DTV Primer

Chris Llana, Editor


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June 21, 2006 - corrected 6/22/06

And that's the trouble with future news; you just never know how it's going to play out.

As in, at the last minute the FCC decided that it wasn't going to present its "Second Order on Reconsideration and Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking concerning the mandatory carriage of digital broadcast television signals by cable operators." Also know as multi-cast must-carry.

No surprise, then, that today's open meeting lasted about half-an-hour (personnel change announcements, etc.--VERY exciting!).

For sure, someone had second thoughts, perhaps because someone with more political clout than Chairman Martin advised him that it might be a good idea to reconsider the proposal. Perhaps the cable lobby suggested a compromise.

I guess we'll have to wait and see. I'm all for delaying multi-cast must-carry for as long as possible because if the broadcasters have an incentive to carry five channels of standard-definition mush, they will be disinclined to carry high-definition programming.

Next-- about Samsung's Blu-ray Disc player. It's not supposed to go on sale to the public until the 25th, but some reviewers have them now and the first review of Blu-ray movies isn't very favorable.

Apparently some of the early titles were rushed--some apparently are not bad, while some are pretty awful. My understanding is that Blu-ray (or Sony) initially is using the old MPEG-2 compression, while HD-DVD movies are using the more modern and more efficient MPEG-4 protocol.

My understanding is also that both Blu-ray and HD-DVD are getting by with single-layer discs, limiting capacity. That may explain some of why some of the Blu-ray titles are less than expected, quality-wise. Oops! Blu-ray Discs are all single-layer now, although dual-layer discs have been produced and they're working on getting them into mass production. On the other hand, many HD-DVD movie titles have been released on dual-layer discs (30 Gb capacity vs. Blu-ray's 25 Gb capacity for single-layer BD discs). So we would expect that movies on HD-DVD might have a good reason for looking good.

Oh, well.

It looks like neither format will reach its potential before 2007. The HDMI folks have not yet released info about HDMI 1.3 on their web site, but at least one article has surfaced with a report on the new standard.

The article appears online at "This Week in Consumer Electronics" (TWICE). Find a link below.

They are reporting that products incorporating the new HDMI standard will start showing up in November, and early in 2007. Look for a slew of them to be shown at the January Consumer Electronics Show.

The first may be Sony's PlayStation 3.

Certainly none of the first-generation HD-DVD or Blu-ray players will have HDMI 1.3, and hence they will not be able to pass through the new lossless audio (i.e. Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio).

The new HDMI standard will be capable of data rates more than double that of the current standard, so besides the improvement in audio, video can have higher frame rates and more and better colors. If implemented, of course.

So we're looking for all of these improvements in optical disc players, TVs, and A/V receivers to happen starting in 2007.

Looks like I'll be pushing that system acquisition back another year. Oh well. The SV Sound mid-range speaker system will be out by then.

Here's the link for that TWICE HDMI story.