC, I've seen DVDs from a regular player run through a de-interlacer and it improves the quality much more than an increace in resolution will.
  • As far as I know progressive scan DVD players basically do line double the image, some even do it in the analog domain, not w/ the digital data, and some even use really cheap off the shelf doublers. I believe that DVDs actually have the data interlaced on the disk. So a good line doubler should beat progressive DVD, with the exception of some high end dvd players that do the doubling digitally.
  • NTSC is broadcast at a resolution of 480 lines, interlaced (480i). Most DVD players also provide a picture at this resolution. Newer DVD players (along with newer DVDs recorded in the format) can display 480 lines progressively (480p). The difference is akin to running your monitor at 1280x1024 interlaced versus 1280x1024 non-interlaced. The definition of HDTV encompasses a variety of resolutions, some of which are 720i,720p,1080i, 1080p. The only requirement to be an HD-capable monitor is to display 1080i in a 16:9 aspect ratio.

    The reason most HDTVs don't include built-in decoders (and why you shouldn't buy one that includes one) is that the format(DTV) to broadcast those HD pictures has not been agreed upon. I think there are currently 18 ATSC formats for DTV. An HDTV bought today will not become obsolete, it will be capable of displaying HD-pictures provided you have an HD-tuner that works on the DTV format(s) being used.
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @06:10AM (#65395)
    In Europe, several years back if I remember correctly, the buzz word was H2MAC and D2MAC. Of course, just like HDTV today, you could get "H2MAC-ready" TVs, but of course there was few (in any) programming in that format. Net result : people who paid top dollar (err ... pound, franc, deutsch marks ...) to get the latest equipment got sh*fted, because to my knowledge, none of these format still exist anymore, or are in widespread use.

    When you think about it, why does one need a better TV definition ? really, it's only to get a better picture on large TV sets. How many people in the US and in the world have TV sets with a size that justifies a better definition ? many many less than the masses who have sub-30' TVs. Therefore, given the kind of massive investment networks would have to get themselves into to upgrade to HDTV, none of them are really ready to adopt the standard and convert all their equipment. Most people don't complain about the quality of their TV image, so the market is just too small for that. It's easier to just let TV manufacturers come up with clever ways to display 625 lines better (and really, if you think about it, on giant retroprojection TV sets for example, it's a miracle that the image is so good considering the low resolution).

    In short : widespread HDTV ain't gonna happen.

  • This isn't a particularly funny article... it's just plain sad.

    Looks like, at this rate, the HDTV system will be simply zip-tied and duct-taped together in 2007.

    Kinda like my NOC.
    --
  • by tenzig_112 ( 213387 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @06:19AM (#65397) Homepage
    From what we saw at NAB 2001: Spring Break for TV Geeks [ridiculopathy.com], the future of the format of the future is still unclear.

    Vote of no-confidence: ABC dumped it for Monday Night Football last year and sold their HD truck. Sure, HD editing systems and hard drives get cheaper, but lightly-compressed HD decks and other infrastructure items carry such a high price tag, it would make you want to cry. The only solution for the consumer-end will likely be so compressed [ala digital cable & DSS] that consumers will be unable to tell the difference between NTSC and HDTV.

    This is what we call the "big plate of crap" theory. Why would consumers spend all that money for a bigger plate of crap, trading analog noise for digital artifacts which blur the image rendering the higher resolution moot?

    You're still going to see HD take off as an e-cinema vehicle and at big trade shows. But I don't think broadcasters [who got all this bandwidth for FREE for this very purpose] can be trusted to deliver the goods without mucking it up with multiplexed NTSC and data services to boost their bottom lines.

  • I don't have digital cable, but my mom does. First of all, the box is S L O W. It changes channels slowly, even analog ones. The guide has S L O W choppy screen redrwaws that make an Apple II or Mac Plus look good. I would suspect that screen draws are done in what cycles are left after MPEG decoding, except this happens on analog channels, too. And that's not even counting the second or two of painting before the digital channels pick up a key frame.

