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Digital Transition and Cable

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Old 07-27-2008, 08:44 AM   #1  
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Default Digital Transition and Cable

I've been trying to figure out how I will be affected by the upcoming transition to all digital, and I'm still not sure I understand the situation. Where I live, all of my programming is via cable as there are only two OTA stations you can get here. I have two HD sets with HD boxes from my cable provider (Comcast). No problem there. I also have 5 other TVs that are older and not digital. I currently do not have cable boxes for those sets, so only get the "analog" channels on them. However, Comcast is currently moving analog channels to their "digital" service, so I'm getting fewer and fewer channels on my sets without boxes. On Comcast's web site and in their commercials they say I don't need to worry about the digital transition, but not much more.

So my question is, do I really need to do nothing and everything will remain as it is? Or will I need to get boxes, and pay additional fees to Comcast, for all my TVs after the transition?
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Old 07-27-2008, 09:32 AM   #2  
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Originally Posted by jabaro View Post
I've been trying to figure out how I will be affected by the upcoming transition to all digital, and I'm still not sure I understand the situation. Where I live, all of my programming is via cable as there are only two OTA stations you can get here. I have two HD sets with HD boxes from my cable provider (Comcast). No problem there. I also have 5 other TVs that are older and not digital. I currently do not have cable boxes for those sets, so only get the "analog" channels on them. However, Comcast is currently moving analog channels to their "digital" service, so I'm getting fewer and fewer channels on my sets without boxes. On Comcast's web site and in their commercials they say I don't need to worry about the digital transition, but not much more.

So my question is, do I really need to do nothing and everything will remain as it is? Or will I need to get boxes, and pay additional fees to Comcast, for all my TVs after the transition?
The digital transition really only affects those who get 100% of their TV content by OTA (an antenna)

It does not affect those with Pay TV - CBL/SAT/TELCO

EDIT:

If you currently have a TV that uses an antenna for programming that is not attached to your cable service then yes - you will have to deal with that TV(s)

Last edited by Lee Stewart; 07-27-2008 at 09:49 AM..
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Old 07-27-2008, 09:45 AM   #3  
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So my question is, do I really need to do nothing and everything will remain as it is? Or will I need to get boxes, and pay additional fees to Comcast, for all my TVs after the transition?
Everything will likely not remain as it is, but the February 2009 transition won't be the driver of the changes you'll need to account for. Expect that more and more analog cable channels will be moved to digital, as they years go on, so at some point you may choose to add cable boxes to more of your analog televisions.
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Old 07-30-2008, 05:38 PM   #4  
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There are a couple different events going on here. Let's take these one at a time. First, the OTA transition is happening on Feb. 2009. This only affects over the air broadcasts from full power stations. Comcast, I understand, has made a commitment that they would handle those channels for you. Meaning, if you have Comcast, you have to do nothing for that transition. They will continue sending you those channels in analog. But note - these are just your local channels. Cable channels aren't affected by this.

Second event - migration of cable channels to digital. Comcast has already announced that they will be migrating all of their non-local channels to digital. They plan on hitting 20% of their markets by the end of this year, with the rest by 2010. It wouldn't surprise me if they did this in stages - meaning that you'll lose analog cable channels in stages between now and either the end of this year (if you're in that first 20%) or by 2010. Comcast is doing this to free up bandwidth for HD channels.

