High Definition Television (HDTV) is a family of digital broadcast formats that deliver up to an astounding six times the visual and sound information of standard-definition analog broadcasts you’ve grown up with.
Not sure what that means? You will when you see HDTV in action. All that digital information adds up to some seriously enjoyable viewing. High-definition broadcasts provide incredible picture quality with rich, clear sound. The all-digital picture is sharper and has much greater detail. The digital sound is very clear and rich, delivering CD quality audio and surround sound like you hear in movie theaters. It all adds up to some seriously enjoyable viewing.
Of course, you likely need a new television set to see it. Known as HDTVs, these high-definition models use varying technologies to create crisp images. And that means a boatload of new considerations when choosing an HDTV.
The aspect ratio of a TV display describes the shape of the screen by comparing the number of units of width to the number of units of height. The rectangular, 16:9 aspect ratio is more in keeping with what you see at the movies and a better match for the human visual field.
The familiar, square-ish shape of your childhood television is history. HDTV content is shot in widescreen, and that means HDTV sets are widescreen, too.
Conventional televisions typically have a 4:3 aspect ratio. That becomes problematic when you want to use your television to view material produced by the film industry, television broadcast or gaming, that is shot in high-definition. The images just don’t fit the screen.
When a movie is “formatted to fit this screen” that means a good bit of Hollywood’s hard work has been cut off on either side. The other option is to show it in “widescreen,” or letterbox, where you see the width of the picture as intended, but with black bars at the top and bottom of the screen.
An increasing number of programs are shot in high-definition and aired in widescreen for both high- and standard-definition audiences. That’s why you’ll be seeing an increasing number of movies, television shows and even commercials showing up in letterbox on your analog television.
Of course, if you get yourself an HDTV, you’ll face the same problem in reverse when you want to view standard-definition content. But don’t worry. HDTVs have controls that enable you to choose between black bars on either side of your screen or stretching the picture to fit the full screen.
But when you find yourself watching HDTV content on your HDTV, the picture will fill the screen beautifully — and the quality will blow you away. Ultimately, HDTV is widescreen, and HDTV is the future. Go with it.
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