    It's a scam, based on the public assuming "digital == better", due to the improvement from cassette->CD and VHS->DVD (and never having seen LD, thanks to CED giving it a bad rep). The only good thing about digital cable (aside from a couple of movie channels with higher resolution, and sometimes 5.1 DD if you pay extra for the cable box with DD output) is that it lets them squeeze more channels into the coax cable. And they get to charge $3/mo. per box, too. I know they love that.

    You know what's funny? I have a friend in Dallas who had digital satellite a couple of years ago, about the time I got DVD. The picture quality is comparable to digital cable. The artifacts are much more obvious than with DVD, yet he couldn't even see the "screen door" effect on a picture with a soft diagonal gradient. But a few months after I pointed it out, he could see the difference!

  • Actually, laserdiscs are (originally, at least) 100% analog. They may have pits and non-pits, but the spacing of the pits is analog. They represent a broadband FM modulated RF signal, at maximum modulation such that the signal only has two levels. The time between pit edges represents the amplitude of the RF signal. VHS uses esentially the same idea, except with lower bandwidth, especially for the chroma channel. (SuperVHS has near LD quality luma resolution, but the exact same resolution as VHS.) The point of this is to raise the signal frequency, which reduces the octave range to fit within that of the recording media.

    Now it is true that most LDs since 1990 have 44.1K/16-bit digital audio in a new RF sub-band, and a few LDs from the late '90s have a Dolby Digital bitstream modulated into an analog signal on one of the analog tracks (LD analog tracks have 100KHz bandwidth, much better than CD), but the main signal is still composite NTSC analog video.

    There is only one aspect of LD that has been digital since day one. The frame number/time code and chapter number are recorded as a BCD digits in the vertical retrace interval of the video. This was later deprecated in favor of a standard CD audio TOC in many (but not all) digital audio LDs. There was even a system from Pioneer which did LD-ROM by recording a Sega CD game in the digital audio channel, to give you Sewer Shark style video overlay games. (They didn't do Dragons Lair, but they should have.)

  • I had a Laserdisc player for about six years before I switched to DVD, and it was *great*.

    The big question is: why did you get rid of it? Those $1500 in costs were already paid out, and now you'd be able to find stuff in pawn shops and used book stores that still isn't on DVD. I got into LD during its last two or three years, and ended up with half a dozen players, and over 600 LDs, many of which were purchased at $10 each, and many more at $3 each. (My cheapest was four for 50 cents each at a thrift store that charged me LP prices.) In the past few months, used LDs have become much easier to find, and my collection is still growing.

  • Um I thought that Directv was US only as well.....
    Why can't I get DIRECTV in
    Canada or Mexico?
    We are legally prohibited from offering service outside the United States.
    The above is from the directv service overview [directv.com]

    Why don't you just use the same address for tivo that you use for directv or buy a replaytv [replaytv.com] unit that doesn't require a subscription

  • by daniel_isaacs ( 249732 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @06:12AM (#65414) Homepage
    Please. I have not an HDTV set. But I know these things (and have know n for years):

    HDTV-"Ready" means you need a decoder.

    HDTV signal is broadcast open-air, and all you need is an antenna and a set/box that will decode the analog signal.

    Any time a salesman tells you you need to buy more than one thing to get one thing, he can be talked out of it. If they want to give a special price for buying the bundle, fine. But you should ALWAYS be able to by a discrete component seperately.

    You need 'wiggle' room. Always allow for 2-3 inches in any opening for a TV to allow wiggling to move it in/out

    Frankly, this guy is stupid. That he would spend so much money on toys without knowing what he was buying is idiotic. And if he truley lived on the "Cutting Edge" of technology/electronics, he would know better. That this fool was willing to pay for both digital cable AND DirecTV is amazing. Does he have both electric and Gas furnaces, too? This guy's problems had more to do with his own ineptitude than any issues with the technology.

  • Actually, the resolution for HDTV is either 1920x1080, 1280x720, or a few DVD-quality tv resolutions. 1024x1024 doesn't appear anywhere in the ATSC standards [atsc.org].

