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Digital Television Transition High Definition Answers

This is the biggest thing to happen to TVs since the introduction of color. Digital television is no longer a subject discussed only among the techno-savvy and gadget-obsessed. It's now a hot topic ignited by the United States government, fueled by cable providers and electronics retailers, and spread in the everyday conversations between even the most casual consumers. You can try to avoid the escalating digital hype, but by February 2009, the digital transition will hit home whether or not you're ready for it.

The switch from analog broadcasting to digital has been years in the making. In the 1990s, Congress passed a mandate to change TV broadcasting from analog to digital to free-up more bands of the broadcast spectrum for public safety and emergency services, as well as for popular wireless services. Currently, most TV stations broadcast on digital and analog channels, with over 1,600 out of 1,745 full-power stations broadcasting digital programs. After February 17, 2009, all full-power television stations are required by law to end analog broadcasts. David Rehr, President and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, considers this digital television transition "the most significant advancement of television technology since color TV was introduced.

" Television broadcasters will be able to offer programming with characteristics similar to DVDs: higher quality pictures without the typical TV interference or "snow." But you don't have to see DTV to tell the difference; the multi-channel digital surround sound, including Dolby Digital 5.1, will turn casual TV watching into a theatrical experience. For many people, these benefits will come at a cost.

Consumers who use an antenna on an analog set and do not subscribe to cable or satellite will need to upgrade in order to continue receiving television programming. Upgrading can be done in one of three ways: purchase a digital converter box (also known as a set-top box or converter box), purchase a digital television or subscribe to cable or satellite. Digital to Analog Converter Box On February 18, 2009, the curbs will not be cluttered with 70 million analog television sets and antennas. These TVs will continue to work after February 17 with the addition of a digital converter box.

Because DTV broadcasters have been designated channels in the VHF and UHF bands, antennas should also continue working as long as a DTV signal is available ' so don't throw out the rabbit ears just yet. The digital converter box is an electronic device that hooks up to an analog TV set to convert digital signals to analog signals. Converter boxes, priced from $40 to $75, can be purchased at electronics retailers across the country. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is currently providing an opportunity for consumers to cut down on the price of the digital transition.

Each household may receive up to two coupons worth $40 each toward the purchase of digital converter boxes. However, the NTIA is offering enough coupons to supply only half of the nation's households. To receive these coupons while they last, consumers must apply online as soon as possible at https://www.dtv2009.

gov/ or by phone at 1-888-388-2009. Cable and Satellite Depending upon the service provider, some cable customers may also need a digital set-top box to receive and convert DTV signals. Satellite customers may need a different set-top box to receive high definition programming. Because no single information source claims to be 100% certain of exactly how the transition will affect all cable and satellite customers, the only way to know for sure is by contacting your provider. Cable network channels such as MSNBC, Lifetime and CNN are not required by law to make the digital transition. However, some cable providers, such as Comcast, are removing popular channels like these from basic cable and offering them only in a digital broadcast tier.

Although most cable customers will be able to receive basic cable without a converter box, there may be few channels left to watch. In order to receive additional channels (including ones that were once staples in basic cable service), consumers are thus forced to upgrade their service in addition to purchasing a digital converter box. A New TV If you want to take advantage of the full quality of DTV, you won't need a converter box ' you'll need a new digital television set. Contrary to popular assumptions, going digital does not mean going broke. As the prices of electronics continue to fall, most households are able to afford a digital televisions of some kind ' Standard Definition, Enhanced Definition or even High Definition. Standard Definition television is the basic digital TV format; its quality is comparable to traditional analog television.

Like analog TVs, SDTVs can deliver up to 480 interlaced (480i) lines of resolution and are transmitted in 4x3 ratio. Unlike analog, SDTVs can include the 16x9 widescreen aspect ratio. Although it has the same resolution as SDTV, Enhanced Definition television provides a smoother picture because it has progressive scanning rather than interlaced scanning. EDTV can also be in 4x3 or 16x9 ratio with a resolution of 480 x 640 or 480 x 720 pixels. The superior quality of "pure" High Definition is achieved through the combination of an HD television and an HD signal. With more lines of resolution and smaller gaps between scan lines, images on High Definition televisions are two to five times sharper than those on Standard Definition televisions.

HDTVs can cost as low as $200 for a small screen LCD, or as high as $15,000 for a large flat-panel plasma. The options of HD resolution include 1080i (with more lines and pixels) or 720p (with progressive scanning for smoother images), but the difference is virtually undetectable unless the TV screen is very large. High Definition programming shown on an HDTV ' 1080i or 720p, over-the-air or cable, DLP or plasma ' is a strikingly significant upgrade from Standard Definition. Buying Advice As of March 1, 2007, all new TVs are required to include digital tuners.

While retailers may continue to sell their pre-existing stock of analog-only TVs and devices, they must indicate in a Consumer Alert that the product is analog-only. When shopping for a new digital television, be on the lookout for product labels with tricky wording. Televisions with labels such as "Digital Monitor," "HDTV Monitor," "Digital Ready" or "HDTV Ready" do not necessarily include a digital tuner, which means the additional set-box may still be required. Labels such as "HD Built-In" and "Integrated HDTV" mean a digital tuner is included. The best and easiest way to find out is by contacting the retailer or product manufacturer.

Metro Productions is a full-service video and multimedia production company headquartered in Virginia. Metro Productions provides clients with the ability to realize the benefits of high-end visual media products for the purpose of sales, marketing, recruitment and training. Delivery mediums for these productions include DVD, streaming media and broadcast quality High Definition applications. http://www.metro-productions.com

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