Digital Television ….. Just the Facts

Digital and Analogue Broadcasts

What About the TV I Own Now and the Next TV I Buy?

When do we begin wide screen digital transmission and distribution?

When the American DTV/HDTV roll out is mature and on time: 2002 to 2003 When product is available, particularly HDTV: over the air, cable, DTH, DVD and VCR When there is a full range of consumer sets at affordable prices Canadian consumer demand the quality, choice and value added services available to others.  At this point the market is ready.


Why go digital?

All production equipment from the camera through to the transmitter will eventually be digital.


What is the Business Case?

In the short term none, but not investing for transition increases the risk that when the time is right not enough has been done to position the business for a quick cost effective transition.

In the mid to long- term each business positions itself to retain viewers, seek new revenue opportunities both in traditional advertising and data applications.

In the yet fully understood ever-changing world of convergence television is positioned to be a competitive player.


What’s the strategy?

Broadcasters and Distributors need to create strategies that ensure as they upgrade their production, editing and master control facilities and replace analog obsolete equipment, that the new equipment is digital and capable of wide screen presentation and HDTV pass through.

These strategies should be flexible in that they can be sped up or slowed down as the market dictates.

Producers should begin shooting wide screen DTV/HDTV for any product they expect to have a shelf life of 5 years or more, or that they wish to sell to Europe and the US.

The goal is to position the industry to the point that when the market is ready, infrastructure is in place, product is available and incremental investments are minimized.


Who is CDTV:

Canadian Digital Television Incorporated (CDTV) is a non-profit industry organization endorsed by the Canadian Government. CDTV is comprised of members from Canada’s leading Broadcasters, Pay and Specialty Service providers, Cable, MMDS, Satellite (DTH) Service Providers, Retail Groups, as well as the Manufacturers of Canada’s best-known brands of televisions and other consumer electronics.

CDTV’s Mission:

The mandate of CDTV is to guide an orderly transition from Analogue to Digital television in Canada. In carrying out this objective, CDTV will act as a non-biased and definitive source of consumer information related to the introduction of Digital Television in Canada.


This Pamphlet

As part of CDTV’s mission, this pamphlet has been prepared for Canadian Consumers and Retailers to answer the most frequently asked questions about Digital and High Definition Television. This pamphlet has been prepared and financed by the CDTV members listed on the back of this brochure.


What Is Digital Television?

Digital Television (DTV) is a new standard established in both Canada and the U.S.A. for the broadcast of television pictures, sound, and data.

In November 1997, Industry Canada adopted the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) standard for Digital Television. The ATSC standard includes 18 DTV formats, all of which fall under one of two categories: High-Definition Television (HDTV) or Standard-Definition Television (SDTV).


How is Digital Television Different from what we Have Today?

For the last forty years television signals have been based on an Analogue standard known as NTSC. The TV signals are produced using standardized analogue cameras and other studio equipment and are transmitted to TVs using analogue transmission methods. Analogue transmission is simply a series of electrical waves that are broadcast from a tower similar to AM radio. The whole system from creation to transmission to display is accomplished using analogue technologies based on the NTSC standard.

Digital TV is the new generation of TV. Digital TV means that programs will be produced using digital cameras and digital studio equipment. It will then be transmitted to consumers' digital TVs using digital transmission technologies, all of which will be based on the ATSC standard.

Digital TV is basically a stream of 1's and 0's, known as bits, which represent the pictures, sound, and data of the television signal. These bits of data are then converted into pixels. Pixel is an acronym for "Picture Element". To understand what a pixel is, think of a it as a single dot of light on your TV screen. The higher the number of these pixels on your TV screen the better your picture will be. A High Definition Television can receive up to ten times as many pixels as today’s Analogue TV’s.

Note: Total Pixel count is calculated by multiplying the total number of pixels horizontal x vertical.

800 x 600 = 480,000 Pixels

Why Would I Want to Buy a Digital Television?

There is no question that DTV is much better than the Analogue system we have today.

Vastly Superior Picture Performance

Broadcasters will now be able to transmit pictures with a quality far superior to today’s NTSC television system or any other picture source currently available (eg. VCR, DVD, Laser Disc).

New Widescreen Format

DTV provides the same type of widescreen presentation you see in movie theatres. The new screen has a width-to-height (or aspect) ratio of 16:9 compared to today’s 4:3 width-to-height ratio on conventional television sets.

