DTV Primer

Chris Llana, Editor


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August 28, 2006

1. I've replaced my standing "TV Tech" article with something called "Buyer's Guide." Easier navigation & brand name information. Digital TV technology has been moving so fast that it was hard to keep the old section current.

This situation isn't going to change anytime soon. We're just a couple of months away from the holiday buying season, and the TV people like to get their latest toys into stores for the feeding frenzy.

After that we'll be approaching the March 1, 2007 deadline for TV sets smaller than 25" to be fitted with digital tuners. I'm expecting the same little 4:3 CRT sets with a digital tuner retrofitted, as well as a new crop of small widescreen LCD flat-panel TVs. There might be some small widescreen digital CRT sets. Maybe.

Before too long Texas Instruments will produce a new DLP chip with one micro-mirror for every pixel (replacing the 1-for-2 wobulating arrangement they're now using). Or perhaps a consumer-grade three-chip DLP set.

And then there's the move for DLP sets to an LED-array light source, not to mention next-year's laser-TV.

2. I'm also looking for a new batch of high-definition programming this fall, and can't somebody give those reality show producers a few high-def cameras?

Speaking of programming, Lost begins its new season on October 4, with all the leaders captured by "the Others." New episodes of CSI resume on September 21. And with Jack Bauer on a slow boat to China, 24 won't be back until January.

3. Congress returns from its summer recess next month, with digital TV legislation stalled in the Senate, tied up in an unrelated deadlock over (inter) "net neutrality." Will they get anything out? Flip a coin.

4. And finally, Toshiba has released firmware version 2.0 with added enhancements and corrections to its HD-DVD players. The most buzz is about support for Dolby TrueHD audio, from two channels to 5.1.

Interesting, because TrueHD is good for eight full-range channels, which for most people would translate to 7.1 discrete channels. And TrueHD requires HDMI 1.3, which Toshiba's players don't have; neither do any existing A/V receivers. I guess that's why the Toshiba support is only good for 5.1 channels.

Nevertheless, many enterprising people are trying to figure out how to make it work. Read the HD-DVD thread on AVS Forum; the hobbyists are exchanging notes. According to Toshiba's web site (customer HD-DVD support), the 5.1 Dolby TrueHD channels "will be available in full resolution on the HDMI and analog 5.1 outputs and down-mixed to a DTS bit stream on the SPDIF output."

I think I'm just going to wait until HDMI 1.3 compliant players are available, along with HDMI 1.3 receivers that can properly decode DTS-HD master Audio and Dolby TrueHD.

I've excerpted some pieces from Toshiba's info blurb on the version 2.0 firmware update:

Overview: This firmware update adds support for certain anticipated network delivered content in future HD DVD discs, improves certain video and audio processing capabilities, as well as addresses certain disc playback and HDMI/DVI related problems identified by Toshiba.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q1. What does this update do?

A1. This update adds some new features (extended support for Dolby True HD¨ and some network connectivity features). It also addresses some problems Toshiba has identified with HDMI/DVI connectivity and disc playback.

Q2. What are the added Dolby True HD features?

A2. Support for Dolby True HD is extended from two channels to 5.1, which will be available in full resolution on the HDMI and analog 5.1 outputs and down-mixed to a DTS bit stream on the SPDIF output.

Q4. The HDMI output does not work or works intermittently with the HDMI or DVI input on my HDTV or monitor. Does the new firmware address that problem?

A4. The firmware update addresses and improves HDMI and DVI connectivity. If you still experience problems, try disconnecting and reconnecting the HDMI cable. Make sure your display input is set to HDMI (or DVI). If your display has more than one HDMI/DVI input, make sure that all connected HDMI/DVI source devices are powered on (even if not in use). If none of these solve the problem, please turn off the TV and the HD DVD player. Check all connections. Disconnect and reconnect the HDMI cable. Turn on the TV first and then turn on the HD DVD player. Should you continue to experience problems, please contact Toshiba Customer Solutions at (800) 319-6684.

Q5. During HD DVD playback I sometimes experience pixelization, block noise or audio dropouts. Sometimes playback stops. Sometimes, playback is not smooth. Does the new firmware address these issues?

A5. This firmware update, which includes material from prior updates, addresses various playability issues. You should also check to be sure that the disc is clean and, if the disc will not operate at all, that you are inserting the disc with the right side up. Should you continue to experience problems, please contact Toshiba Customer Solutions at (800) 319-6684.