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HD and Freesat questions and answers

Al posted some very good questions about HD and Freesat.

Al posted some very good questions about HD and Freesat.
published on UK Free TV

Al posted some very good questions about HD and Freesat.

"I know upscalers are not HD, they merely interpolate a SD signal to make it fit a HD screen"

It is very confusing that HD is used to mean several different technologies. High Definition refers to:

  • the resolution the number of picture cells of the screen;
  • the resolution of the encoded pictures;
  • the resolution of the source material;
  • as "HDMI" the digital connector between a set-top box and a display;


There are also a number of associated technologies, which come under the name MPEG4. These are used to encode the pictures, audio and data that you recognise as a TV signal.

Standard Definition (SD) is shorthand to refer to the resolution of PAL-type televisions. Technically this is called MP@ML, Main Profile at Main Level.

"My point was where a programme has been recorded in SD only, then it is still possible to have a HD only transmission service by the use of upscaling those programs to HD format - something I understand Sky do now with some of their content."

This is not necessary. MPEG 4 can work with sources at any of the defined resolutions. As a rule you should always transmit the material in the original format wherever possible. Interpolation before the data compression just results in unnecessary data, or a poor encoding.

"Point is it allows a HD only format channel in the interim between some programs and all programs being recorded in HD. "

This is exactly what you would expect from the history of television. BBC One started as BBC Television in monochrome, 405-line and moved first to 625-line colour and then to MPEG2 digital widescreen. This is true for all UK services.

You would expect the next transformation to be to HD.

"As for the hundreds of channels on Freesat currently, I understood that Sky Freesat and BBC Freesat were different entities."

The Eurobird 1 & Astra 2A/2B/2C/2D at satellites over the equator at 28.2E provide transmission services for the UK.

Broadcasters are quite free to upload any content to these satellites. Each transponder carries a digital stream in MPEG2 format that each has ten or more television channels.

Some of these services are free-to-air, some are encrypted. Anyone is free to point a dish at it and use a suitable decoder to watch the services.

The BBC and ITV channels are unencrypted and numerous. Each BBC and ITV region has to be carried on the satellites, as this is the only way to replicate the local services provided terrestrially.

To add to the confusion there are some services that are what is termed "soft encrypted", which means a card is required to decode them, but no subscription is required.

So, "Freesat From Sky" comprises all the free-to-air services PLUS a number of soft encrypted channels: Channel 4, five, five Life, five US and Sky Three. The Sky service also includes the Sky Electronic Programme Guide.

"The Sky Freesat being Sky's current free to air system and BBC Freesat being a BBC / ITV collaboration producing a new satellite service."

Sky's Digibox set-up is a special version of a satellite receiver. It contains a special Sky subscription card system, the Sky EPG and also a software system called "OpenTV".

The BBC/ITV Freesat service, called just "Freesat", will use all the existing free-to-air satellite broadcasts and provide a non-Sky EPG. There will be no subscription system and it will have the MHEG-5 software, as all Freeview boxes have.

In addition the boxes will be able to decode MPEG4 transmissions, which will allow high-definition services to be carried.

The Freesat boxes will be of various types, from a basic box to a high-end personal video recorder (PVR), like Sky+. Without the monthly fee, however.

"However, if they are the same, then the answer is still yes. If it is the same service then either way its done, those 9 million boxes will have to be changed one way or another."

This is always a dilemma of digital technology. If you make cheap, mass market decoders you have to fix the standard. All the Sky boxes out there are MPEG2, DVB-S.

So, all new HD services and any other SD services encoded with MPEG4 are totally invisible to anyone with an "old" box. So yes, over time, the whole system will move to MPEG4 in HD.

This provides an interesting question. If you have a SD channel, do you use MPEG4 or MEPG2?

"It's far better to set a defined changeover date and switch off the existing Freesat service on that date in favour of a new HD only service than to confuse consumers by having two parallel systems with intermixed programming of ever changing proportions that leaves people unsure about what, when and where to get HD content."

It might be, but it is not just Freesat from Sky people using the current free-to-air transmission, but all those Sky subscribers too. Until they have all got MPEG-4 boxes, you can't move to HD.

"I know you next reply will be what about the consumers who've only just bought a Sky Freesat SD box? Well the answer is: - exactly the same scenario will apply whether the switchover is made by gradual means, someone somewhere will have only just bought an SD Freesat box. "

I understand that the idea is that ALL Freesat boxes will be able to decode MPEG4, even if they output a downscaled version of HD channels on the SCART.

There is going to be many years of people moving from SD to HD satellite reception.

"If Sky wanted to soften the blow, then a simple trade in discount scheme for those who've bought boxes in the last 6 months would suffice I'm sure."

There's not much in this for Sky. Remember that Sky only provide a very few of their channels. They provide the subscription services, but they do not play-out, encode, multiplex, uplink most of the channels.

The only way that Sky will start swapping out boxes will be if they can make more money. At some point, as with the analogue satellite closedown, it becomes cheaper to force customers to have a new box than waste money on inefficient transmissions.