Aspect Ratios

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Clearer Pictures

Digital Television will eliminate "snow" and ghosting.

Better Colour

DTV delivers exceptionally vivid colours – including subtle purples and reds – and will eliminate any bleeding of colours at the edges..

Multi-Channel Digital Sound Quality

DTV provides highly advanced Dolby® Digital Audio, also known as AC3, with 5.1 discrete channels.

Future Possibilities

DTV uses a high bit-rate channel, which will mean broadcasters will be capable of transmitting new value added services to consumers in the near future.


Is Digital TV the Same as High-Definition Television?

HDTV is Digital Television at it’s finest. HDTV however is only one option in the range of DTV transmission formats that will be available.

Scanning Lines and Vertical Detail

Each of the eighteen possible formats within the ATSC standard has a specified number of active scanning lines used to create a TV picture. The greater the number of these scanning lines the greater the level of vertical detail.

Six of ATSC’s eighteen transmission formats use 1080 or 720 active scanning lines, in either "p"-progressive, or "i"-interlaced display. This is true High Definition Television (HDTV). The remaining twelve transmission formats use 480 active scanning lines. This is the Standard Definition Television (SDTV).

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What Does "Digital TV Ready" Mean?

All televisions (including those sold in stores today) are Digital TV-Ready when connected to a DTV converter box. This will produce an NTSC (analogue) quality picture.

SDTV-Ready means the TV can display an SDTV program transmitted in either ATSC 480 i, or 480p formats.

HDTV-Ready means the TV has a designated HDTV input, but does not have an ATSC tuner built in. These TVs require a DTV converter box that will permit the TV to display a HDTV program transmitted in either the 720P or 1080i format.

How Will a SDTV Set Perform?

SDTV provides the following performance attributes:

Picture: you should expect a picture to be twice as good as your analogue NTSC picture but not as good as HDTV.

Aspect Ratio: either 4X3 or 16X9

Audio: CD quality stereo sound

Tuner: receives all analogue NTSC and all 18 ATSC formats, and produces a standard definition usable picture.

What are the Minimum Features a TV Must Have to Qualify as a High Definition TV (HDTV)?

The minimum performance attributes for HDTV are:

Picture Quality: vertical display resolution of 720P, 1080i or higher delivering a picture of at least one million pixels.

Aspect Ratio: capable of displaying a 16:9 image at the minimum resolution level

Audio: receives, reproduces, and/or outputs Dolby 5.1 digital audio

Tuner: receives all ATSC Table 3 formats and displays them in their original format (see chart below).

How Will a SDTV Set Perform?

SDTV provides the following performance attributes:

Picture: you should expect a picture to be twice as good as your analogue NTSC picture but not as good as HDTV.

Aspect Ratio: either 4X3 or 16X9

Audio: CD quality stereo sound

Tuner: receives all analogue NTSC and all 18 ATSC formats, and produces a standard definition usable picture.

What are the Minimum Features a TV Must Have to Qualify as a High Definition TV (HDTV)?

Analogue broadcasting is a world without choices. Every standard television uses the 480 lines total (336 visible lines from broadcast or cable), the same interlaced scanning at 30 frames per second and the same 4:3 aspect ratio screen. This system is abbreviated as 480i or 480/30i.

In comparison, the ATSC recommendations give broadcasters and viewers a world of choice. Scanning can be Interlaced (I) or Progressive (P). Interlaced scanning means that each frame is displayed as two "fields" – one with the odd-numbered scanning lines and one with even-numbered lines, similar to current TVs. In progressive scanning, an entire frame is shown together, with each line scanned "progressively", in sequence just like existing computer displays. There’s also a choice of 24, 30 or 60 frames per second and a choice of standard 4:3 or widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio. In total there are 18 formats, each suited to a specific purpose.

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In the US, digital TV will initially arrive through over-the-air (terrestrial) broadcasts in previously unused portions of the VHF/UHF spectrum. Standard VHF/UHF antennas will provide reception.

In Canada, only 20% of homes receive terrestrial broadcasts in this manner, and this is currently not an economically viable solution for Canadian broadcasters. Canada will likely see initial DTV offerings coming through a cable, MMDS or satellite distributor rather than over-the-air. Any Canadian DTV service will have to follow Canadian Government procedures, policies, and CRTC regulations that are currently being developed.

