Discussion Topic: 1080p Movies Coming to your Satellite Box Soon – John E. Johnson, Jr. – November 17, 2008

The other day I received notification from DirecTV that they would soon be delivering movies in 1080p to my satellite box, and that the box could handle them, and I could watch these movies on my HDTV as I would any other programming.

Well, the question is how well this will work, and will it provide us with anything we don’t already have in terms of the final image on our TV screens.

First, programming is currently delivered in 1080i, and the end result is different when the source is, say, a live TV program shot in 1080i, vs. a 24fps movie shot on film or digital.  With the live program, each field, which consists of 540 lines, representing 1/60th of a second of video action, does not allways merge with the subsequent field because it represents the subsequent 1/60th of a second in the video action. On old 1080i CRTs TVs you end up with “combing” where edges of object are not straight because they moved between one field and the next. On newer 1080p TVs this material is deinterlaced with variable quality.  If done incorrectly, entire frames are interpolated from individual fields, resulting in only 1/2 the resolution.  If done correctly though, only areas of the picture in motion lose resolution, and the remainder of the picture is full 1080 line quality.

Film on the other hand, has individual frames, 24 of them per second, and each frame gets divided into two fields. 1080p TVs are able to recombine the fields into frames yielding a true 1080p image.

So, whether the filmed movie is sent to us via cable or satellite in 1080i or 1080p, the end result will look the same when the TV merges the two fields to become 1080p.

What then is the point of this new venture?

Marketing? Probably. Will it increase subscriptions? Probably.

Will it work? Probably, as long as the cable or satellite box can downconvert to 1080i or 720p so that it can be connected to the majority of HDTV’s out there that were purchased before 1080p.

Dish Network has been offering 1080p24 movies as part of their VOD (Video On Demand) service now for several months. It seems to be working.

Whether the movie is sent the cable or satellite box as 1080p24 or 1080i60 is unimportant, as long as the box gives a choice of, and can output it correctly as, either 1080i60 for old HDTVs, 1080p60 for the newer ones, or 1080p24 for those lucky enough to have one of the new TVs that accept 1080p24 and interpolate in between frames to give us a 120 Hz image (120 frames per second, with each native frame in the 24 FPS movie having 4 interpolated frames in between). I don’t think that is what is going to happen, but, we will see, and it looks like it will be soon.