HDTV Issues

December 24th, 2006 by Potato

One of the most amazing things about the SETI project is that there may be any hope at all of understanding alien transmissions that are anything beyond prime numbers blipped out the long way. After all, we can barely get our TVs to talk to each other. NTSC vs PAL, cable/HDMI/DVI/VGA/S-video/and two different types of RCA-like connections (composite and this newfangled Y/Pr/Pb component stuff). Who knows what sort of format an alien signal may arrive in?

Anyhow, as you can probably tell we’re having some issues with our new HDTV over here. The whole thing really makes me think that the technology was released to the market prematurely; couldn’t take an extra few months to hammer out a standard? Or a few years to develop the technology enough to have a single resolution for “HD” rather than this crazy hodgepodge of incremental improvements?. Or get some better widescreen vs. not detection or broadcasting so I’m not staring at grey bars on the side of the TV to square it off to 4:3, then black bars within that because the TV station is broadcasting its “widescreen” format with the black bars as part of the content, leaving me watching a 27″ picture on a 42″ screen…

The first issue is a matter of a defective box: our Scientific Atlanta 8300HD box has a wonky Pb out channel, which means that when we use the component input to the TV, every now and then the picture turns pink (since the only colour channel left is the red one). It can stay this way for a really long time… I wasn’t home when this happened, but my parents did call someone in to fix it. Their solution was to change to using the HDMI connection, which worked rather well… for a time. Then if the TV is turned off, the cable box will turn itself off (which loses the channel you were just on). Fortunately, there is a (rather deeply hidden) setting to get the box to remember which channel you were last on and restart to that one, but it’s still a bit of a pain. However, for some reason with that connector the cable box thinks that my parents’ brand new 1080i TV is only capable of standard definition (over an HDMI connection no less!). We can force it to go back into 1080i (i.e. HD) mode by going back to the initial setup menu, but the bloody thing forgets that setting every time it turns off — which is every time the TV turns off! It’s so frustrating. Even if I could figure a way to make the cable box stay on past the TV’s power-down, I noticed that it has an automatic sleep-mode “feature” so it would turn off an hour after I left it alone anyway.

I’m freaking loving analog cable back in London at the moment.

Anyhow, tomorrow is Christmas Eve and a Sunday to boot, so I don’t know if we can do much at the moment, but I think sometime next week we’ll be trading this puppy in for a replacement.

Update: Well, we called Rogers and they told me that the HDMI signals are buggy that way and that they don’t support them on many of their HD boxes. After power cycling the tuner/DVR a few times the component input went back to showing colours, and I’ll just have to call back later if it goes on the fritz again. For now though, it looks pretty good!

Update 2: The display went pink again. A hard power cycle seems to fix it for a short while, but nevertheless, we’ll be exchanging the HD tuner at a Rogers store in a few days.

One Response to “HDTV Issues”

  1. Netbug Says:

    There are a LOT of problems, but most of them are generated by digital cable, not by HD.

    HD itself is wonderful (I don’t watch ANYTHING in SD anymore, it just looks like a bad RealMedia file to my eye). The problem is the proprietary bullshit. It’s especially bad when you get into HD PVR; only the equipment sold/rented by the provider (Rogers) will be authorized on the network and allow it to get the signal. This means that HTPC’s (Home Theater Personal Computers) are pretty much fucked. It also limits the number of displays to the number of hardware tuners that you rent/buy. Frustrating and expensive (for both the consumer and the company).

    The best solution for this problem would be one of two ways of implementing centralized distribution. This can be done either from the provider (Rogers) or from a central box in the home. I would personally prefer the central distribution in the home, but providers and studios would undoubtably want a central unit (down the road, this would be good for the end-user as you would be able to access content when not at your primary residence, ie. you go to a friends house and you want to watch a movie that you own the rights to that is stored centrally). By having the media stored at a central location, it would allow playback on and device that can access it, so mom could be watching Mr and Mrs Smith in the bedroom while dad watches last nights curling in the living room. Your brother could start Mr and Mrs Smith (even though he’s 40 minutes behind mom in the movie) in his bedroom while your sister watches a live F1 race in her bedroom. It would also be very cool that as displays get cheaper (I’ll get to that in a minute), the media you are watching could follow you around your house and even to a portable device; bro wants to watch the end of Mr and Mrs Smith on the way to school so he loads the file onto his portable media player and away he goes.

    The roadblocks for this right now are two-fold:

    1. The studios are VERY slow and VERY protective of their media. They need to address this and instead of selling a single DVD, they need to sell the viewing rights to that content.
    2. This one is easier to address as technology advances, the simple bandwidth necessary to distribute content. HD signals take a huge amount of bandwidth to distribute and the airwaves are getting more and more crowded, but it will come.

    Now, as for displays, I was out at Future Shop on boxing day. For anybody thinking of buying a new TV, wait about 6 months. I have a feeling that large format displays will drop to insanely low prices within that timeframe. I would not be suprised if there were 42 inches or larger for around $1000cdn. With them dropping to such low rates, they will most likely become a fixture in most rooms in an abode (eventually leading to two way communication as well as messaging through these, but that’s way down the road). All kinds of home automation and security will be integrated, but I’m going off track here.

    So ya, in conclusion, the industry as a whole, both hardware and content is in a state of flux right now and unfortunatly, we’re caught in the middle. There’s some great technology, but roadblocks are preventing full utilization. It will come though.