With the first Freeview HD transmissions scheduled to start on the 2 December in the London, Liverpool and Manchester areas, Register Hardware answers all your questions about the new telly technology. Freeview HD logo New Zealand's Freeview HD logo. What will Blighty' look like? What do I need to receive Freeview HD? You’ll …
The Digital Switchover
What I can't understand is the timing of this. With the massive Digital Switchover that has started nationwide, why wasn't the DVB-T2 part finalised and announced (and received manufacturer support) before the switchover started?
There was never any information on the digital switchover websites or leaflets or roadshows about DVB-t2 and HD.
With the switchover many people went out and bought new TV's (often from a rough survey of the people in my parent's street, their first for 10 or 15 years or more). Others all went out and bought set top boxes. The local electronic store did a roaring trade and so di installers.
So why - in this biggest TV switchover since colour television - did they not get the standard sorted before then and push manufacturers to have DVB-T2 sets ready for the switchover? It can't have just been manufacturer greed to sell a different set as any publicity during that time that their's is the only box to receive Freeview HD would have been a coup for them.
I think people are likely to feel really aggreived with the situation when they find out their many hundred's of pounds of TV they have decided to upgrade to for the big switchover is now technologically out dated.
Second question - will HD be broadcast on the sub-transmitters? The ones that are showing the 18 Freeview channels rather than the full complement?
BTW - It doesn't affect me either way as I'm on Virgin Media.
Good article though and great to see the author following up in the comments section.
DVB-T2 will provide 67% higher bitrate in the UK.
@Mage "The Neotion is a stop-gap solution for Countries with some DVB-T TVs that do MPEG2 and have launched DVB-T MPEG4 SD TV, New Zealand, Estonia, Ireland, France. About 20 countries."
"The Neotion "CAM" does however work with Irish test transmissions, but not on all models of TVs."
Neotion does not support HE-AAC audio that is used in Denmark, Norway and will be used in Sweden, Finland shortly.
HE-AAC audio is part of the Irish spec. too. The Irish tests are, however, currently being broadcast using MP2 audio.
@Mage"Frankly I'm sceptical about the claimed 60% saving of DVB-T2 compared with DVB-T"
But the PSB-3 DVB-T2 HD multiplex will broadcast with 40.2 Mbit/sec from December 2. The other DVB-T muxes will have a bitrate of 24.1 Mbit/sec. 40.2/24.1 = 1.67 = +67%.
This is not just theory - its a proven fact.
The 30% was known to be to low right from the start of the DVB-T2-TM (the technical workgroup) - just not by how much.
Just a quick thank you to Nigel Whitfield for a very nice, informative article and for taking the time to follow up in the comments section.
I'm not looking forward to explaining this one to Dad. He's already bought a TV that's "got HD" and assumes all his digi-box transmissions are in HD. And given the range of confusion on these here comment boards (ranging from RotaCyclic's "I watched the HD trials 2 years ago", to Red Bren's "everyone has an HD TV, why force them to upgrade?" - all seemingly valid points but ultimately flawed) even people who care enough to read articles about it are confused.
Can't wait for the govt's FAQ to drop through my letterbox...
G/F is going to kill me though - we bought a fairly expensive PVR last Christmas. I have zero chance of replacing it without a fight!
You could replace PlayTV if/when Sony release an upgrade to DVB-T2, or if you have a Windows XP MCE, Windows Vista Home Premium / Vista Ultimate or Windows 7 Home Premium / Pro / Ult computer save your pennies and buy a PCI when they are release.
Cheaper than another PlayTV, plus you can use it on your PC, as well as your PS3, Xbox 360 and various tellies even connect without anything else.
Voila - like Sky+ HD for freeview.
The medium and the message - they're not the same thing
Nice article, but I think it would have helped to go just 1 step further.
a digital TV picture arrives on your screen thanks to 2 very independent components.
The way the picture (and sound) is encoded into bits - MPEG2, MPEG4 / H264 - is the the message.
All HD piccies are using MPEG4 as it is very much more efficient than MPEG2. The same standard is used for freesat HD as will be used by freeview HD (and is also used by most other HD transmissions - maybe even all). PCs already handle MPEG4 quite happily, as do such things as a Freesat HD boxes. Indeed many nice things are happening in the PC space, such as Nvidia building MPEG4 / H264 decoding into the drivers for their newer cards (even for linux...)
