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Few questions from an ignoramous who just bought his first HDTV.


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#1 of 32 Sevb33

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Posted February 03 2009 - 05:01 AM

So I got my first ever HDTV (Woot : Philips 47" 1080p 120Hz LCD HDTV with Perfect Pixel HD Engine)

I'd like to confirm some things.
I have standard Comcast digital cable, I don't have HD cable yet, so do I need to call them to install the HD box or can I just call them, pick it up and install it myself? What is the better option?

I noticed that when watching sports broadcasts such as football or pro wrestling I don't yet get the extra picture info yet at the left and right sides of the screeen that I've seen at other peoples houses whom have HD, (HD LOGO is NOT on the top left of screen as it should be on WWE wrestling) So is that soley an HD thing that automatically beams to your TV when you set the ratio to automatic? It cannot be seen at all with standard cable? I also noticed some commericals seem to have the 4:3 ratio while others are more 16:9, (Though they did not display it in 16:9) is that normal? If I had HD would that automatically take care of itself or would I have to keep switching back and forth on my settings?

I watched new broadcast shows, like HOUSE M.D. in non HD and looked worse than it would on a non HDTV, is it normal for it to look worse?

I don't yet have anything hooked up via HDMI cable, our DVD player picture quality even looked a bit murky to me, but of course it's standard DVD and was not even hooked up via HDMI.

Which quality HDMI cable should I get without have to pay a lot? So many HDMI cables seem to have different function.

Thanks for helping this fool, I will appreciate it.

#2 of 32 Stephen Tu

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Posted February 03 2009 - 05:35 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sevb33
I have standard Comcast digital cable, I don't have HD cable yet, so do I need to call them to install the HD box or can I just call them, pick it up and install it myself? What is the better option?

They probably don't allow self-install but you can always ask them. I strongly recommend getting the HD-DVR box. In the long run you may want to consider getting a TivoHD.

Note that you should be able to pick up some HD locals already; do a channel scan. In most cases if a local ABC for example is on channel 7, the HD version would be on 7.1 or 7-1 after scanning.

Quote:
So is that soley an HD thing that automatically beams to your TV when you set the ratio to automatic? It cannot be seen at all with standard cable?
One only gets HD when tuned to an HD channel, which are separate channel #s from the standard ones.

Quote:
If I had HD would that automatically take care of itself or would I have to keep switching back and forth on my settings?
You generally don't have to switch stuff except in some special situations. HD channels broadcast in 16:9 all the time. If they have SD programming on the channel (including 4:3 commercials), depending on the channel they will either pillarbox the content putting bars on the side padding the 4:3 content out to 16:9, or they will stretch it to fit.

For SD channels, they will be in 4:3 all the time. You can set the cable box to pillarbox these so you don't have to change aspect on your TV. The only problem may be with letterboxed 4:3 content, you would have to change settings in order to zoom it to fit the screen. But these days all the major channels have an HD counterpart; I haven't watched anything on an SD channel for months.

Quote:
I watched new broadcast shows, like HOUSE M.D. in non HD and looked worse than it would on a non HDTV, is it normal for it to look worse?
Yes, if comparing a bigger picture size to smaller. SD doesn't look good blown up to typical HD sizes.

Quote:
I don't yet have anything hooked up via HDMI cable, our DVD player picture quality even looked a bit murky to me, but of course it's standard DVD and was not even hooked up via HDMI.
Use component if you don't have HDMI, and don't forget to change the TV shape to 16:9 in the DVD setup menu.

Quote:
Which quality HDMI cable should I get without have to pay a lot? So many HDMI cables seem to have different function.
Get cables from www.monoprice.com . Avoid local stores most of whom only have ripoff $45+ cables.

#3 of 32 drobbins

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Posted February 03 2009 - 05:36 AM

Welcome to HTF.
I don't have Comcast, but I just upgrades to a 1080 TV and experianced a few of the issues you mentioned.
Quote:
I watched new broadcast shows, like HOUSE M.D. in non HD and looked worse than it would on a non HDTV, is it normal for it to look worse?
Much of this depends on your cable box outputs and the inputs you are using. My old cable only had an output of 480 and looked worse on my new set. Then I got Dish and hooked up the HDMI. The non HD channels look much better now than on my old CRT.

Quote:
I don't yet have anything hooked up via HDMI cable, our DVD player picture quality even looked a bit murky to me, but of course it's standard DVD and was not even hooked up via HDMI.
If you are using the Red, White and Yellow RCA inputs, the picture will suffer. S-video is better. Then comes the component (R,G,B). The best signal uses the HDMI.

