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back to article HD TV in the UK

After a somewhat sluggish start, HD TV services are finally starting to take off here in the UK. It’s about time too, as there are almost 10m HD TV sets currently in use here in the UK, yet Sky — the main provider of HD broadcasts in the UK — has barely half a million subscribers signed up to its Sky HD service. However, the …

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Gates Halo

HD film rentals via XBox 360

One option you've missed is downloading HD films to watch on XBox 360. I think you need an XBox Live account (not sure if silver is enough) and the choice isn't great (maybe a bit better than Apple's?), but it's there.

I think it's about £5 per rental for the HD version and about £3 for the SD version. Quality is OK, downloads seem to clock in at about 4.5GB for a 720p WMV file, so either the Elite or Pro version of the XBox is required (as these have 20GB and 120GB hard disks respectively).

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hmmm

the difference between HD and SD shows greatly when watching sports. i always sigh now when footy is on itv over bbc. the quality is so much better, esp since the compression on itv1 seems to be getting worse and worse!

also need to mention that apple tv is stereo sound only. wheras bbc HD is dolby digital (MUUUUUCH better... footy is great in 5.1 :))

you also need to consider that hd uses up moch more HD space. a 1 hour HD broadcast uses up 5 hours of space on my v+ box, but it doesnt seem to compress or alter sound so you get an exact copy of what you record.

also we are so far behind US due to their SD being MASSIVELY worse quality that english SD broadcasting, so they really needed it more :)

now, if c4 and itv HD come to virgin i will be well happy :)

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Very comprehensive

Except you forgot to mention that XBox Live offers a range of HD films, on a rental basis. Has done for months, actually.

I don't use it much (well, once actually - when I first got my HDTV it was the only HD source I had, and I was disappointed to find out that The Matrix only had a Pro-Logic soundtrack but at the same price as Blockbuster there's no reason to leave your house providing you have fast-ish broadbeans.

And then of course there's a world of free HD downloads out there if you're prepared to hook a PC* up to your TV and get torrenting. Allegedly.

*Windows Media Centre still sucks balls though - roll on XBMC on x86...

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Receiver prices

I am slightly confused by the prices quoted. Freesat HD receivers are around £120 to £150. Freesat SD receivers are around £50. If you have a dish already (e.g. ex-Sky customer) and a TV all you need to do is plug it together. The prices quoted in the article are in the right ball park for receiver + dish installation.

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BT Vision

doesnt BT Vision also offer HD?

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Pirate

There is another way.

As someone who is unconcerned about watching any broadcast TV stuff as-it-happens, and since none of the satellite/terrestrial/cable TV services offer anything worthwhile in the way of Japanese series, I think I'll stick to getting my HD content as fansubs via BitTorrent or other such sources.

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I've yet to be shown the difference

I've not seen anywhere showing HDTV next to an equally large TV on standard def to let me compare the two pictures. Afterall, if its good, it should speak for itself.

There are some channels that look really bad due to excessive compression. You can see the jumps in colour in a graduated fill due to the amount thats squeezed out of it. If there is enough room to fit HD on the dishes, why not stick SD at a decent compression rate that doesn't make it look as scabby as it does now.

And I don't watch sports. I play, not watch. Still to see a good reason to switch to hi-def.

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Sam

Virgin

IIRC, Virgin can only supply one HD channel because "management" went for the wrong transmission format on their equipment.

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using Sky dish

Apart from somehow over inflating the prices of the freesat recievers, you failed to mention that if you have an existing Sky dish on your wall, you can use that for FreeSat. Eg, you have Sky+ in one room, you can run another cable from your quad LNB to a freesat box in another room... or, when you cancel your Sky subscription and you're left with a dish on your wall, it's no longer sitting there unused.

I wish Sky would remove their £10 a month HD fee, I'd love to get their HD box for £150 but I'm not paying another £120 a year just to watch a few things in HD.

