Wednesday, March 7, 2007

(HDTV Primer Part 1) HDTV's - The true picture

I keep reading/hearing/seeing stories regarding hi-def TV's and how great they are, and by and large they are quite worthy pieces of technology, however, I am here to break down the hype surrounding them.

Now just to get this out of the way, I do not own a high def TV, nor is this article supposed to discourage you from buying one. I am a huge TV junkie and I do love watching television. I just don't want you to be suckered into paying too much for something you may not need or finding out later that a great picture needs more than just and expensive screen.

My first issue: DIGITAL. This seems to be the new buzzword of media presentation, digital. What does it mean? As far as I can tell, it means that the data is broken down into 1's and 0's in an electronic format. This is not synonymous with high quality. Digital signals CAN be high quality, but that is because the content is of high quality not because digital is inherently good quality. Old movies are not going to become super crisp and sharp just because they are digital.

The next detail, picture quality, is my most divisive issue. Is it worth the extra money? As RadioFreeG stated in his latest podcast, if you think you can just plug in your existing cable feeds and get hi-def picture, you are sorely mistaken.

Yes, existing feeds will look better since the screen is a higher quality, but its not hi-def. No, my friend, hi-def needs a hi-def signal to take advantage of your new screen. The only way to get that signal is with a digital receiver box, which you have to rent from your television provider. On top of that the free content is minuscule. To get HD content, you have to pay extra for that too.

Additionally, movies on disk will suffer from much the same problem. DVD's will look better, but they are not HD content, so you won't get super sharp whatever. To get HD content, first you need a Blue-Ray disk or HD-DVD disks. Then you need a Blue-Ray disk or HD-DVD disk player. Then you need the digital cables to transfer the protected content to the TV, lest you syphon the signal and make illegal copies of it.

In fact every path to get HD content requires an unbroken chain of content, HD compliant equipment, and finally the TV set. The TV is the last step in the chain, so why is that the first thing they try to sell you?

In a word, money.

You see, my objection isn't the selling of the TV's, its the ridiculous investment that they don't tell you about when you're buying the TV's. If you know that there's strings attached to your purchase ahead of time, you can do one of three things, 1) put off the purchase and live with what you have until it dies, 2) Mortgage the house and buy everything in one fell swoop and enjoy a super picture with surround sound in your own home theatre, or 3) realize you just want a huge screen TV or that you want to watch widescreen movies without letter-boxing and make a purchase without disappointment.

I prefer Option 3, but really any of these solutions is acceptable, provided they are made by an informed mind.

I know several people who went with option 2, maybe not the extreme as I described it, but they have their HD signal and TV and the picture is so amazing that they swear they will never go back. Again, never having experienced full HD quality, I cannot fault their logic.

However I will offer this. Standard definition to Hi-Def is not comparable to the shift from black and white to colour, or from silent films to "talkies". Those were major paradigm shifts. HD-TV is not. Wider screen and an improvement in picture quality? Not a major "revolution" in my books.

Personally, I'll hold off on an HDTV for as long as humanly possible. Why? Because in the not too distant future all stations will be broadcasting in HD for free, not just the premium channels. When that happens, the HD tuners will be built into the TV's much like cable TV tuners are now, so I won't have to rent one.

I work hard for my money, like most of your out there, I'm sure. While I do want to get some entertainment and enjoyment from my hard work, there comes a line that we have to draw to tell the media and content providers that "enough is enough, I don't want to give you any more of my money". Again, this message is reiterated in RadioFreeG's latest podcast. How much content are you willing to pay for? It is one thing if it was free, then give me all you've got. But, if I have to pay and pay and pay for entertainment, then I have to sit down and decide how much do I need, how much do I want to spend, and how much do I want to save for a rainy day?

Just a small thing to think about.

Until next time, keep on having fun.

"bah weep graaagnah wheep ni ni bong"


RadioFreeG said...

A man after my own heart! This was actually going to be the subject of my next podcast, but I lack the technical specifics to explain the difference between 1080i and 780p, and such. In the USA all Standard-def tv's are off the market in 2009. Luckily we don't have that in Canada. I have already seen some sets with the HD reciever built in, so that will become the new standard, and lot's of people will be looking at their thousands of dollars in "entertainment" as a waste. If they like, good for them, but people are being mislead into buying this monster sitting on the display floor, and THEN realizing it looks a little different when they get it home.

The Fly said...

All the local stations here in Toronto are broadcasting OVER THE AIR in HD (FREE). The only exception is GLOBAL TV (cuz they're vaginas).

The term "HD READY" can be misleading to the public, but I say 'A knowledgeable consumer is a wise consumer'. People should ask others who have the technology before they dive into the unknown.

I bought my tv because i needed a tv. Most tvs out there are HD now and i knew i couldn't take full advantage of the HD quality until I get an HD source connected to my tv. Until I get my over the air project working, I'll enjoy watching letter boxed movies the way they ere meant to be viewed.

Soundwave said...

Mr. Fly, you are they educated consumer that I was hoping to create with this article.

You have proven my point exactly. As long as you know what you want and what to expect, then Best Buy is *YOUR* bitch.

I congratulate you on not being fooled by the big box stores, and getting what you intended on purchasing. *clap*clap*