At the end of the day, when all this is done, you will only be able to get your local channels without the use of a set top box via Comcast. So, if you get your locals through Comcast (which you do), then you don't need to worry about the OTA transition happening in Feb. But if you don't get a set top box from Comcast, you won't be able to get any other cable channels.
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Old 07-30-2008, 06:12 PM   #5  
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There is something that will happen to cable subscribers at the transition that is due just to the transition. Most likely the analog feed provided to the cable companies from the local TV stations will be cut off and only the HD feed will be provided. In areas where this is the case, only the center part of the picture will be given to the SD channels. NBC and CBS have already moved their "bugs" to the center area of the picture to accomodate this about two months ago. Some cable companies may feed the 16:9 in letterbox, but most will not.
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Old 07-30-2008, 07:11 PM   #6  
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rbinck, you do know that there is digital SD from OTA in addition to HD? Why would not Comcast use the digital equivalent in place of the analog? I would expect the sources for much analog cable are truly digital. Where did you get the information that the source of analog 4:3 would be HD 16:9?
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Old 07-30-2008, 07:52 PM   #7  
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rbinck, you do know that there is digital SD from OTA in addition to HD? Why would not Comcast use the digital equivalent in place of the analog? I would expect the sources for much analog cable are truly digital. Where did you get the information that the source of analog 4:3 would be HD 16:9?
They will be using the digital equivalent. The analog will be gone. The cable companies will receive the digital feeds from the broadcasters, and they'll have to convert those feeds to analog for their customers. That's what Comcast will be doing.

As for the aspect ratio, all digital broadcasts are 16:9, whether SD or HD. For SD, though, they add in the black bars at the side - but those are actually part of the picture - they're sent by the broadcaster. The source will be 16:9. It all comes down to how the cable companies will translate that down to 4:3. If they send the picture as widescreen format (16:9), when it gets converted down to analog, you'll get black bars on the top and bottom of the picture. If they just chunk out the middle part of the picture, chopping off the ends, then you won't.

If you take a widescreen feed of a 4:3 picture, and translate it down to fit a 4:3 screen, and you don't do any modifications to the picture, you get a tiny picture in the middle, with black bars all around. Remember the black bars on the sides are part of the picture. So they get carried along too. But because the picture is really 16:9 (those black bars on the side are part of the picture) you end up with a widescreen picture on your SD screen (black bars on the top and bottom). I'm guessing that Comcast is going to do some translation of the picture to avoid that to the greatest extent possible.

If you want to see what I'm talking about, take your HD STB from Comcast, hook it up via say S-video to an SD TV, and flip to an HD channel - one that doesn't do stretch-o-vision, and wait for a 4:3 picture to show up on that channel.

Last edited by JPL; 07-30-2008 at 07:59 PM..
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Old 07-30-2008, 10:32 PM   #8  
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As for the aspect ratio, all digital broadcasts are 16:9, whether SD or HD.
This statement is false as far as the ATSC broadcast standard is concerned.

Under the ATSC standard, all HD OTA broadcasts are 16:9 with a frame resolution of either 1920x1080* or 1280x720. If side bars are needed for 4:3 content then the bars are part of the 1920x1080 or 1280x720 signal.

SD digital broadcasts can be either 4:3 or 16:9. In the case of 4:3 broadcasts, the side bars shown on a 16:9 screen are not part of the broadcast signal. They are added by the display. 4:3 SD broadcasts can have a frame resolution of 640x480 or 704x480 (vertically rectangular pixels). 16:9 SD broadcasts are always 704x480 (horizontally rectangular pixels).

See ATSC document A/53, the latest revision of which is available on the ATSC web site.

* It's actually 1088 with the bottom 8 rows black due to the requirements of MPEG-2 compression. The bottom 8 rows are stripped off by the tuner prior to display.

Last edited by BrianO; 07-30-2008 at 10:42 PM..
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Old 07-30-2008, 10:40 PM   #9  
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Such confusion. I thought digital tuners were more common now. Think people around here would know better.
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Old 07-31-2008, 04:53 AM   #10  
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If side bars are needed for 4:3 content then the bars are part of the 1920x1080 or 1280x720 signal.
That's what I said. Go back and reread what I wrote. The black bars are put in there as part of the picture. The part that's viewed is still 4:3, but the whole picture is 16:9 when you include the black bars.

This is in contrast to watching an SD broadcast on your widescreen TV, where the black bars are added in by your TV. It LOOKS the same to you, but it's not.

What exactly is false about what I wrote? I said the exact same thing you did!
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Old 07-31-2008, 12:03 PM   #11  
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NBC makes SD that is letterboxed from thier HD. Likely see more of that. A smaller 4:3 window inside the 4:3 does not seem likely to me. Digital SD with 4:3 would seem normal to me. Anyhow, before it happens people will talk. I remember hearing that scope HD would be mandatory. You do not really see that all the time.

