Sydney and Melbourne are going through the final stages of the digital TV switchover and there’s sure to be a lot of questions about how this event will affect TV viewers everywhere. One thing’s for certain though - you can put away your “PANIC” button because we have the most common questions answered here, and we’ll continue to update them as questions keep popping up.
Q: Does Digital mean I need internet access to watch TV?
A: Not at all - all you need is your current antenna cable plugged into a digital TV receiver - this could be on your TV, on a set top box or on a PVR.
Q: How do I know if I have a digital TV or not? I bought a TV a few years ago but can’t be sure.
If you’ve tuned in your TV and you can get channels like 70, 71, 21, 22 etc, then you have a digital TV and don’t need to do anything. If you only pick up 0, 2, 7, 9 and 10 then you most likely have an analogue TV. Also, if your TV shows all programs in a square-like picture, or looks unusually stretched across the screen, then you’ve probably got an analogue TV.
Q: I have a flat panel TV, it doesn’t have digital channels but still has a great picture. Can I still use it after analogue switch-off?
A: Definitely, and you will also see a vast improvement in the picture quality. All you will need is a set top box or PVR with a digital receiver built-in. This will be able to connect to your TV and deliver the broadcasts you’re used to watching along with a host of additional content.
Q: I hear there’s extra channels on digital. What’s that all about?
When you tune in your digital TV, you’ll be getting access to both TV and radio channels through your digital receiver. Here’s an example of some of the enhanced content you’ll be getting with your digital TV coverage:
First, the national broadcasters. On ABC, two children’s channels air during certain hours of the day, there is a 24 hour news channel, and two radio channels. On SBS, there is a HD version of the standard channel, a foreign language channel and three radio channels.
On the commercial broadcaster front, Channel 7 delivers 7Two and 7Mate as well as the main channel; Channel 9 also broadcasts GEM, Extra and Go! channels with additional entertainment and infomercial content; and Channel 10 also has Eleven, One and TVSN. So as you can see, the move from analogue to digital isn’t just about clearer pictures and sound - there are lots more channels, old and new TV programs to enjoy and movies to watch with the family, in addition to national radio channels.
Q: I’ve heard these terms “set top box” and “PVR”, what do they mean?
A digital TV set top box (or STB) is a small device the size of a DVD player that has a digital tuner built in. These can be connected to your older TV through RCA, component or HDMI connections, depending on what the set top box and TV has. You connect your antenna into the set top box, and then the STB to the TV, and you’ll be able to see what the digital TV STB is receiving. STBs usually come with a remote control so your TV effectively becomes a monitor with all the control through the STB.
A personal video recorder (or PVR) will record television programs in the digital format that it is broadcast, making it available for you to watch it at a later stage. Some PVRs have two tuners, so you can watch one channel while you record another. And if you happen to have a digital TV and a dual tuner PVR, you can watch digital TV through your television and record two different programs, all concurrently.
Q: So I will need a PVR to record if I upgrade to a digital TV?
A: Not necessarily! A lot of new TVs have built-in recording functions, where you simply insert a flash drive or hard drive through the inbuilt USB port. You can use the TV functions to program and then record.
Q: So... is a smart TV a digital TV?
A: Smart TVs are those that can connect to the internet and provide enhanced functions like watching video streaming content, browse the web and check out your social network updates. Because these are a fairly new development in TVs, the majority of these will have digital TV receivers.
On the other hand, a digital TV doesn’t mean it has smart capabilities, and in fact it may not suit you to have those extra features. However, there are some advantages to having a smart TV that relate to digital TV. For example, some brands have the ABC iView app and SBS On Demand app, which collect recently broadcast programs into an easy to use interface. This way you don’t have to record ABC or SBS, you can browse this app and stream missed programs - very much like video-on-demand.
Q: I have a big collection of tapes that I've recorded and purchased over many years. Will I still be able to watch those on my new digital TV?
A: Absolutely! New TVs still have what's called "legacy" inputs to enable older devices like VCRs to be connected. If you're upgrading to a widescreen TV for the first time, you will find that all of your recorded footage will be in a square format with black pillars on either side. However, any VCR with an analogue tuner won't pick up free to air broadcasts.
If you are concerned about being able to enjoy your VCR tapes in the future, one thing you could do is invest in a DVD-VCR combo, so you can migrate your tapes over to DVD. This will also stop any further deterioration of the tape contents. Once you move it across to DVD, it's essentially preserved in a digital format and will retain the same playback quality no matter how many times you use the DVD. In fact, DVD-VCR combos have the added benefit of having a digital tuner so you can record programs straight onto DVD for future viewing.