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Analog vs. Digital

Analog Television

The analog television broadcast system used in the United States for the past 50 years transmits signals as an electronic wave. In the wave, images and sounds are represented by continuously changing frequencies and voltage levels. Transmitters broadcast this signal over the air, and the waves are translated back into images and sounds by TV sets. Unfortunately, the shape of this wave is susceptible to degradation as it travels to your home. This degradation can introduce unwanted elements, called artifacts, into the picture. Many things can interfere with an analog signal, such as planes passing overhead and household appliances.

Digital Television

When a digital television signal is transmitted, images and sounds are divided into tiny components of computer information, the ones and zeros of computer language. The computer data provides a more consistent signal that is highly resistant to interference. Unlike the analog wave, there is no chance of misinterpreting what the computer data means. Digital television sets can then receive this data and decode it back into images and sounds. The result is a perfect, studio-quality picture free from the interference, snow and ghosts that appear on analog TV broadcasts.

Advantages of Digital Television

Picture
Pictures add realism to the television experience and crisp digital pictures are one of the biggest advantages of digital television. Unlike analog TV, digital TV is free from snow, ghosts and interference. What’s more, with HDTV or high-definition television, the highest form of digital television, you get 4 to 5 times more picture information than conventional TV pictures. Combine that with the new widescreen format, and you have the ultimate home theater viewing experience.

Sound
Sound adds emotion to the television experience and digital television is enhanced with CD-quality theater-like audio. The digital television signal includes audio in the 5.1 channel Dolby Digital format — separate left and right front channels, left and right rear channels, center and subwoofer channels.

Multicasting and Datacasting
Digital broadcasts can carry huge amounts of digital information — more than 19 megabits per second. Because of this, a broadcaster may choose to split their channel into two or more streams of programming to offer more choice and flexibility to the viewer. Multicasting allows a broadcaster to transmit several standard-definition digital programs at the same time. For example, a broadcaster may show a high-definition movie, a popular sitcom and a news program all at the same time.

Datacasting links information from various sources, such as the Internet, to the television broadcast and allows the information to be displayed on-screen at the same time as a television program or delivered to your PC. You will then be able to get the latest stock quotes, access statistics on your favorite player during a football game, or order the product you just saw advertised right from your TV.

Digital Video Formats

The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) digital TV standard adopted by the FCC in 1996 contains 18 scanning formats. They include interlaced and progressive scan HDTV and SDTV formats with varying frame rates, and two aspect ratios. Active Lines
Scanning formats are measured in active lines of picture elements or pixels transmitted, both horizontal and vertical. The number of total pixels is calculated by multiplying the amount of vertical lines by the density of horizontal picture elements. For example, the 1920×1080 HDTV format has more than 2 million pixels. (1920 X 1080 = 2,073,600). Today’s NTSC video only has a resolution of 211,200 pixels (480 vertical lines and 440 horizontal pixels).

Aspect Ratio
The aspect ratio refers to the shape of the video image. Today’s television has a 4:3 aspect ratio, which is almost square in appearance. Digital television will have either a 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio. A 16:9 aspect ratio is widescreen, and appears rectangular: this looks more like a movie screen, filling more of the viewer’s field of vision for a more lifelike viewing experience.

Scanning Method
Frames of video are made up of many lines of video that are scanned onto a television screen so closely they appear to be a solid picture. The scanning method can be either interlaced or progressive. Interlaced scanning (also used in today’s analog TV), indicated by an “i” in the video format, fills in the odd number lines (1,3,5,7…) and then fills in the even number lines (2,4,6,8…) until the frame is complete. Progressive scanning, “p”, fills in each line consecutively until the frame is complete, like a computer display.

Frame Rate
Frame rate, also known as picture rate, is the speed at which the lines are scanned in order to create a video frame, 60-, 30-, or 24-frames per second.

