High-definition television (HDTV) is a television system providing an
image resolution that is of substantially higher resolution than that
of standard-definition television. HDTV is the current standard video
format used in most broadcasts: terrestrial broadcast television,
cable television, satellite television, Blu-rays, and streaming video.
HDTV may be transmitted in various formats:
720p (HD Ready): 1280×720p: 923,600 pixels (~0.92 MP) per frame
1080i (Full HD) : 1920×1080i: 1,036,800 pixels (~1.04 MP) per
field or 2,073,600 pixels (~2.07 MP) per frame
1080p (Full HD): 1920×1080p: 2,073,600 pixels (~2.07 megapixels) per
Some countries also use a non-standard CEA resolution, such as
1440×1080i: 777,600 pixels (~0.78 MP) per field or 1,555,200 pixels
(~1.56 MP) per frame
The letter "p" here stands for progressive scan, while "i" indicates
When transmitted at two megapixels per frame, HDTV provides about five
times as many pixels as SD (standard-definition television). The
increased resolution provides for a clearer, more detailed picture. In
addition, progressive scan and higher frame rates resulting in a
picture with less flicker and better rendering of fast motion.
1.1 Analog systems
1.2 Demise of analog HD systems
1.3 Rise of digital compression
2 Inaugural HDTV broadcast in the United States
3 European HDTV broadcasts
4.1 Display resolutions
4.2 Standard frame or field rates
4.3 Types of media
5 Modern systems
6 Recording and compression
7 See also
9 Further reading
10 External links
Analog high-definition television system
Analog high-definition television system and
History of television
The term high definition once described a series of television systems
originating from August 1936; however, these systems were only high
definition when compared to earlier systems that were based on
mechanical systems with as few as 30 lines of resolution. The ongoing
competition between companies and nations to create true "HDTV"
spanned the entire 20th century, as each new system became more HD
than the last. In the beginning of the 21st century, this race has
continued with 4k, 5k and current 8K systems.
The British high-definition TV service started trials in August 1936
and a regular service on 2 November 1936 using both the (mechanical)
Baird 240 line sequential scan (later to be inaccurately rechristened
'progressive') and the (electronic) Marconi-EMI
405 line interlaced
systems. The Baird system was discontinued in February 1937. In
France followed with their own 441-line system, variants of which
were also used by a number of other countries. The US
system joined in 1941. In 1949
France introduced an even
higher-resolution standard at 819 lines, a system that should have
been high definition even by today's standards, but was monochrome
only and the technical limitations of the time prevented it from
achieving the definition of which it should have been capable. All of
these systems used interlacing and a 4:3 aspect ratio except the
240-line system which was progressive (actually described at the time
by the technically correct term "sequential") and the 405-line system
which started as 5:4 and later changed to 4:3. The 405-line system
adopted the (at that time) revolutionary idea of interlaced scanning
to overcome the flicker problem of the 240-line with its 25 Hz
frame rate. The 240-line system could have doubled its frame rate but
this would have meant that the transmitted signal would have doubled
in bandwidth, an unacceptable option as the video baseband bandwidth
was required to be not more than 3 MHz.
Color broadcasts started at similarly higher resolutions, first with
NTSC color system in 1953, which was compatible with the
earlier monochrome systems and therefore had the same 525 lines of
resolution. European standards did not follow until the 1960s, when
SECAM color systems were added to the monochrome 625 line
The Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai (NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation)
began conducting research to "unlock the fundamental mechanism of
video and sound interactions with the five human senses" in 1964,
after the Tokyo Olympics.
NHK set out to create an HDTV system that
ended up scoring much higher in subjective tests than NTSC's
previously dubbed "HDTV". This new system,
NHK Color, created in 1972,
included 1125 lines, a 5:3 aspect ratio and 60 Hz refresh rate.
The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), headed
by Charles Ginsburg, became the testing and study authority for HDTV
technology in the international theater.
