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What are some myths and facts of HDTV?

There is a lot of confusion surrounding HDTV. The electronics stores aren't always helping either. There is so much conflicting information out there, it's a wonder anyone can figure it out. Here are some myths and facts about HDTV:

MYTH: All stations will soon have to switch to HDTV.

FACT: No station is required to switch to HDTV, and some probably never will. The requirement only specifies switching to a digital broadcast. In fact, only the local broadcast stations are required to make the switch to digital. The reason for this is the government wants to auction off the analog spectrum to use for other purposes. Cable channels are exempt from this since they don't use the airwaves to broadcast. In fact, they can remain analog indefinitely.

MYTH: The transition to digital or HDTV will make my old TV useless.

FACT: Your old TV will be fine. If you have cable or satellite service, you'll be able to use the provided box to watch TV like you always have. If you get your TV via an antenna, you'll need to buy a digital converter box (around $100) to change the digital signal into an analog one. Also, you'll need to tune your TV in to the digital channel instead of the old analog one. You won't be watching HDTV, but your TV will still work.

MYTH: HDTV channels only show HD programming.

FACT: This one isn't even close. While there are a couple of channels that air only HD programming, most channels don't have much more than their primetime shows in HD. A lot of programming on these channels is upconverted SD. Even HD events don't always contain all HD cameras. Some of the small portable cameras used at sporting events (such as those used in race cars or on helmets) are SD either because HD cameras that small aren't available or because they're wireless. Right now, wireless HD cameras require a lot of transmitting power to send all that video information. That's why most wireless HD cameras are only in helicopters or blimps. Carrying around an HD transmitter just isn't practical yet.

MYTH: All widescreen TVs are HDTV sets.

FACT: While most widescreen TVs are capable of producing an HD image, not all can. Some TVs are referred to as Enhanced Definition Televisions (EDTV). While these devices produce better looking video than an ordinary SDTV set, they aren't HD. They're actually the same resolution as DVD video.

MYTH: DVDs are HD.

FACT: DVDs are actually SD, but they are digital and have less compression than regular SD video you get via cable or satellite. DVDs are anywhere from half to about a third of the resolution of HDTV video.

MYTH: If you have Digital Cable or satellite TV, you are watching HDTV.

FACT: Digital doesn't necessarily mean HDTV. While you can get an HDTV receiver for your digital cable or satellite service to watch HD video, you have to specifically ask for it. Those receivers do not come as standard equipment. In addition, you need an HDTV set and have to connect the receiver using a DVI or HDMI connector. This looks like a computer cable. The standard coax cable, RCA or S-Video connections on the box won't send an HD signal to the TV. Those are intended to hook up other non-HD devices. Finally, even though the networks say the program is being transmitted in HD, you won't see it in HD unless you have the necessary equipment. Otherwise, you're only watching an SD conversion of the program.

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