1080P over RF? How to Discern Myths from Reality.

Some HDTV modulator manufacturers are trying to make a big deal about “1080P video”.  The claim is very misleading, fudging the line between “Marketing Specs” and “Technical Specs”. A Technical Spec defines what the product actually does, so integrators can trust the information in their design. A Marketing Spec defines what the product does – as far as you know. Caveat Emptor.

First, a bit of history. Back when the ATSC group was defining digital TV, there was a 1080p spec. The format wasn’t optimal, because the video only supported 24/30 frames a second, so motion was more jittery than 1080i60 or 720p60 (the video actually refreshes at 59.94 Hz per second). In the end, broadcasters standardized on 1080i/720p, and 1080p24 was never implemented. It’s there on paper, but many TVs aren’t able to play it. In addition, TV de-interlacing has improved to the point where 1080i is closer to 1080p quality – not everyone agrees as to how close.

There are new standards for 1080p60, but it’s based on H.264 MPEG4, a codec not available as yet in most HDTV modulators or TVs. DirecTV and Dish are using MPEG4, but cable companies and off-air broadcasters have yet to adopt it. A few Smart TVs can  play the standard, but that’s too iffy for things to change. Someday, there will be true 1080p available for TVs, but a lot has to change before that happens.

The reality is there isn’t a 1080p standard common to TVs or HDTV modulators at the present. However, some modulators, such as the QMOD-HDSC can accept 1080p video on the front end, but then the signal is downscaled to 1080i60. The result is great HD video on your TV, but not much different than if you started with 1080i.

The key is not to be misled by Marketing Specs posing as Technical Specs. When we at Contemporary Research say “1080p” we’re always careful to state that that’s the input resolution, not the output. Accepting 1080p is a useful feature for broadcasting 1920 x 1080 digital signage. But the TV channel will always broadcast as 1080i60. The result is very good, but we won’t mislead you to think it’s 1080p.

One way you can tell if “1080p” is used to falsely imply quality is to check the product’s RF resolution specifications. If the spec simply says “1080” – it’s a sign that someone is intentionally misleading you. In our QMOD specs, we clearly say 1080i, because that’s what it is.

If a marketer is misleading you, it means you’re likely not getting the quality you expect in other areas as well. The best way to separate the wheat from the chaff is to set up their modulator and compare the actual video quality with our QMOD technology or other professional-grade modulator. Feed both some good, demanding, full-motion video as well as detailed, static graphics. If needed, we can supply a media player with full-bore HD content. Take some time, watch both. The true difference is in encoding quality. QMOD employs professional-grade encoding with excellent motion detection, and it shows.