SMPTE would test HDTV systems
from different companies from every conceivable perspective, but the
problem of combining the different formats plagued the technology for
There were four major HDTV systems tested by
SMPTE in the late 1970s,
and in 1979 an
SMPTE study group released A Study of High Definition
EIA monochrome: 4:3 aspect ratio, 1023 lines, 60 Hz
NHK color: 5:3 aspect ratio, 1125 lines, 60 Hz
NHK monochrome: 4:3 aspect ratio, 2125 lines, 50 Hz
BBC colour: 8:3 aspect ratio, 1501 lines, 60 Hz
Since the formal adoption of digital video broadcasting's (DVB)
widescreen HDTV transmission modes in the mid to late 2000s; the
NTSC (and PAL-M) systems, as well as the European 625-line
SECAM systems, are now regarded as standard definition
Main article: analog high-definition television system
Early HDTV broadcasting used analog technology, but today it is
transmitted digitally and uses video compression.
France started its transmissions with an 819 lines system
(with 737 active lines). The system was monochrome only, and was used
only on VHF for the first French TV channel. It was discontinued in
In 1958, the
Soviet Union developed Тransformator (Russian:
Трансформатор, meaning Transformer), the first
high-resolution (definition) television system capable of producing an
image composed of 1,125 lines of resolution aimed at providing
teleconferencing for military command. It was a research project and
the system was never deployed by either the military or consumer
In 1979, the Japanese public broadcaster
NHK first developed consumer
high-definition television with a 5:3 display aspect ratio. The
system, known as Hi-Vision or MUSE after its Multiple sub-Nyquist
sampling encoding for encoding the signal, required about twice the
bandwidth of the existing
NTSC system but provided about four times
the resolution (1035i/1125 lines). Satellite test broadcasts started
in 1989, with regular testing starting in 1991 and regular
broadcasting of BS-9ch commencing on November 25, 1994, which featured
In 1981, the MUSE system was demonstrated for the first time in the
United States, using the same 5:3 aspect ratio as the Japanese
system. Upon visiting a demonstration of MUSE in Washington, US
Ronald Reagan was impressed and officially declared it "a
matter of national interest" to introduce HDTV to the US.
Several systems were proposed as the new standard for the US,
including the Japanese MUSE system, but all were rejected by the FCC
because of their higher bandwidth requirements. At this time, the
number of television channels was growing rapidly and bandwidth was
already a problem. A new standard had to be more efficient, needing
less bandwidth for HDTV than the existing NTSC.
Demise of analog HD systems
The limited standardization of analog HDTV in the 1990s did not lead
to global HDTV adoption as technical and economic constraints at the
time did not permit HDTV to use bandwidths greater than normal
Early HDTV commercial experiments, such as NHK's MUSE, required over
four times the bandwidth of a standard-definition broadcast. Despite
efforts made to reduce analog HDTV to about twice the bandwidth of
SDTV, these television formats were still distributable only by
In addition, recording and reproducing an HDTV signal was a
significant technical challenge in the early years of HDTV (Sony
HDVS). Japan remained the only country with successful public
broadcasting of analog HDTV, with seven broadcasters sharing a single
Rise of digital compression
Since 1972, International Telecommunication Union's radio
telecommunications sector (ITU-R) had been working on creating a
global recommendation for Analog HDTV. These recommendations, however,
did not fit in the broadcasting bands which could reach home users.
The standardization of
MPEG-1 in 1993 also led to the acceptance of
ITU-R BT.709. In anticipation of these standards
Digital Video Broadcasting
Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) organisation was formed, an
alliance of broadcasters, consumer electronics manufacturers and
regulatory bodies. The DVB develops and agrees upon specifications
which are formally standardised by ETSI.