Quote:
Which quality HDMI cable should I get without have to pay a lot? So many HDMI cables seem to have different function.
I would not spend a lot of money on cables. Digital signals are all "0"s and "1"s. the signal either gets from one place to the other or not. It does not weaken. As long as the cable reaches and you are getting a picture, everything is as good as it gets.

#4 of 32 Sevb33

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Posted February 03 2009 - 05:41 AM

Thanks for the answers, so I am correct in saying that with HD sportscast you can't see the proper 16:9 ratio with space on the sides without having and HD conversion, unike shows like HOUSE which are always shown as letterboxed even on a standard TV.

#5 of 32 Jeff Gatie

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Posted February 03 2009 - 05:58 AM

Usually Comcast will have to install the first HD box you get. After that, if you want to move up to the newest box or a PVR. they let you pick them up at your local Comcast location. At least in my area, Comcast will supply the cables you need, including audio and component or HDMI, and they are pretty good quality (which in the case of HDMI, is all you need for it to work). Ask if this is the case when you call them, and specify an HDMI cable so they have one on hand when they install the box.

#6 of 32 drobbins

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Posted February 03 2009 - 06:07 AM

Much depends on what settings are at different points. As mentioned a HD channel is 16:9. Then I have a setting on my dish box that needs to be set on 16:9. Then my TV needs to be set on 16:9 and the picture fills the screen. If one of those settings is on 4:3, you will see bars.

Some standard def stations will broadcast a 16:9 show in the 4:3 format with bars on top and bottom. then my box takes the 4:3 signal and adds bars on the side when displayed on a 16:9 screen. My TV has a "zoom" feature that will take the smaller picture with the bars on top, bottom and both sides and will fill the screen.

#7 of 32 Sevb33

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Posted February 03 2009 - 06:15 AM

Yeah, but for those HD sportscast, no matter what settings I tweak with the standard cable box, I can't see the extra info on the sides I see on other's TV, if I want it to fill the screen it will, but not without chopping off part of the scoreboard and channel (i.e. FOX, CBS, etc.)

#8 of 32 Stephen Tu

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Posted February 03 2009 - 06:23 AM

For sports networks chop the HD broadcast for SD, they don't letterbox. Entertainment shows are sometimes chopped, sometimes letterboxed.

#9 of 32 Joseph DeMartino

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Posted February 03 2009 - 06:25 AM

Steve:

1. Welcome to the forum! Posted Image

2. Until February 19th all broadcast stations are sending out standard definition signals on their regular channel numbers and hi-def signals on a higher, UHF channel number. So, in effect, the people you've seen watching those 16:9 full-screen HD shows are watching a different channel than the one you're seeing. Once you get an HD cable box you'll be able to tune to either the SD or HD version of each channel. After February 19th Comcast will probably drop the current HD channel position and move each station to corresponding lower number for its station.

3. How things display on your TV depend on how they're sent out. Some commercials, for instance, and even some locally programming are broadcast in 4:3 even on HD channels, so on your screen they will appear "pillar-boxed" with dark areas to the left and right of the 4:3 image. This is normal. Some 4:3 commercials actually carry a letterboxed 16:9 image within them, and for these you'll see a small rectangular area in the middle of a black screen. Again, this is normal. You're TV is correctly displaying the image it is being sent.

4. Picture quality on SD. Three issues come into play here:

The first is the quality of the connection you're using between the device and the TV. These is the heirarchy of available video connections, in ascending order:

F-connector Coax - terrible.

Composite video (yellow RCA connector) - slightly better.

S-video (round cable with several pins) - much better

Component video - The best analog connection. The only analog connection that can handle HD signals as well as SD.

HDMI - Digital video connection that also carries sound. Can allow you to skip several processing steps as the signal can remain digital throughout, and not have to be converted to analog and then back to digital at any point.

The second is that your TV's user-adjustable settings are pegged way off from where they should be. This is standard procedure in the industry, as TVs are shipped with settings that will make them look good on the sales floor of a Big Box store, not the ones that will give you an industry-standard picture in you living room. More about this in a minute.

The third issue with SD material is that HD sets can reveal a multitude of sins. The flaws and weakness of the source material can be highlighted. And this effect can be exacerbated by #2 - the TV's settings. With the brightness, color and contrast turned up way too high, and with the "sharpness" or "detail" setting maxed out, a poor quality signal will look even worse.

