Jan 7, 2009

[Technology] A Step Towards HD

Home CinemaImage by zoph via FlickrLike most other geeks, I find gadgets pretty cool. Of course not all geeks like the same things and while I may not be big on mobile devices and the increasing miniaturization of chip sets and storage media, I do tend to get impressed by really powerful hardware, great home setups and vacuum cleaners that threaten to rip a whole in the fabric of spacetime. Throw in my other geeky leanings about movies and TV and of course the buzz around true home entertainment technology comes into play.

High Definition is the big buzz word for TV fanatics like myself these days. Despite my living in a third world country where HD penetration is laughable, I'm still pretty excited about the technology and recreating that experience at home. However given the prevailing climate, that's not really an easy option. I considered all this as I was shopping for a new DVD player today and ended up going home with a new 5.1 home theater system. I'm preparing myself for a true HD experience once I can actually afford / save up for / charge my credit card for a great HDTV in the choices I make now, but then again you have to take a step back and think about how far behind the Philippines is.

And we really do feel third world in this regard.

HD penetration has been really helped along by the prevalence of HD content. Having the equipment is only part of the equation - you still need content also in that weight class. Many people make the mistake of thinking that just owning and HDTV means they already have the HD experience. Content in itself can come from a variety of sources but as expensive at it is to buy individual movie titles in DVD or Blu-ray format, content is much easier to come by through paid TV.

That's what I think has really helped push HD awareness into the mainstream - the cable TV and satellite TV wars. With all the providers in the market, the race is on for them to provide either the most HD channels or the "best" HD channels by whatever standards they can think of. It's meant a big win for consumers as they rake in the benefits of more advanced content and at the same time its prompted more HD equipment purchases in order to unlock the added picture and sound quality.

Here in the Philippines, the paid TV isn't even predominantly digital and we're still making those first baby steps towards addressable set top cable boxes and access cards. Thus the only way to get HD content is through individual DVD or Blu-ray titles as I mentioned before, and this has stalled our progress towards true HD. Sure, HDTVs are on sale everywhere but the average consumer can't really appreciate the value of the equipment other than the TVs being a lot slimmer than before and being able to mount them on your wall like a picture frame. But that's not the point.

So as I was shopping for a DVD player today, that little debate kept raging in my mind. Sure, it would be cool to own equipment moving towards that HD direction, but without the actual TV and access to significant amounts of HD content, why bother, right? Was I just wasting money even making sure that the player I was buying already included an HDMI cable that I can't use right now?

I blame the campaign I'm working with at the office these days. I'm heavily involved in a sales campaign for a US satellite TV provider, and day in day out my working life is filled with discussions about HD technology, getting the most out of your home entertainment system and generally just getting the true theater experience at home. I have to admit that I WANT that HD experience. Just because I don't get digital cable TV signals means I'm going to give up on things right away. By hook or by crook, my personal geekdom demands I move towards becoming HD-capable at home.

Was it necessarily a smart decision? In the long run, maybe, provided I actually do get an HDTV in the foreseeable future, which I'm sure I'm bound to blow several paychecks on sooner or later. At the same time, it probably wasn't the most amazing decision either given the lack of HD content here in the Philippines. Still, a guy can dream, right?

Why is being a geek so expensive at times? =P

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