Truth Patrol: Confused by “HDTV Experts”

HDTV Truth Patrol
Source: “Confused? You’re Not Alone”, by Alex L. Goldfayn, Wild Blue Yonder magazine, Sep-Oct 2005, page 47-48

Quote: “They still sell TVs that are not high-definition. Don’t buy one of those, because soon, by law, all programming will be delivered in HD.”

The Truth: Well, he got the first sentence right. But from then on, it’s a disaster. The law says that all terrestrial broadcasts will have to be digital TV, not HDTV. And the law also states that as of July 1, 2005, all new televisions 36-inches or lager must have digital tuners to accommodate these new signals. Half of all new 25- to 36-inch sets had to have digital tuners by that date as well. But not all digital transmissions — whether by broadcast, cable, or satellite — are in HD.

And even if all digital signals were in HD, it still doesn’t mean that you can’t watch them on a non-HDTV set. HD sets can display standard definition content by scaling the image. This means that it expands the image to fill the screen, and calculates the data required to create the extra dots. By the same token, an HD image can be displayed on a standard definition screen by scaling down the image, discarding some of the dots so that it will fit on the screen. Yes, you lose detail when the image is scaled down, but it’s just wrong to say that you won’t be able to see the image.

Join Professor Poor’s HDTV Truth Patrol, and help with the fight against HDTV misinformation! If you see an article or an ad or a sign that you think has wrong information about digital TV, HDTV, or related subjects, tell me about it. Send a quote (and cite the source in detail so I can verify it), or send a scanned image of the page, or a digital photo. If I pick your submission for a future Almanac entry, you’ll receive an exclusive Truth Patrol t-shirt that you can wear with pride. Let everyone know that you stand for truth in the HDTV industry!

VOD: Video On Demand — The Future of HDTV?

VOD: that stands for Video On Demand, and is part of the brave new world of “television.” Already part of many digital cable services, this service allows you to choose what you want to watch, and when you want to watch it. It’s sort of like Tivo and other video recorders, in that you can start when you want and pause if you like. The difference is that the show or movie isn’t stored on your equipment. It resides on disk drives at the provider — such as the cable company — and is streamed just for you when you want it.

VOD has the potential to totally reshape our video entertainment world. Standard broadcast systems require that the content be packaged to fit a schedule, so that program guides can be published to list what is going to be shown and at what times. And the content is formatted to fit these slots so that there are the requisite commercial breaks. But what happens when you can start whenever you want, and fast-forward or pause or rewind to your heart’s content?

Separate commercials become liabilities that get skipped, so sponsor revenues are at risk. We’re already seeing the impact of product placement in movies and broadcast television shows, but this will become even more important — and I hope, more subtle — as traditional commercials become meaningless. And the time barriers may also fade away. Why not have a programming source that shows nothing longer than five minutes, start to finish? It’s the multimedia equivalent of a the short story, and independent film makers have been producing them as long as there has been film. So have cartoon makers. You could just call up what piques your interest, and watch one more and one more until you’ve had enough or run out of time. Or maybe there will be 10 hour sagas that you watch in bits and pieces at your own pace. Once the sets and costumes have been paid for, how much more does it cost to create a really long program?

I don’t know what brave new world VOD will create, but I’m fairly sure that my grandchildren won’t understand why I had to take my bath early and get ready for bed Sunday evenings if I wanted to get to watch the Wonderful World of Disney.

Google HDTV?

Google — the juggernaut that defined the Web search market — appears poised to expand its reach. A job posting on the company Web site seeks candidates to “identify key market trends that are shaping user behavior when watching television.” Google has already discovered ways to make lots of money pairing advertisers with Web users who are looking for information on certain topics. This job posting could be an early indication that the company might do the same for people seeking entertainment content on the Web. Is this a sign of Google’s investment and interest in the future of IPTV (television content delivered across the Internet, instead of cable or terrestrial broadcast or satellite).

Google has reshaped how millions of people find and access information on the Web. It certainly has the potential to do the same for how those people find and enjoy video entertainment on the Web as well.