Home Electronics: Are you ready for a home theater?... by Kathy Scott
Few shoppers can pass by the big-screen television display at their local electronics store without stepping back and imagining one in their own home. Package that television together with four speakers, a subwoofer for bass projection, and a DVD/CD/MP3 player and you've constructed your own home theater system.
While the prospect of building your own home theater may seem like an overwhelming task, look no further than your local retailer. A Home Theater In a Box (HTIB) is offered by nearly every electronics manufacturer, and you don't have to be a tech genius to put it together. For as little as a few hundred dollars and stretching well into the thousands, HTIBs are available for every pocketbook and come easy to install with most connection cables provided. Every package is different, and some may not include audio equipment like a DVD/CD/MP3 player. Make sure your new HTIB has enough auxiliary inputs to connect additional audio/video devices if needed.
If you're also in the market for a new television, you'll notice it's no longer as simple as choosing the size. Today, shoppers need a dictionary to navigate through all the anagrams associated with televisions - DTV, SDTV, EDTV and HDTV. Know the lingo ahead of time in order to decide what product is best for you.
What's an HDTV? In the high tech world of television, everything comes down to picture resolution and format. By the end of 2006, digital signals are supposed to replace analog transmissions sent by broadcasters per an FCC mandate that will help to free up scarce and vital bandwidth.
Most homes today have analog televisions, which resolve an analog signal by reading 480 horizontal lines of information. Standard Definition Television (SDTV), a form of DTV, works the same way but reads 480 horizontal lines of digital information. The signals are processed by the television using a technique called interlacing that updates half of the picture every 60th of a second. This type of resolution is noted as 480i.
EDTV or Enhanced Definition Television, another type of DTV, resolves images with somewhat more sophistication using a process called progressive scanning. This technique actually scans an entire image and updates it every 60th of a second providing a smoother picture with less flicker than those associated with interlacing. Progressive scanning, using 480 horizontal lines of information, is depicted as 480p.
High Definition TV (HDTV) is slightly more complicated, because it refers not only to the way a picture is resolved, but also the format in which it is viewed. It is considered a premium among home theater enthusiasts because HDTV programming is often transmitted together with Dolby digital surround sound. This helps to mimic the sensation of being in a real movie theater. HDTV resolves a picture using both interlacing and progressive scanning technology, but it processes more lines of information than SDTV and EDTV. HDTV can resolve 720 and 1080 horizontal lines of information making the television resolution practically seamless, processing as 720p, 1080i and 1080p respectively.
Unlike other programming, HDTV uses a wide screen format similar to the wide span of a theater screen. Referred to as the aspect ratio, the typical television program has an aspect ratio (the ratio between the width of the picture and the height of the picture) of 4 by 3. The aspect ratio of HDTV is 16 by 9. This may sound like the perfect choice for a home theater system, but most television programming still uses the 4 by 3 aspect ratio. Wide screens do have ways of stretching or cropping the smaller aspect ratio to fit the screen, but it can distort the image.
If you plan on using your home theater strictly to view movies, DVDs, sports and other HDTV programming, HDTV is a great choice. On the other hand, if you are more interested in crisp, clear television programming look no further than a digital television with enhanced options like SDTV and EDTV. Whichever you choose, you can count on DTV to provide lucid, spectacular viewing for years to come.