HD Component to be chopped.

In its ever increasing paranoia about piracy, the industry looks set to finish HD output through component sockets by no longer fitting them on playback devices from the 31st December 2010. Any equipment supplied with component sockets after that date will not show anything higher than SD resolutions (480 or 576i).

Insisting that HDMI should be the only way to transmit HD pictures after that time, there is even the possibility that discs will come encoded with something called “An Image Constraint Token”, which will turn off HD output from the players that already have existing component sockets fitted. This includes set top boxes offering HD content also.

HDMI has been a huge pain to installers across the World as multi-room systems struggle to work correctly with the many HDMI glitches such as - failure to support long distance transmissions without the cost of expensive cables, repeaters and balancers, displays not receiving correct handshake recognition resulting in loss of picture, picture breakdown and the list goes on somewhat. Component on the other hand exhibited very little to none of those particular problems, so its loss will be seen as a disappointment.

Still, welcome to the digital age, no one said it was perfect!

Freesat hits the ground running with free HD transmissions

OK, so it's not Freeview HD, so you'll still have to buy the box and dish, but it is free after that. (Click here to read about what exactly FreeSat aand FreeSat HD are).

BBC and ITV's answer to SkyHD "FreeSat" looks pretty good. They hope to have a massive 300 channels by Christmas along with around twenty HD channels. All of which will be completely gratis. Which we like a lot.

The Humax box - called The Fox - is nice and small, features Component and HDMi and are configured to both work at the same time giving you the choice. It also has a Digital sound output and so when broadcast you can expect to get Dolby 5.1 to plumb into your surround system.

Priced at £150.00 for the box we think it will catch on fast.

The War is over

The War is over and it is completely official. HD DVD is dead. That is to say the consortium that produced the HD DVD the format is dead.

High Definition is however very much alive but now only in the shape of Blu-Ray.

Most people will already be very aware of this fact, however there are still a couple of niggling things that mean you should hold off just a bit longer before buying that Blu-Ray player.

The most important one of these is the fact that there are still a firmware update or two to come our way. These are the scripts that run on the machine to make them deal with the extras correctly and connect to the internet the way that HD DVD did. This should be sorted soon, but in the mean time, only PS3 players will be updated easily.

So, the rest of you..... "stand by your beds - and be patient!"

Mini Glossary - some explanation behind some of the frases that are banded about.

Some listings have further explanations. To see these simply select the shortcuts where available.

HDMI - (High Definition Multimedia Interface) A special plug and socket designed for high definition TV and video. Sometimes called the 'Digital Scart' it can carry both high definition quality audio and video signals.

DVI - Digital Video Interface has been around for some time and could be seen as the forerunner of HDMI. It uses a larger plug to transfer its information and doesn't generally carry audio. A popular connection for computers where it can carry further information such as a mouse input makes it de-facto for that market. It can be adapted to plug into a HDMI socket, or vice versa - however, in most instances it does not have the necessary HDCP compliance (see below) and so may not always work.

Component - This connection is made up of a Red, Blue and Green connector and is capable of carrying High Definition picture as well as HDMI. However in many instances, the output resolution is capped because movie companies don't like the fact that it's not able to copy protect its output. Still the connection of choice by many high end gurus.

SVideo - An analogue signal using a mini din plug with four connectors in the end. Although it cannot send HD signals, it does send non HD material very well by splitting the Chrominance and luminance (the colour information and the brightness information) into separate signals. This results in a much sharper signal than straightforward Composite.

Composite - This single phono looking cable is usually Yellow and it carries non high definition material in a no separated format, this results in some colour smearing and loss of detail. However it is capable of travelling long long distances without degradation and so is handy for multi-room installations where the ultimate in quality is not required.

Scart - A 21 pin connector that carries both video and audio information. It also has pins for switching purposes. Can send signals as composite, SVideo and RGB (a bit like Component but without any form of High Definition or Progressive capability). Poor connection layout and cheap cables can make this form of connection give poor results.

Macrovision - An analogue and fairly basic method of anti copy protection used on Video cassettes which causes the colour and luminance to drop out at regular intervals making copies un-watchable.

HDCP - High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection is a digital encryption algorithm that protects the contents of Dvd discs, HD-DVD and Blu-Ray against digital copying. The machine performs a handshake type function with what ever it is being plugged into, if this item is not HDCP compliant then it will not display a picture.

HD-Ready - a TV/Flatpanel/Projector that conforms to at least a minimum level of specifications for HDTV.

DVB - Digital Video Broadcast, the European standards body responsible for digital TV broadcasts. DVB-T is concerned with digital terrestrial TV (DTT) systems like Freeview, which are received through a TV aerial.

DVBT2 - is the new standard for digital terrestrial broadcasts. It uses a more powerful digital compression system than the older standard.

100Hz - A system which displays TV pictures at twice the normal rate in order to remove flicker. (See also Progressive under the facts and figures section).

720p - A high definition standard which displays 720 picture lines in progressive scan mode.

1080i - TV's with this type of display can show high definition images with 1080 picture lines. However, each frame or picture is split into two halves before being displayed - a process known as interlacing.

1080P - A high definition standard which displays 1080 picture lines in progressive scan mode. Sets with 1080p can also show images with 1080 picture lines, but in this case, all the lines are displayed at once. This helps reduce some of the picture artefacts you can get with interlacing - see 1080i. Sets with 1080p are sometimes described as 'Full HD' of 'True HD', but many manufacturers try and avoid these terms in order to remove consumer confusion (is it working?).

