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Frequently Asked Questions

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 difference!

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 HD-Ready TV.

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 monthly charge.

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 analog counterparts.

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 additional charge.

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, unlike cable.
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, including HDTV 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.