Different networks may choose different formats. A network might go one way, and some of its affiliates may go another. A single station might broadcast HD (1080 or 720 lines) for prime time and SD (480) at other times. The format you receive will be determined by the content provider, and theignal distributor.. Regardless, your Digital TV will be able to display any digital signal.


Digital and Analogue Broadcasts

When Will Digital Television Arrive?

United States

The U.S. has launched DTV in its 30 largest cities, and currently 50% of U.S. homes now have access to digital TV signals. By November 1999, the majority of Americans will have access to digital TV programming. By May 1, 2021 all TV stations in the U.S. must be broadcasting in DTV, and they must simulcast their programming in NTSC until 2006.


Canada has adopted the ATSC transmission standard, and Industry Canada has made spectrum available so that Canadian programming providers may begin digital transmissions. The Canadian digital strategy is to allow the Canadian marketplace to follow the roll-out implemented in the U.S. Although cable, MMDS, and satellite services may deliver ATSC signals sooner, Canadian "over-the-air" broadcasts will likely be 18 to 24 months behind last Novembers U.S. launch of digital TV..

CDTV is working with the Government on transition issues, as well as establishing a DTV testing facility in Ottawa.

When Broadcasters Begin Transmitting Digital TV Signals, What Happens to Current Analogue Televisions?

Nothing. The current Analogue signals will be broadcast just as they are today until the transition to Digital TV is complete which is not expected until after 2006 in the US, and has yet to be determined in Canada as explained below.

How Long will Current Conventional Analogue TV Signals Be Available?

Since the transition to digital TV will take a long time to complete, you’ll be able to watch Analogue broadcasting for years. As a point of reference, it took 13 years for sales of colour televisions to surpass black-and-white sales. In comparison, digital television represents a change of even greater complexity. The earliest that Analogue stations may be allowed to shut down in Canada has yet to be determined but it is likely to be beyond the year 2010. Because Analogue broadcasting will be with us for years, new digital television receivers will also receive and display Analogue TV signals.


Are The Digital Signals I Receive Today via Cable, Satellite, or MMDS the Same as Digital TV?

No. As of July 1999, the new digital services provided by Direct To Home Satellite, MMDS and Cable provide superior CD quality sound and an enhanced picture, however they cannot be considered either standard orhigh definition digital TV because they are not originally produced in digital These current distributors transmit compressed digitized Analogue signals that are then reconverted to an Analogue signal compatible with today’s Analogue televisions, using a set top box also known as a converter. For consumers to receive DTV signals, the programs must be in a digital format, and be digitally transmitted.


What About the TV I Own Now and the Next TV I Buy?

When Analogue Signals Are no Longer Available will the Analogue Television I Own Today, or Buy Tomorrow, Become Obsolete?

No. Consumers will be able to continue to use them by adding a converter box to translate the digital signal to an Analogue signal that can be received by today’s televisions. Therefore, you can enjoy your Analogue TV for many years to come.

Consumers will be able to continue watching Analogue broadcasts, cable, videocassettes, DVD and satellite as well as watch the new DTV broadcasts using a DTV-to-NTSC converter box – that will be more affordable than an integrated digital TV receiver. The converter box will deliver many of the benefits of DTV broadcasting including DTV programming, superior picture and clear sound. However, an Analogue television cannot display the full quality of High-Definition images or sound.

If I’m Buying an Analogue TV Today, What Features Should I Look For?

A high-quality Analogue TV continues to be a solid entertainment choice. It lets you watch conventional programming now, delivered over-the-air television, cable, satellite, MMDS and home video. In the future, with the addition of a DTV-to-NTSC converter you will able to continue to view the analogue and DTV programs on you analoue TV. All Digital set top converter boxes will come with composite, S-Video and component connections to ensure that it will be compatible with the input on your analogue TV. Component and S-Video connections give the highest picture quality when connected to a DTV-to-NTSC converter box.

Should the Next TV I Buy Be Digital?

That depends on your budget and how you receive television signals today. No question, when Digital TV arrives, it will be outstanding. You, the consumer has to determine whether the cost to own this new technology right away is worth it.

Here Are Some Considerations:

Finally, when in doubt, ask. The word Digital is now everywhere, including in the names of components in existing televisions. A TV that has a digital comb filter is not necessarily a Digital TV, nor is it any more Digital Ready than any other TV. You can future proof yourself by asking and learning.

Digital TV is going to revolutionize the Home Entertainment TV Industry.