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Florence's Gets Its First HDTV Station
WBTW-DT began broadcasting CBS primetime high definition programming this week. For the first time, local HDTV programming is available in our area. WBTW-DT has been on the air since January 2002, but until now has only been a simulcast of their standard definition programming. WBTW-DT is located on channel 56 and can be received with a digital television tuner. CSI, The District, and JAG are just a few examples of shows that are now available in HDTV. Before this week, the only available HDTV in our area was via satellite or from Columbia's digital TV stations.
According to documents filed with the FCC, WPDE-DT and WWMB-DT expect to be on the air by the end of the year. Hopefully, WPDE-DT will begin broadcasting in time for the Superbowl, which is to be produced in HDTV this year. Most of ABC's primetime lineup is available in HDTV as well. ABC's digital high definition programming is currently only available via WOLO-DT from Columbia, but is fairly easy to receive in the Florence area.
The quantity of HDTV programming has significantly increased over the last year. Most of CBS and ABC's primetime lineup is in HDTV. CBS has been the leader in HD sports this past year with events such as The Masters, U.S. Open, and the NCAA Final Four. PBS and Warner Brothers, although not available locally, feature an occasional show in high definition. NBC produces Jay Leno nightly in HDTV and has a few primetime shows as well. HBO and Showtime have HD versions of their premium channels. They are available through both satellite providers. Discovery has a new channel called Discovery HD Theater. It is available only on Dish Network. If HD sports and documentaries interest you, then DirecTV has a channel called HDNet. ESPN recently announced that it would be launching ESPN-HD in the spring of 2003.
Prices of digital television equipment have been steadily dropping over the last year. Samsung makes a 30 widescreen HDTV that retails for less than $1000. On average, a digital television costs about 50% more than an equal sized traditional TV. Purchasing an HDTV now is a reasonable option for most budgets and provides some insurance against obsolescence. The analog broadcasting that began in the 1940's is scheduled to end on December 31, 2006. After that date, your current television will require a cable style converter box to down convert the digital signal to an analog one if you wish to continue using your current TV.
Digital high definition television represents a huge leap in picture quality. Some people consider HDTV to be the biggest advance in television since the introduction of color in the 1960's. HDTV is up to six times more detailed than DVD's and is ten times sharper than traditional over the air TV or VHS videos. The colors are much richer, the picture has perfect digital clarity without any artifacts, the sound is CD quality surround sound, and the screen is wider. The wider shape is probably the first thing that people notice.
Traditional television screens appear essentially square. They are actually a little wider than they are tall. The technical description of the shape is a 4:3 aspect ratio. HDTV is about a third wider and is presented in a 16:9 aspect ratio. This is similar to the shape of a movie theater screen and is closer to the normal field of vision. When shopping for a TV, deciding between 4:3 and 16:9 is one of the first steps. 16:9 is the preferred format for watching DVD's and HDTV. This avoids the black bars at the top and bottom of the picture.
In order to experience WBTW-DT's high definition programming, you will need an HDTV monitor and a digital television tuner. The signal is best received using an outdoor antenna. The antenna should be pointed towards WBTW's tower in Dillon. Since all of our local digital TV stations will be in the UHF band, a UHF only antenna should be sufficient. UHF only antennas tend to be much smaller than combination VHF/UHF antennas. I have had the best results with Channel Master's model 4248. A Radio Shack model 15-2160 should also work well.
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