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Issue #034 - What's new
The Practical HT Guide Update brings you the latest additions in a series of informative home theater design articles, unbiased system reviews, practical guidelines and free advice. If you like this e-zine, please do a friend and me a BIG favor and "pay it forward."
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May 2008: Welcome to Issue 34 of the Practical HT Guide Update
Are You Ready for the upcoming Digital TV Transition: Will your analog TV set become obsolete by February 2009?
In the meantime, TV broadcasters could continue airing analog television programs over their originally assigned TV channel. Later, legislation passed by the US Congress mandated that February 17, 2009 would be the last day for full-power television stations to broadcast in analog.
Why moving towards Digital TV? The main primary reason for this change is one of freeing valuable spectrum space. While the available spectrum has remained the same, yet the TV broadcasts and wireless services have increased to a point that urgent action is needed to manage properly this scare resource.
Digital television is more efficient in delivering TV content - meaning that it requires less bandwidth due to compression techniques that are not possible with analog transmission. As a result, DTV can deliver more TV programs in significantly less spectrum space.
Hence, it is possible to free up a good portion of the spectrum presently allocated for TV transmission, for other services. But not only, digital television has the potential to deliver a clearer picture, and new interactive video and wireless data services that are not possible with traditional analog technology.
But this DTV transition has its downside as well, with the most obvious being that the analog switch off will render the millions of analog TV sets still present in the majority of US households obsolete, unless you revert to an external digital TV converter box. And... this would render your TV nothing more than a monitor! But there are other issues - with a number of these being specific to digital TV rather than the transition process itself.
Digital TV Guide: To help you better understand the implications of the present Digital TV transition, we have prepared a series of articles through which we first explain what is exactly digital terrestrial television, or DTT.
We then discuss the requirements to receive digital television - from DTV converter boxes to TV antennas - including the latest SMART Antennas.
We conclude this DTV guide by presenting a short list of useful resources. These range from official Digital TV transition websites, to an informative on-line guide by Crutchfield and an interesting video guide prepared by Best Buy.
A Guide to HDTV Formats: Should You Opt for a 1080p HDTV?
It is estimated that at present, there are some 61 million HDTV sets in U.S. households alone - representing an HD penetration of 36%.
Equally important, a third of these HD-enabled households have multiple HDTV sets; in most cases, the second or third HDTV set is a 1080p television.
The reality is that 1080p HDTVs are turning out to be one of the hot specs of the moment.
This is no surprise; the drastic fall in prices of HDTV sets we have seen during 2007 has led to a sharp increase in the presence of HDTV sets, and in particular of 1080p TVs. This present trend in HDTV pricing is expected to continue for some more months despite that a recent CNN/Money report indicates that prices of HDTVs may start to rise sometime later this year due to the weakening dollar and the escalating Chinese production costs (most HDTV sets are being manufactured in China).
Still, research shows that the 1080p high definition TV is expected to outsell 720p HDTVs within the coming months, this regardless of the higher price tag and - equally important - the non-availability of broadcast programming in 1080p! In fact, the only commercially available 1080p video content comes in the form of high-definition discs from Blu-ray and HD DVD.
The irony is that notwithstanding the increase in the presence of HDTV sets in US households, there is still a lot of consumer confusion about high definition television.
A survey conducted by Best Buy in 2007 revealed that having an HDTV set in the house does not necessarily imply the consumer has an understanding of HDTV. Even more significant is the fact that half of all HDTV owners taking part in the survey admitted they are either not watching HD programming, or are not sure if they are!
The unfortunate thing is that TV makers appear to be taking a ride over this lack of consumer understanding. They are pushing ahead the more expensive 1080p HD set even at screen sizes where difference in picture detail between a 720p and a 1080p image would be unperceivable.
There is a very simple reason for this drive by TV makers - 1080p sets carry a higher price tag and therefore a higher profit margin.
To justify this move, TV makers and retailers alike profess to the world that 1080p HDTV sets deliver better resolution than 720p HDTVs and improved performance over 1080i.
The average TV consumer does not have an understanding of the differences between the different HDTV formats, and therefore is ready to pay the higher price tag associated with 1080p HDTVs to get the 'better TV'. It is true that a 1080p HDTV delivers improved picture resolution, but...
For detailed answers to these questions and additional information, please check our HDTV Guide; it analyzes the differences between the main HDTV formats - 720p, 1080i, and 1080p HD formats, and explains how these differences impact image quality. In the process, it explains when it makes sense to opt for the higher-end, and more expensive 1080p TV set.
TV Viewing Distance: Is it just a matter of personal preference?
Many home theater owners are tempted to go for the biggest screen they can afford when buying a big screen TV for their home theater. But this type of approach may turn out to be a big mistake - budget should not be your only consideration when planning a big screen purchase.
The optimum TV screen size is directly related to the available viewing distance, but there are other factors as well that need to be taken into consideration. Why?
Sit too close to your big screen TV and you will be able to see the image build-up structure - scanning lines or pixels forming the image – thus distracting your attention and spoiling your home theater experience. Sit too far away and the impact will be lost.
Just go to the movie theater and you will soon realize that there is a lot of personal preference. Some would sit at the very back. Others would go straight to the front row for a bigger picture and a wider angle of view, while some would simply choose their seat randomly somewhere between these two extremes.
The truth is that there are no scientific rules her. However, this does not mean there are no guidelines to follow when planning a big screen purchase for your home theater room.
Both SMPTE and THX come to the rescue here by recommending an optimum viewing distance - or rather an optimum viewing angle - that leads to a more immersive viewing experience.
There is also the issue of visual acuity. This does not relates to some optimum viewing distance, but rather to the maximum distance between the viewer and the screen beyond which some image detail will be lost as a result of a one's eye sight limitations.
On our part, we have come up with the '2-to-5' rule of thumb, which should help you determine the best viewing distance - based on your screen size.
More information on the subject is available in our TV Viewing Distance article. It explains the SMPTE recommendation and the THX certification standard for home cinemas, as well as the limitations arising out of visual acuity considerations. We conclude the article by explaining how these recommendations apply to multiple-row seating in the home theater; in particular, we show you how to determine the maximum number of rows that you can accommodate for a specific screen size.
Home Theater Pictures Contest: Win a double magazine subscription!
Show off your home theater on Practical Home Theater Guide and participate in our 'Best Home Theater Picture' contest.
As expresses in our last e-zine, we are running a competition for the best home theater picture.
It does not take much to come up with some great home theater picture and an interesting description of your home theater.
And... by sharing your home theater, you will also help inspire others in their efforts when designing their home theater masterpiece.
What will you get in return?
The best entry will be featured on our Home Page for a whole month as the 'Best Home Theater'. But there is more...
For U.S. residents: We are giving away a free one year subscription to two of the most popular magazines among home theater enthusiasts, Home Theater and Electronic House, to that entry which in our opinion will be the best submission.
Home Theater is probably the best known home theater magazine and comes with loads of useful information from equipment centered reviews to buyer's guides and useful tips.
Electronic House is a refreshing publication and makes a good choice of reading material if you want to keep up with the latest technology to anything that relates to the connected home.
In the meantime, our site visitors will be able to comment and rate your home theater contribution. It will surely be fun to watch the comments it gets from your friends, family members, and any one of the more than 150,000 unique site visitors that come to Practical Home Theater Guide every month.
Take care and stay tuned!
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