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Are you really watching free TV in high definition?

There are many hurdles you have to jump if you really want to watch free television channels in high definition.

There are many hurdles you have to jump if you really want to w
published on UK Free TV

You need to ask yourself a series of questions if you want to be sure you are taking advantage of the free HD TV channels.

Given that, in the current week, ITV 1 HD gets only 2.6% of total viewing, compared to 36.5% to the channel in standard definition, and that BBC HD gets 1.2% of total viewing compares 26% for comparable channel BBC TWO, it seems that many people are not taking advantage of the improved pictures and sound that can easily be enjoyed.

So, you have to ask yourself five questions:

Q1 Do you have a high definition television set?

You need to check that your television is actually high definition. Almost all HDTVs are flat screen, but it does not follow that all flat screen televisions are high definition.

The best two clues to look for are the "HD Ready" or "Full HD Ready" logos, and also that the television set has HDMI connectors.

If you have the manual for your television set, it may describe HD as "720 line" or "1080 line". If these are not mentioned, you don't have HD and you will need a new television set.

See also What does "Full HD Ready" actually mean? - - independent free digital TV advice

Q2 Does your HDTV have built in Freeview HD or Freesat HD?

Most HD televisions sold in the UK are "HD Ready", which means that they are capable of showing high definition pictures, but only from an external box.

Some, more expensive, TV sets have Freeview HD or Freesat HD built in.

If your TV set has the Freeview HD logo, it can receive what are known as "DVB-T2" transmissions, which means you get HD direct from the TV aerial connection. If this is the case, see Q4. If the set is "HD Ready with Freeview" it means you can't.

Some high end sets have Freesat HD built in, where you can watch the free high definition channels from satellite. For this to work you will have to use the satellite connection on the set. Remember that set will also have standard definition Freeview, so pictures from the normal TV aerial will not be in high definition.

Q3 If your HDTV doesn't have built-in reception - do you have a Freeview HD or Freesat HD box and the correct cables?

If you have an HD Ready television, you can connect it to an external set-top box to receive either Freeview HD or Freesat HD.

You must make sure that you connect the box to the television set using an HDMI cable. If you use a SCART lead you won't have HD.

Q4 Do you remember to switch to the HD versions of BBC One, ITV 1 or Channel 4

You do not automatically get to watch BBC One, ITV 1 (or STV) or Channel 4 in HD.

You must select the special channel numbers for these services, as the usual channel numbers (1, 3, 4 and 8 on Freeview, 101, 103, 104 on satellite) will only show in standard definition.

On Freeview HD, 50 must be selected for BBC One HD, 51 for ITV1 HD (or STV HD), 52 for Channel 4 HD (not in Wales), 53 for S4C HD (Wales only) and 54 for BBC HD.

On Freesat HD, you must choose 108 for BBC One HD, 109 for BBC HD, 119 for ITV 1 HD (or STV HD), 126 for Channel 4 HD and NHK World HD is on 209.

On Sky HD, you have to choose 140 for Channel 4 HD, 143 for BBC One HD, 169 for BBC HD, 178 for ITV 1 HD.

Q5 Is the HD channel actually showing an HD programme?

Only the BBC HD channel has a HD-only schedule. On BBC One HD, ITV 1 HD and Channel 4 HD non-HD programmes are shown "upscaled" to HD resolutions and look better than the pictures on the SD version of the channel.

Check in the EPG (usually the INFO or GUIDE button on the remote) to see if the programme that is being shown has an HD marker in the listings.

Help with High Definition?
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20 Freeview HD TV channels to close March/June 2019 in Cornwall2
Channel 4 abandons Freesat HD in TWO DAYS3
Five tips for when you are buying a new TV to watch Freeview or Freesat4
Why do less than one in five people with an HD set watch in HD?5
All five public service channels now free to air!6

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

3:40 PM

Tony Hill: Is your box connected to the amplifier you use for your 5.1 sound with either fibre-optic or single-coaxial SPDIF?

If not, you won't get anything other than 2.0 sound.

I can confirm that I was watching BBC HD last night for several hours and the DD 5.1 light was on my amp and the dialogue came from the central dialogue speaker and there was music and effects behind me...

ITV1 HD does not yet carry subtitles.

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Briantist's 38,899 posts GB flag
Trevor Harris

5:40 PM

None of these channels are free.

None of the BBC HD channels are in HD as they only transmit 1440x1920 except when a 3D "experiment" is on. DD 5.1 was not on for the BBC Cup Final on Sunday but it was on for Sky.

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Trevor Harris's 367 posts GB flag
Trevor Harris

5:43 PM

Soory I got that wrong it should be 1440x1080.

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Trevor Harris's 367 posts GB flag

6:15 PM

There has been a number of free-to-air HD feeds on the Eurobird 1 satellite these past few weekends showing Winter sports. Cross Country, Super G, ski jumping, biathalon and a couple of weeks ago speed skating from Moscow for the Netherland broadcaster NOS. To watch them though you needed a 4:2:2 satellite receiver. The quality of a 4:2:2 HD satellite feed is very impressive.

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NottsUK's 345 posts GB flag
Tim CO14

8:08 PM

I currently use an August DVB-T USB receiver to watch Freeview on my PC, with a Hanns G 22" LCD widescreen monitor. That gives a superb high-resolution TV picture, as it does showing HD video. So I am considering upgrading to an HD DVB-T2 USB receiver. The Hanns G is not labelled as HD, but the model is available with an HDMI input.
Therefore, would you say that to all intents and purposes the monitor would display HD TV as well as an HD television?

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Tim CO14's 34 posts GB flag
Wednesday, 29 February 2012

10:01 AM

Trevor Harris: "Free" is defined as "free to air" in this context.

HD is defined by the number of lines in the transmission, and is not regarded as being "not HD" is the pixel shape is rectangular rather than square, again by definition.

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Briantist's 38,899 posts GB flag

10:04 AM

Tim CO14: If you are connecting to a computer monitor with an DVI connection, then it is the video card in the computer that requires the resolution.

As long as your software can decode MPEG4 transmissions and receive DVB-T2, you will get HD.

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Briantist's 38,899 posts GB flag
Tony Hill

2:42 PM


Re 5.1 sound. Yes Freesat box to amp is by digital connection. I didn't mean that I NEVER get 5.1 sound - I do, but the number of programmes broadcasting in 5.1 seems to be limited. The Yamaha amp clearly shows (by icon) when it is receiving 5.1 v 2.0. And, as I said, the BBC HD preview is always in 5.1 - as are some of the "fill-ins" between programmes. The Freesat box and amp are quite new - the amp to replace a higher spec Yamaha amp (replaced because it had no HDMI connections) and I tested using that amp and found the same results - only 5.1 sometimes.

Any comments?

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Tony Hill's 65 posts GB flag
Tony's: mapT's Freeview map terrainT's terrain plot wavesT's frequency data T's Freeview Detailed Coverage

3:31 PM

Tony Hill: If the BBC have a programme that is only 2.0 they will only transmit 2.0 sound, they won't create a pseudo-5.1 mix.

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Briantist's 38,899 posts GB flag
Colin Wardley
11:09 PM
South Ockendon

My arial is tuned to the Blubell Hill transmitter. I have a Samsung full HD television. When will this transmitter send HD programmes pleas?

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Colin Wardley's 4 posts GB flag
Colin's: mapC's Freeview map terrainC's terrain plot wavesC's frequency data C's Freeview Detailed Coverage
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