Simpsons in HD, finally.

3 03 2009

“It was bound to happen sooner or later” but I kept saying that and after all these years, the once really very popular show and still good (in my opinion) has finally converted their video to high definition. Yea I know that The Simpsons has been on the high definition broadcast of Fox but until March 1st, 2009, it wasn’t in full HD and what do I mean by that? 1360 pixels wide and 720 pixels tall. Essentially in widescreen mode as that is the industry accepted standard of what it means to be in HD. Seeing that nobody else has written about it to my knowledge, here’s my way of saying FIRST!

So what’s new? The intro has been altered (or was simply modified for the 1st episode in high def) and in the picture above, you can see gramps snoring in the car alongside Maggie and Marge. Previously gramps wasn’t in the car. He was standing on the roadside waving his walking stick and cursing at Bart.

Then the intro screen flew through some time periods like during the early 1900s and then into a Brady Bunch style run-about-the-house jig. Then a Cheers variation with the family seated at a bar and the “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” song playing in the background. I was half expecting something with NBC’s FRIENDS but I guess NBC must’ve put their foot down to ruin the moment for us all.

The episode itself was standard fare. Homer forgets to mail in his insurance and goes into a series of adventures trying to prevent himself from being liable for any damages. In the meantime, Bart gets sent out on a fake vacation to allow the school to get a good average score to make it to the “No Child Left Behind” act. It’s alright but definitely watchable. And it’s in high def so you’re not going to see the black vertical bars on the sides of your tv. Finally.

So keep your eyes peeled out on HULU to see if they’ve included the new episode. It’s already there. CLICK HERE!!!

PS: I’m so sorry for not putting up anything since early February.

EDIT: I just noticed that Grampa Simpson isn’t in the car initially with Marge and Maggie but pops up when they zoom in the inside of the car.


RIP (Toshiba) HD-DVD

19 02 2008

Today 02/19/08, Toshiba finally threw in the towel and gave-up their interests in the high definition dvd format war against Sony’s Blu-Ray. Gizmodo covered it up a bit but for the average folks out there, Toshiba and Sony initially developed the high-definition DVD standard but as the two company’s differences grew larger, they decided to split with Toshiba taking the “HD” moniker leaving the more ambiguous term “Blu-Ray” for Sony.

While Toshiba cozied up with big Shao Khan Microsoft and his henchmen in the movie industry, Sony worked hard to ingrain Blu-Ray DVD systems into their next generation gaming platform, the Sony Playstation 3 or PS3. The biggest cosmetic difference between the Blu-Ray and HD-DVD dvds are that the former can hold more than double the capacity of the latter. But to Toshiba’s credit, their disks are cheaper.

So anyway, slowly and steadily, Sony started to garner support as PS3 sales began to drive Blu-Ray player sales and certain notable Hollywood companies switched sides to the benefit of the makers of PrayStation3.

Transformers director Michael Bay made an allegation that Microsoft was simply holding hands with Toshiba to prolong the high-definition DVD war until digital downloads became the acceptable medium for media transfers. Could be saying the truth? It’s true that the add-on HD-DVD player for the Xbox 360 sucks and it can only be used to view HD-DVD movies compared to the PS3’s Blu-Ray player which plays PS3/PS2 games + Blu-Ray movies and doesn’t require you to make an additional purchase for the dvd component. Half-assed work from the big bad MS building credibility to the rumor reported by Michael “awesome” Bay.

So yea, in the end, one must fall. With too many defections from Hollywood studios, it was only a matter of time before Toshiba crumbled saving Sony from an embarrassing Betamax-like failure of the ’80s. To put in the final blow, Sony released an official statement mentioning they were open to the idea of Toshiba joining the Blu-Ray camp. FATALITY!

So what is this High-Definition DVD? Regular DVD videos are formatted for 480p resolutions. On an HDTV, those videos will be stretched to fit and on larger HDTVs, regular DVDs aren’t as impressive. This is where high definition dvds (720p, 1080i, 1080p) come into play as Sony’s Blu-Ray disks let you watch your favorite movies (with huge mark-ups of course) on crystal clear screens. You will require HDMI cables to transmit video/audio from the DVD player to the TV however to get that pristine picture and sound you deserve.

Misconceptions of “High Definition” (Part 2)

15 02 2008

So continuing the “High Definition” misconceptions and some answers from my previous post. We’ll start off with an easy question that might have raised ??? in many consumers.

Question: What do you mean by the “p” and “i” in 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 480p, 480i?
The “p” stands for “progressive” scanning and “i” for “interlaced” scanning. Progressive scanning will scan the entire screen from top to bottom without skipping lines. Interlaced scanning will scan every other line from top to bottom thereby giving you only half the resolution but outputted at the same size. Hence, the blurriness you notice on 480i (aka Standard Definition) screens when comparing them with 480p (aka Enhanced Definition) screens.

What is “resolution” you say? The quality of the video in layman’s terms.

Question: Why are some HD channels clearer and sharper than others?
HD channels are required by default to have a minimum of 720 pixels vertically and in a wide-screen format. The average computer monitor is 1024 pixels wide by 768 pixels tall at a 4:3 format. HDTVs running at 720p resolutions are usually 1388 pixels wide and 720 pixels tall at 16:9 aspect ratio format.

