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1080p Is Here

Published February 22, 2006 in Technology
By Ryan Parsons | Images property of respective holders
Mistubishi HDTV Mistubishi DLP with 1080p
With the release of Sony's Blu-ray, Toshiba's HD-DVD and Playstation 3 (Blu-ray), the television market will be introduced to an entirely new resolution-- 1080p.

Though an improvement in home theatre technology is a blessing, the release of high definition DVDs and 1080p could force you to upgrade your old high-definition televisions to the latest and greatest.

Below is your complete guide to 1080p, its advantages and the reasons you may need to upgrade.

1080p Is Here

A while back I wrote a report on the difference between Blu-ray and HD DVD (here). Throughout the analysis I discuss that the number one gain from each medium is the significantly improved storage capacity. What I forgot to mention is that the storage capacity will not only allow you to watch high-def DVDs in 1080i but 1080p as well.

But what is in a letter?

Most avid DVD buyers and renters discovered the advantages of progressive-scan technology, the 'p' in 480p/720p/1080p, a few years back when progressive-scan DVD players had become available. Outputting the video signal through three component cables (RGB), consumers immediately noticed an improvement by watching video in 480p over 480i.

But what kind of improvement can a simple 'p' offer?

Progressive-scan (p) is a significant improvement over interlaced video display. Interlaced video is a method of displaying images by drawing the even number lines and then the odd number lines for each frame. There is never a single instance where all of the image is present. Therefore, when the video is displayed at 30 FPS (frames per second) you are actually seeing just under 60 fields per second. Each field is either the odd or even number of lines; two fields make up a frame.

Due to never drawing the entire image onto the screen, interlaced video has a resolution that suffers and encounters glitches such as a flicker or 'shimmer.'

To improve the resolution of video display, computer monitors were the first to come out with progressive-scan. Instead of showing either the even or odd lines that run across the screen, progressive-scan shows all of the lines at any given instance. Therefore, there isn't any flickering and the resolution increases significantly. This technology was quickly adapted to projection and flat-panel televisions.

Where 480i required only one analog video cable to go to your television 480p requires three analog component cables.

480, 720, 1080

The numbers listed above simply represent the number of vertical lines that make up your displays resolution. If your display has 'p' after the number for progressive-scan, we can assume that the picture is being shown in the widescreen aspect ratio(16:9).

Since progressive-scan video shows all lines of resolution at once, 720p will usually look just as sharp as 1080i.

Up until 2006, 1080i was the highest output that HDTV monitors could output. However, with the release of Blu-ray and HD DVD to the market, 1080p has now become a realization.

Blu-Ray : HD DVD Blu-Ray and HD DVD to Increase Video Resolution


When we were first told that Sony's Blu-ray was going to be able to output 1080p we took the news with little enthusiasm. At the time of the announcement, there was not a single consumer high-def television set that could output video in that format.

Fortunately, DLP monitors from Mitsubishi, Sony and Toshiba have recently broke the barrier and have come out with projection televisions that can display video in 1080p format.

Two reasons this is great news:

1. Home theatre geeks will soon be able to upgrade their systems to the next level.
2. Prices on DLP television sets currently unable to do 1080p have already begun to drop.

I have been looking to pick up either a Panasonic or Mitsubishi DLP (digital light processor) for some time now and am conflicted on whether to wait for the prices to come down on the 1080p or not. If you have always wanted a DLP projection television and are not that interested in 1080p, now may be the time to buy.

The Catch with HD DVD and Blu-ray

Playstation 3 (Blu-ray), HD DVD and Blu-ray will all feature DVD players that will be able to output video in either 1080i or 1080p. For those of us who have already spent thousands on our HDTVs and do not want to upgrade, the 1080i aspect comes as good news. Even without having to purchase a new HDTV set you will already be able to take advantage of the video resolution features set to come with both DVD mediums; mainly 1080i.

*There are DVD players on the market that offer 'up-conversion.' What this does is allow you to watch your standard DVD movie in 1080i over 480p. However, this mode is similar to receiving a non-HDTV broadcast in 1080i format. Though your TV is showing the image in a better resolution, the resolution itself will not look perfect. Many users who receive high-definition television from their cable company have noticed this problem when a 'HD' station comes in at a lower format.

The new DVD players running Blu-ray or HD DVD will put out perfect video in both 1080i and 1080p.

So what is the catch?

Since Blue-ray and HD DVD are both feverishly competing with one another for support from the movie studios, both mediums have adopted Advanced Access Content System (AACS), a system used to combat piracy.

What this means is that consumers will not be able to use their usually-expensive component cables to attach the new DVD players to their HD television sets without some sort of penalty. Since component cables are analog, there is still the possibility of stealing the video off of the output. Therefore, component cables will only be able to show a low-res version of the high-def DVD video.

In order to avoid this 'penalty,' you will be required to connect a 'copy-protected' digital wire from your DVD player into your HDTV.

So all you have to do is go buy the new digital video cable correct? Wrong.

Most of the older generation HDTVs have no such input for the new HD DVD and Blu-ray players; making these HDTVs useless when it comes to adding on the upcoming technology.

If you really want either HD DVD or Blu-Ray in your home, there is a possibility that you will have to purchase a new and updated HDTV as well.

Talk about creating demand for the new 1080p DLP television sets.

Stay tuned for updates.

*The 'penalty' mentioned above for using component cables may later be removed. (but we are doubtful)

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Ryan Parsons
Sources: Images property of respective holders

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