High Definition Television in Europe
While HDTV broadcasts are springing up in the US it has yet to take off throughout Europe. However there is one free-to-air HDTV channel which may be of interest for European users wishing to test out their new high definition TV, Plasma display, Projector or is just interested in seeing what it is like before forking out for a high end display.
The main HDTV channels operating are called Astra HDTV and HD-1 (encrypted), which are broadcast on the Astra 19.2E Satellite. Unfortunately most set-top satellite receivers cannot handle the channel due to the lack of HDTV support, but most PCI DVB cards including the Skystar2 will work fine.
This thread gives some information on how to pick the Astra HDTV promotional channel up using a PC. For viewing on a HDTV set, a suitable common video connection is also required, but any monitor capable of displaying up to 1280 pixels across will be sufficient. Most HDTV sets provide DVI-input at standard thus allowing a connection to a PCâ€™s DVI-video out where available.
Astra HDTV specifications
Video: 1920 x 1080
Satellite: Astra 1F at 19.2E
Transponder: 102 (12.441GHz vertical polarisation)
Symbolic Rate: 27,500
(Audio & Video specifications have been taken from ProgDVBâ€™s channel property info.)
Note: As of May 2004, HD1 (formerly Euro1080, the original HDTV demo channel) started testing encryption on this HDTV broadcasts, leaving only its demostration broadcasts free-to-air until the end of 2004. :sad: Unfortunately, this means that since the beginning of 2005 the only way one can pick up HD 1 is through a DVB card with a CI CAM slot, an Irdeto CAM and a HD1 conditional access card. Unfortunately, this equipment does not come cheap either at ~â‚¬260 between the DVB card with a CI and Irdeto CAM and another â‚¬200 for the viewing card. However for those who are really interested in picking up premium HDTV content and don't mind the cost, the option is there. Pro7 HD has also ceased its HDTV programming, which is a pity for German viewers who were looking for a free HDTV channel to watch.
As broadcasters seem to be interested in moving over to HDTV, we may see other free-to-air HDTV satellite broadcasts starting up to attract viewers. See the following link on Astra for more information:
Watching Astra HDTV on a PC
Unlike watching DVDs or standard definition satellite TV on a PC, HDTV channels requires significant processing power to decode and ample bandwidth to the graphics card to display. First of all the PC DVB card needs to handle at least 20Mbps, thus ruling out USB 1.x DVB tuners and 10Mbps PCI cards such as the Skystar1.
I sent in an inquiry to Euro1080 support (prior to them chosing to go encrypted and changing its name) asking about minimum PC specification and they wrote back saying at least a 2.1GHz (or AMD XP2100+) processor is required for playback using DVB Viewer Pro. However the graphics card will also need to handle the bandwidth. AGP 2x cannot handle the bandwidth in my experience even with the Windows Media 9 HD demos.
I tried Euro1080 (prior to encryption), Astra HDTV and Pro Sieben (before it went off air) on an AMD XP1700+ with an AGP 2x PowerVR and neither ProgDVB nor DVB Viewer could display it properly without the picture freezing and the audio breaking up. I set up ProgDVB to redirect the stream (but not display) to my remote PC with an AMD XP2100+ and an AGP 4x GeForce 2Ti graphics card. The ProgDVB client on the remote PC was just about able to keep up but was still dropping frames with the audio breaking up every few seconds. DVB Viewer does not have networking capabilities, so I could not test this on the remote PC.
Finally, I tried making a recording. At the time of writing, ProgDVB has issues with recording any HDTV channel and will crash around 10 to 30 seconds into the recording, even if the picture preview window is disabled to free up the CPU. However in this case, the recording does playback properly on my AMD XP2100+ PC using PowerDVD 5.0 with no loss of frames or audio issues.
Astra HDTV picture Quality
As these HDTV channels have an interlaced picture, there is some noticeable motion blurring when there is any significant action or motion in the picture. However with a still image the quality looks very like a 2 Megapixel digital photo that has gone live.
In a tennis match that was shown on Euro 1080, I could clearly see the faces in the audience. If I knew anyone in the audience, I would have no problem spotting that person! Even the close-up images of the players look photo realistic. I aim to post some screen shots at some stage.
I did my testing on a Panasonic HDTV PT-AE500E projector with an 88â€ projected image in a dark room. This is where the 16:9 aspect ratio is really put to use since it gives that â€˜cinemaâ€™ feel and appears more natural than when viewing 4:3 channels.
For more information on Astra HDTV, see their HDTV webpage here:
For more information on HD1, have a look at their website at the following link: