Setting up a new home theater and getting it to work right does not need to be difficult. We have put together a list of questions and answers that may help to simplify things and get your home theater set up correctly.
OK, so you just bought a new HDTV and you need to get it hooked up and running. The first thing that you need to realize is that a high definition television will only display high definition images if you provide it with a high definition video signal. That means that you will need to subscribe to HD services from your cable or satellite service. You will also find that there are a limited number of channels that transmit in high definition. Typically, they are different channels than the standard resolution channels you would view.
One other thing to note is that I have yet to see any HD service that provides high definition television in the best 1080p format. Some achieve 1080i, but many only transmit in 720p. There are different degrees of high definition and you need to ask your cable or satellite service which type they provide.
If you are not familiar with HDTV terminology, check out our HDTV terminology article.
What about my video players?
The HD rule also applies to VHS and DVD players. High definition is not available for VHS. Standard DVD players transmit standard resolution images. There are some newer DVD players that have an upconverting or upscaling feature that improves the resolution, but this only works correctly if you use the proper cables and connections. Also, pay attention to the type of upscaling a DVD player will do. Some players only upconvert to 720p, while others upconvert to 1080i. If your budget is tight and you do not plan to purchase an HD DVD or Blu-Ray player, an upconverting DVD player can be a good investment.
Almost all newer HD DVD and Blu-Ray players include an upconverting feature when playing standard DVDs. Once again, check the specs to see how far they will upconvert a standard resolution video. The better players upconvert to 1080p, but some only upconvert to 1080i.
Why does the picture on my HDTV look bad?
If you get too close to a standard resolution image played on an HDTV, it may look fuzzy, grainy, or it may show strange horizontal lines. That’s because the TV is converting a 480 line image to an image with 720 or 1080 lines. Because 480 is not evenly divisible into either resolution, some distortions may be created. The best ways to combat this are to choose the size of the screen based upon the proper HD viewing distances or by turning down the brightness, contrast or sharpness. The quality of the signal from your cable or satellite service provider also plays a role.
I don’t know why, but the out-of-the-box video quality for many HDTVs is pretty bad. You will have to tweak the video setting for most HD home theater installations. Once you get it set up right and back away from the screen to the proper viewing distance, most of the image quality problems should disappear.
You should not experience any of these problems if you are watching a high definition video from a high definition player or from a high definition television service provider, provided that you are using the proper cables and connections.
Do I need an HDMI cable to achieve a 1080p video resolution?
Yes. An HDMI cable is a special interface that is designed to transmit high definition video and audio signals. Most high definition players offer alternative connections, such as component video or S-video, but these signals are analog and are not high definition. If you want the best quality from your HDTV, you should invest in an HDMI cable.
If your television does not have an HDMI connection, but does have a DVI (digital video interface) connector, you can use that. DVI is a digital connection and can transmit high definition video. But DVI just does video. You will need additional connections for the audio. DVI connectors are available, as well as adapters to convert HDMI cables to DVI.
What about using component video?
Component video is theoretically capable of transmitting high definition, but it is an analog signal and may not achieve the best high definition with your HD television. If you are serious about a high definition home theater, you really need to consider using HDMI cables.
So what do I do if my TV does not have and HDMI or DVI connector?
If your television and players have component connection, you may be stuck using that. If you do not at least have component connections, you cannot achieve high definition quality.
What does the refresh rate mean?
The refresh rate is the number of times the video is repainted on the screen. The standard refresh rate for HDTVs is 60 Hz, which means the full image is displayed 60 times per second. Some of the higher-end HDTVs use a 120 HZ refresh rate. This will substantially reduce blurs due to motion. 120 HZ technology basically compares two video frames and creates an additional frame in between based upon changes between the two real frames. If you like action movies, this can be a worthwhile investment.