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Virgin

I am a customer of virgin and have recently bought a 1080p tv, this has shown how appalingly poor the quality of the existing SD box is. some of the channels are nearly unwatchable. Unfortunately i can't get a tv signal through an arial (not allowed put up an external arial or a satellite dish due to living in a listed building)

I really would like to get the v+ box, for the upscaling as well as the few HD channels, but the £150 'installation fee' is a joke (anyone who's witnessed a cable box being swapped will know, it takes about 5 seconds, they could post the thing to you and let you do it yourself!), not to mention the extra monthly charge for the pointless extra feature thrown in on HD boxes, specifically because they are not allowed to charge extra for HD. (Virgin has tv on demand, the ability to record your shows to a hard drive isn't really as big a selling point as it is with sky)

At the moment, there just isn't enough HD content available to warrant paying all that, I'll just stick to SD tv for now until £150 worth of HD channels are available, or until they come to their senses and just issue updated HD boxes if you want them without the v+ service

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Abe

Time to get a 1080p tv for all that 720p content

unless you have a bluray player of course

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Paris Hilton

Channel 5

You should also mention that 'channel 5' has not yet joined the Freesat platform. So if your other half is into Neighbours etc then they won't be happy if you suddenly switch over.

Paris - As she could be my Neighbour.

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And what are we implicitly agreeing to?

All "content" nowadays that is digital seems now to come with some draconian "Hobsons' choice" agreement and a built-in enforcement of an agreement you cannot disagree to.

So with HD what are we agreeing to lose?

The right (that we had on VCR) to record for later?

Probably.

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Paris Hilton

What about the bandwidth?

It's all very well pumping out large numbers of pixels, but if the images are compressed to hell, then simply having more pixels is no help.

I have Sky+ and an Apple TV (160GB, bought for about 180 quid in the Apple Store NY. Thanks exchange rate!). I've resisted moving to Sky HD for a couple of reasons: firstly it is just too expensive. Aside from the one-off costs, a tenner a month is just too much. In the same way that Sky+ is 'free' if you have it in conjunction with movies and/or sport (at least, when I first subscribed, this was the deal -- may be 'free' across the board now); HD should be 'free' with a top-end package too. Secondly (and most importantly), the leap in quality from SD to HD is just not there. The bandwidth is too restricted to show off the benefits of HD. Just those MPEG artifacts in all their high def glory!

I don't watch many films, but those I do I rent from iTunes (the US store -- waaay more choice, thanks to the ludicrous restrictions the rights holders insist on. When will the studios 'get' modern digital distribution?) for a few dollars. Apple's HD is actually pretty good (720p rather than the 1080i of Sky -- but 1080i is a bit of a con anyway -- I'd much rather a progressive picture than an interlaced picture with notionally more pixels) and well worth the money, in my view. No Country for Old Men looked fantastic. The choice is a little odd -- lots of new releases, and a random selection of old films. The other great feature of the Apple TV is the ability to sync rented films to your iPod. I quite often don't finish a film in the evening, but can watch the last 20 mins on the Tube into work. Can't do that with Sky or Freesat!

So, my adivce is, ignore the broadcast HD -- the bandwidth is too low -- and get an Apple TV for watching decent quality HD movies.

Paris, 'cos she's into low bandwidth, low quality films...

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Unhappy

Sky HD Dolby Digital Bad

You have to watch Sky HD. Many receivers can't decode it's curious bastardisation of the Dolby Digital output stream, so if you want 5.1 sound, you get... silence. Sky don't openly acknowledge this, and sent out an engineer who definitely needed more training to replace my box for no net gain.

Thing was, my receiver USED to be able to decode the 5.1 signal, so they changed it in some way, fucked it up, and are now denying all knowledge.

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£75 V+ from Virgin

"However, when we rang them they offered to let us have it for £75 – obviously an attempt to lure us away from Sky and Freesat."

This discount has has been running for more than 6 months - long before the release of Freesat, has been widely publicised and is still quite prominently displayed on Virgin's web site.

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Paris Hilton

1080p or 720p ?

"HD TV in the UK"

"Time to buy a 1080p telly at last?"

Or maybe just a 720p HD ready TV rather than a full true 1080p HD TV.

I think no-one offers full 1080p HD TV in the UK yet it's all just 720p TV.

Is this still true? The over simplified brochureware on BBC, Freesat websites makes no reference to this crucial detail.

Paris because of the bimbo marketing effort for Freesat, with no effort paid to giving precise details in a form the public demand.

