An HD View

An HD View

In the past 75 years, the term “high definition” (HD) has evolved. Many factors contribute to the definition of HD. If you think 720p means HD, you’re right. But what about 1080p? Well, that’s HD as well. A 720p resolution is high definition and offers a great picture— in many instances it may look as good or better than 1080p. This is because several factors contribute to picture quality: the source, the wires, the equipment you’re feeding through, the distribution, the signal quality and the calibration.

Let’s say you are viewing your signal from a satellite dish. To view a picture in HD, you need to have the proper coax cable to carry and decode the signal into your satellite box, the proper cable for your distribution, a switch, and possibly an amplifier to boost your signal. Translation: There are many places to lose picture quality along the way.

Blu-ray boggle
You’re watching a movie from your Blu-ray player—you’re getting the best picture possible, right? Not necessarily. Not all Blu-ray players are created equal. One popular game station uses Blu-ray as its player, but the chip set in that player is inexpensive. So while it is HD, and has a better picture than standard definition, it is not the quality of a stand-alone unit with a better, more expensive chip. A good Blu-ray player will cost about $400 to $1,000, and yes, there is a difference in picture quality.

Screen quality
A “cinema”-quality projector offers the best picture, but it can range in cost from $5,000 to $250,000. Quality combined with affordability is the reason flat screens are so popular, with starting prices under $1,000.

When shopping for a new flat screen or projector, rather than paying attention to the brightness of the picture—brightness is adjustable, is usually turned way up in stores and has very little to do with the picture quality—look at the picture’s black levels. This is where you can notice the difference in picture quality. If you want the higher-end products, consider going to a custom store or custom installer.

From good to great
So you now have a really good HD picture. How do you go from “really good” to “great?” Make sure you have all of the following: high-quality wiring, proper installation practices and connectors (a qualified, experienced professional can really make a difference—credentials mean they’ve had the proper training), a good source and planning so you stay within your budget.

The History of HD

The British 405-line black-and-white television was introduced, considered high definition in comparison with previous mechanical and electronic television systems.

The American 525-line NTSC system was introduced, comparable in definition to the British 405-line.

The U.S.S.R created (Transformer), the first high-definition television system capable of producing an image composed of 1,125 lines of resolution for the purpose of television conferences among military commands; as it was a military product, it was not commercialized.

NHK of Japan first developed commercial, high-definition television; this technology was not commercialized until nearly 30 years later.

The International Telecommunication Union’s radio-telecommunications sector (ITU-R) set up a working party (IWP11/6) with the aim of setting a single international HDTV standard. While a single standard was never finalized, a common aspect ratio of 16:9 was agreed upon.

After more than 20 years of testing and development, the ITU-R has defined high-definition as having the following aspects: a 16:9 aspect ratio, specified colorimetry, 1080i (1,080 actively interlaced lines of resolution) and 1080p (1,080 progressively scanned lines) scanning modes.

Larry Heuvelman is a certified remodeler through the NAHB and NARI, and specializes in residential remodeling, home theater and audio/video design and distribution. Since 1986, Larry has owned his own company, Lawrence Heuvelman Inc. He is a member in good standing with CEDIA, NAHB and NARI.

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