You’ve seen that commercial for the DTV transition right? Well, they don’t mention the best part about digital transmissions. You can get free HD (High Definition) digital broadcasts over-the-air. Not only that, you can get multi-channels (or sub-channels) in addition to the major networks. How does it all work?
DTV (Digital Television) allows for the broadcast of digital, rather than analog signals. Digital transmissions take up less bandwidth than analog so additional channels can be broadcast. Multi-casting, made available through the increase in amount of bandwidth, allows for additional channels like 2-1, 2-2, 2-3, etc. You just have to have an antenna and digital television or converter to see the channels.
Typically, video compressed in MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 will allow up to 5 standard-definition channels or up to 2 high-definition channels. Most high-definition channels are available on channel 2-1, 4-1, 5-1, and so on.
HD channels are about the best quality you can get in broadcasting. The quality is as good or surpasses the quality from satellite, cable and fiber-optic providers. It should be noted that high-definition quality also has a lot to do with the original content. So for example a film from the 70’s may not have the same quality as a recently released film. To be fair, try switching from an over the signal to a provider signal to see the difference.
Over-the-air audio is also great quality because it is uncompressed. HDTV provides 5.1 channel surround sound audio using Dolby Digital AC-3 format. The audio hasn’t been normalized so it will be much lower in volume than the audio you get with your cable or television provider.
To get HD broadcasts over-the-air all you need is an HDTV with digital tuner and antenna. A set of rabbit ear antennas will work, however if you want more stable transmissions try a rooftop antenna. The only downfall to using antennas is that the signals are susceptible to obstacles. When the digital signal is slightly obstructed, it will result in pixelation of the image.
HD broadcasts over-the-air are limited to the major networks like ABC, CBS, NBS and PBS. So, if you’re an avid TV watcher you may want to have a service provider as well as an over-the-air antenna set up. To check local HD channel listings in your area go to TitanTV.