    Also note that these are generally big fscking widescreen displays. Generally the only thing that comes close on the PC end is a standard 21" or a 24" widescreen display. When the prices for a HDTV set go down until you can get a real one (i.e. not just a normal sized projection screen that downconverts an HTDV feed) in a size equivelent to your average 25" or so TV, you should be able to buy one at an excessive premium instead of an insane premium.

    If you have ever seen the display, it's damn nice. Of course, unless you absolutely love new toys and k3w3l 31337 TV, it's not worth it yet.

  • You don't *have* to do interlace.

    You just have to run at 24,25,or 30fps instead of 60fps.

    Depends on what you want to do with it. Movies are progressive, but sports should be interlaced because things are fast moving.

    They wouldn't have been able to fit it in a 6MHz band if they used 1920x1080x60fps progressive, so they had to cut corners.
  • He's having transmission problems that were very similar to the ones seen with the Cherokee it replaced... to the point he's nearing protection by the "Lemon Law".

    I love our Wrangler and it happened rarely with the Cherokee, but it's still preventing me from parking a Grand Cherokee in my driveway.
  • That's great if you have support for it. Our cable company requires a DOCSIS modem now. I despise renting something which would pay for itself in rent, so I bought... and got screwed.

    Now there's a standard and I feel I can buy my non-DOCSIS modem without the worry of being burned again. Of course, you might be the guy who bought my old modem on eBay, so maybe you'll be the next to get burned. ;)
  • My modem was purchased when the cable company had, in fact, specified a particular brand and model of modem. This was before DOCSIS was used by everyone (nice because they were unable to throttle bandwidth). I did my research and saw that, within a year, purchasing the same modem would have been cheaper than renting. However, when standards were created, the cable company switched over and swapped any rented modems to DOCSIS-compatible. My modem was rendered useless to me.

    I sold it on eBay for a loss slightly less than what I would have paid in rental charges, so I wasn't livid. I only feel burned because I ended up "renting" when I did my research and made a conscious decision not to.
  • by Gruneun ( 261463 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @06:23AM (#65427)
    I make it a rule, despite my huge craving for anything new and shiny, to hold off on buying the first versions of anything.

    Anyone get screwed by buying...
    Beta? (no quality arguements, just show me the Walmart aisle)
    Laserdisc?
    Minidisc?
    Non-DOCSIS cable modem? (me... very recently)
    First year car model? (friend's Jeep Liberty)

    Let the standards be decided and buy then. It's absolutely killing me that I don't have my widescreen HDTV, but I'm waiting until I see that it's becoming more commonplace and less likely that I'll get burned. Seeing an article like this only reminds me I made the right decision.

  • by Zaknafein500 ( 303608 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @06:19AM (#65429) Homepage
    This guy clearly didn't even bother to do the slightest bit of homework. If he would have bothered to spend $4 and pick up a copy of The Perfict Vision or [theperfectvision.com] Home Theater [hometheatermag.com] he would have avoided much of his problems. It doesn't take a lot of research to find out that the RCA DirecTV receiver has DB-15 output for VGA. It takes even less time to find out that DirecTV only has 1 "actual" HD channel. (BTW, if you want HD, buy a DISH Network [dishnetwork.com] system. They require multiple dishes in many instances, but you get several more HD channels, with much more room to grow.) There is definitely a problem with HD broadcasts right now. However, this article just sounds like a rich guy saw a Best Buy ad and decided he had to have HDTV NOW! Had he done a bit of homework, he would have realized that it isn't that easy.
  • HDTV is a relatively new thing that the government has taken a long time to adopt as a standard because they wanted to get it right the first time. Getting HDTV is an real difficulty, as the article alludes. Digital cable is a possibility for those of you that have access to it and are willing to pony up a little more, but it is not as hideously expensive as HDTV, and can provide some of the quality that you might be looking for until HDTV is avaliable.

    HDTV sets are still very expensive and ill worth the cost because the basic infrastructure is still being designed. I have seen the costs of HDTV sets drop though as the market becomes bigger and bigger, as you would expect in any market. Face it, people want to sell TVs, but most people aren't going to buy at the current price. The people that are laying the groundwork have an incentive to do so as fast as possible. HDTV will be more practical in 5 years then it is today, just like any comparable invention (TV, color TV, cable TV, the internet) takes time to be widely available and get better with time as more and more people demand higher quality products. As this occurs, the price will drop and ease of use will increase.

