Dish announced today plans to set a new standard for high-definition (HD) broadcasting. The company says it will offer 1080p resolution, or what could be called true “high definition,” to its customers. Only Blu-ray discs and HD DVDs offer that high of a resolution. It would be an upgrade that many thought was years away.
And yet satellite provider DISH Network says starting tomorrow 1080p will be activated and available on all MPEG-4 HD DVR receivers. The upgrade makes use of a unique feature of the receivers that allows them to read MPEG-4 compressed video and audio. DISH will celebrate their upgrade by offering I Am Legend in 1080p at a discounted price throughout August.
Is this for real? Sure. MPEG-4 is a superior compression scheme that surpasses MPEG-2, which is the current television industry standard. MPEG-2 was introduced in the early 90’s mainly for television broadcast. MPEG-4 was introduced in 1998 and was touted as being the next compression scheme because of its ability to code faster in a single pass, its streaming advantages over MPEG-2, and its adaptability to other uses like phone and web video transmission.
Was this DISH Network’s trojan horse? I think so. I’m tempted to switch to DISH today, although rival DIRECTV also announced future plans to offer 1080p. If DISH can maintain their ability to offer true high-definition resolution, they will have a substantial advantage over other providers who made need years to convert all their technology to be MPEG-4 compatible. This is a jump in technology that I thought I may never see.
Oh why didn’t I buy a 1080p set? Well, I lost. I picked my 720p because the quality seemed a bit better than the 1080p set I was comparing to. But since my HDTV is only 32″, I doubt it would make much difference. Upgrade to a 42″ or bigger and yes, you will see a difference in quality. Anyone who runs Blu-ray discs will be able to attest to the added details and range of values 1080p content delivers.
So what’s the next big surprise in high definition? Will Ultra HDTV suddenly become a reality?