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Anonymous Coward

Freesat question

Some comments here about Freesat and compression leading to poor picture quality with artifacts - has anyone seen this, is it true? Is that just for the non-HD channels ?

I don't have Satellite or an HDTV, want to get an HDTV (yes, because of a games console). So, are Freesat dual tuner PVRs on the horizon or is this not possible - is the HD Sky+ box dual tuner (i.e. record two channels, or watch one while recording another) ?

Any alternative to giving the Dirty Digger my money is favourable.

The new 42" Panasonic Freesat Plasma TV looks attractive... £1200 though...

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Unhappy

Downloads

I, too, am one of those who seeks legal HD delivered to my home, but revert to Bittorrent because I can't find any.

I live in flats so can't mount a dish, and don't wish to pay a subscription for what I want, which is occasional HD viewing of BBC documentaries or very occasional sport (like, once a month). Also, I'd like to delivery whatever I subscribe to through my Media Center PC, which I use as my media hub - I don't need Yet Another Box.

Freeview HD would be ideal. I was one of the lucky few to be granted a test box during the Crystal Palace tests, and I first turned it during the Rugby World Cup when Johnny Wilkinson was taking his 'big' penalty. Seeing the rain dripping from his face, blood dripping from his split lip, and steam rising from the pitch, in every single detail, transfixed everyone in the room. Planet Earth was amazing. I was gutted when they turned it off, even though there was little content.

So - if OFCOM finally stop screwing things up left, right and centre, and grant some bandwidth for Terrestrial HD broadcasts, I hope to finally get the TV service I want. In the meantime, in the absence of even iTunes HD, it's Bittorrent yet again :-(

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re: BT Vision

No HD on BT Vision yet as it's based on Freeview, although it does upscale SD to 720p over HDMI and does a pretty good job of it. Also means the user interface is in HD.

The video-on-demand stuff from BT Vision isn't HD either (there are some vague mumblings from BT about offering HD in the future), although it's much better quality than the iPlayer. The sound is all in stereo rather than 5.1 though.

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Happy

In defence of Virgin (re Sooty's post)

I have a V+ box and it is a great gadget. As has been pointed out you should not have to pay more than £75. I watched the cable guy install it and it did take longer than 5 seconds - amongst other things, he had to check the signal strength on each of the three tuners. On Demand has some plus points, in particular 4oD thoughtfully strip out the adverts, but has minuses (only the last 7 days of a subset of programmes) and V+ offers the invaluable "record series" option. I don't have HD TV connected to it yet, but I have thought wistfully how nice it might be to watch Wimbledon on one.

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1080p content

All UK 1080i broadcasts can carry 1080p. For films the original 1080p25 is squeezed into a 1080i50 broadcast signal with flags added - on receipt, your TV notices the flags (or at least it should), and reassembles it back to 1080p. End result is no different from broadcasting 1080p in the first place.

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Go

DVRs

I hope that Topfield or Humax bring out a twin tuner freesat DVR with a network connection or USB-out for saving out recordings. (I doubt the mainstream brands, especially those with interests in content creation would bring out a device that makes "stealing" HD content so easy). If they could only integrate a bluray player into it too it would be just about my dream home entertainment box, until 3D HD comes along anyway...

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Seeing every crinkle

of Dot Cotton's fag-addled chops does not appeal.

Has the world of entertainment been taken over by technologists? Way back when, there were three criteria for TV buyers... size of screen, whether you wanted regular teletext or "Fastext", and for the ultra flash, NICAM.

Now, buying a television requires a double first in electronics and computer science (which I've got and even I was confused when scoping for a 42 incher), there's this messy collision of standards that real people cannot be bothered to deal with.

I remember the Hallowe'en memo where a certain software company talked of "de-commoditising" the open standards of the intarwebs, and it feels like that's happening again with entertainment technology. Make the new video player a proprietary piece of IP, and reap the licensing profits.

Once upon a time, each button on the telly or the remote led to a different channel. Now, there's a non-terrestrial receiver, a DVD player, a VCR and a games console all behind that AV button. No wonder they're clinging to analog...

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Paris Hilton

The Price Isn't Right

The prices for those TV packages are only for the first 3 months. After that, they double in price.