DVB created first the standard for
DVB-S digital satellite TV, DVB-C
digital cable TV and
DVB-T digital terrestrial TV. These broadcasting
systems can be used for both SDTV and HDTV. In the US the Grand
ATSC as the new standard for SDTV and HDTV. Both
ATSC and DVB were based on the
MPEG-2 standard, although DVB systems
may also be used to transmit video using the newer and more efficient
H.264/MPEG-4 AVC compression standards. Common for all DVB standards
is the use of highly efficient modulation techniques for further
reducing bandwidth, and foremost for reducing receiver-hardware and
In 1983, the International Telecommunication Union's radio
telecommunications sector (ITU-R) set up a working party (IWP11/6)
with the aim of setting a single international HDTV standard. One of
the thornier issues concerned a suitable frame/field refresh rate, the
world already having split into two camps, 25/50 Hz and
30/60 Hz, largely due to the differences in mains frequency. The
IWP11/6 working party considered many views and throughout the 1980s
served to encourage development in a number of video digital
processing areas, not least conversion between the two main
frame/field rates using motion vectors, which led to further
developments in other areas. While a comprehensive HDTV standard was
not in the end established, agreement on the aspect ratio was
Initially the existing 5:3 aspect ratio had been the main candidate
but, due to the influence of widescreen cinema, the aspect ratio 16:9
(1.78) eventually emerged as being a reasonable compromise between 5:3
(1.67) and the common 1.85 widescreen cinema format. An aspect ratio
of 16:9 was duly agreed upon at the first meeting of the IWP11/6
working party at the BBC's Research and Development establishment in
Kingswood Warren. The resulting
("Rec. 709") includes the 16:9 aspect ratio, a specified colorimetry,
and the scan modes
1080i (1,080 actively interlaced lines of
1080p (1,080 progressively scanned lines). The British
Freeview HD trials used MBAFF, which contains both progressive and
interlaced content in the same encoding.
It also includes the alternative 1440×1152
HDMAC scan format.
(According to some reports, a mooted 750-line (720p) format (720
progressively scanned lines) was viewed by some at the ITU as an
enhanced television format rather than a true HDTV format, and so
was not included, although 1920×
1080i and 1280×
720p systems for a
range of frame and field rates were defined by several US SMPTE
Inaugural HDTV broadcast in the United States
HDTV technology was introduced in the United States in the late 1980s
and made official in 1993 by the Digital HDTV Grand Alliance, a group
of television, electronic equipment, communications companies
consisting of AT&T Bell Labs, General Instrument, Philips,
Sarnoff, Thomson, Zenith and the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology. Field testing of HDTV at 199 sites in the United States
was completed August 14, 1994. The first public HDTV broadcast in
the United States occurred on July 23, 1996 when the Raleigh, North
Carolina television station
WRAL-HD began broadcasting from the
existing tower of
WRAL-TV southeast of Raleigh, winning a race to be
first with the HD Model Station in Washington, D.C., which began
broadcasting July 31, 1996 with the callsign WHD-TV, based out of the
NBC owned and operated station WRC-TV. The
Advanced Television Systems Committee
Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) HDTV system had
its public launch on October 29, 1998, during the live coverage of
astronaut John Glenn's return mission to space on board the Space
Shuttle Discovery. The signal was transmitted coast-to-coast, and
was seen by the public in science centers, and other public theaters
specially equipped to receive and display the broadcast. The
first HDTV logo was created by Washington, DC-based advertising firm
Don Schaaf & Friends, Inc.
European HDTV broadcasts
The first HDTV transmissions in Europe, albeit not direct-to-home,
began in 1990, when the Italian broadcaster
RAI used the HD-MAC and
MUSE HDTV technologies to broadcast the 1990 FIFA World Cup. The
matches were shown in 8 cinemas in Italy, where the tournament was
played, and 2 in Spain. The connection with Spain was made via the
Olympus satellite link from
Barcelona and then with a fiber
optic connection from
Barcelona to Madrid. After some HDTV
transmissions in Europe the standard was abandoned in the mid-1990s.
The first regular broadcasts started on January 1, 2004 when the
Euro1080 launched the HD1 channel with the traditional
Vienna New Year's Concert. Test transmissions had been active since
the IBC exhibition in September 2003, but the New Year's Day broadcast
marked the official launch of the HD1 channel, and the official start
of direct-to-home HDTV in Europe.
Euro1080, a division of the former and now bankrupt Belgian TV
services company Alfacam, broadcast HDTV channels to break the
pan-European stalemate of "no HD broadcasts mean no HD TVs bought
means no HD broadcasts ..." and kick-start HDTV interest in
Europe. The HD1 channel was initially free-to-air and mainly
comprised sporting, dramatic, musical and other cultural events
broadcast with a multi-lingual soundtrack on a rolling schedule of 4
or 5 hours per day.