"All of this gradual rollout rubbish not only confuses consumers by blurring the issues of what programming is available where and when and what equipment is needed (2 parallel types) - this is quite contrary to the claims that it is avoiding confusing consumers."

You are right. Confusion isn't the half of it.

In the US, there has been a very simple transition from analogue, 4:3, SD to digital 16:9 HD. Each SD channel has simply transformed into a HD channel.

Whilst in the UK, we have transformed so slowly that the early start has meant that by the time we achieve terrestrial switchover, the technology will be out of date.

"The current analogue switch over is the slowest and most confusing thing out!! If that's the government's idea of helping consumers they should stick to politics."

To be honest, the government's policy is to not intervene. The satellites are provided by two companies, SES Astra and Eurobird. The uplinking by several UK companies, including BT. The channels by hundreds of broadcasters.

It is policy that the providers can do as they please.

"This current policy is also putting the UK behind the rest of the world."

Not really. Everyone in the EU is in the same kind of boat.

"I believe JVC has already announced that it's to start manufacturing test sets for the next generation of TV's dubbed 4k2K (4096x2160 pixel resolution) and that broadcasting trials of this format will commence in 2011 in Japan."

You can't measure other countries expectations against our current position. Also, other countries are more bothered about consumer choice than government income.

Help with High Definition?
Whenever i watch moving sport especially football I experience much poorer pictu1
[][][
In this section
Freeview removes com8 channels 1
20 Freeview HD TV channels to close March/June 2019 in Cornwall2
Channel 4 abandons Freesat HD in TWO DAYS3
Five tips for when you are buying a new TV to watch Freeview or Freesat4
Why do less than one in five people with an HD set watch in HD?5
All five public service channels now free to air!6

Comments
Thursday, 10 February 2011
Briantist
sentiment_very_satisfiedOwner

2:40 PM

Tom Williams: Why not just buy a Freesat HD box? No card is required. They start at £80 for a new one Buy Bush Freesat HD Digital Box at Argos.co.uk - Your Online Shop for Freeview digital set top boxes.
- only £50 more than the Sky card.

link to this comment
Briantist's 38,844 posts GB
Thursday, 17 March 2011
J
janice
1:30 AM
Bourne

Sometime last week I lost the ideal world create and craft channel 813. I have a Panasonic freesat tv with freeview, I can receive all other channels and the 813 sometimes, this is quite baffling, I have blamed the weather/tv until I saw the tv ad tonight saying sorry for the poor /no reception. I live in the PE10 0TB area. Will I get full recption back soon?

link to this comment
janice's 1 post GB
Briantist
sentiment_very_satisfiedOwner

9:09 AM

janice: You may need to do a "factory reset" on your TV to rescan for the channels, as they have moved to a different transponder

link to this comment
Briantist's 38,844 posts GB
Monday, 20 June 2011
A
andy young
6:06 PM

hi ,
i have just instaled freesat sd but the sound quality is not good (seems muffled) i have a new lmb quad & the signal is 97% i used a sat finder & got it spot on
is there any reason why sound is poor

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andy young's 1 post GB
M
Mazbar
sentiment_satisfiedGold

8:15 PM

Andy the set top box has its own volume control it will say vol + or - try this and press + till it is all the way up this could help by the way cheap sat finders are poor they tell you signal strength not signal quality this could cause problems in the rain hope this helps

link to this comment
Mazbar's 382 posts GB
Sunday, 26 June 2011
M
michael mcilmail
10:55 AM
Newtownabbey

is there freesat hd coverage in northern ireland

link to this comment
michael mcilmail's 1 post GB
Sunday, 17 July 2011
Briantist
sentiment_very_satisfiedOwner

6:39 PM

michael mcilmail : Yes, Freesat is UK wide.

link to this comment
Briantist's 38,844 posts GB
Sunday, 4 September 2011
A
Adey
7:11 PM

Does anybody know if the freeview channels not on freesat will become available to freesat and are there any plans to increase HD channels on freesat?.

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Adey's 19 posts GB
Tuesday, 6 September 2011
Briantist
sentiment_very_satisfiedOwner

8:50 AM

Adey: Freesat and Freeview are independent systems, there is no reason why a channels would be both systems.

Sky have entered into "exclusive" deals with channels to keep channels from broadcasting on Freesat, until these deals run out it is unlikely that there will be any more HD channels on Freesat. Please also see Freeview to get fifth HD channel, possibly by Christmas 2011 | ukfree.tv - independent free digital TV advice .

link to this comment
Briantist's 38,844 posts GB
Sunday, 11 September 2011
A
Adey
6:43 PM

Hi Brian , many thanks for your reply.I thought i'd ask about freesat because i've got a sky sat dish on the house and it's been doing zilch for the last 17months and i want to cut back on my virginmedia package as much as possible.With ref to deals that sky have with other broadcasters,what are we looking at 10 - 15yrs.If this is the case i think that sky are bloody cheeky , and i don't see why they should have the monopoly on tv channels.Over priced and over rated.

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Adey's 19 posts GB
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