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Thursday, September 14, 2006

About HDTV, widescreen, and iTunes movies

There seems to be a huge amount of confusion over HDTV, widescreen etc.

Widescreen TV is in a 16:9 format, rather than the old 4:3. However, it still uses the same number of vertical “lines” as the old system, 500 for NTSC and 600 for PAL iirc.

Films are usually filmed in super-widescreen (2.35:1), ans any major US TV show is filmed in 16:9. In Europe, 16:9 is now standard for broadcast (and there are very few 4:3 TVs left, either for sale or in people’s homes).

HDTV refers to upping the number of vertical “lines”, either to 720 or, in the highest standard, 1080 (there's also an increase in the number of horizontal lines, but the vertical measure is used to decribe formats). Several major U.S. networks are now broadcasting in this format. You’ll also be able to buy HD content on Blu Ray or HD-DVD soon, but afaik there’s few players and fewer discs available at the moment.

DVDs are 720×480. If the content on the DVD is widescreen, e.g. a film, the 720 remains the same but the 480 gets cut down to whatever is required. It still looks just fine on a large screen though, as you’ve all no doubt witnessed.

Apple’s new 640×480 video looks good on TVs. It will remain 640 in width but will get cut down in height for widescreen content, which all their content on iTunes 7 will be delivered in (about 640×275). You’d be hard-pressed to tell this apart from a DVD.

Finally, I expect the iTV will be fully capable of supporting HDTV (i.e. 720+ lines), but HDTV content has monster storage requirements. You won’t be able to stream it wirelessly whatever the standard used (MCEs struggle unless their practically in line-of-sight with the wireless router; Apple’s kit will be no different). If they’re wired via Ethernet though, it won’t be a problem. It’ll take a night to download the movies though!

Make no mistake though, HDTV will become standard, just as colour did over BW, and 16:9 and digital have replaced analouge 4:3 transmission in Europe.

Things progress!

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