    HDTV will of course replace all TV as the standard, as color TV did. As we get closer to that point, the effort to get HDTV sets and signals will become easier and more accessible to the average consumer.
  • by Chakat ( 320875 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @06:02AM (#65436) Homepage
    From the URL: http://www.latimes.com/features/religion/la-000020 341jun30.column?coll=la%2Dnews%2Dreligion

    Of course, this is the LA area, so I guess it should be taken as a given

    D - M - C - A

  • Couldn't agree more. In fact, I liked it so much, I helped write it! :) (I wrote the video 2-frame deinterlace algorithm and some of the automatic aspect ratio detection code, among other things.)

    For those who don't know about it, I'll expand a little bit: DScaler and a TV capture card takes input from a regular NTSC video source (cable TV, VCR, TiVo, DirecTV receiver, whatever) and applies a bunch of video processing algorithms to remove the visible artifacts caused by the fact that NTSC is an interlaced video standard. It uses your PC's video card to scale the image up to whatever resolution you like. It'll even do fancy tricks like displaying film material at an even frame rate if your refresh rate is a multiple of 24Hz (the frame rate used for most film material), or automatically detecting letterboxed movies and expanding them to fill a widescreen display. Lots of people are using it in place of expensive standalone video scalers to display analog TV on their HDTV sets. If you have a clean source signal you can get a picture that looks nearly as good as standard-definition digital TV. Not HD by any stretch, but it still looks quite good.

    Best of all, it's GPLed.

    The main place where it's discussed, and where all the developers hang out (and a great place to discuss using PCs for watching TV and movies) is AVS Forum [avsforum.com]'s Home Theater Computers [avsforum.com] message board.

  • by koreth ( 409849 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @06:32AM (#65442)
    It's not difficult [titantv.com] to check for over-the-air DTV availability in a particular area. Or to check DirecTV's Web site [directv.com] and discover that they don't carry HDTV other than HBO and a few pay-per-view movies. [directv.com] The guy who wrote the article clearly should have done a bit of homework before blowing 7 grand on a video system. It seems like he saw the word "digital" in a few different places and assumed it was all the same thing.

    That said, for those of us in places like the San Francisco Bay Area, which has a large number of digital stations, DTV and HDTV are just lovely. On a clear day, my rooftop antenna picks up six or seven digital stations. The picture quality is stunning even on the standard definition stations, much crisper than the clearest cable channels and most DirecTV channels. And HD shows look better than the picture at the local movie theaters. The picture has yet to fail to elicit a "wow" when I've shown it to people.

    And the cool thing is, it's on my computer using an ATSC tuner card [digitalconnection.com] which means I can record the digital signal to my hard disk for later viewing - not as slick as a TiVo, but adequate. (And before you ask why anyone would watch HDTV on a 17" monitor, the monitor on that PC is one of these [barco.com], more or less, less expensive than a new HDTV if you buy it used.)

    I do wish the prices would come down on more traditional HDTV sets and that they'd get the integration issues straightened out so a separate settop box wasn't required. Better market penetration will equal more incentive for the networks to produce more HD shows. But if you're willing to actually learn about what you're buying, the technology is out there and working.

  • The point is that most people think that their televisions work well enough and don't see any crying need to make any significant changes. This is not the same as color television because it was generally acknowledged by the great unwashed masses that color was enough better than black and white to justify paying a hefty (at one point, on the order of 3-5 times the cost of the B&W TV) premium.

