HDTV Bummer & HDTV Dilemma (long post)

Discussion in 'Displays' started by Ray G, Dec 30, 2003.

  1. Ray G

    Ray G Extra

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    Almost 4 years ago I bought a first-generation HD-ready Toshiba TN50X81 rear-projection TV. Some of you may remember the TN*X81 series from back in the day. These were 4:3 sets that did not have a "squeeze" mode, so any 16:9 material would be letterboxed just like in any standard 4:3 analog set.

    The set has served me faithfully on DVD (including 480P images), LD, cable TV and Replay TV sources, but I've never had a chance to see it do anything in high definition 1080i. Well, Adelphia finally offered HDTV in my neighborhood, so I immediatly had them come and install the new box (Motorola DCT-5100). As soon as it was installed I found out that the Toshiba did not allow the cable box to letterbox any 1080i images. Even with the Motorola set at "4:3 letterbox" the HD channels either filled up the entire screen (cutting off the sides) on 16:9 content, or the screen was distorted with a stretched "windowbox" image on 4:3 material. Best way to describe the picture is that it's similar to what you get when a the refresh rate set by the video card does not match the monitor's capabilities, and the image doesn't fit the screen properly. If I change the cable box output to 480P and use the "4:3 letterbox setting" the screen proportions are fine on all the HD channels whether the programming is in a 16:9 or 4:3 aspect ratio (it's just not correct in full HD-resolution).

    My trusty Toshiba, which was arguably obsolete the day I bought it, has turned out not to be HD-ready at all. That's the bummer. I assume there's no fix for this, but if there's anyone who is familiar with these sets who can share their experiences it would be helpful.

    My dilemma is what to do with my new HD cable box. I think I'll keep it because the rental fee is only $3.00 more than the regular digital box, it has additional outputs (including digital audio) and it does put out a nice progressive 480P picture. What do you think?

    Thanks for bearing with me on such a long post, but I needed to commiserate/vent with someone on this.

    Happy New Year!

    Ray G
     
  2. John S

    John S Producer

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    Well 480p isn't the worst you know......

    I don't know it is worth replacing the TV or anything really...

    I came across another older GE set, that was not HDTV, yet could handle 480p on it's component inputs, and that person seems quite happy with his comcast HD on it. (I even thought it looked pretty darn good myself) Of course, to place the order he had to lie, and tell them the set was HDTV Ready though, to get them to let him have the box.

    I was not really aware that NON-HD TV's could actually handle HDTV until I got my HDTV Tuner, before I got my TV, and hooked it up to my old TV, with decent results. Of course nothing like the overall improvement, that my real HDTV gave me though.
     
  3. Allan Jayne

    Allan Jayne Cinematographer

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    However 480p is not high definition.

    If your HDTV tuner has composite and/or S-video outputs, it will connect to any TV that has those jacks. When TV stations stop broadcasting NTSC (in 2006?) people will be relying on HDTV tuner boxes more, connecting them to ordinary TV's.

    Video hints:
    http://members.aol.com/ajaynejr/video.htm
     
  4. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    Ray,

    There is a setup menu for the Motorola DCT-5100 that should configure it to work with 4/3 HD ready sets. I don't have that box but remember reading about the procedure a while back when I was contemplating switching to Comcast from DirecTV. I think you need to hit "menu" on the remote with the box turned off to access the setup menu.

    Try doing a search on the DCT-5100 over at the AVS Forums website--somebody had a link over there to the Motorola installer's manual that had all the details on configuring the box.
     
  5. Ray G

    Ray G Extra

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    Thanks for all the helpful advice. Here's a brief update: I had configured the dct-5100 for a 4:3 screen in the setup menu, but my set won't accept the letterbox configuration from the cable box for 1080i sources (it does for 480P or 480i for the HD channels). I do, however, still get a full resolution 1080i picture, just without the whole widescreen image (it's cropped at the sides and a bit at the top & bottom) with a little bit of vertical squeezing as well (for example, people are slightly elongated). I drew a picture of it but unfortunately I don't know how to insert a JPEG image in this message. It looks fine when I watch the Tonight Show, but it'll be interesting to see what it looks like on sporting events. Even with the formatting problems on my set, I admit it's exciting to even get a taste of what all the HDTV fuss is about!

    Ray G
     
  6. Anthony_J

    Anthony_J Stunt Coordinator

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    I can't imagine that a HD-capable 4:3 set wouldn't be able to automatically recognize a 1080i image and automatically show a letterboxed image. It should automatically recognize that anything in HD resolutions will be broadcast in 16:9.

    Try setting the box output to 16:9 (access the box's service menu as someone else said by powering off the box and then hitting menu). There's a 4:3 override option that you can set to 480I (or something like that). This will make the box output a 16:9 image for anything that come in 1080I or 480P (Fox sports). If the box recognizes a 480i signal it'll overide the 16:9 configuration and output a 4:3 image.
     
  7. Ray G

    Ray G Extra

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    Anthony,

    I had tried the setup that you had recommended and there was no change to the distortion of the 1080i image.

    To answer your question, this was a 1999 model first generation HDTV-capable set. You may recall that many early widescreen HDTV sets didn't allow for aspect ratio control with any DTV images (including 480p progressive-scan DVD), so it's not surprising that an early 4:3 HD model would also have aspect ratio problems (in this case, an inability to accept a properly letterboxed 1080i image from the cable box). While I may go to one of the more technically-oriented forums and get some opinions there, I'm not going to get upset about my situation. I made the decision 4 years ago to go with a 4:3 set, so I'll need to deal with the consequenses as we move more and more to a 16:9 world. When I get tired of the situation or when most programming I watch is presented in 16:9 I'll replace the set. Hopefully that won't be for a few more years. Again, thanks to everyone here for their thoughts.

    Ray G
     
  8. Stephen Tu

    Stephen Tu Screenwriter

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    The settings on the 5100 will have absolutely no effect on HD channels, in 1080i output mode. Nothing you do on the 5100 will make any difference, unless you are setting it to 480p/480i out. The 16:9/4:3 settings only affect the S-video, composite, and 480p/480i component output.

    I took a glance in the Toshiba online manual and there is a setting on the TV to switch the component input between DVD mode and DTV receiver mode; have you messed with that setting at all?
     
  9. Ray G

    Ray G Extra

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    Thank you Stephen for confirming that the 5100 controls do not format 1080i images. That explains things for me. I had assumed that the "4:3 letterbox" setting on the 5100 was capable of letterboxing 1080i material. If the 5100 does not have that capability then it makes sense that the HD images would be distorted on my 4:3 TV, which I know does not have a "16:9" mode (the DVD/DTV setting does not affect the aspect ratio of the picture).

    Looks like I have no choice but to live with the 1080i HD picture I have, which I am willing to do. It's still a huge improvement over standard definition images!

    I appreciate everyone's input and advice.

    Ray G
     

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