These first European HDTV broadcasts used the
1080i format with MPEG-2
compression on a
DVB-S signal from SES's
Astra 1H satellite. Euro1080
transmissions later changed to MPEG-4/AVC compression on a DVB-S2
signal in line with subsequent broadcast channels in Europe.
Despite delays in some countries, the number of European HD
channels and viewers has risen steadily since the first HDTV
broadcasts, with SES's annual Satellite Monitor market survey for 2010
reporting more than 200 commercial channels broadcasting in HD from
Astra satellites, 185 million HD capable TVs sold in Europe (£60
million in 2010 alone), and 20 million households (27% of all European
digital satellite TV homes) watching HD satellite broadcasts (16
million via Astra satellites).
In December 2009 the
United Kingdom became the first European country
to deploy high definition content using the new
standard, as specified in the
Digital TV Group (DTG) D-book, on
digital terrestrial television.
Freeview HD service currently contains 13 HD channels (as of
April 2016[update]) and was rolled out region by region across
the UK in accordance with the digital switchover process, finally
being completed in October 2012. However,
Freeview HD is not the first
HDTV service over digital terrestrial television in Europe; Italy's
Rai HD channel started broadcasting in
1080i on April 24, 2008 using
DVB-T transmission standard.
In October 2008
France deployed five high definition channels using
DVB-T transmission standard on digital terrestrial distribution.
HDTV broadcast systems are identified with three major parameters:
Frame size in pixels is defined as number of horizontal pixels ×
number of vertical pixels, for example 1280 × 720 or
1920 × 1080. Often the number of horizontal pixels is
implied from context and is omitted, as in the case of
720p and 1080p.
Scanning system is identified with the letter p for progressive
scanning or i for interlaced scanning.
Frame rate is identified as number of video frames per second. For
interlaced systems, the number of frames per second should be
specified, but it is not uncommon to see the field rate incorrectly
If all three parameters are used, they are specified in the following
form: [frame size][scanning system][frame or field rate] or [frame
size]/[frame or field rate][scanning system]. Often, frame size or
frame rate can be dropped if its value is implied from context. In
this case, the remaining numeric parameter is specified first,
followed by the scanning system.
For example, 1920×1080p25 identifies progressive scanning format with
25 frames per second, each frame being 1,920 pixels wide and 1,080
pixels high. The 1080i25 or 1080i50 notation identifies interlaced
scanning format with 25 frames (50 fields) per second, each frame
being 1,920 pixels wide and 1,080 pixels high. The 1080i30 or 1080i60
notation identifies interlaced scanning format with 30 frames (60
fields) per second, each frame being 1,920 pixels wide and 1,080
pixels high. The 720p60 notation identifies progressive scanning
format with 60 frames per second, each frame being 720 pixels high;
1,280 pixels horizontally are implied.
50 Hz systems support three scanning rates: 50i, 25p and 50p.
60 Hz systems support a much wider set of frame rates: 59.94i,
60i, 23.976p, 24p, 29.97p, 30p, 59.94p and 60p. In the days of
standard definition television, the fractional rates were often
rounded up to whole numbers, e.g. 23.976p was often called 24p, or
59.94i was often called 60i. 60 Hz high definition television
supports both fractional and slightly different integer rates,
therefore strict usage of notation is required to avoid ambiguity.
Nevertheless, 29.97p/59.94i is almost universally called 60i, likewise
23.976p is called 24p.
For the commercial naming of a product, the frame rate is often
dropped and is implied from context (e.g., a
1080i television set). A
frame rate can also be specified without a resolution. For example,
24p means 24 progressive scan frames per second, and 50i means 25
interlaced frames per second.
There is no single standard for HDTV color support. Colors are
typically broadcast using a (10-bits per channel)
YUV color space but,
depending on the underlying image generating technologies of the
receiver, are then subsequently converted to a
RGB color space using
standardized algorithms. When transmitted directly through the
Internet, the colors are typically pre-converted to 8-bit
for additional storage savings with the assumption that it will only
be viewed only on a (sRGB) computer screen. As an added benefit to the
original broadcasters, the losses of the pre-conversion essentially
make these files unsuitable for professional TV re-broadcasting.