The best way to deal with the settings issue is to get hold of a end-user calibration disc like Digital Video Essentials or Avia II Guide to Home Theater. (Both of which also take you through setting up your audio system.) Of the two Avia has the reputation of being easier for newer HT enthusiasts to use. I believe both are available for rental through places like Netflix. (But perhaps not at your local Blockbuster.)

In the meantime you can try just to tame the excess of the "out-of-box" settings: Turn the "sharpness" or "detail" setting to 10%. Despite its name, this setting does not actually increase the sharpness of the image or add more detail to the picture. It adds video noise to the signal in order to artificially enhance the edges of objects. This was a useful control in the days of rabbit ears and over-the-air analog 25" inch TVs. When your picture was a mass of ghosts and snow because of the apartment building behind you, anything that made it easier to tell where Ralph Kramden ended and Ed Norton began was good. But there is no reason for this control to exist today. The main reason even HD pictures can look grainy and odd is the sharpness control.

Next, turn contrast, brightness and color down to no more than 50% each, and then adjust "by eye" to get the best looking picture you can manage. (Remember, the brightness and contrast controls are interactive, changing one affects the other, so you may have to go back and forth between the two to fine-tune the image.)

The result will only be an approximation of a real calibration (the discs recommended above come with test patterns and colored gels that you look through to confirm your settings), but it should be much better than what you're looking at now.

HDMI cables are pretty much HDMI cables. They are like USB cables for a PC - they don't really have "different functions". Don't get suckered into paying ransom money for something like monster cable. Go to www.bluejeanscable.com (an HTF sponsor) or www.monoprice.com to get top quality HDMI cables are normal-people prices. Even with shipping and having to wait a couple of extra days you'll come out way ahead.

Regards,

Joe

#10 of 32 Joseph DeMartino

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Posted February 03 2009 - 06:34 AM

Comcast may let you pick up the cable box or DVR, even for a first time install if you ask them. They did for my cousin who just got HD service in time for the Super Bowl. Did a pretty good job of setting the thing up, too, with just the supplied instructions and color-coded cables. (I did have to change the video output setting from "fixed" to "pass-through" so that his TV could automatically adjust for 4:3 and 16:9 material, instead of stretching the former and letterboxing the latter.)

Given how dumb the Comcast techs around here tend to be, I'd suggest going the do-it-yourself route if at all possible. If you run into any problems, odds are somebody here will be able to help you straighten things out a lot faster than anyone at Comcast can. Posted Image

Regards,

Joe

#11 of 32 Stephen Tu

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Posted February 03 2009 - 06:40 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joseph DeMartino
After February 19th Comcast will probably drop the current HD channel position and move each station to corresponding lower number for its station.
Definitely not the case. Comcast has to maintain analog service for their analog customers for at least a few more years. They aren't ready to get rid of analog locals yet, though they are getting rid of analog "expanded basic" in some areas this year (e.g. analog ESPN, CNN etc.). The transition mandate (which might get postponed to June) only applies to the OTA stations themselves, not Comcast. Comcast will continue to use the low channel #s for analog. Even after a transition to all digital they are likely to keep SD digital channels on those #s, keeping the HD channels on the higher number, since they will still have a large installed base of SD-only digital cable boxes & "digital tuning adapters".

#12 of 32 Jeff Gatie

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Posted February 03 2009 - 06:56 AM

If your sports tickers are getting cut off, try setting your TV to a "Full" or "16:9" setting. This will display the entire 4:3 picture stretched from side to side. You are probably defaulting to some sort of stretch and zoom, which will cut off some of the picture.

#13 of 32 Sevb33

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Posted February 03 2009 - 10:38 AM

I've done the zoom and 16:9 on ballgames, I don't get the extra info at the sides no matter what I do, and I know these are HD broadcast games, but like I side, I don't have and HD converter yet, only standard.

#14 of 32 Stephen Tu

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Posted February 03 2009 - 10:59 AM

Of course you don't get the extra info, you are watching the SD broadcast. The graphics may say "broadcast in high definition", but that's only on the HD channel which you aren't viewing currently. Like I said earlier, do a channel scan (with cable hooked up straight to the TV, no intervening cable box; use a splitter if you have a cable box) to find the local HD channels in the interim before you get an HD box installed.

#15 of 32 Sevb33

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Posted February 03 2009 - 11:32 AM

That's the answer I was looking for, you are the only one who answered it like I was thinking, I just wanted it confirmed that you must have either an HD converter box, or pick up local HD stations via antenna to see that extra picture info on the sides during HD sports games.

