Video Sources: Keeping Up with the Changes
The range of video sources available has expanded dramatically during the last few years, and now includes: Blu-Ray discs, DVD, Cable TV and Satellite programming, plus pay-per view TV, video streaming from Netflix and other services, as well as downloads from internet sites. All of these sources are encoded digitally, and output only a digital signal for the TV. But some, including DVD and most cable and Satellite TV boxes, can still provide an analog output—for older TVs which lack an HDMI input.
- Most Blu-ray players also play CDs and DVDs. Some even up-convert DVD content to near high definition quality. Others can stream Netflix and other web-based content.
- Ultra High Definition (or 4K) TV has begun gaining market share, and may soon replace High Definition (1080p) TV as the dominant standard. But very little 4K content is currently available. Most 4K TVs solve this problem by up-converting HD signals to near 4K quality.
- DVD discs made for non-US markets typically cannot be played on DVD or Blu-Ray players sold domestically. If you buy DVDs on the internet, check with the seller to make sure the disc(s) are playable on US machines.
- Most people rent (rather than buy) the cable TV or Satellite box, so they don’t get to choose the specific model supplied by the service provider. Some older models (especially with built-in DVRs) run very hot, and can’t be fully turned off, except by unplugging. These boxes may cause heat problems. The newest boxes run cooler, but many of the old ones are still in circulation and remain a problem. If it runs hot, it will need lots of ventilation.
- For VCRs and legacy cassettes: replacement players are now hard to find, and the tape inside older cassettes becomes brittle with age. Recommendation: transcribe important (heirloom) VCR tapes onto DVDs now, before they become too brittle to play.
- As the number of sources in a system increases, integration becomes more complex, and the system will become more difficult to use—unless a programmable universal remote control system is added. See Very Smart Remote Control Systems; Advance Remote Control Features. Also, be aware that your surround receiver may lack enough inputs (of the right type) to accommodate all the sources. For ease of use, simplify whenever feasible.
- Internet video resources are vast, inexpensive, and relatively easy to use. But most of this content is compressed to save bandwidth and storage space. This means that most internet-based video sources cannot deliver the highest quality images and sound.
For viewing re-runs of a network TV show on your tablet, this probably won’t matter. But for a large panel TV or projector, the quality difference between a compressed download and a Blu-ray disc is dramatic. Recommendation: match the bandwidth of the source with the capability of the video display (or audio system). With content quality, there’s no free lunch.