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hmmmm

also virgin media offfers HD films for only £3-4 (unsure on price) but they can at least stream HD content and decent audio, plus the content isnt using your BB line so shouldnt affect your monthly caps/limits etc

@ Wize - "I've not seen anywhere showing HDTV next to an equally large TV on standard def to let me compare the two pictures. Afterall, if its good, it should speak for itself". best ive seen for comparison was when i forgot to record robin hood on v+. so we had to get a SD version. it looked pants compared to the HD one we had just watched!

of course its not all good. the little blonde on heroes doesnt look as cute in HD. its not as forgiving as DVD/SD

@ Sooty - phone up virgin and see what deals you get. remember with virgin you own the box and there isnt a monthly fee for it. i even moved the sd box into the bedroom for £5 month. my cousin got v+ for £70. i usually find an excuse to moan about something and they always do you some form of deal :)

the HD is much more complex to get working... took my guy about 30 odd mins and various calls to the centre to get HD working etc...

"Virgin has tv on demand, the ability to record your shows to a hard drive isn't really as big a selling point as it is with sky)" - BUT on demand is buggy and problematic... V+ works fine 99.9% of the time. plus you can get anything - rather than just what is selected. it kicks sky's ass too as you can record 3 things at once, or record 2 and watch 1...

the delay TV is also pretty good. me and the mrs rarely watch live tv as i can skip adverts in recorded programs :)

@ Jose Cardoso - my bad - i know they deffo didnt stream in 5.1 initially. maybe they do now... i know there is optical so it should be able to!

@ richyS - "the leap in quality from SD to HD is just not there. The bandwidth is too restricted to show off the benefits of HD. Just those MPEG artifacts in all their high def glory!" - wtf? have you seen HD? no artifacts on virgin HD content. obviously you now see more in SD (itv looks pants) but thats mainly by using large TVs

@ "I think no-one offers full 1080p HD TV in the UK yet it's all just 720p TV." - wtf? ive had a 1080p dogs danglies TV since before xmas.... where have you been? i also dont see the point in 720p - stop being tight and get a proper one.. would you say "i would get a 1600x1200 monitor but the 1024x768 will be the same" ?!?!?! and if you mean nobody offers 1080i (cant get p over tv really), yes they do ... v+ offers 1080i signal.

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Boffin

HD is overrated

I watched a normal DVD on a 47" LCD, connected by an RGB cable, sitting about 8 feet away. And it looked ok to me, I didn't miss the upscaling, progressive scan, or higher res source at all.

Watching HD footage from various sources usuall shows up alotta grain, especially in shops, most likely cos of those crappy HDMI switchers they use. The grain effect is even worse with budget players.

So who really needs HD?

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Thumb Up

Perfect timing

Curious appearance of this article as its the very thing I'm researching at the moment... and in fact toddling off to Richer Sounds next weekend to bag a bargain.

You only need 1080p if you have a Blu-Ray player or a PS3, but I don't see any point in getting anything that is only HD-Ready as opposed to Full HD, you want this thing to be as future proof as possible... and when you can pick up a class-winning 42 incher for barely £700, buying anything less would be a false economy, especially, as this article alludes to, HD is likely to take off big time in the next 12 months.

But it's absolutely right that it's well behind the US. Living in the Channel Islands, we're pretty restricted on what we have access to, so the price cut on the HD boxes is great news, although I'll be doing my best to avoid that £60 "flicking a switch" charge which is an absolute gyp.

@Steve Kay : not sure why you're so confused over it all, although I do have a PhD in Computer Science... but grab a copy of What Sound&Vision and it explains it all in kid's speak for lesser mortals.

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Anonymous Coward

BT Caution

I understand the current version of BT Vision hardware doesnt support the newer HD standards, so you will need to have your box replaced.

My Vision box has ended up in the cupboard as I got fed up with it locking up and then taking 30mins to reload itself and if the BT servers were down (which they are a lot) it wouldnt even start up, a fail safe mode would have been good!

There is also no mention of whether current BT Vision customers will be given a free upgrade or will have to stomp up the full price for the new one AKA Sky.

