HDTV – Are we ready?

I must admit, as a technology advocate I have not been following the HDTV market as much as I should. The costs seem outrageous, so I have been waiting till the prices start becoming “affordable” for my pocketbook. Unfortunately, last fall I was pushed into a decision as our home TV started giving out (actually two them at once). Because the broadcast industry is in the process of transitioning to digital content, we were in a difficult position: purchase a cheap analog TV that will only work directly with broadcast content for the next couple years or pay the bigger bucks for a HDTV ready for the digital broadcasting world. We decided to bite the bullet and purchase a LCD HDTV via a “Black Friday” special (that in itself is another story for another day).

I was not planning on using the digital side of the TV very much for a couple of years yet, but I soon discovered that several of the Rapid City stations offered an HD signal. The ABC, Fox, CBS, and PBS affiliates all simulcast their regular analog programming in over an HD signal, which improves the quality of the analog signal somewhat but with limits. ABC & Fox programming is increasingly moving their regular programming to HD, and when those programs come on, the difference in picture quality is startling! I can see why so many TV/movie stars are worried–nearly every face wrinkle, every “flaw” really can be noticed.

SDPB is taking a slightly different approach. They offer their regular analog channel in HD with the slight increase in quality, but they also offer a separate channel devoted completely to HD content. I must say some of the content is almost breathtaking in picture quality–in nature programming you can see the individual hairs of wild animals in the closeups.

Why bring this up in an education/technology blog? It is not to talk about the picture quality. Rather, I suspect that there are others in education who are in the same boat–waiting till the prices come down to seriously consider looking at the technology. Necessity jarred me into action and I have discovered there is much to learn. If you have not begun planning for the transition, I recommend you at least start getting up to speed on the technology now. For example, should all projectors purchased from now on have a digital interface? DVI-D or DVI-I?

I anticipate that schools will need to begin planning for two phases: 1) receiving the HD signals for viewing on older analog quality TVs and 2) begin to phase in new purchases of televisions to HDTVs. The article below can help schools plan that first phase. Pegararo makes a good case for using current DVD recorders (not HD-DVD or Blue-ray) that have digital tuners. This may be a cost effective transition plan worth investigating. It also spills over to planning other technologies, e.g. projectors.

If you have suggestions on other cost effective ways to enter the HDTV world, please post your comments. Have your schools begun replacing old TVs with HDTVs? If not, when is the right time? What are other considerations for schools to prepare for the change to digital?

Rob Pegoraro – The DVD Player, Fully Mature – washingtonpost.com

A DVD recorder with a digital tuner can solve two long-standing issues with digital TV.

First, these new models can let people with old analog sets that aren’t hooked up to cable or satellite keep using their TVs after analog broadcasts cease in February 2009. And unlike the promised $50 digital-TV converter boxes that are supposed to go on sale in 2008, these devices are available now.

Second, one of these recorders lets you save a digital TV program in a form that you can watch on a DVD player or computer.

It won’t be a high-definition recording. (Though some recorders simulate high-def through a process called “up-conversion.”) But because the electronics industry has yet to offer a cheap, easy way to make a portable HD recording, that may have to be good enough.

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One Comment

  1. I am one of those whose television is only connected to the antenna on top of my house. In a few years the antenna will no longer “work” and if I haven’t gotten “cable” by then I will be forced to. Change is good, but my big fear is if I join in on the change too soon, will it be outdated before I know it? The answer to that is yes, but that is the world we live in.

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