Momentum Building

Momentum is building for the digital television rollout in the United States. Already, more than 120 stations are on the air with digital and HDTV signals covering more than 60 percent of U.S. households. Industry sales of digital television products are ramping up, from some 200,000 units in 1999 to a 3.4 million units in the first three months of 2006 alone!

DTV or Digital Televison Terms

High-Definition Television (HDTV):
HDTV refers to a complete product/system with the following minimum performance attributes:

  • Receiver: Receives ATSC terrestrial digital transmissions and decodes all ATSC Table 3 video formats
  • Display Scanning Format: Has active vertical scanning lines of 720 progressive (720p), 1080 interlaced (1080i), or higher
  • Aspect Ratio: Capable of displaying a 16:9 image1
  • Audio: Receives and reproduces, and/or outputs Dolby Digital audio

High-Definition Television (HDTV) Monitor:
HDTV Monitor refers to a monitor or display with the following minimum performance attributes:

  • Display Scanning Format: Has active vertical scanning lines of 720 progressive (720p), 1080 interlaced (1080i), or higher
  • Aspect Ratio: Capable of displaying a 16:9 image1
  • Specifications found on product literature and in owner’s manuals, manufacturers are required to disclose the number of vertical scanning lines in the 16:9 viewable area, which must be 540p, 810i or higher to meet the definition of HDTV

High Definition Television (HDTV) Tuner:
HDTV Tuner refers to a RF receiver with the following minimum performance attributes:

  • Receiver: Receives ATSC terrestrial digital transmissions and decodes all ATSC Table 3 video formats
  • Outputs: Outputs the ATSC Table 3 720p and 1080i/p formats in the form of HD with minimum active vertical scanning lines of 720p, 1080i, or higher. Additionally, it may output HD formats converted to other formats. The lower resolution ATSC Table 3 formats can be output at lower resolution levels. Alternatively, the output can be a digital bit stream with the full resolution of the broadcast signal
  • Audio: Receives and reproduces, and/or outputs Dolby Digital audio

Enhanced Definition Television (EDTV):
EDTV refers to a complete product/system with the following minimum performance attributes:

  • Receiver: Receives ATSC terrestrial digital transmissions and decodes all ATSC Table 3 video formats
  • Display Scanning Format: Has active vertical scanning lines of 480 progressive (480p) or higher
  • Aspect Ratio: None Specified
  • Audio: Receives and reproduces, and/or outputs Dolby Digital audio

Enhanced Definition Television (EDTV) Monitor:
EDTV Monitor refers to a monitor or display with the following minimum performance attributes:

  • Display Scanning Format: Has active vertical scanning lines of 480 progressive (480p) or higher
  • Aspect Ratio: None specified

Enhanced Definition Television (EDTV) Tuner:
EDTV Tuner refers to a RF receiver with the following minimum performance attributes:

  • Receiver: Receives ATSC terrestrial digital transmissions and decodes all ATSC Table 3 video formats
  • Outputs: Outputs the ATSC Table 3 720p and 1080i/p and 480p formats with minimum active vertical scanning lines of 480p. Alternatively, the output can be a digital bit stream output capable of transporting 480p, except the ATSC Table 3 480i format can be output at 480i
  • Audio: Receives and reproduces, and/or outputs Dolby Digital audio

Standard Definition Television (SDTV):
SDTV refers to a complete product/system with the following performance attributes:

  • Receiver: Receives ATSC terrestrial digital transmissions and decodes all ATSC Table 3 video formats, and produces a useable picture
  • Display Scanning Format: Has active vertical scanning lines less than that of EDTV
  • Aspect Ratio: None specified
  • Audio: Receives and reproduces usable audio

Standard Definition Television (SDTV) Tuner:
SDTV Tuner refers to a RF receiver with the following minimum performance attributes:

  • Receiver: Receives ATSC terrestrial digital transmissions and decodes all ATSC Table 3 video formats
  • Outputs: Outputs all ATSC table 3 formats in the form of NTSC output Audio: Receives and reproduces, and/or outputs Dolby Digital audio