The second part is the medium - how the digital bitstream is delivered to your display.
This can be carried over a satellite signal or a terrestrial TV signal. Today freesat uses the S1 standard, and it delivers SD and HD pictures. There is an S2 standard, and some equipment supports it, but freesat will not be using it for some time yet. S2 can carry more bits in the same space as S1, but as satellite transmissions are not yet feeling the bandwidth pinch, they do not have a big incentive to change. I'm happily receiving BBC HD transmissions onto a linux based PC, as they are not encrypted or DRM protected in any way.
Freeview today uses T1 only and is all SD, but in a few days will start using (on 1 multiplex only) T2 to carry more bits and deliver HD channels.
The main reason that there is no kit around as yet, is that the BBC wants to DRM the HD broadcasts, but could not just encrypt the data stream (as that is against the BBC charter), so they proposed to Ofcom that they should encrypt the EPG info as a slight of hand way of (apparently) not breaking the charter, while still locking up the broadcasts.
This required that reception equipment be modified to handle the EPG encryption, so until it was known to be in or out, none of the manufacturers could actually start manufacturing kit, getting it certified, getting it into production, and eventually into the shops. As this only got kicked into touch by Ofcom a couple of weeks ago, no kit has yet started through this process.
Of course this whole certification / approval thing is a bit weird anyway - it never used to happen in analogue days, and is really just the BBC, on behalf of ( itself and ) the big media companies trying to control the whole channel (as the media indistry did with DVD encryption).
Finally we get to the picture, and the BBC - in an effort to jam a quart into a pint pot - have screwed down the bit rate on HD (on freesat HD and also the same thing to be on freeview HD), so that their picture quality appears to be significantly poorer than the other HD channels from sky and virgin - not that they will admit to this of course, they believed the manufacturers of their shiny new MPEG 4 encoders when they were told you could get HD pictures at 2 1/2 bits per second.
ho hum, where's my tin hat
Cant wait until UK public realise this...
I have for many years been saying to my wife that we had to wait. Gosh do I feel smug. I have refused to buy a HD "Ready" TV until Freeview HD was broadcast, stating that these current TVs were not ready. I got most of this knowledge through reading El Reg, thanks chaps. This article points out - VERY WELL - what we have always known, but were too affraid to ask just in case the answer was you need more kit... We need more kit!
This weekend I was explaining this very fact to some people and stating that if we are lucky there might just a decent deveice capapble of this in time for the world cup. I am not the biggest fan of Sky, but sadly for now, I will have to stick with the Sky HD box, it works.
I have been trying to establish if any of the Dreambox devices have DVB-T2 cards or if they support them, does anybody know?
Just thought I'd let you know you are not alone.
I only read the article because I thought it might be of use to my dad who is looking for a PVR and I thought HD stood for Hard Drive.
@Nigel Whitfield re. DVB-T2 Television
This is the one I saw:
Oddly, it no longer lists DVB-T2 (though it did at one point according to the print out I have!). It does vaguely go on about being able to display terrestrial HD TV though. I hope Play.com aren't trying to mislead anyone, 'cos it ain't going to work in the UK. Looks like I'll wait a little longer before shelling out for a television for the study.
I suppose being based in the Channel Islands, there's not much you can do if you're upset with Play.
They're taking you for a ride...
I'd quite happily watch Telly in black and white. All this HD stuff is a complete farce.
The detriment to the environment must be HUGE with people upgrading TV sets. LCD's have only really just started to come into their own in the past year and now all this polava.
Paris, because only women look better in HD. Not Emmerdale bloody Farm!
I've held off buying a Freeview PVR since 2005 simply because they're so buggy. They really put Windows into perspective.
So until they all get their act together, there'll be no PVR or HD TV in this house. I even bought a universal remote to replace my Freeview STB's remote when it wore out even though it cost the same as a whole new STB. I did it because I didn't want to give another penny to Freeview or clock up another sale until they make it work.
My STB freezes and resets a lot. Whenever I use the now & next, it says it's unavailable for a few seconds. I have to wait a few seconds to change a channel. Whenever they shuffle the channels, the damn thing gets confused and has to be reset. None of this ever happened with analogue.
less is more
UK television would be better if we had fewer channels.
