FAQs — What Equipment Do I Need to Receive HDTV?

What Is HDTV? | Why Is There HDTV? | What Equipment do I need to receive HDTV?
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A standard television is not capable of displaying High Definition broadcasts and is not capable of receiving the broadcasts from the local Digital TV stations. Essentially, you will need to upgrade your TV equipment to Digital to continue to receive local programming over the air and to view the high definition programming available from satellite or cable.

Cable will likely provide a solution for its customers to continue viewing local programming on a standard television. But a standard television can not display programming in High Definition. You must have an HD cable set top box to view high definition programming. Cable is not required by the FCC to provide converted boxes to allow standard TVs to receive (down converted) HD broadcasts.

Satellite services are also providing some of the local stations in HD. They require you to buy an HD receiver and install a dish. Many times they offer free installation and possibly a free HD receiver when you sign up.

Receiving High Definition Programming

To receive HDTV you will need a HDTV capable receiver.

There are five choices

  1. If you have cable tv you must obtain a HDTV capable cable box from your cable company like Comcast orlando.
  2. If you have satellite, you will need to buy an HDTV capable receiver. There are multiple models to choose from.
  3. You can purchase a HDTV Television which has a built in ATSC tuner. These TVs can receive digital broadcasts over the air but still require a set top box to receive HD cable or satellite.
  4. If you desire to only receive over the air broadcasts, you will need to purchase an HDTV receiver (such as a HDTV satellite receiver) or a HDTV with a built in ATSC tuner will also work. You do not need to subscribe to a satellite service to use the receiver for over the air ATSC (digital) broadcasts.
  5. Buy (or get free from the provider) a Satellite HD receiver and sign up with the provider.

If you are planning to receive HDTV over the air, you will need a TV antenna. The size and placement of the antenna will vary depending on where you live. If you live near Bithlo, you probably can use rabbit ears. If you live in Melbourne, the west side of Orlando,  or Daytona Beach, you will need medium size TV antenna, such as the ones sold at Radio shack. The best reception is obtained when the antenna has a clear path to the transmitting towers in Bithlo. It may be  possible to place the antenna in your attic but your house will significantly reduce the signal strength of the station you are trying to receive.

The FCC has ruled that local laws and home owner covenants can not prevent you from receiving TV broadcasts over the air and can not prevent you from installing a TV antenna or satellite dish (even in Celebration!). Put up whatever antenna is necessary to receive local stations and if you get a letter telling you to take it down you can refuse citing federal law. To read the FCC ruling on antennas, click here.

To find out what size antenna you would need to receive over the air HDTV broadcasts, click here. Follow the 3 steps and you will receive a map showing the direction to point your antenna and a list of stations that can be received. The TV stations are grouped and color coded to indicate the size of the antenna needed to receive the station. Click on a TV station to see the recommended antenna size to receive the station. Radio shack carries a wide variety on TV antennas that will most likely fit your needs.

Be sure to read up on protecting yourself from the Florida lightning. Click on the "What About Lighting'' question on the right side of this page. Never install a TV antenna near power lines. Another interesting article by Don Landis on antenna grounding can be found here.

Viewing High Definition Programming

To view HDTV programming you will need a HDTV ready Television. There are many brands, sizes and types. An HDTV ready TV should say HDTV somewhere on it. An EDTV ready TV is NOT HDTV ready. You should consider purchasing a widescreen HDTV since all HDTV broadcast are widescreen. If you choose a 4:3 HDTV, the pictures will appear letterboxed with black bars on the top and bottom of the screen.

Basic HD Equipment Hookup

High Definition video has 3 possible paths to display on your HD set.

HDMI - HDMI digital connections look like a big USB plug and is capable of carrying HD video, digital audio and remote control signals on just this single wire.

DVI - A digital video connection on sets 2003-2005 that looks like a computer monitor connector with many pins inside a 2 inch rectangular connector. This is the same digital video standard as HDMI without the audio and control signals. The interconnect cable sold at local retail stores is wildly overpriced at $100 for a 2 meter cable. The same DVI-D single link 2 meter cable bought on the web sells between $10-25.

Component Analog HD - The standard since the begining of HD television has 3 RCA connectors with red, blue and green color coding. This connection type uses all 3 colored wires for just the HD video unlike the single wire for HDMI or DVI.

If you have HD cable or satellite installed in your home the installer should have used one of the above wiring paths to allow you to see high definition video. You need to find out what input on your display is hooked up to the HD video such as "Video 5" or "Video 6". Inputs such as composite Video, S-video and NTSC antenna are not capable of displaying HD.

ATSC RF Antenna - Displayed below as ANT 1 IN the coaxial connection is used for off air HD reception only and requires an antenna and a built in ATSC tuner. This connection is never used for HD cable television.

Inputs - In the old days the cable guy hooked up the set top box so that you tuned your set to channel 3 and you watched all television including VHS on that one channel. High Definition video is hooked up to your set completely different which requires you to understand inputs. Basically the back of your set has lots of different connections to allow video and audio to go in and those are labeled inputs.

You can select different inputs using your remote control pressing the "input" or "video" button. Often the on screen display shows you something like "Video 5" or "Video 6". If you labeled the inputs using the on screen controls in may now display as "Cable" or "DVD" or "SAT". Confusion sets in when the installer hooks up the set top box to more than one input on the back of your set or incorrectly plugs into an input which does not support HD video such as S-Video. People have reported installers who incorrectly believe S-video is the way to receive High Definition video so you may need to look for yourself or call the installer back if the HD channels are not absolutely stunning video

Exceptions - Some older HD displays will have two different types of component video inputs. They look the same on the back panel with each set showing the normal green, blue and red rca type connectors but one set will support HD and the other set will not. If this is the case on your display look for little clues like the component input that supports HD will have letters or numbers near the connectors like 1080i or HD. The component connectors that do NOT support HD will be labeled something like 480i / 480p only. This information is usually in your owners manual but you need to dig a little and study the hookup diagrams closely.

CableCARD - Now that you just got done reading HD Cable TV from Bright House Networks never uses the Antenna input for high definition along comes the CableCARD™ enabled display. This is a new service just starting to deploy here in Central Florida and can save you money. The CableCARD is actually a PCMCIA card provided by BHN that is inserted in the CableCARD slot in the TV itself eliminating the need for a set top box. Once activated by BHN the card will decrypt the digital channels including HD. The cost per month for the cable card is $1.95 vs. $6.60 for a set top box. The only negative at this time is the card is only capable of one way incoming signals so it will not work with pay per view, interactive program guides or video-on-demand services requiring two way communication.

Duplicate Channels - There are many High Definition channels that also have a Standard Definition or analog duplicate channel on your cable or Satellite system. A good example is ESPN which has a Standard Definition channel on DirecTV ch. 206 and a High Definition version ESPN-HD on ch. 73. Even though the guide indicates the same programming on both channels the picture will have 6 times more resolution on ch. 73 when the network is running HD programming. This same situation applies to all the networks like CBS, ABC, HBO...etc. You need to find the channel numbers for the HD version of the channels on all the programming services like Comcast, DirecTV, Dish.

Digital Audio - You must use the coaxial or optical digital audio output from your source such as a HD set top box or DVD player to actually hear 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. If you are using the Left and Right analog audio source then you are only using 2 channels of audio to create Dolby Pro Logic®. Hook up the digital audio if you can for a big improvement in sound quality.