Taking that into consideration, not all video are shot or processed into a widescreen format. So tv producers will take a standard definition broadcast video feed and stretch it to fit 720 pixels vertically but since it’s SD and not a HD broadcast, it will be in 4:3 ratio instead of 16:9. That will explain the borders on the sides of some of the tv shows you see on your HD TV used to fill up the broadcast.

When videos are stretched, the technical term used is “upscaling”. Upscaled high def broadcasts aren’t very clear because they were originally 480 pixels tall and are now stretch to nearly twice their size.

Question: Why can’t I change resolutions in HD channels?
HD channels are already programmed to fit your tv screen. Hence even if there are side borders on some shows, you are unable to stretch it cuz the side borders are included in the broadcast.

Question: Why are larger computer LCD monitors more expensive than equally sized HDTVs?
LCD computer monitors can output higher resolutions than HDTVs. They can easily pack in twice or more pixels than even the best High Def TV.

Question: Are high def TVs and wide-screen computer monitors aspect ratios different?
Yes. Wide-screen computer monitors are standardized at 16:10 ratio compared to HDTV’s 16:9. Not sure why but that’s just the industry agreement.

Finally we end with another question that bothers most people…

Question: Do we have to get satellite or cable to watch high definition channels?
NO. High definition channels are already available over the air with the more spendy tv antennas. Cable tv and satellite providers all have their own plans and rates for what shows you can see on HD but if you just want the basic stuff like ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX, you can get em for free through your rabbit-ears and standard coax cables despite what people or “experts” say.

Cable and satellite tv providers will continue to give out standard definition (or sub-par) channels for now until competition mandates them all to bring out full HD channels.

Misconceptions of “High Definition” (Part 1)

18 01 2008

This topic has been bothering me lately. I have a friend who works in the audio/video department of a company involved with Disney World in Orlando which was why I was surprised by a few comments he made in respects to the popular high-definition (HD) video format market. I tried explaining the difference to him but sometimes it gets real hard to explain when you’d downed 8-9 beers within the hour at a bar and your team’s losing on TV (HDTV ironically) and the screen’s right in front of you.

My sober answers are all based on a summer full of physically experimenting LCDs, CRTs, HD-Ready, HD, and SDTVs with a wide array of cables and a nearly a year of research on them. This is just an attempt to reach out to the masses to clear up some confusion because if a video technician can be so wrong, what about the rest of you out there confused and puzzled about these things. Home improvement through purchasing a screen that can output high definition is what you do these days.

The pictures below from my tv are proof to him that I can see shows on both SD and HD formats through a standard coax-cable. If you’re not sure what that is, it’s the regular kinda cable you plug coming from a tv antenna or the plug-in on the wall.

Friend: HDTVs and HD-Ready TVs are the same. Just different names.
Truth: No. HDTVs come built in with both a digital and analog tuner. The digital tuner is able to output video in the range of 480p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p. HD-ready TVs only come with analog tuners and would require an external HD-tuner device. Both TVs however can output digital video, but only one has a tuner allows high definition broadcast video through coax-cables.

Friend: Ask any Best Buy employee and they will tell you both TVs are essentially the same because HD-Ready TVs can play 1080p video through BluRay players just like HDTVs.
Truth: Of course. They’re looking to sell their products. Both HD and HD-Ready TVs have digital output and are built like computer monitors and more. They can accept digital and analog signals from dvd players depending on the type of cables used.

Friend: Component cables aren’t high definition compared to HDMI.
Truth: Err sorta true. Component (aka YPbPr or RGB) and HDMI can both channel high definition data. The former is based on analog transmissions and there can be some minor (unnoticeable unless you’re a resolution nazi) loss in quality if the cable is beyond 6ft in length and has a max output of 720p. The latter is full digital so it either makes it to the output screen or it doesn’t and it’s output can be taken all the way to 1080p depending on the data.

Friend: 1080i is better than 720p or 720i.
Truth: Our high definition broadcast standards require “high definition” to be in a wide-screen format and starting at 720p. As far as I know, I haven’t seen or heard of 720i since an interlaced screen is basically halving the resolution leaving it at an unacceptable 360p which is even lower than EDTV (Enhanced Definition) resolution of 480p.

480i or standard definition format could be termed as 240p if you’d like because when standard definition video is being outputted to the screen, it skips every other line. So when you compare 1080i to 720p, remember that 1080i has the same amount of video you could see on a 540p resolution (540p screens do not exist) screen which is obviously lower than 720p.

Friend: You’re not watching REAL HDTV channels.
Truth: WRONG! A high-definition channel is any video feed that is being outputted at a resolution higher than 480 pixels tall or anything higher than the EDTV (enhanced definition) format, 480p. A video may not have to be considered DIGITAL if it’s not being fed through a direct digital physical connection. Just make sure it’s HIGH DEFINITION.

Do note that the above results won’t be possible through an HD-Ready TV unless you buy/rent a digital tuner box which will set you back by around 80 bucks a piece. Also, my TV has a max output of 1080i meaning it should be able to output 480i/p, 720p, and 1080i.