HDTV: the better to see you with

National digitalization in Russia is going at full speed, by 2019 it is planned to have the whole country completely switched to digital television. Today, the new broadcasting standards, high definition TV and all the opportunities it gives viewers are the topics of extensive discussion. First, let’s get it straightened out what exactly HDTV is and what benefits it provides.

The term “high definition” appeared in the US in the 1930s leading to HDTV (High Definition Television), a TV standard which renders a much better picture quality in comparison to the familiar analog and digital standards.

Generally speaking, a digital TV picture’s “definition” is expressed by millions of pixels per second and is made from the number of horizontal lines, number of dots per line and the number of images downloaded per second. Through multiplying the number of pixels per second by a factor of at least five, the High Definition renders each plane extremely sharp through reproducing 3D effects of that image that was originally captured.

The idea of ​​a high quality television emerged a long time ago from widescreen movies turning into active work with HDTV. The thing was that people who sat in the front rows of movie theaters started to notice that they had a stronger feeling of “presence” with the picture by contrast to those who watched that same movie on TV. This didn’t escape the attention of developers in the mid-20th century and technologically advanced nations like Russia, Europe, USA and Japan were involved in elaborating the new television standard. It’s still unclear who was the first to start elaborating the HD standard but from 1960s all these countries started to deal with the subject almost simultaneously.

One of the first companies to achieve success was the Japanese broadcaster, Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK) that was involved in the development of high-definition television standards and devices in 1964. By the early 1980s NHK introduced the off-the-shelf HDTV standard with Sony, Toshiba and NEC also engaged in the project. Needless to say the developers presented all related equipment such as, the videotape recorder, video camera and color monitor.

The new TV format had 60 interlaced frames per second and 1125 lines with an aspect ratio (the width to height ratio on the screen) of 16:9. In comparison, SDTV (Standard Definition Television) has a lower resolution range where all terrestrial television formats (except the Western European PAL Plus) has a ratio is 4:3. The increased resolution with a progressive scan versus an interlaced one makes the picture extremely sharp. This enables the video signal to have an increased image resolution by offering 1080 active lines by 1920 pixels per line, instead of the 576 lines and 720 pixels per line that’s provided by the PAL TV standard (Phase Alternating Line, color encoding system for analog television). As a result, HDTV is 5 times more accurate than a PAL standard version.

In addition, NHK has developed a satellite broadcast system called MUSE that had a signal range of 11.7 – 12.5 GHz. Despite the huge cost of HDTV TV during those years (roughly 10 thousand US dollars), 150 thousand or so devices took its place in Japanese houses by 1990.

By the end of the 20th century a more affordable American format of HDTV 1080p came to change the MUSE system but it took the US over 18 years of development to come to the 1080p HDTV standard.

It should not be forgotten that the Soviet Union also played a role in global success in this area by creating a 625-line television standard during a time when the US only had a 343-line standard. During the 1980s Soviet developers presented two HDTV standards with a resolution of 1525 and 1250 lines in interlaced mode. The government believed if Europe had once adopted the standard 625i, then it would accept the technology related HDTV standard at the 1250i. The format was fully elaborated from a scientific and technological point of view to start running, but due to the Soviet Union economical collapse, the standard never came out of Soviet laboratories and gave impetus to develop the first wave of HDTV in Europe. However Russia decided later on to apply the US standard of 1080i.

In Europe, HD television was first used to show football matches of the European Championship in 1988. Since then, sports are considered to be one of the major performances worthy of high definition.