Let’s face it; there’s never been a better time – in terms of content and viewer experience – to watch television. Why? Because we now have access to incredible digital technology that has transformed the relationship we have with what used to be just a square box in the corner of the room. Digital TV offers not only entertainment but also an experience – and one that we can sometimes even participate in.
What is ‘digital’ TV?
It’s a way of receiving your television signal in a digital, rather than an analogue format. Prior to the availability of digital TV, signals were transmitted in a manner similar to radio rather than via a network of high-speed fiber optic cables.
The signal of analog television was transmitted in AM, whilst the audio was transmitted in FM. The amount of bandwidth assigned to old analog TV channels restricted the resolution and overall quality of the image.
When did it become available?
Digital terrestrial television was introduced in Australia on 1 January 2001 in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth and was then rolled out throughout the rest of the country.
NTSC and PAL
PAL is the format used in Australia, most parts of Asia, and some European countries. It stands for Phase Alternation Lines (625 lines) and offers greater picture detail and wider luminance (meaning intensity of color).
NTSC on the other hand, is the format used in the United States and Canada. It stands for ‘National Television Standard Committee’, which was the body that established the American TV broadcast TV standard as a 525 line broadcast.
A TV signal is made up of interlaced half-frames. PAL delivers a frame rate of 25fps (frames per second) with 625 lines, while NTSC delivers a rate of 29.97 fps using 525 lines. The color information is also set up differently. Although most TVs have the ability to display both 50 and 60Hz signals, without proper decoding of the PAL or NTSC signal, the color information would be lost in translation and the picture appears black and white. Fascinating stuff, huh? But what does it all mean?
Picture quality and reception
Digital television delivers a far more superior image and sound quality than old-fashioned analogue TV. In fact, the two are incomparable. Reception is also much less affected by adverse weather conditions.
The highly efficient nature of digital broadcasting means that many, many more channels can be received through a standard TV aerial. But it’s important to have correct antenna installation undertaken by one of the many reputable companies in Melbourne.
In addition to the high number of channels available, digital TV also enables a greater ‘interactivity’ for viewers, who are able to communicate directly with the channel or channels they are watching. Essentially, information like scheduling can also be shown simultaneously on the screen, as most set-top boxes come with an electronic program guide (EPG). This provides information on who is in the program and its start and finish times.
Many EPGs also have features specifically for hearing and visually impaired viewers, including audio description, subtitles, on-screen signing and talking EPGs. This has helped transform the lives of those previously denied the pleasures of watching TV due to loss of hearing. It’s also a great way to watch foreign films in translation, or even programs that are difficult to follow due to, for eg, the actor’s strong accent.
It’s difficult now to imagine our lives before the digital revolution, when there was a choice of just a few channels and reception was patchy at best. How lucky we are to be watching TV in the twenty-first century!