I get all digital cable. I always figured that unless it was impossible, (ie low budget TV that had not upgraded) Comcast recieves digital feeds of all the channels. For the analog they would convert the digital SD. SD is still 4:3. 4:3 is described as part of the ATSC standard.

Maybe I did not see what was written, ever.
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Old 07-31-2008, 12:29 PM   #12  
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That's what I said. Go back and reread what I wrote. The black bars are put in there as part of the picture. The part that's viewed is still 4:3, but the whole picture is 16:9 when you include the black bars.

This is in contrast to watching an SD broadcast on your widescreen TV, where the black bars are added in by your TV. It LOOKS the same to you, but it's not.

What exactly is false about what I wrote? I said the exact same thing you did!
Read your own post again. You said "As for the aspect ratio, all digital broadcasts are 16:9, whether SD or HD." That statement is absolutely false.
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Old 07-31-2008, 01:24 PM   #13  
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Read your own post again. You said "As for the aspect ratio, all digital broadcasts are 16:9, whether SD or HD." That statement is absolutely false.
That was poorly worded on my part, I'll admit. I meant to say that the signal that you get will always be 16:9. If the picture is actually a 4:3 picture, then the broadcaster will include the black bars on the sides of the picture to make it look like 4:3 on your TV -- but technically speaking the aspect ratio of the picture IS 16:9 - it's just that part of that picture happens to be black bars. To get a sense of this, flip on CSN HD while they're showing a game in SD. What's on the sides? Are they black bars? Nope - they generally put in some kind of graphic on both sides. How can that be if the picture is really 4:3? It's not. Those side bars ARE part of the picture.

However, if the TV service provider doesn't do something to enhance the picture then you'll get a postage stamp of a picture on your old SD TV. That is, if you transmit a 4:3 picture over a digital channel (which runs at 16:9), then the channel provider puts in the black bars on the side. When you squeeze down a widescreen picture onto a 4:3 TV, the black bars on the side, since they are technically part of the picture, go with it. But because you're technically taking a 16:9 'picture' and pushing it to a 4:3 TV. Which means that you get black bars on the top and bottom too.

Like I said, to see what that looks like - hook up your HD STB to an SD TV via S-video, put it on an HD channel (one that doesn't do stretch-o-vision), and wait for a 4:3 picture to show up. If either the channel provider or the cable provider doesn't do something to correct that, then there are going to be alot of very ticked off people after the OTA transition happens.

Last edited by JPL; 07-31-2008 at 01:27 PM..
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Old 07-31-2008, 03:45 PM   #14  
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I've been trying to figure out how I will be affected by the upcoming transition to all digital, and I'm still not sure I understand the situation. Where I live, all of my programming is via cable as there are only two OTA stations you can get here. I have two HD sets with HD boxes from my cable provider (Comcast). No problem there. I also have 5 other TVs that are older and not digital. I currently do not have cable boxes for those sets, so only get the "analog" channels on them. However, Comcast is currently moving analog channels to their "digital" service, so I'm getting fewer and fewer channels on my sets without boxes. On Comcast's web site and in their commercials they say I don't need to worry about the digital transition, but not much more.

So my question is, do I really need to do nothing and everything will remain as it is? Or will I need to get boxes, and pay additional fees to Comcast, for all my TVs after the transition?
these 5 will need a box from you Cable Company; you're others are good to go.
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Old 07-31-2008, 04:09 PM   #15  
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Like I said, to see what that looks like - hook up your HD STB to an SD TV via S-video, put it on an HD channel (one that doesn't do stretch-o-vision), and wait for a 4:3 picture to show up. If either the channel provider or the cable provider doesn't do something to correct that, then there are going to be alot of very ticked off people after the OTA transition happens.
I have used the S Video, composite, and RF outputs for HD. I am very familiar with what you say. You are wrong to assume that the HD 16:9 will be the only picture available to display on 4:3 TV. 4:3 TV will continue indefinitely.

Jabaro will not be forced to get digital boxes, depending on the available channels.
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