High definition television (HDTV) is the latest buzz word on everyone’s lips. It promises to deliver movie theatre quality and represents big opportunities for resellers and retail outlets alike. 

While DVD has greatly enhanced the movie viewing experience and users have become familiar with this technology, the questions now being asked are “what is HDTV and what does it deliver?”
Put simply, digital formats provide a much better quality picture than standard definition television (SDTV) – the standard that we are currently using. There are a few reasons for this.
Explains Bruce Byrne, communications specialist at distributor Drive Control Corporation (DCC): “HDTV delivers a much higher resolution (more dots or pixels per inch that provide a sharper, clearer picture) than traditional analogue TV.
“In addition, HDTV offers more scan lines. The picture we see on a traditional TV screen is created by a series of ‘lines’ that ‘paint’ the picture.
“SDTV delivers a 480 line signal but HDTV delivers 720 or 1080 lines, enhancing the image and delivering almost 3D quality.”
Another factor is the scanning type. There are two: interlaced (i) or progressive (p). These describe the different ways TV can paint the picture on the screen.
Interlaced is when every other line is ‘painted’ and then goes back and fills in the lines that were missed. Progressive scanned is where the signal ‘paints’ the entire picture from top to bottom in one pass.
The progressively scanned image is slightly enhanced with a smoother, sharper view.
HDTV offers two choices with scanning: either 720p lines painted all at once or 1080i lines painted in two passes.
Byrne adds: “A big driver of HDTV is the wide-screen broadcast that provides a movie style experience for viewers. The normal width-to-height ratio or aspect ratio for analogue TV is 4:3.
“This provides a slightly rectangular view. HDTV delivers an aspect ratio of 16:9, which is almost twice as wide as it is high.
“In addition, HDTV offers digital sound, allowing content providers to broadcast HiFi stereo or surround sound to compliment the high definition picture quality.”
Over the next couple of years, HDTV will begin to make a significant impact in the local market. However, it must be noted that an HD-ready TV will not deliver HD quality unless the broadcast is HDTV.
In the United States, congress has mandated the move to a totally digital broadcast system. Local broadcaster SABC has already invested some R50-million in a special outside broadcast van that will deliver HDTV broadcasting.
In anticipation of the upcoming Soccer World Cup hosted in South Africa, SABC will acquire another eight vans.