Why do I want HDTV?
HDTV is the new generation of television! HDTV is all-digital, meaning richer colors and no analog reception issues, such as static or ghosting. The widescreen image has up to six times the resolution of DVD, along with full Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. Once you’ve seen HDTV on a large screen high resolution television, DVDs look poor in comparison!
What do I need in order to receive HDTV?
At its most basic, you’ll need an antenna and an off-air (8VSB) receiver, along with a HDTV compatible television. Many HDTV receivers are available: standalone units, models combined with DSS receivers or media players, or even digital video recorders. Almost all newer televisions even come with compatible HDTV receivers built-in.
The antenna you’ll need depends on your specific location and what channels you require, and could range from a small unit that sits on top of your television, to a large antenna mounted on a tower. An antenna system may include: UHF antenna, mounting system, preamplifier and rotor.
Although you will only receive the full benefit of HDTV with a HDTV compatible television or display device, HDTV channels can still be viewed on regular televisions – of course at lower resolution.
Do I need a special HDTV antenna?
No! Any UHF antenna in good condition will work. Although some antennas are advertised as being “digital” or “HDTV” ready, that can actually be said of any UHF antenna no matter how old.
Do I need a UHF or VHF antenna?
Although there are no regulations to prevent stations from broadcasting HDTV on VHF channels (2 to 13), so far very few stations in North America have opted to do so, instead choosing to broadcast in the UHF band (channels 14 to 69) as UHF is generally easier to receive and the antennas are smaller and cheaper.
However, as of 2011 the Toronto/Buffalo area now has to deal with several hi-VHF stations (in the 7 to 13 range) including MeTV, CTV, CTV Two and CHCH. If you want to receive these stations reliably, you’ll need to consider a combined VHF/UHF antenna or at least a separate VHF one.
Up to this point, most HDTV viewers in the Toronto and Buffalo areas have purchased UHF antennas, and while it may still be possible to receive hi-VHF signals on such antennas, early reports indicate that many viewers have lost their ability to receive stations such as CTV and CHCH after the change from UHF to VHF.
Can I view these channels in other ways?
Yes – on digital cable or satellite, although the exact selection varies. For instance, in the Buffalo area Adelphia carries most major networks in HD, but does not carry Canadian stations. In Toronto, Rogers Cable carries the full range of Toronto stations and the majority of Buffalo stations, however you’ll have to deal with "simsubs" – which is the replacement of the American signal with the equivelant Canadian signal, which may not be up to the same quality standards.
If you’re on Bell or Rogers, wouldn’t you prefer to watch the American version of the Superbowl with the real advertisements? You’ll only be able to do that with an antenna!
Wait a minute, didn’t free television die on August 31, 2011?
In Canada, what died on August 31, 2011 are old, inefficient analog NTSC transmissions, something that already happened in the USA back in 2009. Replacing analog is new digital ATSC, which most Canadian stations have already been broadcasting in major markets for many years. What happened on August 31 2011 was most Canadian stations had to finally stop broadcasting analog and make the switch to digital. Note that this has no bearing on cable-based analog transmissions, such as what you would receive from Shaw or Rogers.
If you still have an old analog television don’t worry – all you need to do is buy an inexpensive ATSC-to-NTSC set top box and you’ll be back in business!
Why can’t I get some channels, such as CHCH or CFTO?
At the end of August 2011 when analog transmissions ceased in Canada, most Canadian HDTV stations “reverted” their high definition broadcasts from their temporary UHF assignments to their original analog channels. For several, this meant changing from easy-to-receive UHF channels to hi-VHF channels (the 7 to 13 range). For example, CFTO (CTV) changed from channel 40 to channel 9. It may have seemed like you were receiving CFTO on channel 9-1 before this, but that was only the “virtual” channel number – in reality you were tuning in channel 40-1. Now, your receiver actually needs to tune channel 9-1.
The issue is that up to this point only UHF channels existed in the Toronto area –so HDTV viewers had only needed to purchase small and inexpensive UHF antennas. Although some UHF antennas may do a passable job of receiving hi-VHF channels, most will not do so reliably. If you only have a UHF antenna and are now finding yourself incapable of receiving stations such as MeTV, CTV, CTV Two or CHCH, then you may need to add a VHF antenna or replace your antenna with a combined UHF/VHF model. Yes, it would have been much nicer if these channels had stayed in the UHF frequency range.
How do I read the channel list?
First, let’s take a look at a typical listing:
(720p/5.1) One of Buffalo's most reliable signals, and a great quality SD image too boot. Upgraded their power from 35kw to a massive (but now directional) 1000kw last year; the end result to Canadians is negligible to most but should result in a huge improvement to southern viewers. WUTV has already ceased traditional analog transmission.
(480i/2.0) Duplicate of Fox in lower quality (really, why waste bandwidth like this?)
In the first column on the left, the number in the box 29-1 is the PSIP virtual
channel number, a shortcut designed to help you associate that station with its traditional analog channel assignment (for example, you wouldn't
normally think of channel 14 for "Fox 29"). The number to the right of that, in normal black text (such as 14-1) is the actual broadcast
channel. The virtual number is usually what you would enter on your HDTV tuner, as well as what most receivers would display even if you instead
entered the real number. Blue boxes indicate primary channels, and red boxes indicate sub-channels.
If you're asking what in the world a "PSIP" is, it stands for Program and System Information Protocol. Didn't clear up much, right? Well, basically
it's a little digital tag that's broadcast along with a standard HDTV signal that carries information, such as the virtual channel mapping mentioned
above. It also transmits the current time of day, can carry program guide (EPG) information as well as several other advanced features that are not
currently used much.
The second column describes the associated network with that channel, Fox, as well as the station's call letters with a link to their official
website - WUTV-DT.
The third column - the circle - is a graph of the channel's broadcast pattern (where available) - basically where they are aiming their power. The middle of the circle
is the transmission tower, the top of the circle is north, and anything filled in black is directionality. A solid circle means no directionality. So,
if most of the black area is in the south-east part of the circle, then that means most of their power is being aimed in that direction, and people in
the north-west may have difficulty picking up that station.
The fourth column indicates how much broadcasting power the channel has, 1000 kW. In terms of power ratings, numbers under 5 kW (kilowatts, or
thousands of watts) I would considered low powered, up to 30kW moderate power, up to 100kW average power, up to 500kW good power, and up to 1000kW or
more excellent power.
The fifth column is the transmitter elevation in feet 981' (this is feet above local terrain, not above sea level). The higher the better for long
The sixth column indicates the channel's future plans, such as new channel assignments or broadcast power increases.
The seventh and final column contains the general location of the station's broadcast antenna. A table of distances from major population centers to these
various locations can be found here.
Finally, the large white box contains a general description of the station and its HDTV broadcasts, including quality, reported issues and future
updates. Subchannels will also have a detailed description of their programming content.