I have done a channel scan (unless I am somehow not doing it right) and it picks up no HD channels in my area, I live 50 miles SE of Indianapolis. I dunno if any of you have seen this.

YouTube - Coat Hanger HDTV Antenna!

Anyone know anyone who have done this? It seems most people who left comments underneath it had good luck with it. Even better than store bought antennas/rabbit ears.

#16 of 32 Stephen Tu

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Posted February 03 2009 - 01:16 PM

You can pick up local HD stations *off the cable*, you don't need an antenna. Comcast retransmits local HD in clear QAM. Run your channel autoprogram search, make sure you select *cable* not *antenna*. With the cable from the wall straight into your TV, no intervening cable box. (splitter is OK).

#17 of 32 Al.Anderson

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Posted February 03 2009 - 02:27 PM

Quote:
I have standard Comcast digital cable, I don't have HD cable yet ...

If this is correct, and you don't yet have HD cable, then you don't have a HD signal. You are indeed watching standard def on a large screen and it will look bad. Nothing you can do will fix the pillar boxing - that's how an SD signal gets displayed.

Your easiest route is to get the HD cable. But you can get OTA signals if you want. That coat hanger antenna looks like much more trouble than it's worth. Go to AntennaWeb and you can figure out what channels you can pick up and what kind of antenna you'll need to do it.

#18 of 32 Sevb33

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Posted February 03 2009 - 05:01 PM

I just got my first look at the local HD channels by just hooking up like Stephen said, and I my jaw nearly dropped to the ground, I can't belive how much better they look than the standard ones, I kept switching back and forth between the standard local CBS and NBC affiilates to compare to their HD counterparts and WOW! I never wanna watch anything in non-HD on this TV! I picked the automatic setting and the HD channels came in perfectly, I noticed there is "unscaled" setting on HD that I kept switching to that shows you even slightly more picture, that's something I've never heard of. Now I still need to get an HD converter, I especially want to be able to watch WWE RAW on Monday nights in HD, which is on the USA network.

I've played standard DVDs on and upconverting DVD player and the tv picture quality is just OK to average, maybe if I switch to HDMI instead of S-Video?
Isn't HDMI always the way to go? Doesn't it alway give the best picture quality? If so, why would anyone hook up another, lesser quality way if HDMI is available?

Eventually sometime this year I will get a blu-ray player.

#19 of 32 Dennis Ellis

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Posted February 03 2009 - 11:44 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen Tu
You can pick up local HD stations *off the cable*, you don't need an antenna. Comcast retransmits local HD in clear QAM. Run your channel autoprogram search, make sure you select *cable* not *antenna*. With the cable from the wall straight into your TV, no intervening cable box. (splitter is OK).
Stephen

I guess I'm more of an ignormaus than the OP. Can I ask why you have to connect just the coax cable in order to do the Autoprogram search?

Reason is, I pick up my new HDTV tonight and I already picked up an HDDVR cable box and have it hooked up (to my regualr old CRT). I already have component and hdmi cables also. SO should still connect it as you say even though I'm going to be connecting it to the HDDVR?

Sorry to butt in your thread, Sevb33.

#20 of 32 Joseph DeMartino

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Posted February 04 2009 - 12:23 AM

Quote:
I've played standard DVDs on and upconverting DVD player and the tv picture quality is just OK to average, maybe if I switch to HDMI instead of S-Video?

S-video is not capable of transmitting an HD signal, so yes, you should do better with HDMI.


Quote:
Isn't HDMI always the way to go? Doesn't it alway give the best picture quality?


HDMI does not necessarily always give you the best quality. It depends on a lot of factors including exactly what equipment you are using. On my set-up I can't see any difference between HDMI and component video on my Sony DVD player. But component and HDMI are the only video connections that can be used for HD. Both are superior to the other connections. (See the list in my earlier post.)

Quote:
If so, why would anyone hook up another, lesser quality way if HDMI is available?

No one would and no one does. The key phrase in your question is "if HDMI is available". In my case my AV receiver does not support HDMI, my HD DVR does not have an HDMI output, and I like the convenience of video switching. Since there is also no visible difference between HDMI and component with my DVD players, it makes sense for me to use the component connections with all my devices. If I ever upgrade my receiver I'll probably spring for a DVI-to-HDMI cable for the HD DVR and replace all the component connections with HDMI, but for now I'm good.

Regards,

Joe
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