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Go

HD artifacts

I've seen no artifacts on BBC HD, I'm guessing it would be pretty pointless to over compress the HD signal and cock it all up, there are however plenty of artifacts on the SD broadcasts I receive, presumably because they all use the same shit feeds they've created for freeview which is completely awful to look at on a 1080p TV...

I'll stick to a combo of downloading and watching anything I can find that's free to air on my HD sat system and Freeview HD if/when it happens, but then again I'm a tight northerner ;-)

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I like the V+ box

It's a great wee thing. Record two, watch one has been handy on more than one occasion as well.

There aren't enough HD films available from the on demand thing, and the ones which are are usually shit, but every now and again a good one turns up. Plus the Planet Earth/Planet of Fish etc. Attenborough series have been available in HD pretty much ever since the box was installed (probably over a year ago now? Can't remember exactly) and mean I don't need to buy the DVD sets.

Also, you forgot to mention that the Beeb is showing all their Euro 2008 coverage on BBC HD as well. Well, when they're not busy pulling cables out half way through a game, that is.

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Happy

Future proof?

Why would you want a telly that is future proof?

i would prefer to get one that WILL work in the future.

;-)

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Happy

Allegedly...

...there are other solutions out there other than these; if you're up for using devices like the NETGEAR EVA8000, that will connect to your HDTV to stream HD content that you may have acquired over the internet (can anyone say "hi-def movie download in 10 minutes on Virgin Medias 20Mbps cable service"?) at 720 or 1080 then you have a world of content available to you right now.

PS: the question was rhetorical, because I know you can do this.

Allegedly, of course.

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I have a humax hd freesat

I got it becuase my ageing Grundig digibox was on its last legs. I have a 37 hd panny and i have a ps3.

I'm not interested in sky, i go to the cinema or rent or buy bluray.

I don't have enough time to take advantage of sky's hd sport offering. Match of the day does me.

Programmes in sd look worse using my humax.

HD is great, I'm watching wimbledon as I write. BBC do hd alot better than itv. Half one of holland's games on the itv wasn't in hd, someone forgot to switch it on. All in all I'm happy.

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Gates Halo

@ Wize

>>I've not seen anywhere showing HDTV next to an equally large TV on standard def to let me compare the two pictures. Afterall, if its good, it should speak for itself.

If you've only been to one of the multiples (Comet, Dixons, Tesco, etc), then you are unlikely to see ANY HD content, as for many they don't have access to HD broadcasts....most don't commit to having an active Sky HD box for demo purposes...and they are unlikely to leave a Blu-Ray HD player and disc on show.....! (Of course they *could* set a receiver or player up "behind the scenes" but they don;'t usually have the know how to stream the same signals to multiple screens...

My suggestion is to visit a decent hi-fi/AV dealer, esp. if they sell Panasonic or Pioneer plasma's.

The picture quality is just so good.....you'll easily see the difference....but as to justifying the cost....well, just wait until your current telly breaks down (or has an accident !), and it can be claimed for on your contents insurance...

And in 2-3 years time, they'll be giving HD tv's away with a packet of cornflakes.....(coz the tellys will be very cheap and the price of wheat would have shot up :-)

Gates coz he's done a runner....at last !!

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How do you have a 'set top box' on a flatscreen TV?

Sick of all these boxes, TV's always had integrated receivers all they needed was an antenna with at most a VCR underneath. Nowadays the space saved by moving to a flatscreen is lost by the massive stack of boxes underneath it (360, PS3, Xbox 1, ATV, Sky/Cable, DVR, BD, region-free DVD, AV Amp, Media Centre PC etc).

No wonder BitTorrent is so popular it's the easiest way to watch your programmes in HD.

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Heart

HD?

Wow - HD is such a misused term!

Truth be told, if you watch a Blu ray (or the now defunct HD-DVD) you'll see some of the most amazing visuals you've every witnessed. Pirates 2 + 3 on Blu ray or the later Harry Potters on either format will simply blow you away.

But on broadcast (or download) you're always going to get significant compression - and for all you "shut up about Blu ray - BBC HD looks amazing!" folk out there, it's true it does look much better than SD channels but your argument could be simply transposed up from the "HD looks like SD to me" brigade.

Places like LOVEFiLM do monthly rental packages that included Blu ray, which would, for now, definitely be my preferred way of getting the very best HD experience for movies.