So support HD , the better the picture the fewer the channels, so the better the program.
high quality crap
watching Eastenders in HD will just make me want to slit my wrists quicker, whereas watching Horizon or David Attenborough on 405 line VHF monochrome will make me want to view and listen.
To me quality is primarily in the content, and 30,000 line picture of Eastenders (Coronation St , X factor, Celebrity Get me outta here) will still be crap and a waste of life.
Expect more of this - they're staying just the legal side of outright lying. It has always been so.
When freeview came out, my mother bought a brand new 'digital' TV only to find out that it was an analogue tv with a 'digital tuner'.
When HD Ready was finalised, manufacturers rushed to shift their now obsolete stock (due to lack of things like HDCP) with misleading 'HDTV Ready' claims.
Now Freeview HD is roound the corner, they're shipping TVs that are 'MPEG4 HDTV' capable but don't have a hope in hell of receiving Freeview HD (btw. Play.com aren't the first. Sony insisted a year ago that their PlayTV was capable of receiving HD Broadcasts, leading to much confusion).
It's not there
If you google "DVB-T2" , with the quotes, then you get back a lot of technical stuff. No products. COMET , search their site, no products.
Today Pace are pleased to announce the first DVB-T2 set top box, here:
@ Smug AC
"I have refused to buy a HD "Ready" TV until Freeview HD was broadcast, stating that these current TVs were not ready."
Well I've been enjoying my flatscreen HD ready TV for the last 3 years now and it'll work just fine when I get a Freeview HD PVR to go alongside it. Not quite sure where you get the idea that the current TV's are not ready to display HD signals. Unless you mean ones with built in DVBT2 tuners. Which makes no difference to me as I'll be wanting a box to record with anyway.
My Never Ending Story
Upgraded my house to a nice old own in the country.
It had a huge aerial on the roof, "Good" I thought. Plugged in my trusty old analogue set and got reasonable piccy's.
Then I bought a big flat LCD TV with twin DVB-T tuners and got NO PICTURE !!
Found out that I'm in an "extreme fringe area". (cost so far £1300, excl the house).
Never mind, I can upgrade the aerial can't I. A guy came out for £120 fitted a DAT75 which made no difference at all. (cost so far £1420).
Never mind I always fancied an PC based PVR, so I bought one with twin analogue tuners and ran it on VISTA (enough said). (the configured PC came in at £850, so my total to then was £2,270)
The picture still was pretty poor, so I gave up and decided to go the DVB-S route, I did the install myself this time so the cost was minimal, about £50 for the dish / cables / connectors and a simple sat finder. But I spent about 500 man hours researching it all ! (£2,320)
Then I saw what HD looked like, so I upgraded the sat tuner cards to suit DVB-S2, this cost circa £120, (running total = £2,440)
But the 2yr old PC wouldn't really keep up so I gave it more RAM, HDD, and a beta of Win7. (we're up to £2,600 now).
Even then things weren't great so I bought a whole new PC for £!,095 which pretty much solved my problems !! (£3,695)
Except that the lovely BBC have (I'm told) changed their HD format on sat' so now the picture just breaks up all the time. Apparently my graphics card manufacturer might issue a patch for this some year.
I have just bought a proper version of Win7 now so I reckon I'm well over the £3,750 mark, all spent within 3 yrs !!
Please don't tell the wife. And please don't mention HD DVD players either (damn that total is pushing £4K now !!!)
The joys of AV
So which x264 profiles and levels will the streams be compressed to?
baseline, extended, main, high, high 10, high 4:2:2 or high 4:4:4?
Bunch of geeks
So now that PCs are 'mainstream' you lot have finally found something to out-geek each other on?
Go up to the average man in the street and ask him 'do you give two shits about High Definition TV?'
The title is too long.
You need a HD compatible receiver and a HD compatible screen to watch it on. It's not fucking rocket science. It's a reason to buy all the media you own in a new and shiny format. Again. FFS.
