HDTV - High-Definition Television

You've probably heard about HDTV, or high-definition television. It promises better picture and sound, but what do you need in order to watch it? And should you consider it?

A shopper looking at an HD program says, "it is, it looks a lot clearer. The picture's really crisp. Yeah, I think it looks good." Another says, "it's real clear. There's no interference or anything in it."

These shoppers are getting a look at the future of television. HDTV is here, with a wider screen, more pixels for greater detail, and Dolby Digital surround sound.

A third shopper who has HDTV says, "It's great. It's clearer and sharper. The old picture wasn't bad but this is just definitely an improvement."

Before you can get HDTV at home, three things have to happen. First, you the viewer need an HDTV monitor and an HDTV tuner to receive the signal. Second, TV stations have to provide the signal over-the-air, through cable or by satellite. And third, the programs they send have to be MADE using new HD cameras. Right now, relatively few shows fall into that category, although the number is growing. You can still watch non-HD shows on your HD television. The station will either stretch the image to make it fit the screen, or you'll see black bars on both sides of the picture.

Valley residents can now get two HD stations over-the-air. We here at TV3 are starting to broadcast digitally on channel 49. WVPT, the PBS station, is broadcasting digitally on channels 11 and 21. Not many programs on the two stations though, are in HD. Adelphia Cable in Harrisonburg is evaluating how to best provide HDTV. Dish Network and Direct T-V both offer some HDTV channels by satellite.

Which brings us back to you. Should your next TV purchase be an HDTV? If it will be your "main" TV, Dan Peterson, the store manager of Crutchfield in Harrisonburg, says yes. "And this allows them the flexibility to grow with that technology as it becomes more and more available in the future."

HDTV monitors START at $800 at Crutchfield and a tuner will cost around $500. So $1,300 could get you into HDTV. Or you can wait on the tuner. In the meantime, you can still watch regular TV on the HD monitor. And with a progressive-scan DVD player, you can watch movies with the "theatre feel."

The government says the standard analog broadcasts are supposed to end in 2006. But it is not likely that deadline will be met. When that does happen, you will need either an HDTV set or a box to convert the digital signal for viewing on your old analog set.

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