Getting HD and 4K

A common complaint about new HDTVs is that the picture at home isn’t as good as what the buyer saw in the store. In fact people often tell me that it looks no better or even worse than their old standard definition TV with a soft picture usually at the wrong aspect ratio (picture shape). Well there is a simple explanation for this. The problem is that you are still feeding an old standard definition signal to your TV. For your new TV to look great you first need to give it a high definition signal.

Standard definition video signals has 480 vertical lines of resolution interlaced (odd # scan lines lit up then even # scan lines lit up) High definition signals come in 3 forms:

720 progressive (768 vertical lines of resolution all lit up at the same time)
1080 interlaced
1080 progressive

For a TV to be considered high definition it must have at least 720 lines of vertical resolution. HDTVs all scale the various resolutions to their display so you don’t have to worry. You can watch all types of HD on your new TV and they should all look great. TV stations broadcast 720p or 1080I signals. 1080P is used by Blu-Ray disc for the best possible HD picture quality.

UHDTVs (also known as 4k TVs) up the pixel count to 2160 x 3840 (2160P) and deliver a resolution that is 4x that of 1080P. All other resolutions have to be scaled to fit. The only source of true 4k material is UHD 4k Blu-Ray discs and some streaming services

If you subscribe to cable or satellite you will need to upgrade to high definition and get a new cable box. If you are unsure if you have a HD cable box, look for the HD symbol on the front. If still unsure check the connections on the back. HD can only be transmitted over a Component or HDMI connection. If your cable box doesn’t have these it is not HD. Call your cable provider for an upgrade. Keep in mind that not all channels on cable or satellite are HD. Many channels are still standard definition. Be sure to get the HD cable box before you call me for TV hookup or calibration.

If you get your TV off the air from a roof antenna you should be all set. Roof antennas work with both standard and HD signals. Just screw the coaxial cable from the antenna directly to your TVs antenna terminal. You do not need that old converter box. Keep in mind that not all channels on broadcast TV are HD. All the major networks are HD but there are a lot of extra channels like 7.2 and 44.2 that are still in standard definition.

The next thing to check is the cable connecting your cable box to your TV. HD can only be carried by a component (720P and 1080I) or HDMI (720P, 1080I or 1080P) cable. If you are using a composite (single RCA cable) or s-video cable you are not getting HD. It is time for a cable upgrade. I can provide the proper cables at minimal cost when I hookup and calibrate your TV.

Your DVD player will work fine with your new TV but keep in mind that DVD is not a high definition format. DVD is limited to 480 lines of resolution and DVD players can output a progressive or interlaced signal through the component output. For best results DVD players should be connected by component or HDMI cables and set to progressive output. Some players upconvert the picture to 720P 1080I or 1080p and output the signal through their HDMI output, but picture quality is limited to the original resolution of the format. That being said, good DVDs can look quite good on HDTVs. You may be pleasantly surprised.

For the best possible picture quality with your new HDTV you want to get a Blu-Ray player and Blu-Ray discs, or better yet a UHD Blu-ray player especially if you have a UHD 4k TV. Blu-Ray is a full HD format and provides a 1080P picture and up to 7.1 channels of uncompressed audio. Blu-Ray players should be connected by a HDMI cable and set to the resolution of your TV. They also have internet features to stream video from streaming services like Netflix off your home network. They also do a great job playing regular DVDs. Since good Blu-Ray players are available for less than $100 and UHD players for $250 there is no reason not to get one.

Many people watch most of their movies through streaming. This may be the easiest way to see movies but it is usually far from the best quality. Streaming comes in Standard definition, High definition and UHD4k. In all cases data rates are far lower than the corresponding disc format often making compression artifacts and macroblocking more apparent. Audio is usually limited to Dolby Digital 5.1 instead of the higher quality uncompressed audio used on Blu-ray and UHD Blu-ray. To make matters worse streaming quality is often limited by internet speed and the more people in your area using the internet at the same time the worse it gets. If you want the best picture and sound quality stick to Blu-ray and UHD Blu-ray discs. Your public library can be a great source of Blu-ray discs. Most libraries in the Boston area let you check out as many discs as you want and keep them a week.