I also have Apple TV (very cool) and Virgin+, both of which give you this kinda middle HD which is fine for some films and great for TV (Lost season 3 in HD on Virgin was awesome - especially as so many of us had it cut off mid-season when Virgin and Sky fell out!). But Virgin desperately need more HD - C4, ITV (back again after it was taken off!) and more TV on demand as part of their high end subscription package, if they want to stop Sky from running away.

Still - if you want the very best for your shiny new telly... a PS3 and a stack of rented Blu rays sounds like the perfect high definition weekend in to me - now, where did I put that Pizza Hut menu... :)

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Dead Vulture

Re: HD?

I've also always wondered why nobody asked "why not use the new compression algorithm and create a HD movie that fits on ONE DVD?"

Because it WILL fit on a DVD-9. High definition resolution on a DVD-9 will get a little over 2 hours (2.5 maybe, still at better-than-DVD-by-quite-a-lot).

On BD, you could fit, what? 12 hours? How many films take 12 hours (apart from LotR)?

'Course the answer is "to make you have to agree to more draconian restrictions on what you were allowed previously to do with videos you bought".

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Dead Vulture

Re: 1080p content

Uh, andrew, there IS a difference between 1080i and 1080p. Each frame in 1080i has half the scan lines filled in with data, the other lines are (for 1080i->p conversion) copies of the 1080i line above.

So your 1080i picture has a resolution (as in the finest line it can resolve) of HALF 1080i. That would be 540. Same as DVD (576 PAL resolution).

Uhhh....

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V+

Most happy with mine, the upscaling works very well in 720p and imo drags out plenty enough for sports channels to look nice, it also strikes me that these people complaining of artifacts should not be surprised when viewing on anything above a 32" panel. Oh & a decent quality screen helps too. Yup thats a 32D3000 in the corner & it never dissapoints ;)

Virgin are at the final hurdle imo, more HD content would make any other delivery platform seem compromised to me - guess its lucky Im in one of their areas spose - dont forget Glasto in all its mud addled glory will be on BBC HD too.

We're getting there, all be it slowly :)

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Freesat from Sky

If Freesat from Sky was a "spoiler" for the BBC/ITV Freesat service, why has it been available for the last 3 or 4 years? It was also a piece of cake to order a card (which was £30 when we got it) and whack it in to an old Sky box that was already in the house I lived in at the time. Voila - every terrestrial channel available (including all regional variations!) including the ones like Five that aren't on the new Freesat service yet.

Yes, they send you mailshots trying to entice you into getting a full Sky package but sometimes the deals are too good to miss. In February 2007 they enabled all Sky channels for a month as a "trial" (just long enough to get bored of Sky One's endless Simpsons repeats). And then they offered 3 months of the full Sky World package for free, *and* gave me £50 in M&S vouchers. And there was no problem downgrading back to the Freesat channels once that offer had expired!

I even bought an old Sky box from eBay for my sister and a Freesat card and now she can watch TV - the analogue reception in her house is too bad to bear. She's had Freesat for 2 years now and it only cost about £60 in total (as the house already had a minidish on the side from the last owner).

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HD TV 100% useless if you can't freely record it in HD

There's very little I watch "live" (live sport and maybe news if there's a massive story just breaking) - movies, drama, comedy, documentaries - I record them all for later viewing at a time that suits me and not the broadcaster. So to me (and possibly a fair number of other people), being able to record in HD completely unrestricted is totally crucial to the introduction of HD TV in my household.

The bare minimum I'd expect is an HDMI input to the recorder (or a built-in digital HD decoder of a rooftop aerial input if you're looking for an "all in one" box) and an equivalent HDMI output to my HD TV. No copy protection or loss of quality should occur and recordings should be stored on as large as hard drive as possible (with USB and/or ethernet/wireless for further import/export of HD material). So where is this device that many people would consider crucial to HDTV viewing? Well, absolutely nowhere in the UK as far as I tell. Anyone got any idea when the first such box will turn up? The article claims Xmas, but will this be a true unencumbered HD in -> HD out recorder or will it be ludicrously crippled and not worth buying at all?