24p - Films are generally shot at 24 frames per second and TV's with 24p compatibility are designed to give a more film-like experience when watching movies from a Blu-Ray or HD Disc.

LCD - Liquid Crystal Digital displays are becoming increasingly popular in the 32" and sub size screens. Bright images and high colour saturation offer a dazzling picture, but at some cost of contrast and motion blur.

Plasma - Plasma displays are still the high end choice for flat screens of 42" and over. Their more natural colours, stability under moving pictures and high contrast levels make them more the Cinema lovers choice.

OLED - A new type of display that uses Organic Light-Emmiting Diodes instead of Liquid crystal or energised Phosphorous Plasma gases. Maybe one of the display types to watch out for in the future.

Hi Def explained & some facts and figures

Basic, old fashioned CRT (Cathode ray tube) type TV's are 480i. The 480 means that there are 480 lines of "light" hitting the screen of your TV from behind (counting from bottom to top). Now let's call the very bottom-most line, line 1, the one above line 2 and so on, okay?

The 'i' indictor means "interlaced". The problem with old analogue TV signals is that they can't carry very much data at one time (they have a small "bandwidth"), which makes it difficult to reliably get 480 lines of data to your TV at once. Instead, they actually only broadcast half of the signal, (lines 1, 3, 5, etc) and then right after that the other half (line 2, 4, 6 etc) in a separate transmission. If your TV keeps alternating the picture between odd and even lines fast enough, you don't see much of a difference. It is therefore “interlacing” the two separate pictures of 240 line each.

The other type of indicator you may have seen is 'p' (which stands for progressive), this means that the device is showing you all of the lines all of the time. That is to say instead of updating lines 1, 3, 5 and then 2, 4, 6, it updates 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, all at once which makes for a much smoother looking picture, especially when your are watching something with a lot of fast movement like an action movie.

The screen resolution will also tell you the number of lines on the TV screen (for example if your screen was 1920 x 1080 this would be a resolution of 1080 lines top to bottom).

There are three "defintions" for TV types, Standard Definition (SD), Enhanced Definition (ED) and High Definition (HD). SD simply means 480i (480 lines, not all shown at once). ED means 480p (480 lines, all seen at once). So, anything that's left (anything with more than 480 lines) is considered HD.

Therefore because progressive is the best way to deliver a signal and 1080 lines is the highest number of lines in use today, a 1080p TV will future proof you and provide the highest quality picture options depending on the signal it is supplied with. These are much more affordable now so unless you are looking for a real budget unit I wouldn't buy anything else.

For a long time LCD and Plasma HDTVs only came in 720p (unless you had LOTS of money to burn), but more and more 1080p sets are now out there, and at very reasonable prices, almost all projection TVs produced new now are 1080p. It's worth noting that some LCD displays offer even higher resolutions than 1080, but this offers no improvement in picture quality and in fact may actually detract from it. It's also worth noting that under fast movement LCD resolution does not stay stable, so 1080 lines could well end up being less than 700 as a relative watchable picture!

Now let's move onto how we get that HD picture to your TV. Just like music, your picture quality will only be as good as your weakest component. If you are listening to an old audio cassette, it doesn't make much difference how expensive your sound setup is, you are not going to get great quality music. The same is true of TV.

People generally get their TV one of 3 ways, Cable, Satellite or the Free over-the-air kind.

All of these ways of receiving TV offer HD content (they broadcast a digital signal that can carry HD information, separate to the analogue signal that older TVs pick up). Most cable and sat providers can rent you an "HD Box" that will allow you access their HD content and Freeview HD will get here some time in the next twelve months. Recently launched Freesat already carries free HD channels.

Those broadcasting HD may broadcast some shows in 720 lines, but most now come in 1080i. You should beware that in order to "save space" both cable and satellite providers compress their HD signals. Decompressing these signals for you to see is what their "HD Box" is doing (just like ZIP-ing a computer file). You will inevitably lose some picture quality due to this compression process but for most people the difference is minimal.

You can watch a 1080 signal on a 480 digital set if you want but you will of course lose some of the detail. Likewise, you can watch a 480 broadcast on a 1080 set. In this case your TV actually has a small "brain" inside it, which creates new lines to make a full 1080 image (it looks at the colors above and below the line it is creating and guesses what should go in the middle). This process is called "up-scaling". If you are going to be watching a lot of regular DVDs (which are in 480p as long as you have a "Progressive Scan" DVD player) then how well the TV up-converts should be a key question you want answered before you buy, although more and more people now are using Dvd players with built in scalers to give your older Dvds a higher grade looking output. Just remember though, that a Dvd player that outputs 1080 from standard Dvd is not a HD Dvd player. Further more, the quality of this 'scaling' varies tremendously.

Although 1080p sets can play up to 1080p signals, there are no broadcasts out there in any definition better than 1080i right now (and due to bandwidth restrictions, there won’t be for some time yet). However your 1080p ability comes into play with the new High Definition DVD formats (HD DVD (now dead) and Blu Ray DVD). These both send out a 1080p signal, for the best picture quality possible.

In short, when you are out and about, try to look at any 1080p TV. If you are looking at it in a shop try to see if they can show you a standard 480 signal on it as well as HD to see how it handles both types of signal. LCD screens in particular are very poor at showing lower resolution pictures. Ironically good old fashion CRT TV's do a better job of that than anything new!

I hope this helps!

If you have any questions feel free to contact us.