Read David Field's primer on Full HD before buying a new flat screen.Hello 6PR listeners!
I wrote this before my chat with Tod Johnston to give you some more background information on the world of HD. It’s less detailed than what I normally write about, so if you’d like to know more head to your local newsagent and grab a copy of PC Authority, and look for HD corner, which is generally before our games section.
HD is a confusing term, because it’s been largely manipulated by the marketing world. At the heart of it, it’s simply a term that describes the resolution that will supersede standard definition video that you watch whenever you play a DVD. It’s TV’s next evolution, like the addition of colour, the change to widescreen and the change to digital transmissions that you receive with a set top box.
There are two HD resolutions in use today, they are 720 and 1080. 720 (with a resolution of 1280 pixels wide by 720 high) is less detailed than 1080 (which has a resolution of 1920 x 1080). 1080 is more commonly known as True HD, and in short is the best looking picture you can get. The greater number of pixels means that you can increase the size of your TV (which should be called a display, because it’s now just displaying images that are fed to it by a set top box, games console or some sort of disc player) to huge sizes without the image degrading like DVD does on huge screens.
Two new disc based formats are vying for the position under your new HD display: they are HD DVD and Blu-ray. For all intents and purposes, they are identical. They use the same codecs to squeeze the digital video information of True HD onto your screen and can both provide more channels of audio than DVD. Depending on how the studio built the disc, you can get up to 7.1 audio, occasionally uncompressed, which means it has the same fidelity it had in the cinemas and not the (admittedly high quality) MP3 sound of DVDs.
To take advantage of this high quality sound and audio, you’ll need a big screen and a good audio setup. That makes HD very expensive, but is great for home cinema buffs who will merrily funnel tens of thousands of dollars into their home theatre setup. That’s the single biggest benefit that HD will bring to your lounge room, and if you’re using an old, small telly, you won’t be able to appreciate the huge difference between standard definition DVDs and high definition HD DVDs or Blu-ray films.
If you’re worried about any of this, don’t be. The people who are investing in HD are mostly early adopters. The geeks. The guinea pigs. Me. We’ll find the cracks in the formats and based on our early buying decisions the format war between the two formats will be solved. For most people, I honestly recommend avoiding the whole format war until a victor emerges.
Until then, pick a format that’s backed by the studios that make your favourite films, because they’re responsible for bringing out whatever you’ll be able to watch on your new setup. Blu-ray is supported by Sony Pictures, Warner Brothers and Fox. HD DVD has the backing of Paramount and Universal. And to future proof yourself, make sure your next piece of electronics has an HDMI connector and will display Full, 1920 x 1080 HD signals.