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HD (high definition) is the latest in a long line of major improvements in television technology, which has moved from black-and-white analogue to widescreen colour over the last 50 years. HD gives you exceptionally clear, crisp pictures with vivid colours and up to five times more detail than standard definition.
More and more programmes are being made in HD and most new flat-screen televisions (LCD and plasma) are able to show them: look for the 'HD Ready' logo on the box. The BBC is helping to lead HD development in the UK so that residents will be able to enjoy the benefits of this new technology.
What Do I Need to Get HD?
To watch programmes in HD, you will need the following:
An HD Receiver (a digital box that is designed to receive HD)
An HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) cable
An aerial, satellite dish or cable connection (from an HD service provider).
HD Ready TV
When buying a TV, make sure it's marked 'HD Ready'. Note that an 'HD Ready' TV won't turn a standard definition programme into an HD one; you will only get the full detail of an HD picture if the programme is broadcast in HD and you have an HD service installed.
An HD receiver is a digital box that is designed to receive HD broadcasts. You might already have an integrated TV with an HD receiver built in. If not, you can buy a separate HD receiver from a satellite company (Sky), from a cable company (Virgin Media), or you can get a Freesat or Freeview HD box from an electrical retailer.
HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) Cable
Because HD transmits in greatly increased detail, if you have a standalone HD receiver, you'll need an HDMI cable to connect it to your HD Ready TV - just look for the marked output/input points on the back of your equipment and plug it in. If you have an HD integrated TV, you won't need an HDMI cable, as the HD receiver will already be built-in.
Aerial, Satellite Dish or Cable Connection
If you do not already have an aerial, satellite dish or cable connection, one can be installed by an HD service provider*.
*It is also possible to buy an HD receiver and satellite dish from a retailer and arrange installation through an independent satellite installer. Once you have bought, installed and set up this receiver and dish to receive all available free-to-air channels you should be able to watch the BBC HD channel (provided you have followed steps one, two and three, above).
There are currently four HD service providers: Freesat, Freeview**, Sky and Virgin Media. For Freeview you will need an aerial, for Freesat and Sky you'll need a satellite dish installed outside your home and for Virgin Media, you'll need a cable connection.
Freeview: Freeview HD is a television service that offers HD channels, including the BBC HD channel via your existing TV aerial, all for free. In order to view these HD channels you will need a Freeview HD box that connects to an HD Ready TV. Or, if you don't have an HD ready TV, then TVs with Freeview HD built in are now available. Plus, you also get access to up to 50 SD digital channels and radio stations - all for free. To check if you can receive Freeview HD at your address and for more information visit freeview.co.uk
Freesat: this subscription-free digital satellite TV service from the BBC and ITV includes the BBC HD channel. To get freesat, you make a one-off payment for the HD digital box and installation. For more information, visit freesat.co.uk
or call 0845 313 0051.
Sky: as BBC HD is a free-to-air channel, you don't need to purchase a subscription to view BBC HD on Sky's HD service. Sky's HD service allows you to view BBC HD plus two additional free-to-air channels. To get Sky's HD service you will need a Sky+HD box and a satellite dish. Sky also offers a subscription HD service which allows you to view a further 34 HD channels and a choice of on-demand HD programmes. For more information, visit sky.com/hd
or call 0844 241 1614.
Virgin Media: an HD subscription package which includes the BBC HD channel is available on cable. HD on-demand programmes are also available. To get Virgin Media HD, you need a V+ HD digital box. For more information, visit virginmedia.com
or call 0845 840 7777.
Programmes from the BBC HD channel are also available on the BBC iPlayer on Virgin Media (to watch these, you'll need a cable connection and a V+ HD digital box; and will need to follow all the steps to ensure you are properly connected).
If you already use Sky and Virgin Media, you'll need to upgrade to their HD service and buy one of their HD receivers. If you use Freesat or Freeview, you'll need to buy one of their HD services. Contact your service provider to find out more.
** Freeview HD is already available in London and Manchester and is rolling out across the UK. 50% of UK households will be able to access Freeview HD by mid 2010 and 98.5% by the end of digital switchover in 2012. You can use the Freeview HD online or SMS service to check when it will be available in your area - but you can still use a Freeview HD receiver to access current Freeview services until Freeview HD reaches your area.
Surround sound - also known as 5.1 sound - is the latest improvement in audio technology, which has progressed from mono sound to stereo sound, and now surround sound. It expands and deepens sound quality and gives the audience a three-dimensional experience. HD Ready TVs have stereo speakers built in already and these will deliver good sound quality. However, if you want to take full advantage of the home cinema experience, you may want to buy a 5.1 surround sound system (five speakers and a subwoofer) that is compatible with your HD set up (ask your retailer if you're not sure).
The BBC HD channel launched in December 2007 and was the UK's first free-to-air high definition television channel. It is currently available on satellite and cable. The channel features a broad range of quality programmes from across the BBC channels, including spine-tingling drama, heart-stopping nature epics, and the very best of sport, entertainment and music programming in beautiful detail and exquisite sound. BBC HD currently broadcasts for 9 hours a day between 4pm and 1am, with extended coverage for live events.
The channel brings all the excitement of HD to your favourite BBC programmes - from Life to Nature's Great Events, Doctor Who to Top Gear, Wimbledon to Six Nations, Later... with Jools Holland, Electric Proms and Strictly Come Dancing; and for the younger generation, much loved programmes like In the Night Garden and Tracy Beaker.
Find out all about the new channel.
The subscription-free digital satellite TV service from the BBC and ITV.
Sky offers HD channels and a choice of on-demand high definition programmes.
Virgin Media offers HD channels and a choice of on-demand high definition programmes.