Just a whinge
Just a whinge about the whole fucking switchover process. I'm in range of the Hannington transmitter and get absolutely fuck-all Freeview (not one single channel) because Hannington is only broadcasting on 1/4 power. The reason? Because to go to full power would interfere with the analogue transmissions received by Guildford. Readers may not be aware but Guildford can only be described as a poverty-stricken hell-hole, inhabited by techno-illiterates barely able to operate the remote and certainly unable spare two pennies from their Social Security handouts. Therefore, penalising everyone else for their sake can only be accepted with Christian goodwill towards my fellow, considerably-poorer, man.
(NB: For those readers not in the UK, Guildford has the highest per-capita income outside of London and is more than able to bear the costs of change-over. In fact the whole procedure is arse-about-tit. What the Government should have done is make the most affluent areas of the country pay the initial costs and let the poorer parts reap the cheaper prices resulting from economies of scale. But since when has Labour Government been concerned about the poor?)
The most important question is unanswered
You forgot the most important question and answer.
Will it be copy protected as per the cartels requests to OFCOM? Nobody has answered that one yet and with it starting on Dec 2 and hardware already getting ready to ship we need to know. Freesat is not copy protected so why the fuck should Freeview be anyhow?
Also will it be auto switching? That is. Will it switch to HD automagically if it's being broadcast in HD? The one thing that really pisses me off about Freesat HD is that you have to switch channels or press the red button to watch the same shows in HD.
From what I have read it's to appease those who do not have HD capable TV's yet. But that is a simple solution to fix. Make auto switching an option in the menu.
If I have to keep pressing a fucking red button of changing channels every time to watch something in HD I won't bother. My parents have Freesat HD. Do they bother changing channels or hitting the red button when an HD programme is on? No. Can't be arsed or forget to.
HDTV in the UK is a fucking joke.
"Go up to the average man in the street and ask him 'do you give two shits about High Definition TV?'"
I've been asked that 45 times in the last couple of days. Damn, there's a lot of Reg readers in the Thames Valley
Instead of having a switch over to Digital and then introduce HD it would have been better to combine the two as many said back before the trials began. Otherwise everyone who want's HD and has already likely got Digital, will throw away their new box, and buy a new box.
Format changes, copy protection
B1G: "BBC have (I'm told) changed their HD format on sat' so now the picture just breaks up all the time."
They didn't change the format; they tweaked the encoders and it's now using some of the advanced features of H.264 that it didn't beforehand. Still within the spec - just a part of the spec that some software writers chose to ignore, because no one was using it at the time. Strikes me as a slightly odd way to code software, personally.
The copy protection that was proposed was functionally the same as on Freesat, nothing more, nothing less. No encrypted video streams, just a compressed EPG, with meta-data specifying content control. Ofcom has rejected even that; we'll see what the next move is.
As for changing channel, what's so difficult about pressing buttons on the remote? Note that in the case of BBC HD, it's a separate channel; would you want your TV to automatically switch to BBC HD when they announce Strictly Come Dancing, even though you were planning to switch to, say, ITV instead?
One reason ITV uses the red button is because on satellite, they don't have regionalisation, and they have potential rights issues, due to the transponder they're on.
The EPG data will be capable of flagging up HD broadcasts; whether or not someone creates a box that selects it automatically will presumably be up to the manufacturers. In the case of the simulcast channels, though, why not press 53 for ITV HD or 54 for Channel 4 HD, instead of just 3 or 4?
so give us theadvanced features details please..
"They didn't change the format; they tweaked the encoders and it's now using some of the advanced features of H.264 that it didn't beforehand.
Still within the spec - just a part of the spec that some software writers chose to ignore, because no one was using it at the time. Strikes me as a slightly odd way to code software, personally."
so dont be shy Nigel, if you knwo the details please feel free to give them out as you know them now....
its nice to see these Elreg threads getting the *makover alongside some real techy posting for once so dont be shy...
other people will jump in and clarify what the techy stuff means if needs be for others not os techy readers to take onboard.
so what are exactly are you refering to , what tweaks?,
High profile at level 4.1 (short hand ,H@L4.1/HP@L41) 6mbit/s, AAC 2:! and/or 5:1
do these un-named tweaks reduce or increase efficiency in both your encoding and decodeing times and effort ?
with these BBC Encoder tweaks, do you/they produce something at least aproaching the current quality x264 output with all its new additions, patchs and speed fixes etc ?
and perhaps you follow and consider contributing to the x264 IRC dev channels and patches in time, http://gogloom.com/client2/index2?mainCHAT=1&network=FreeNode&channel=%23x264dev
for instance you might help out kierank with his statmux "master" x264 running in TS mode muxer code for core x264 inclusion some time ! take a look and share some of your TS DVB-*(2) muxer expertise...