Most HDTV systems support resolutions and frame rates defined either
ATSC table 3, or in EBU specification. The most common are
Video format supported [image resolution]
Native resolution [inherent resolution] (W×H)
Aspect ratio (W:H)
Typically a PC resolution (XGA); also a native resolution on many
entry-level plasma displays with non-square pixels.
Standard HDTV resolution and a typical PC resolution (WXGA),
frequently used by high-end video projectors; also used for 750-line
video, as defined in
A typical PC resolution (WXGA); also used by many
HD ready TV displays
based on LCD technology.
Standard HDTV resolution, used by
Full HD and
displays such as high-end LCD, plasma and rear projection TVs, and a
typical PC resolution (lower than WUXGA); also used for 1125-line
video, as defined in
Video format supported
Screen resolution (W×H)
Aspect ratio (W:H)
Used for 750-line video with faster artifact/overscan compensation, as
Used for anamorphic 1125-line video in the
Sony and defined (also as a luminance subsampling
Used for 1124-line video with faster artifact/overscan compensation,
as defined in
At a minimum, HDTV has twice the linear resolution of
standard-definition television (SDTV), thus showing greater detail
than either analog television or regular DVD. The technical standards
for broadcasting HDTV also handle the 16:9 aspect ratio images without
using letterboxing or anamorphic stretching, thus increasing the
effective image resolution.
A very high resolution source may require more bandwidth than
available in order to be transmitted without loss of fidelity. The
lossy compression that is used in all digital HDTV storage and
transmission systems will distort the received picture, when compared
to the uncompressed source.
Standard frame or field rates
ATSC and DVB define the following frame rates for use with the various
23.976 Hz (film-looking frame rate compatible with
24 Hz (international film and
ATSC high-definition material)
25 Hz (
PAL film, DVB standard-definition and high-definition
29.97 Hz (
NTSC film and standard-definition material)
30 Hz (
ATSC high-definition material)
50 Hz (DVB high-definition material)
59.94 Hz (
ATSC high-definition material)
60 Hz (
ATSC high-definition material)
The optimum format for a broadcast depends upon the type of
videographic recording medium used and the image's characteristics.
For best fidelity to the source the transmitted field ratio, lines,
and frame rate should match those of the source.
NTSC frame rates technically apply only to analogue
standard definition television, not to digital or high definition
broadcasts. However, with the roll out of digital broadcasting, and
later HDTV broadcasting, countries retained their heritage systems.
HDTV in former
SECAM countries operates at a frame rate of
25/50 Hz, while HDTV in former
NTSC countries operates at
Types of media
Standard 35mm photographic film used for cinema projection has a much
higher image resolution than HDTV systems, and is exposed and
projected at a rate of 24 frames per second (frame/s). To be shown on
standard television, in PAL-system countries, cinema film is scanned
at the TV rate of 25 frame/s, causing a speedup of 4.1 percent, which
is generally considered acceptable. In NTSC-system countries, the TV
scan rate of 30 frame/s would cause a perceptible speedup if the same
were attempted, and the necessary correction is performed by a
technique called 3:2 Pulldown: Over each successive pair of film
frames, one is held for three video fields (1/20 of a second) and the
next is held for two video fields (1/30 of a second), giving a total
time for the two frames of 1/12 of a second and thus achieving the
correct average film frame rate.
See also: Telecine
Non-cinematic HDTV video recordings intended for broadcast are
typically recorded either in
1080i format as determined by the
720p is commonly used for Internet distribution of
high-definition video, because most computer monitors operate in
720p also imposes less strenuous storage and
decoding requirements compared to both
1080i and 1080p. 1080p/24,
1080i/30, 1080i/25, and 720p/30 is most often used on
Main article: Large-screen television technology
In the US, residents in the line of sight of television station
broadcast antennas can receive free, over the air programming with a
television set with an
ATSC tuner (most sets sold since 2009 have
this). This is achieved with a TV aerial, just as it has been since
the 1940s except now the major network signals are broadcast in high
definition (ABC, Fox, and Ion Television broadcast at
CBS, My Network TV, NBC, PBS at 1080i; and The CW at either resolution
depending on the local affiliate). As their digital signals more
efficiently use the broadcast channel, many broadcasters are adding
multiple channels to their signals. Laws about antennas were updated
before the change to digital terrestrial broadcasts. These new laws
prohibit home owners' associations and city government from banning
the installation of antennas.
