What is HDTV? Do I have it?
Let’s not get too hung up over the technical details. If you bought a new TV (tube, LCD rear projection, DLP rear projection, LCD or Plasma or whatever else shows up on the market) which can display a High Definition picture and you have purchased a High Definition programming package with High Definition hardware (Set-Top-Box or DVR), then you have HDTV. Even an older Enhanced Definition (ED) set can display a very good HD picture unless you are very close to the screen – too close for normal viewing.
As for which of the two main resolutions, 720p or1080i, are best for sports, don’t worry about it. The network programmer or program service provider has already made that decision. ABC shows its programs in 720p, CBS in 1080i, ESPN in 720p, FOX in 720p, HDNet in 1080i, NBC in 1080i, TNT in 1080i, WB in 1080i and WGN in 1080i. For what it’s worth, 720p is generally regarded as superior for watching rapid movement but your High Definition TV will convert these to its own native resolution automatically. If your HDTV is made to display 720p, it will convert all 1080i programs to that resolution while doing little or nothing to 720p programs. If you have a 1080i set, it will do the opposite. This is all possible because the programs are all in a digital format so very little picture quality is lost.
Just sit back and enjoy
Why are sports better on HDTV?
There are many reasons but these are three of the most important:
- High Resolution provides more detail on the screen At the lowest HD resolutions, you still have many, many more times the number of dots and lines on the screen making up the picture than the old television standard and this means you see more details more clearly. If you have seen some of the newer artificial turf, you know that dirt (or at least rubber particles) fly when a soccer ball bounces or a football runner cuts this way or that. Now you can actually see it on TV. Was it a curve or a fast ball? Was it really a three point shot or was the player’s toe on the line? Did the receiver have possession or did the ball touch the grass? Where will this putt break or pick up speed? With HD the replays are much, much more clear. Details are critical when officials view replays and now you can see what they see. This is the way sports were meant to be seen!
- Widescreen shows you more of the field It’s true! Almost without exception, new HDTV’s are large widescreens and that alone means a bigger picture. HDTV’s aspect ratio is 16:9 (Width:Height) as opposed to 4:3 of the current NTSC system. With the higher resolutions, you don’t lose any of the detail. For football, which is played on a rectangular field, the picture is spectacular. See the quarterback and the defense he is attacking at the same time. You see the receiver cut and break free just as the quarterback does. That changes the way you watch and understand the game. From behind the running back you see more of the line of scrimmage as the line blocks and he makes his decision about which hole to hit. It really is more like being there. The wider screen is changing the way sports shows are produced. The camera can be pulled back for a wider shot and, because of the high definition picture, detail is not lost. More of the golf course can be seen as the shot flies off the tee. This gives you an entirely different perspective on what is happening.
- Dolby Digital surround sound puts you in the park Don’t forget the sounds of sports. What would basketball be without squeaking sneakers on hardwood floors? What would baseball be without the crack of the bat when a slugger hits a hard fastball? When a shot rattles the rim, a safety creams a receiver, a tennis player returns a serve, a track official fires his starter pistol or the horses’ hooves pound the turf, you can now hear it with crystal clarity. No static, hissing, crackling or popping. If you pipe this through your home entertainment surround sound system it’s like watching through an open window.
Can you get HDTV on satellite?
You bet you can! Both DirecTV and Dish Network have high definition programming and are adding more all the time. You might have seen the news about DirecTV’s new satellites this summer or seen the specials being promoted by both providers. Satellite is today’s lowest cost way to get high definition programming and HD is the future of television. It’s happening now, there’s no need to wait.