*nice that theres now a reply to poster option but rather odd that it does Not actually seem to quote the poster for content you can edit down... still relying on cut/pase ohh well... its a good layout begining.
I'll get back to you...
For the full technical details of the change, since I don't have them in my notes, I shall have to go back to one of my BBC engineering sources again - I'd rather be completely right than attempt to paraphrase from memory and make a hash of it, if we're going to get into real technical nitty gritty, but my recollection is that it's something to do with PAFF/MBAFF that caused issues with some PC codecs.
It's not, of course, the first time that software developers have skimped: look at the split NIT problem, which, in essence, could have been avoided by coding to the specs, which always allowed for multi-part tables. It crashed quite a few boxes because they were coded instead on the assumption that the single part NIT in use at the time was how it would remain.
Relay transmitters, planning ahead
Yes, HD should be available from relay transmitters. The multiplex that carries the HD services is one of the three PSB services, which are due to be carried everywhere (it was previously known as BBC Mux B, before the shuffling that enabled HD to launch).
As far as planning the switch to T2 before switchover commenced, sadly not that easy. T2 wasn't even a standard in the planning stages back then, when switchover plans were first made; the need to coordinate frequency use internationally means much of the plan was already drawn up several years ago. DVB-T2 was first demonstrated in 2008; it's a very new technology.
When OnDigital launched, ten years earlier, H.264 wasn't even a standard - the team to finalise it wasn't put together until late 2001. Work on DVB-T2 didn't begin until 2007 - two years after the DSO timescale for the UK was finally announced.
Just like buying kit, you could wait to announce a plan in case something better comes along, but then you'd never announce one.
So just as most of the non-technical population gets used to Digital TV, they change the rules again? This will just add more confusion to an already confusing environment full of half-truths and spin - you only need to see the comments above to see how many people don't understand how it's all working!
For the moment I'll stick with Satellite derived HD - mainly because they have the highest bandwidth.
On Freeview, the best thing that they could do is shut down all those little dodgy gambling channels and shopping channels, and increase the bandwidth available to the rest, meaning better picture. Of course, they won't do that as it would mean they would make less revenue to pay for the system. :(
Will ITV's peak-time content that is recorded in SD be upscaled to HD?
Aside from the discussions over the encoders used at the broadcasters' end, and transmission resolutions and bitrates of the initial three HD channels broadcast over Freeview HD and how those details will compare with the same channels broadcast over satellite and cable, this comment from Nigel caught my attention:
"ITV HD... will be a peak time simulcast of ITV1"
Does this mean that ITV's peak-time content that is recorded in SD will be upscaled to HD (whatever that resolution will be, as I mentioned above)?
1. When will interlaced video die?
2. When will STB manufacturers produce SILVER boxes!! Not everyone has piano black A/V equipment. I refuse to get Virgin or Sky's HD service because their respective boxes are about as nice to look at as a 1982 VCR (and my silver Samsung Virgin SD box is small and silver).
Re: Pressing Questions
Interlaced video will die when someone magically finds a way to make broadcasting in 1080p pay.
Satellite bandwidth :-/
@Pootle:"as satellite transmissions are not yet feeling the bandwidth pinch, they do not have a big incentive to change" not true. Whilst there is plenty of bandwith available there are two basic "types" available in the UK. The one that Freesat uses comes from Astra 2D and is a tight beam centred on the UK. There isn't much capacity left on that satellite and that's why C4HD is still Sky only (ie;Free to View not Free to Air).
The other 'type' of satellite broadcast covers all of Europe and that's why Freesat can't use it. If you broadcast FTA from that satellite you have to pay the rights holders a helluva lot more because you're broadcasting English language versions (ie;the prime versions) of everything to hundreds of millions of people.
With Astra 2D the rights holders by and large accept that it's only available in the UK (not technically true but it's harder to get outside) so they only charge for 60 million English-speaking people.
