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Does DVD support HDTV (DTV)? Will HDTV make DVD obsolete?
Short answers: Partially. No.
First, some quick definitions: HDTV (high-definition TV) encompasses both analog and digital televisions that have a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio and approximately 5 times the resolution of standard TV (double vertical, double horizontal, wider aspect). DTV (digital TV) applies to digital broadcasts in general and to the U.S. ATSC standard in specific. The ATSC standard includes both standard-definition (SD) and high-definition (HD) digital formats. The notation H/DTV is often used to specifically refer to high-definition digital TV.
In December of 1996 the FCC approved the U.S. DTV standard. HDTVs became available in late 1998, but they are still expensive and won't become widespread for many years. DVDs are not HD, but they look great on HDTVs. Over 80 percent of the 2 million DTV sets sold in the U.S. in 2002 did not have tuners, indicating that their owners got them for watching DVDs.
DVD-Video does not directly support HDTV. No digital HDTV standards were finalized when DVD was developed. In order to be compatible with existing televisions, DVD's MPEG-2 video resolutions and frame rates are closely tied to NTSC and PAL/SECAM video formats. DVD does use the same 16:9 aspect ratio of HDTV and the Dolby Digital audio format of U.S. DTV.
HDTV in the U.S. is part of the ATSC DTV format. The resolution and frame rates of DTV in the US generally correspond to the ATSC recommendations for SD (640x480 and 704x480 at 24p, 30p, 60p, 60i) and HD (1280x720 at 24p, 30p, and 60p; 1920x1080 at 24p, 30p and 60i). (24p means 24 progressive frames/sec, 60i means 60 interlaced fields/sec [30 frames/sec].) The current DVD-Video spec covers all of SD except 60p. It's expected that future DVD players will output digital video signals from existing discs in SDTV formats. The HD formats are 2.7 and 6 times the resolution of DVD, and the 60p version is twice the frame rate. The ITU-R is working on BT.709 HDTV standards of 1125/60 (1920x1035/30) (same as SMPTE 240M, similar to Japan's analog MUSE HDTV) and 1250/50 (1920x1152/25) which may be used in Europe. The latter is 5.3 times the resolution of DVD's 720x576/25 format. HD maximum data rate is usually 19.4 Mbps, almost twice the maximum DVD-Video data rate. In other words, DVD-Video does not currently support HDTV video content.
HDTV will not make DVD obsolete. Those who postpone purchasing a DVD player because of HDTV are in for a long wait. It will take many years before even a small percentage of homes have HDTV sets. The CEA expects 10 percent of U.S. households to have HDTV in 2003, 20 percent by 2005, and 30 percent by 2006.
HDTV sets include analog video connectors (composite, s-video, and component) that work with all DVD players and other existing video equipment such as VCRs. Existing DVD players and discs will work perfectly with HDTV sets and provide a much better picture than any other prerecorded consumer video format, especially when using a progressive-scan player. Since the cheapest route to HDTV reception will be HDTV converters for existing TV sets, broadcast HDTV for many viewers will look no better than DVD.
HDTV displays support digital connections such as HDMI (DVI) and IEEE 1394/FireWire, although standardization is not quite finished. Digital connections for audio and video provide the best possible reproduction of DVDs, especially in widescreen mode. The DVD Forum finalized specifications for supporting 1394 and HDMI in 2002, and players with DVI/HDMI digital outputs appeared in 2003. When the DVD stream recording (SR) format is finalized, DVD-SR players may be usable as "transports" that output any kind of A/V data (even formats developed after the player was built) to different sorts of external displays or converters.
The interesting thing many people don't realize is that DTV happened sooner, faster, and cheaper on PCs. A year before any consumer DTV sets came out you could buy a DVD PC with a 34" VGA monitor and get gorgeous progressive-scan movies for under $3000. The quality of a good DVD PC connected to a data-grade video projector can beat a $30,000 line-doubler system.
Eventually the DVD-Video format will be upgraded to an HD DVD format.
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