What is High Definition TV
HDTV actually stands for High Definition Television.
HDTV is high-resolution Digital television (DTV)
combined with Dolby Digital surround sound (AC-3).
HDTV is the highest DTV resolution in the new
set of standards. This combination creates a
stunning image with stunning sound. HDTV requires
new production and transmission equipment at
the TV Stations as well as new equipment for
reception by the consumer. The higher resolution
picture is the main selling point for HDTV.
Imagine 720 or 1080 lines of resolution compared
to the 525 lines you are used to -- it's a huge
The formats used in HDTV
720P - 1280x720 pixels progressive (used by
ABC, ESPN, MY24)
1080i - 1920x1080 pixels interlaced (Used by
NBC, CBS, PBS, CW, HBO, Showtime, Discovery
HD Theatre and HDNet). Interlaced or Progressive
refers to the scanning system. In an interlaced
format, the screen shows every odd line at one
scan of the screen, and then follows that up
with the even lines in a second scan. Since
there are 30 frames shown per second, the screen
shows one half of the frame every 1/60 of a
second. For smaller screens this is less noticeable.
As screens get large the problem with interlacing
is flicker. Progressive scanning shows the whole
picture, every line in one showing, every 1/60
of a second. This provides for a much smoother
picture, but uses slightly more bandwidth.
What do I need to receive it?
Current television sets cannot receive the
new format, so a HDTV capable set will be needed.
Currently there are two general types of sets
on the market - those that can show a HD (High
Definition) picture but don't have a tuner for
reception of the signal and those that are HD
and have the tuner. All sets 25" and larger
manufactured after July 1, 2006 are mandated
to have a digital tuner, unless they are sold
as a "Monitor Only" without even an
analog tuner. Manufacturers initially left out
the tuners on many sets to keep the costs down
and because there weren't that many TV stations
transmitting in HD. If the set does not have
a tuner, a set top box must be purchased to
enable the reception of free over the air HD
television. Satellite-delivered HD signals require
an HDTV satellite box, and those require a converter
to component, DVI or HDMI video out. Cable companies
who are HD-capable provide a box with component
cables out that just plug into the back of your
Another change is in the shape of the TV screen.
Old sets are rectangular with a 4:3 ratio of
width to height. The new standards have the
sets and picture transmission in movie screen
shaped form or 16:9 ratio. What can make this
confusing is that some of the new HDTV sets
are in the old 4:3 shape meaning a true HDTV
picture will have the edges cut off. True HDTV
sets are widescreen or 16:9.
What will it cost?
There's a wide variation of prices and they
are falling rapidly. Lets divide the question
into two areas:
HDTV ready = a set that can show the HD picture
but doesn't have a tuner that can decode an
HDTV signal. These can be had for as little
as $400 on up. Just as before, there are tube
models and projection models. The Sunday ad
supplements show many of these sets and their
costs. Be sure to note whether it has the tuner
built in or not.
HDTV = a set that needs no additional equipment
and is ready to receive broadcast HDTV. Currently
these sets can be had for about $800 on up.
Again, prices are falling rapidly.
If you buy a set without a tuner you can receive
the normal TV broadcasts you now see but not
the HDTV broadcasts. A DVD player could be hooked
up to it or a satellite TV system capable of
HD pictures. For over the air broadcasts you
would need to purchase a HD tuner, also referred
to as a Set Top Box (STB) which now run about
$300 but are also available from the Satellite
providers for less with a programming commitment.
Cable companies offer HD Boxes for a small additional
Plasma Sets are growing in popularity as they
come down in price, but still run $1500 to $12,000.
Other newer options include the LCD (Liquid
Crystal Display) and the DLP (Digital
Light Processing), with their higher contrast,
and narrower depth. These have higher pricetags
than a traditional HD Projection TV.
If you have difficulty finding a salesperson
who has the answers you need, visit our forums
and post your questions there. Our members are
knowledgeable and helpful, and several of them
are even sales people at local electronics retailers.
Who is broadcasting HDTV?
There are two categories here. One is free,
over the air signals, and the second is the
premium cable/satellite services.
Channel 4, 6, 12, 18, 24 and 58 are currently
broadcasting HDTV channels. Not all the programming
is in HD but even the regular programming can
be seen on their HDTV channels. Milwaukee Public
TV's Channel 10 splits its signal into 6 individual
digital, standard definition channels, and uses
Channel 36 as their exclusive full-time HDTV
channel (On 35-1). TV30 has a digital signal,
but broadcasts no HDTV. Same with PAX As of
July of 2006 all stations digital signals are
now covering the normal coverage area of their
HBO, Showtime, National Geographic, MTV and
Discovery all have high definition channels.
They can be found on cable and/or satellite.
HDNet and HDNet Movies show all HD sports and
features. ESPN HD is also available with a growing
amount of HD Sports programming.
Can I get HD pictures on my cable system?
Yes. They will rent you a special HD box at
additional cost that will give you HD signals.
Time Warner carries almost all the local TV
high definition channels on the system (the
most notable exceptions being 18 and 24). You'll
need one of their HD boxes to receive them.
Time Warner also carries HBO and Showtime HD,
Discovery Theater HD, Fox Sports Net HD and
iNHD and iNHD2. ESPN HD and HDNet and HDNet
Movies are available on TWC as well, for an
What antenna would I need?
What kind of antenna depends on where you
live. If you are close to the transmitting towers
on the northeast side of Milwaukee a good set
of rabbit ears capable of both VHF and more
importantly UHF reception should work. Out in
the suburbs the rabbit ears probably will work
but you may need a antenna in the attic or on
the roof. In the boonies you'll need a rooftop
antenna. In general the best is on the roof,
followed by attic or in garage, and the basic
set up is the rabbit ears. A decent set of rabbit
ears can be had for as little as $10. Rooftop
antennas (or for the attic) can be had starting
about $25 on up. Remember this is a one time
expense as the signals you receive are free,
Many people report great results using a Radio
Shack Double Bowtie Indoors antenna. See our
forums for more on this.
I live more than 20 miles out. Can
I still get these signals?
Yes. For satellite it doesn't matter. For
over the air it just means using a proper antenna.
If you can get good signals on 4, 6, 10, 12,
18, 24, and 58, you should be able to get these
HD signals. Most HDTV signals are on the UHF
band (except channel 10) so good UHF reception
is all you need.
How can I find out if my favorite show
is on in High Definition?
There are several sites with HDTV schedules,
Galaxy and TitanTV.
Can I watch the Packers in HDTV?
Yes! Fox is the network that carries most
Packer games, and they are broadcasting up to
6 games each Sunday in 720p HD.
Games on ABC (Note that ABC no longer has Monday
Night Football, ESPN now has the rights) are
in HDTV. CBS broadcasts 3 games per week in
HDTV, so if the Pack plays an AFC team in the
CBS "A" or "B" game we get
to see the green and gold in 1080i. NBC's Sunday
Night Football is 1080i HD. The NFL Network
games are in HD, but are carried only by Satellite
and the local affiliates the teams home markets.
Time Warner Cable dies not carry the NFL Network.
Packer Games on ESPN HD will be carriedin
HD by the local affiliates on their HD Channels.