HDTV owners are faced with a very real challenge when it comes to figuring out what to watch on their new High Def sets. After all, with only a handful of HDTV channels available from most service providers and the fact that the high def DVD format war is still very much undecided (though a lot of indications point towards Sony’s Blu-ray format coming out on top), it can be pretty difficult to figure out where to get a decent amount of high def programming. At least it’s a lot better than it was a few years ago before high def DVD’s were available at all, and HDTV channels were even more limited!
There are other options for enjoying and getting more out of an HDTV set though. One good alternative is upconversion. Upconversion is a technique that electronically increases the resolution of a TV image to more closely match that of a real HDTV picture. Basically, an upconverter will analyze an image and add pixels to the picture that are similar to the pixels surrounding the empty space. Put another way, upconversion fills in the gaps in the quality of the picture that would otherwise be left by displaying a standard definition TV picture on a high def TV set. This technology definitely improves the picture beyond what you would get with an ordinary TV picture, but not to the same level of detail and quality that you would get with a recording that’s true HDTV.
There are a number of devices on the market that take advantage of upconversion technology. One of the most popular devices is a DVD player that plays conventional DVD’s that have a resolution of 480p and bump it up to resolutions that are much closer to the 720p, 1080i, and 1080p that truly count as high definition pictures. Of course the end result won’t meet the high level of quality reflected in those resolutions, but they will be close. This type of upconversion that’s built into DVD players is a good way to take advantage of DVD’s that you might already have- as well as those that you rent- without having to invest in a high def DVD player that may or may not be compatible with anything a year from now.
Another device that takes advantage of upconversion technology is the Vudu. The Vudu is a set top box that takes advantage of your broadband Internet connection to download video in standard definition resolutions and then boost its resolution up to HDTV quality before delivering it to your TV screen. This technique of downloading video in standard def and then upconverting it is certainly a good way to save bandwidth on the network connection, but it really doesn’t provide the quality of a real High Def picture. By all accounts it seems that the Vudu’s technique is more of a short cut than a way to offer quality.
Another good solution comes in the form of the Play Station 3 from Sony. The Play Station 3 is a video game platform that plays high def movies from Blu-ray discs. The device also has the ability to upconvert normal DVD’s and the graphics of older play station video games to high def resolutions. While this does represent an investment in high def DVD technology, it’s also a good way to get a variety of entertainment in one device.
Despite the shortcomings of upconversion, it does have a decent amount of potential as an alternative for HDTV viewing.