The March of DTV HD

I didn't mention it but last week DirecTV turned on some more channels - including SciFi HD. And Wednesday they turned on another batch, including Food Network HD. I think everything I watch except Cartoon Network and maybe BBC America is now available in HD (and Cartoon Network is coming soon). So they didn't get the Eureka season finale in HD, but they did have the Doctor Who finale.

There are some growing pains still. SciFi is simply upconverting the 4:3 feed and adding "pillar boxes" (the bars on the left and right of the screen. Which is fair enough, but a lot of their shows are *already* in letterbox, so they are showing a 16:9 image in the center of the screen with bars on all four sides. That needs to stop. (And I'll note to people mocking me for buying the DVDO video scaler that said scaler can quite happily zoom in to fix that problem.) It's not unheard of, HBO HD had that recently on some episodes of . . . I can't remember if it was Entourage or Flight of the Conchords, but I've had to do the zoom HD trick before. I'm hoping SciFi will get it sorted out before Battlestar Galactica returns.

Food Network HD is odd - it seems like test loops more than actual programming. All the other HD channels DTV has been adding are "simulcast" - an HD version of the regular programming. They even come in on the same channel number, which seems a bit confusing. The Food Network is listed as channel 231 and the HD version is 231-1. It reminds me of circa 2000-2001 where the few HD channels only had about six hours of programming each and was on an endless loop. Basically great for showing off displays in the store, but not that exciting for the consumer. Food Network HD showed one episode of Good Eats like 5 times in the first day it was online. Hopefully this is temporary.

The HR-20 unit has grown on me. It's still not TiVo, but it's not bad. In some ways I'm growing to prefer it. It's more responsive than the DirecTiVo units, and its menus are cleaner and less nested. At first I didn't like the 30-second skip showing frames as it moved through (the "undocumented" TiVo 30 second skip simply jump cuts), but I've come to prefer it - if I've clipped into the show I can see that happening.

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