Yet another upgrade nightmare avoided by applying the things I do as part of my IT job to real life.
- If it ain't broke, don't fix it. (That keeps me off HD entirely until I see a need for it)
- If you *need* to upgrade, let all the other poor sods do it first to clear out the problems (That's sorted out all those expensive "new STB / Tuner / TV every six months" problems for me)
- Never buy *anything* before SP2 / second revision / second generation hardware (That's meant that I've entirely skipped Freeview and am waiting for the standards to settle on something that'll stick around for more than a couple of years).
Although, ultimately, what solved this problem for me was just getting rid of all the TV's and using BBC iPlayer / 4od (not ITV player until they drop the silly Silverlight requirement) and DVD content (not touching Blu-Ray - it hasn't yet met all the requirements above, and it looks like it'll just cause me trouble), also the 2nd/3rd rules saved me from all the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD debacle too!.
Seriously, what is this obsession with upgrading immediately? I just don't get it. Think old-style-NASA-hardware... once the tech has dug in for many years, *then* it's good to use, otherwise you just end up with buggy shite (can't tell you how often my dad's Freeview box crashes).
So far, just in terms of everyday technology, that philosophy has saved me from fighting with HD-DVD, Windows Vista (and before that Windows ME), Freeview, Daikatana, most semi-3G mobile technology, WEP encryption, all manner of countless things that were consigned to the dustbin of history. And you know what? I haven't suffered at all for the temporary lack of those things.
Excuse me while I go watch DVD's (with already-CSS-cracked players) on my laptop (XP, so no problems with RPC1 region-free DVD drives) perfectly every time...
It's a bit more nasty than locking up the EPG.
The idea is that ONLY approved PVRs would be allowed the EPG. A PVR is useless without an EPG. Also the EPG would prevent the PVR recording if desired.
The fact the raw video is not encrypted is irrelevant if some Sports or Hollywood Company is deciding what you want to record and watch later because you are out.
Catchup/iPlayer/VOD TV of broadcast programs on Internet is so incredibly wasteful, and only available to a proportion of users. Decent 2Tbyte PVR with several Tuners could even record EVERYTHING, so you don't even need to plan in advance... Quality VOD at up to 20Mbps...
The video will be unencrypted; non-compliant receivers will still be able to tune into it. Yes, they'll have no broadcast EPG - but then, plenty of PVRs and PVR software manage to work without one anyway, retrieving information from various online sources.
Personally, I would have imagined that most of the people capable of making something like Myth work would find it simple enough to set up an online EPG feed. With programmes in the clear, and only the EPG data encrypted, you'll be able to tune in, add net-sourced EPG and you'll have everything you need to record - just as Windows Media Centre and many other programs (and even the sacred Tivo) have managed for year, without an OTA EPG.
And as it's the OTA EPG that will contain the meta-data, rather than some artefact of the video streams themselves, what exactly is the problem? Other than the fact that you won't pick up last minute schedule changes or over-runs, you'll have a functioning PVR.
It seems to me that the merest whiff of the word "encryption" has made a lot of people panic and assume they won't be able to do this - but it should be perfectly possible.
Yes, only approved PVRs, get the EPG, and there may be content restrictions (just as there already are on Freesat - one copy of an HD show to Bluray, for example, unlimited copies in SD), but those don't seem to be causing major hassles for Freesat, frankly.
There is no encryption planned or proposed on Freeview HD. And nothing that's been proposed will stop users of non-approved equipment with an alternatively sourced EPG from recording what they want, when they want.
Incompetent regulators with no feeling for consumer sentiment and complicit cynical manufacturers of unupgradable hardware (some of which they even have the audacity to market as "green" technology) have contrived to create a PR disaster. Millions of recently upgraded licence payers are going to feel hoodwinked and will say "screw Freeview HD - I'm not pissing more money up the wall, I'm going to wait till Freeview XH3D comes out". And that will probably happen within 5 years.
For now all the looser-vision shopping channels and unnecessary "+1" channels should be switched off to make enough space for proper channels to be broadcast in HD using the DVB-T standard.
one more day and counting
just a reminder incase you forgot
one more day before winterhill goes live, and counting
still no kit to buy or play with, sad.
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