Jargon Busters: High Definition Video

A straight explanation of terms and jargon used in the world of High Definition video.

Whatever you may be - a hardcore gamer, sports fanatic, cinema student, or anything in between, chances are you will be dealing with high definition video. This is the latest addition to Tech2's jargon buster, incorporating newer terms coined in the last year, and of course the regular fundamental terms of HD video.

A term reinvented for Blu-ray and HDTVs, which simply means that the TV supports frame rate of 24 frames per second as films are originally shot in this frame rate (see frame rate). ‘p’ stands for progressive (see progressive video).


These are names of video resolutions available in HD. 1080p means the highest resolution available today to consumers. It is made up of video consisting 1080 lines to make up each frame, which is a high level of detail. 720p is a lower level of HD, and has 720 lines that make up a single video frame.  Again, the ‘p’ stands for progressive.

Aspect Ratio
This is simply the ratio of a picture's width to its height. There are 2 main aspect ratios namely 4:3 (Letter-box), and 16:9 (Widescreen). HD video is always in 16:9 or more intense ratios like 2.35:1 for movies. Lately, Philips has even launched a super-wide screen TV with an aspect ratio of 21:9.
Brightness indicates how much light is given out by the screen. It is measured in cd/m2 or candela per square meter. A higher value means more light, which give brighter picture.
Component Video
This has three connectors (usually red, green and blue RCA jacks) that transmit and receive component video signals. The combination of these signals conveys all the picture information.

Composite Video
This is a low quality video connection, and combines the entire video signal into a single cable. Obviously, a lot of picture quality is lost in the process. This is barely used, unless an older piece of equipment has to be used.
Contrast Ratio
Contrast ratio is a measure of a screen’s blackest black and whitest white, which are then compared and stated as a ratio. Higher contrast is always good, as the picture looks more vibrant and lifelike, with better colours.

DLNA is short for Digital Living Network Alliance, and it allows one device to communicate with another DLNA enabled device so that you can share content across a network. Ofr example, if your TV has DLNA functionality, you could easily stream music, videos or photos from your networked PC.  

Frame Rate
This indicated the number of video frames displayed per second. Video is made up of fast moving still images called frames, and the more frames per sec, the smoother the video. Blu-ray and films use 24 frames a second.
Full HD
This is more of a marketing term and means that the number of pixels that make up the screen or video material is 1920 x 1080. This is the highest resolution available to consumers today, and TVs supporting it are the larger more expensive ones.

HD ready
This term can be a little shallow, as it means the display, is capable of displaying HD footage. What is really means is that the display can playback a maximum resolution of  1366 x 768, which is one step below Full HD. It is used for smaller screen sizes and entry level models.

This stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface, and is the newest and highest quality digital connection for video and audio data. It can pass full HD video and uncompressed audio. HDMI 1.4 is the newest version.

It stands for High definition Digital Content Protection. It is a copyright protection system, present in HD receivers and displays. It aims to prevent unauthorized use of copyrighted stuff. Thus if your monitor is not HDCP compliant, you cannot connect HD video content to it. Almost all monitors are HDCP compliant today and if they have an HDMI input, there’s no need to worry.

LCD or Liquid Crystal Display uses the light modulating properties of liquid crystals to show you the picture on the screen. LCD TVs are more energy efficient than regular CRT TVs and more compact and lightweight as well.

These are Light Emitting Diodes and are also essentially LCD screens, but the difference here is the backlight.  The former has an LED backlight instead of the fluorescent backlight that the former has. These LED TVs are even thinner, look better and consume less power than LCD TVs. They are also more expensive, although the prices have come down in the course of last year.

MPEG is a name for a group of video engineers who have invented and standardized numerous digital video formats. It compresses data. There is MPEG1 (old) MPEG2 (used in DVDs) and newer MPEG4 (used in DivX etc)

Digital video is made up of multiple still images moving very fast, and our brain perceives this as a moving picture. Each of these still images is made up of a collection of small dots that make up the entire image, called the pixel. More pixels translates into better picture. The pixel is the smallest unit of digital video, and in reality, is just a small dot.

Plasma TVs
In this sort of TV, the pixels rely on plasma cells. These TVs are said to have the best picture quality and deeper black levels, although LED TVs are quickly catching up. They also have excellent viewing angles, less glare and almost no motion blur. However, plasma TVs also have their disadvantages. For instance, they aren’t available in smaller sizes, are heavier than LCD TVs and consume more power as well. Stationary images such as logos can also be ‘burned into’ the screen.

Progressive means the entire image is displayed in one full sweep. It's quite simple. Imagine a cartoonist drawing figures in his book, and then flipping the pages fast to form the moving picture. Nowadays LCD and plasmas, Blu-rays etc all have progressive video.
This is basically the measure of the total number of pixels in the screen. It is denoted in two numbers like 1920 x 1080 etc. which means the total number of pixels present in the image. The two numbers denote the number of pixels horizontally, into the number of pixels vertically. HD is actually a higher resolution, which means there is higher detail.

Up Conversion
Since the advent of HD, there are workarounds to achieve HD from normal SD footage and this is done by up conversion. Simply put, up converters can artificially create higher res images from low res ones. It’s nothing like the real thing, except of course there some very high end converters sold separately.

This process is also known as upscaling.
Viewing Angle
LCD screens have a generic problem of viewing angles. When the screen is viewed from an angle, the contrast disappears and the image looks washed out. Manufacturers are continually increasing viewing angles for LCDs, they have become as high as 176 degrees. Plasma screens have the best viewing angles, but LED TVs are also catching up

Wi-Fi Direct
This is similar to DLNA, and is basically is a certification from the Wi-Fi Alliance that allows Wi-Fi devices to talk to each other. So if you have a Wi-Fi Direct certified Blu-ray player, you could simply stream media from your networked PC or media centre. This, of course, has serious repercussions for Bluetooth, which is what a lot of home entertainment systems currently use.


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