Feed the (HD) Beast

David Pogue at the New York Times, quoting from his surprise encounter with a rare non-clueless Best Buy employee:

Q: Is there a lot of consumer confusion about HDTV?

A: Oh, man, you have no idea. People come in here absolutely clueless. Or furious, because they bought an HDTV set, got it home, and discovered that the picture doesn’t look anything like it did here in the store. Because they don’t realize they need a high-def *signal* to feed that set. For example, they need to replace their cable boxes with digital ones, or put a high-def antenna on the roof.

I admit that we fell into something like this trap when going HD a few months ago. We knew we would need to feed it HD signal for best results, but weren’t prepared for how much worse traditional signal would look. But apparently not everyone notices. Or who notice but don’t care:

[D.P. adds: According to a study by the Leichtman Research Group, 50 percent of HDTV owners aren’t actually watching any high-def shows on them… but 25 percent of them *think* they are.]


Music: Nellie McKay :: Testify

7 Replies to “Feed the (HD) Beast”

  1. I bought my Series3 TiVo a month or so before I got my HDTV, so when I finally did, I had a reasonable collection of movies recorded in HD (including all of Star Wars).

    I have to say, though, I feel like people’s perceptions are shifted once they begin watching HD content. I suspect that SD content does look worse on a modern HD set, but I believe alot of that is attributed to people getting used to how awesome HD looks combined with most people getting a much larger set when they make the HD switch. I went from a 27″ CRT to a 46″ LCD… Obviously some technical details like scalers can make a big difference too..

  2. That’s one reason I chose a TI DLP-based HDTV (the Samsung HLT5087S to be precise). Regular SDTV looks pretty darn good on a DLP. Much better than on an LCD panel – tho’ I will admit that, to my eyes at least, HDTV sources look best on the top-quality LCDs (but not by much, and an LCD in the same size as my Samsung would break the bank for me ;) Our HD source is the DVR we got from Verizon when they installed FiOS.

    I also invested in a pixel-upscaling player for regular DVDs – the Pioneer DV-400V. Has an HDMI output and my existing collection of DVDs looks damn good on the HDTV now. Inexpensive, too. I think I paid about $80 for it. Also plays practically anything you throw at it (digital music, photo and video files, including: DVD-R/RW, +R/RW, CD-R/RW, SVCD and VCD, as well as WMA, MP3, JPEG files and DivX + Xvid AFAIK). Incls a USB port on the front panel for plugging in thumbdrives and external hard drives containing such files, too.

  3. Hi Scot,

    A couple of months ago my sister had a meeting with some folks from Hitachi. Some guy with their group insisted on calling it “HAITCH-d-t.v.” throughout the whole meeting, dozens of times. She got the church giggles so bad she almost had to excuse herself.

    I’m ONLY calling it hhhhhhhaitch-d-t.v. From now on.

  4. @David – I heard from a friend recently that most newer HDTV’s have pixel upscaling built in. I gotta say, watching DVDs on our 3-year-old Sony player on this set … they seem indistinguishable from HD, and I’m not sure whether that’s just the way it is or thanks to upscaling happening inside the TV. Do you notice a dramatic difference between your upscaling player and a non-scaling player plugged into the same set?

    @Amy – Was the guy Australian? Now that you’ve said that, I heard “haitch” in my head every time I hear the term.

  5. Scot,

    Yes, a bit. Our previous DVD player was an orig. Xbox connected via component video cables. The Pioneer looks better to my eyes, but the Xbox was certainly serviceable. I just don’t trust the Xbox mechanically – they tend to have rather fragile DVD drives (and this one also lost its video output altogether for a time – tho’ it mysteriously returned :)

  6. I realized last weekend that the digital projector we’ve been using for watching DVD movies on our wall is capable of showing HD content. So I went out and got an HD TV tuner, which when plugged into the projector works very well.

    A nice surprise from that experience: There is a lot of digital content available for free over the air — and the tuner picks up channel & show info over the air too, so there’s a built-in channel guide (no Tivo, cable box, or internet connection required). Not all of the digital channels are HD — but there are a lot of them. For instance, KQED broadcasts not just one channel but 5 in digital, one of which is HD, one of which seems to be the Clifford the Big Red Dog Channel, and 3 others.

    The Superbowl was in HD, though, and we got it at 1080i. Not bad for a $200 upgrade to our existing video setup!

  7. Wow, killer setup Dylan!

    I also watched the superbowl over the air in HD (at someone else’s house) – quite amazing that there’s so much bandwidth there, hanging in thin ether.

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