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How is digital TV progessing in your part of the world?


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#1 Keith Walters

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 03:57 AM

I'm interested to hear about the progress of digital TV broadcasting in other parts of the world. A lot of countries have now ceased or limited analog TV broadcasts, but that doesn't necessarily mean everybody is now watching digital TV, since a lot of people are still watching analog via cable, the same way they always have.

Digital TV broadcasts started in Australia in 2000, but for the first half of the decade they almost all consisted of “business as usual” studio composite PAL fed into an MPEG2 transmitter in parallel with the existing analog transmitter.

Back in the 1990s, when the spectre of digital TV began to appear on the horizon with its potential support for many more channels, the established commercial players fought tooth and nail to prevent these new channels being licensed to “outsiders”, shrieking that if the government allowed that, we would wind up with a sub-standard service of cheap reality TV shows and endless re-runs.

The original DTV proposal was to allow three Standard Definition and One High Definition programmes to be transmitted as DVB-T in the7MHz bandwidth of one of the previously unused channel frequencies, usually one adjacent to the existing equivalent analog service.

So the existing network owners successfully fended off the threat of competition by retaining ownership of all the sub-channels of their new digital transmitters, but until quite recently, all four of the Networks’ channels were simply simulcasts of the existing Analog signal: three SD copies, and one HD copy, and for a long time, all conversions from the composite PAL analog feed! It was really hard to explain this bizarre setup to people buying Digital TVs and set top boxes, I can tell you.

Eventually the networks began to convert their studios to digital operation, finally having the single HD channel as their flagship channel, originated in HD, but with the other three still carrying three SD copies of the HD channel.

However this didn't last very long, and in rapid succession the three commercial networks and the Government-run ABC changed their HD services to special-interest formats (Sports, women-centric, man-centric, and 24 hour news), their flagship channels reverting to SD. We now have the ludicrous situation of first-run prime-time shows being shown in 576i, while the re-runs are shown later in 1080i!

At approximately the same time, the networks finally started introducing alternative channels, instead of just three copies of the main programme, which quickly degenerated into “sub-standard services of cheap reality TV shows and endless re-runs”! Which has now pretty much spread to the HD services as well.

So we now have the ABC, 7, 9 and 10 networks broadcasting the main channel in 576i, and three channels of low-rent crap variously in 576i, 1080i and 720p. The special interest SBS (similar to PBS) is the only one that simulcasts the main program in both HD and SD.

With analog transmissions set to end in the major cities late next year, there's not an awful lot to entice viewers to make the change any earlier, although the longer they leave it, the cheaper the sets will become of course!

How is free-to-air digital TV faring in other parts of the world? Does anybody actually broadcast 1080p (that is 1980 x 1080)? And is it real 1080p or just crap video in a 1080p “container”?
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#2 Freya Black

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 05:18 AM

Digital TV broadcasts started in Australia in 2000, but for the first half of the decade they almost all consisted of “business as usual” studio composite PAL fed into an MPEG2 transmitter in parallel with the existing analog transmitter.


Composite? Are you sure? They don't supply an SD componenet PAL feed to the transmitter? Or an SDI feed?

How is free-to-air digital TV faring in other parts of the world? Does anybody actually broadcast 1080p (that is 1980 x 1080)? And is it real 1080p or just crap video in a 1080p “container”?


I think all the original specs for high definition TV went up to 1080i only. I think there have been some more recent changes to this but certainly none of the set-top boxes were made to support it. Here in the UK HD broadcasting is in 1080i, because it's a bigger number and so better innit. We mostly have HD on SAT TV. They have recently tried to cram the 4/5 main channels onto a tiny space in terrestrial tv but most people don't have any kind of setup for High Def unless they are on SAT or cable. The bitrates on the terrestrial version of HD are scary low but...

...so are the SD channels. Here in the UK we went the other way. Digital TV here is mostly all about standard definition and lots of it! We have loads and loads of Standard def channels. The government have always seen digital as an opportunity to free up some of the broadcast spectrum and sell it to mobile operators at vastly inflated prices. So digital is all about cramming lots more TV into a small space. They have struggled to find space for a few HD channels at all and SD channels are massively compressed. I was shocked when I first saw digital TV as the picture quality was so poor compared to analogue. Since then they have dropped the bandwidth a lot to cram more in.

Of course the UK is the home of vaccuous poop and "reality" tv etc Theres plenty of choice if that is what you are into. Most people I know are now very happy with everything their computer has to offer instead, including picking up the odd programme from the iplayer, but UK TV had been very low quality for quite some time now.

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Freya
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#3 Keith Walters

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 07:29 AM

Composite? Are you sure? They don't supply an SD componenet PAL feed to the transmitter? Or an SDI feed?

Absolutely sure. Apart from people I know who work there confirming it, you could clearly see the remaining traces of the colour subcarrier on the digital transmissions. You still do on a lot of regional news feeds.
I don't know about other countries, but here, component video distribution simply didn't happen, in TV studios at least.
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#4 Freya Black

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 08:06 AM

Absolutely sure. Apart from people I know who work there confirming it, you could clearly see the remaining traces of the colour subcarrier on the digital transmissions. You still do on a lot of regional news feeds.
I don't know about other countries, but here, component video distribution simply didn't happen, in TV studios at least.


In the UK component happened a little bit but then SDI came along quite quickly afterwards and was obviously better but also way more economical as you could re-use the composite cables for SDI, without extra wiring or re-wiring which might be VERY expensive. So component was a bit of a short lived thing that only got used slightly in different parts of the chain.

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Edited by Freya Black, 15 July 2012 - 08:07 AM.

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#5 Francesco Bonomo

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 05:15 PM

Italy has completed the 100% "switch off" to digital tv last month. No HD available yet, so it looks...well....ok, I guess, but it doesn't really matter since the quality of programs is crappy, at best (and getting worse). If you want HD here, you must have a SKY decoder, but the compression is so high that sometimes it looks like UBER-sharpened standard dvd-quality.
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