Digital Television FAQ

Q: What is this new Digital Television
A: Digital TV is the new technology of broadcasting super clear pictures and superb multi-channel sound on the additional broadcast channel that has been assigned each TV station. There is no change in the networks or program material. Stations can digital broadcast in super sharp High Definition HDTV for programs that benefit from razor sharp pictures, such as, football games, travel shows, etc. Or they may broadcast in the lesser definition mode, Standard Definition, for programs that will not significantly improve by transmitting large amounts of picture detail. A talk show, for example, that consists of just "talking heads" will probably be broadcast in the standard definition mode.

Q: How many stations in your area are broadcasting in digital signals? 
A: New digital television receivers, and receiver-monitors are expected to support current analog broadcasts for years to come. But the big advantage of a new digital receiver will be realized when it is used with digital broadcasts. More and more primetime broadcasts and special sports events are being broadcast via digital signals. The original deadline for commercial stations to have a digital broadcast on the air was May 1, 2002. The FCC has recently announced that it will allow stations to apply for a waiver of that deadline in response to the September 11 attacks and the current economic situation. The TV industry lost millions of dollars covering the aftermath of the attacks, and the extremely high costs of the digital transition has left many stations not able to move to digital. By 2005, broadcasters are expected to have made the conversion to digital broadcast signals for consumers enhanced viewing enjoyment. Visit to find out what stations are available at your address.

Q: What kind of antenna do I need to receive digital broadcasts? 
A: To receive new digital broadcasts, you need some form of TV antenna. Be sure you have or purchase an antenna for UHF frequencies sensitive enough to receive local transmissions.

Q: What is the difference between a Digital High Definition TV set and a Standard Definition TV? 
A: While you might often hear the terms DTV (digital television) and HDTV (high definition television) used interchangeably, they are actually not the same. This is a very common misconception. You can have over-the-air DTV without it being a HDTV signal, but you cannot have HDTV without the underlying DTV. DTV is a category which describes several different digital formats used in the television industry. These formats include HDTV as well as other technologies like standard definition television (SDTV) and many other data broadcasting applications. So, while HDTV is a part of DTV technology, it's important to keep in mind that not all digital television is high definition. Please see explanation of ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee) below. The High Definition HDTV sets will perfectly reproduce the maximum picture resolution that any station broadcasts. The Standard Definition TV sets will only reproduce the maximum picture quality that they were built to reproduce, that is; they can receive the higher definition broadcasts but will display the picture with a resolution up to the limits of their internal design and manufacture. 

Q: What is the highest picture resolution supported?
A: Be sure to check the highest picture resolution each digital TV supports. Large screen size and wide screen format do not always mean the highest resolution (1,080I and 720P) is supported. 

Q: So what exactly is HDTV
A: HDTV stands for high definition television. It is a significant advancement in broadcast technology that will allow the viewer to experience television the same way we see films in a movie theater. The HDTV picture is digital and, therefore, higher in quality. It offers clearer images, richer color and more detail (often called "resolution") than what is currently being seen on your analog TV set. Also, in HDTV, the shape of the television screen will change to look more like the screen in a movie theater. So, your current TV set, which has 4:3 dimensions, will change to a wider, more rectangular shape known as 16:9. HDTV also offers theater-quality audio: front and rear digital stereo channels as well as a subwoofer. That's 5.1 channels of CD quality surround sound! Is there anything else? Yes. Since the television signal is digital, more information can be included in the transmission like interactive services, program guides, datacasting and web access. Also, TV stations and networks have the option of broadcasting multiple programs all within their one digital television channel. This is often referred to as "multicasting".

Q: What are 4:3 and 16:9 formats? 
A: We are all familiar with the square-like 4:3 format of traditional television sets. The 4:3 ratio is a measurement of screen width versus screen height. The analog screen format of 4:3 means that the width of the screen is 4 units for every 3 units of height. On a 4:3 set, wide screen films are reduced in size in order to fit the film's full width onto the narrow TV screen without cropping the film and appear in letterbox form (the black bars that appear above and below the picture). This is why you have seen the on screen message that "this film has been formatted to fit your screen" at the beginning of many television movies and rental videos. Wide screen television, however, displays a more rectangular image in a 16:9 aspect ratio, 16 units of screen width for each 9 units of screen height. This is a major departure from the 4:3 aspect ratio of analog TV. This means most wide screen movies will fill the entire screen without distortion and without losing any of the film footage, providing the viewer with the opportunity to see the movie as the director intended. 

