High definition jargon buster

Tell your plasma from your LCD from your 1080p and Blu-ray with our guide to making high definition language easy to understand.

100Hz: A form of video processing which can enhance the smoothness of picture motion with some TV screens.

1080i: The name applied to the HDTV standard most commonly available in Australia. This delivers digital video with a resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels (1920 x 1080), or 1440 by 1080 pixels (1440 x 1080), in interlaced format.

1080p: The video standard used for Blu-ray, the highest quality currently available. This provides 1920 by 1080 pixel resolution (1920 x 1080), normally at 24 or 60 frames per second.

576i: The name applied to Australia’s standard definition TV system. This is basically the same as PAL.

576p: According to Australian law, this is a high definition format. In reality, it offers little over the 576i of SDTV. It is used in Australia by SBS in what it claims is its HD channel.

720p: A high definition digital video format where the image has a width of 1280 pixels and is 720 pixels tall (1280 X 720). The video is in progressive scan format, and may be delivered either 50 times per second (in Australia on ABC HDTV) or 60 times per second (in the US with downloadable HD movies and TV).

Artifacts: Any unwanted visible effects, including ‘pixelation’, ‘smearing’ or contouring’, in a picture. Typically caused by transmission problems or poor processing of the video signal.

Aspect ratio: The width of a picture relative to its height. Analog pictures have a 4:3 aspect ratio, while high definition displays (projectors, plasma and LCD TVs) and HD broad-casts have a 16:9 aspect ratio.

Blu-ray: The successor to the DVD, this format has nearly six times the capacity of a DVD, permitting it to carry movies in high definition format, providing the best in-home video entertainment ever developed.

Contrast ratio: The range of brightness between the deepest blacks and brightest whites of a TV screen. Usually gives a good idea of how black a screen can go. The bigger the number the better.

Dolby Digital: A digital audio format for carrying good quality surround sound, with up to 5.1 channels. Used on DVDs, Blu-ray and HDTV.

Dolby Pro-Logic: An older surround sound system which still works today to turn stereo into surround. Can work well with many stereo movies and TV transmissions. Pro-Logic II and IIx enhanced versions improve the surround effect from stereo sources such as TV broadcasts, music and games.

Downconvert: The conversion of a higher-resolution video signal to a lower one. For example, some digital TV receivers can be set to downconvert HDTV 1080i signals to standard 576i signals that any TV can display.

DTV (Digital television): A term referring to all digital television formats, including high definition television (HDTV) and standard definition television (SDTV).

EPG (Electronic Program Guide): An onscreen display of channels and program information.

HD (High Definition): A more detailed video format with a resolution of 1280 by 720 pixels or, more commonly, 1920 by 1080 pixels.

HDTV (High Definition Digital television): A term referring to the highest quality digital television format, providing greater sharpness and detail than standard definition television (SDTV).

HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface): A connection standard for delivering high quality digital video and audio between devices in a single convenient cable.

Integrated TV: Any display, such as an LCD or plasma, that integrates a standard definition or high definition digital television tuner.

Interlaced: As opposed to progressive scan. Video and film consists of a series of still images shown in rapid succession. When interlaced, each still image (called a ‘frame’) is broken into two parts (each called a ‘field’) and the fields are sent in succession. When video is interlaced, it is up to the display to recreate the full frames from the two fields. The letter ‘i’ is often used to indicate this, as in ‘1080i’ or ‘576i’.

LCD (Liquid Crystal Display): A display technology used in TVs and projectors. LCD panels control the light that can pass through them, producing the picture.

LFE (Low Frequency Effects): Used in surround sound systems to carry special deep bass tones in movies. Supported in most digital sound formats.

NTSC: The TV system used in the United States, Japan and South Korea. A frame of NTSC video is constituted by 480 horizontal lines, but is broken into two 240-line fields which are sent in sequence, sixty times per second. The digital version of this on DVDs has a resolution of 720 pixels across by 480 pixels tall.

OSD (On Screen Display): The menus and information screens shown by TVs, DVD players and some home theatre receivers on the TV screen. These make setting up these devices somewhat easier than those devices that lack them.

PAL: The TV system used in Australia, much of Europe and various Asian countries. A frame of PAL video is constituted by 576 horizontal lines, but is broken into two 288-line fields that are sent in sequence, 50 times per second. The digital version of this on DVDs and SDTV has a resolution of 720 pixels across by 576 pixels tall.

Pixel: Short for ‘picture element’. This is group of three tiny dots (one red, one green and one blue) that together form a single coloured dot. The picture consists of hundreds of thousands of these coloured dots arranged in a grid.

Plasma: A display technology used for panel displays. The picture is created by an array of tiny glass cells, which contain a certain gas. When an electrical signal is applied, the gas emits ultraviolet light that excites coloured phosphors in the cell to emit coloured light.

Progressive scan: As opposed to interlaced. Video and film consists of a series of still images shown in rapid succession. With progressive scan, the entire still image, called a ‘frame’, is transmitted intact. The letter ‘p’ is often used to indicate this, as in ‘1080p’ and ‘720p’.

PVR (Personal Video Recorder): Equipment that uses a hard drive, an EPG (Electronic Program Guide) and internal processing to simplify the programming and playback of recorded programming. Often come with two tuners to provide greater recording flexibility.

Resolution: A measurement of the detail that can be displayed – or ‘resolved’ – in a video image. Resolution is commonly expressed as the number of horizontal lines (measured vertically) used to create the image, with higher numbers indicating more detailed images.

SD (Standard Definition): The standard picture resolution similar to that seen on DVD. This has a resolution of 720 by 576 pixels (720 x 576).