    I would argue that this is very similar to the arrival of color television. As you said, "how many of Jay Leno's jokes am I going to not get because I'm still watching him on an analog TV." Content of course doesn't drive this advancement, but the same factors that pushed people towards color TVs still exist. A big part is manufacturing costs, and really HDTVs are priced a lot higher than they need to be. Essentially they're made with the same technology as standard computer monitors, it's just a matter of time till some manufactuer just changes the circuits of a CRT display and sells it as a $500 low end HDTV. But this goes hand in hand with the functioning of our economy, that is to say the interest Americans have in luxury goods. A lot of people buy "cool toys", the trick is to price things so that the average American can buy it with just a paycheck or two. Manufactuers are going to be all over this because they've almost run out of enhancements they can stick on the newest TVs, at this point they're doing more with the look of the box than it's contents.

    Of course, I look forward to HDTV myself, but then that's because I want to plug my computer into my TV. For people like me, this stuff is almost a justification in of itself. But even though this technology is dependant on the acceptance of most of America, I still feel pretty confident. The US continues to drive itself forward in all aspects and when this isn't possible it drives in circles. The point is that no industry here stays stagnant for long, something as well loved as TV will be forced to progress like everything else.

  • I'd like to point out that you still haven't explained what I'm missing at the lower resolution.

    Well, as you've indicated there really isn't a quantitative analysis that can be done to prove that HDTV provides a better experience. All I can do is point at the general trend in the market today, specifically movie theaters and DVD. Theaters, for example, have expanded their sound systems significantly over the last decade because they found it attracts the audience. People can tell the difference and are willing to go drive a little further to get better sound and picture, even if they're going to see a comedy. DVD is probably a better example, the qualitative gains of DVD vs VHS are more in line with the improvements HDTV provides over normal TV. People wouldn't be spending ~$5-$10 more on a movie to buy it on DVD if they didn't see some definate gain. And these aren't just popular with the big screen/surround sound crowd, quite a few people attach their DVD player to a fairly cheap TV.

    Barring a radical change in display technology, I don't think the prices for HDTV's are going to decline quickly any time soon. While the technology to build CRT's for computer monitors may be similar to that needed to make CRT's for HDTV use, the tooling is different and the details are different (there are significantly more holes in the shadow mask and each one must be very precisely drilled) and the production lines are not optimized for the 16:9 aspect ratio CRT's.

    I rather like the idea of converted monitors, hobbiests are already doing this. The 16:9 ratio is really the only problem with them, and this can be fixed by simply "scrunching" the image so it fits on the screen (Sony offers TVs that are already doing this). Not the ideal solution, but as LCD becomes more popular in the business world the prices for CRTs are going to plummet. As for standard HDTVs, their prices are going to continue to be forced down by the manufacturers simply out of survival. As I said before, it's going to get harder to improve on standard TVs so these will be offered to entice people to upgrade.

    Really the main reason no one buys these monsters is the lack of promotion. With the exception of a few commisioned salesmen, there hasn't been a desire to push these things out the door. The root of this obviously is the lack of support from the networks, until most of the nation has access to HDTV programming interest will be lacking. But once the manufactures sense that the interest is there, they'll push these puppies as fast as they can. It may not happen according to the government's schedule, but it will happen.

  • Sorry just a pet peeve of mine - I hate it when people call it a sony "VEGA" when it is a "WEGA". They did a little double colored, double "V" logo, which (while trumpets are sounding) - is a "W".

    Such a confusing issue because a number of the electronics stores I've gone to have it marked as "VEGA". I was told that it was named after the star Vega, which sounded reasonable.

    I'll check my manual when I get home and see what that refers to it as. Such a nice TV, just a pain to get up a flight of stairs.

  • by bartle ( 447377 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @06:28AM (#65448) Homepage

    When you think about it, why does one need a better TV definition ? really, it's only to get a better picture on large TV sets.

    There is a shortage of stores that actually show HDTV samples on their HDTV sets, but if there's one near you go take a look. The differences are apparent, especially on standard CRT TVs (most of the rear projection, big screen models look like CRAP IMO). Now you may question whether the improvement is worth the cost, and at the moment it probably isn't. But the future will bring cheaper and cheaper manufacturing techniques, HDTV displays will start to be pushed by the manufacturers to replace peoples' old TV sets. The progression will be as inevitable as color TV was. In 20 years you'll be so used to the higher definition, the older sets will look bad in comparison.

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