Tuesday, December 11, 2007
There have been a number of different things that consumers are confused about when it comes to high definition television and the technology that supports it. These various kinds of confusion have led to home entertainment enthusiasts not getting as much out of their home entertainment systems as they possibly could, and it can really all be traced back to a lack of initiative on the part of the consumer electronics industry to educate consumers about this new technology.
One of the biggest misconceptions about HDTV is that it is a type of television set. While that's true in a sense, it misses the point that HDTV is actually a TV format and the HDTV set is the devices that's needed in order to view this new format of TV. This lack of understanding that high definition television is a full fledged TV format creates a number of other similar misconceptions that make it more difficult for people to fully enjoy it. For example, many people think that Digital TV and HDTV are the same thing (probably because digital TV is often called DTV and it offers an extremely clear picture compared to analog TV). That particular falsehood has been extended to misconceptions like the idea that when the country switches over to digital TV transmissions in 2009, all TV will be HDTV. It has also caused a lot of people to think that the programming that conventional DVD's displays in HDTV programming. Many people who are confused about what exactly HDTV is also have the idea that HDTV sets are just for watching movies and TV in wide screen mode.
The fact that HDTV sets have a wider aspect ratio than normal TV sets and that the wide screen aspect ratio happens to be the same 16:9 proportions that are used in the filming of motion pictures has created some confusion among HDTV viewers about what is and is not actually HDTV. This confusion is further exacerbated by the fact that it is now extremely common for normal TV programming to be shot and broadcast in 16:9. In effect, many people are automatically associating a 16:9 picture on their HDTV sets with HDTV programming.
In fact the 16:9 picture is so strongly associated with HDTV that some people have insisted that some programming was in HDTV when the network that was broadcasting the programming definitively said that it wasn't. This was exactly the case with recent coverage of the Wimbledon tennis championship through ESPN. ESPN decided not to use HDTV technology in their coverage of the tennis tournament and then broadcast it on one of its HD channels in 16:9. The result was a number of viewers insisting that it was in High Def format. There have been a number of similar incidents of wide screen standard def programming being mistaken for HDTV.
There are several different explanations for this wide spread failure to differentiate between HDTV and standard def programming. One is the fact that people automatically assume that if they're watching an HD channel and the program is in 16:9, then it must be HDTV. Another explanation is that on smaller HDTV screens- where the pixels are packed closer together- its more difficult to tell the difference between the resolutions of the two TV formats. While standard definition programming doesn't look as good as High Def programming on HDTV screens, the difference will be much more apparent on larger screens where the pixels that aren't used for a standard def picture will be more apparent.
For smaller HDTV screens, this really begs the question of how relevant HDTV technology is in general. It may be that at least for smaller TV screens standard def is good enough.