Q: What does "Letterboxing" and "Pan and Scan" mean? 
A: To accommodate the 4:3 aspect ratio, many programs and movies utilize a "pan and scan" technique that diminishes the integrity of the film and fails to preserve the original wide screen composition of the picture. "Letterboxing" returns the full picture to the screen and preserves the aspect ratio of the original production, preventing parts of the image from being cropped. Television programs and movies filmed in wide screen will utilize letterboxing in order to keep the full integrity of the image when shown in a 4:3 aspect ratio. There are a significant amount of wide screen movies available on DVD that display in letterbox only, especially earlier movies filmed in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Viewing letterboxed movies on a wide screen set may not eliminate the black bars entirely, but does reduce them while providing a larger, clearer picture in its entirety. 

Q: Should I buy a wide screen format TV? 
A: For a real cinematic experience, you should be watching movies the way the director intended. The wide screen, 16:9 aspect ratio most closely resembles a movie theater screen, as compared to the reduced 4:3 aspect ratio of analog television. You will be able to enjoy DVDs without the black letterbox effect reducing the viewable area on your TV screen. In addition, you will be able to see the whole picture at one time without missing any elements which otherwise might be cropped out or distorted.

Q: What will my DVDs look like on a digital television? 
A: DVD players out on the market right now convert a digital signal into an analog signal for current analog TVs. Most digital TVs have a line doubler built in for any analog signal, so a DVD will look very, very good. In the future DVD players with direct digital output will be available as soon as standards and in copy protection are set. Progressive DVD players will display even better pictures on a DTV set, and some will be available with component HDTV signals out of the player for use with the HDTV ready monitor or receiver.

Q: What is Progressive and Interlaced Scan? 
A: Progressive and interlaced scan is how a picture is displayed on the screen of the TV. Interlaced scan will display the picture by first displaying the odd number of lines on the screen and then the even number of lines. This is done extremely quick 1/60th of a second for odd and then even lines so the eye sees only one complete picture. Analog broadcasts have always been interlaced, as that is the scan system designed by the founders of television broadcast. Progressive scan displays the entire picture in 1/60th of a second by progressively drawing the picture from top to bottom. This results in higher resolution with less picture distortions. Your computer monitor is a progressive scan display. Progressive scan will show much sharper edges on displayed images such as text. 

Q: What should I budget for my new digital TV? 
A: There is no set or "standard" budget for a digital TV. Click here to see our information on DTV sets. 

Q: What is ATSC?
A: ATSC is the abbreviation for the Advanced Television Systems Committee. The ATSC is the standards organization governing the technical methods, policies, procedures, and data formats of DTV. The ATSC is made up of representatives of the broadcast industry, broadcast equipment manufacturers, the Consumer Electronics association, television and consumer electronics manufacturers, and government regulators (FCC). DTV was defined by the ATSC through the standards published by the Committee. 

Q: How come I can't watch DTV on my existing TV set?
A: DTV is a whole new ball game from the ground up. The television industry is changing everything we have done for the past 50+ years and moving from the analog world into digital. The DTV signal is a series of ones and zeros, just like the data stored on your PC, and the data you retrieve from the Internet. The analog display devices we all have been using just cannot deal with only ones and zeros. When the industry and government representatives designed the new system, so much more was available by not keeping compatibility with existing TV sets. A true convergence between broadcast TV and the computer industry could be achieved by switching to the digital format. Quality remains very high, as there is no "gray" area in defining a one or zero. The analog signal can have many "gray" areas and is subject to noise and other artifacts.

Q: Can I use just rabbit ears to receive a DTV signal?
A: Indoor antennas are not the best for receiving DTV signals.. Indoor antennas are subject to a great deal of interference and signal loss. A body walking around an indoor antenna can act as either a wave trap or a reflector, causing signal degradation. Outdoor, roof top antennas will ensure quality DTV reception.