Additionally, cable-ready TV sets can display HD content without using
an external box. They have a
QAM tuner built-in and/or a card slot for
inserting a CableCARD.
High-definition image sources include terrestrial broadcast, direct
broadcast satellite, digital cable,
IPTV (including GoogleTV, Roku
boxes and AppleTV or built into "Smart Televisions"),
disc (BD), and internet downloads.
PlayStation 3 has extensive HD compatibility because of its
Blu-ray disc based player, so does Microsoft's
Xbox 360 with
the addition of
Windows Media Center
Windows Media Center
capabilities. On November 18, 2012, Nintendo released a next
generation high definition gaming platform, The Wii U, which includes
TV remote control features in addition to
IPTV streaming features like
Netflix. The HD capabilities of the consoles has influenced some
developers to port games from past consoles onto the PS3,
Xbox 360 and
Wii U, often with remastered or upscaled graphics.
Recording and compression
Main article: High-definition pre-recorded media and compression
HDTV can be recorded to
D-VHS (Digital-VHS or Data-VHS),
only), to an HDTV-capable digital video recorder (for example
DirecTV's high-definition Digital video recorder, Sky HD's set-top
box, Dish Network's VIP 622 or VIP 722 high-definition Digital video
recorder receivers, or TiVo's Series 3 or HD recorders), or an
HDTV-ready HTPC. Some cable boxes are capable of receiving or
recording two or more broadcasts at a time in HDTV format, and HDTV
programming, some included in the monthly cable service subscription
price, some for an additional fee, can be played back with the cable
company's on-demand feature.
The massive amount of data storage required to archive uncompressed
streams meant that inexpensive uncompressed storage options were not
available to the consumer. In 2008, the Hauppauge 1212 Personal Video
Recorder was introduced. This device accepts HD content through
component video inputs and stores the content in
MPEG-2 format in a
.ts file or in a
Blu-ray compatible format
.m2ts file on the hard
DVD burner of a computer connected to the PVR through a USB
2.0 interface. More recent systems are able to record a broadcast high
definition program in its 'as broadcast' format or transcode to a
format more compatible with Blu-ray.
Analog tape recorders with bandwidth capable of recording analog HD
signals, such as
W-VHS recorders, are no longer produced for the
consumer market and are both expensive and scarce in the secondary
In the United States, as part of the FCC's plug and play agreement,
cable companies are required to provide customers who rent HD set-top
boxes with a set-top box with "functional"
FireWire (IEEE 1394) on
request. None of the direct broadcast satellite providers have offered
this feature on any of their supported boxes, but some cable TV
companies have. As of July 2004[update], boxes are not included in the
FCC mandate. This content is protected by encryption known as 5C.
This encryption can prevent duplication of content or simply limit the
number of copies permitted, thus effectively denying most if not all
fair use of the content.
Display motion blur
Glossary of video terms
List of digital television deployments by country
Optimum HDTV viewing distance
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to High-definition television.
The Italian HDTV experience from 1980s to 2006 - in Italian -
The HDTV Archive Project
Images formats for HDTV, article from the EBU Technical Review.
High Definition for Europe – a progressive approach, article from
the EBU Technical Review.
High Definition (HD) Image Formats for Television Production,
technical report from the EBU
Digital video resolutions
LDTV, VCD, HTV
240, 288 (SIF)
24, 30; 25
SDTV, SVCD, DVD, DV
480 (NTSC), 576 (PAL)
24, 30; 25
480 (NTSC-HQ), 576
HDTV, BD, HD DVD, HDV
24, 30, 60; 25, 50
24, 50, 60
819 line system
Filming and storage
HD media and
Super Audio CD
Ultra HD Blu-ray
List of digital television deployments by country
Broadcast video formats
System L (SECAM-L)
MPEG-4 AVC standards
MPEG-1 Audio Layer II
Digital cinema (DCI)
Display motion blur
Moving image formats
MPEG transport stream
Reverse Standards Conversion
Video on demand