HDTV Terms and Definitions

When it comes to HDTV, RC Willey sales associates know what they're talking about. Our expert staff can help you understand the" Ins and Outs" of HDTV. We've listed some of the basic definitions below to get you started on understanding the technology.
Common TV Definitions HDTV Definitions TV Connector Types
Common TV Definitions

Aspect Ratio

The ratio of screen width to screen height. For TV's it is either 4:3 (1.22.1) or 16:9 (1.78:1). Theater film uses many different aspect ratios, some as high as 2.5:1.

3:2 Pull Down

This is the process of converting a 24 frames/sec image into a 30 frames/sec image. Some line-doublers will reverse this process to acquire the original, and then re-perform it.


A method of broadcasting a wide screen film on a 4:3 channel. Most of the time just the center of the image is shown. (The right and left edges are clipped off).


(Advanced Television System Committee Technical Standard) This is the name of the technology used by terrestrial digital TV stations in the U.S.


National television system committee. The organization that developed the analog television standard currently in use in the U.S., Canada, and Japan. Now generally used to refer to that standard. The NTSC standard combines blue, red, and green signals modulated as an AM signal with an FM signal for audio.

Cable Card

The Cable Card is the mechanism the industry has adopted to prevent the piracy of cable services. The cable company will periodically mail out new cable cards, ask their customers to plug them into the TV, and then disable the old cards, so anyone without a new cable card would lose service.

Comb Filter

A circuit in NTSC sets that separates the color information from the brightness information.
HDTV Definitions

So what exactly is High Definition Television?

Simply put, a high quality digital television signal that can display 1280x720 pixels or better.

How can I receive a High Definition Signal?

First you must have a television set that can display a minimum of 1280x720 pixels or higher, then you must have a provider that broadcasts in High Definition such as a satellite or cable provider. You will be required to have compatible HD equipment from our provider and subscribe to their available HD programming which is different than regular digital programming.

Depending on where you live and if you can physically receive over the air broadcasts via an antenna, you may be able to receive local high definition programming. The benefit to this is, it's free!

Definition of Television Types

HDTV (High Definition TV)

A TV that displays 1280x720 pixels or better. The generally agreed upon definition of HDTV is approximately twice the vertical and horizontal picture resolution of today's NTSC TV, which essentially makes the picture twice as sharp. HDTV also has a screen ratio of 16:9 as compared with most of today's TV screens, which have a screen ratio of 4:3. HDTV offers reduced motion artifacts (i.e. ghosting, dot crawl), and offers 5.1 independent channels of CD-quality stereo surround sound, (also referred to as AC-3).

SDTV (Standard Definition TV)

SDTV is 480i, which is approximately the resolution of NTSC and DVD's.

DLP (Digital Light Processor)

A technology for video projection, also called DMD (Digital Micro-mirror Device). It is a large chip with about a million tiny mirrors on its surface. The chip can tilt each mirror to vary the amount of light reflected off of it.

D-ILA (Direct-drive Image Light Amplifier)

(see LCOS)

LCOS (Liquid Crystal On Silicon)

This is another contender to replace CRT's in projection TV's.

LCD (Liquid Crystal Display)

A common display technology. LCD is likely to replace CRT's in the smallest HDTV's. An LCD television or monitor uses liquid crystals that act as "shutters" within the television screen. An LCD television has thousands of small light sources at the rear of the display. A layer of cells containing the liquid crystals is placed between the light sources and the display screen. When the liquid crystal cells are electrified with current, the crystals align and block any light from shining through, or scatter allowing the light to shine through to the screen. LCD monitors typically only display video signals in a progressive scan format. LCD monitors do not use phosphors and are not susceptible to screen burn.


Resolution which equates to 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. 1080p monitors are capable of displaying every pixel of the highest-resolution HD broadcasts.


An interlaced resolution of 1,920 x 1,080


Refers to a High Definition production format (SMPTE 296M) having a digital sampling structure of 1280 (H) x 720 (V) and operating at 60-frames per second progressively scanned. Often used to loosely describe a capture system that operates at 59.94P as well.


An emissive flat-screen technology in which ionized gas is sandwiched between panels of glass that are embedded with wire. These displays are slim (about 4 inches deep) and can be created in sizes as large as 60 inches diagonally; they are generally used in flat-panel TVs.


High-definition digital video disc. Several formats have been proposed for these high-capacity DVD's, including Blu-ray.
Television Connector Types

Component Video

This 3-wire connection was created for connecting DVD players to TV's or monitors. It avoids downgrading the signal to NTSC. The signals may be RGB or YPrPb. Some HD set top boxes have only component video output.

Composite Video

This 1-wire standard contains all video information: intensity, color, and sync. The encoding is the same as NTSC, and thus has the "overlapping sideband" problem which sometimes causes wrong colors to appear.

DVI (Digital Visual Interface)

This connector conveys HDTV image scanning signals in binary data form. The data rate is very high (1.65 Gb's). Binary data is preferred by monitors that re not CRT's. DVI comes with a decryption option called HDCP which will decode encrypted programs such as first-run movies.

HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface)

This miniature connector is intended to replace DVI. It is backward compatible with DVI, and an adapter will connect it to a DVI unit. It has 19 pins and carries DVI plus digital audio. It also has a control line that allows the STB to sense the monitor's state and native formats.


Also called Y/C, this two-wire standard keeps the color separate from the intensity signal, and thus avoids the overlapping sideband problem of composite signals. (Converting an NTSC signal to S-video gains you nothing since what was lost cannot be recreated.) Although the quality of S-video is close to component vide, S-video cannot transport anything better than 480i.
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