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Skip broadcasting entirely

I have a TVIX (http://www.tvix.co.kr/eng/) connected to a NAS full of .mkv encoded content, it does 1080p, 5.1 etc... Of course you have to be broad minded about file sharing, but since I've had it I haven't seen an advert, or one second of Big Brother, so potential legal action is a small risk compared to that perpetual joy.

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Anonymous Coward

1080p

The majority of "HD ready" tvs on sale in the UK can't do 1080p anyway. Most of them are 720p with maybe 1080i on top. The price goes up significantly for true 1080p. As does the screen size. I don't know why I could get a 19 inch monitor that was capable of more resolution than a 38 inch tv.

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OK, BT Vision

Current HD? Like you said, no, but it has a HDMI port so we know they're gonna put some on there soon enough.

Monthly cost? Not £6 a month, it's free (as long as you have BT Broadband). Everything is then on demand for a fee (99p or £2/3.99 for movies), or you can pay monthly fees for various packages (delayed sports, £4 a month for about 240 football matches. TV on demand, £6 a month). But there's no forced monthly cost.

Initial costs? None, not £30. If you're with BT Broadband and you phone up to sign up to BT Vision, you won't end up paying a thing, and often they'll give you things such as the £6 a month TV package free for 6 months, then for only £4.50 a month after that. And yes you can cancel it at any time.

Other bonuses? 2 powerline adaptors for free, they got for about £40 on ebay if you wanted, or if not you've got 2 powerline adaptors for free out of it.

Problems? Well if you keep cutting the power to the box (ie flick it off at the wall, power cuts) then the box will eventually have to spend about 20 booting up which is annoying. And when you turn it off at the wall just to save power you then lose the resolution setting when you turn it back on so it goes back to 4:3 SD picture despite being connected to a HDMI port (my biggest grievance).

One thing I wish they'd do is have a proper off mode without switching it off at the wall, where when you turned it off and you hadn't set up recordings for the next 24 hours, you could turn it off properly so it would still turn on when you pushed the button, but it wouldn't remain slightly on incase it needs to record something. You don't need to record something, turn off, stop the slight noise (I'm one of those who needs silence to sleep) and turn out your little lights.

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Happy

Freesat HD Grabs

Someone has a collection of HD grabs from freesat the HD channels that i found on the digital spy website, some are quite amazing.

I particularly like the gardeners world ones in the BBC HD folder the colours and detail are amazing.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/freesathd/

Hope it's ok to post a link to it.

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Alert

No HD until the 'premium' is removed

I'd gladly get a SkyHD box and use my 1080p TV properly - as soon as they ditch that stupid 10 quid extra charge.

SKY prices are goign to go up in a months time - for no reason. no new services etc - and yet they persist with an extra charge for delivering content that HASNT had to be downscaled to basic SD.

so SKY, 150 quid is yours the minute you ditch the 10 quid per

month 'HD tax'. I'm not buying it.

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Coat

Your display is a key element in HD viewing

Film material is shot at 24 frames per second and is sped up by 4% to 25fps for broadcast; some UK and European specific stuff is shot at native 25fps and not sped up. These frames are turned into fields by "interlacing", two fields for each frame where one field is the odd pixels lines and the other is the even pixel lines.

For broadcast HD film, each 25fps frame is 1920x1080 pixels (1080p) which is then turned into 50Hz fields at 1920x540 pixels. The chipset in your display should be able to recognise this and reconstruct the 1080p from the interlaced signal, by weaving the odd and even lines together.

Unfortunately many chipsets in displays are crap at this -- especially older models -- and end up stretching 1920x540 over the display rather than weaving the two interlaced fields together to make a frame. Therefore 1080i HD can still look sub-optimal on an expensive flat-screen display or projector.

* The US has a different "interlacing" system because of their 60Hz.

AppleTV and Xbox360 use 720p for their HD, which is 60 frames of 1280x720 pixels; to fit 24fps into 60Hz the odd number frames are repeated three times and the even numbers repeated twice (which give a slight judder effect). However, there's no problem with deinterlacing, even the crappiest display can handle 720p, so the results are surprising good ... albeit the price of AppleTV HD rentals is a bit high at 50p more than a SkyHD box office pay-per-view.

I'll get my AV geek coat.

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