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OTA Antenna and HD ATSC Broadcast Information

Many people are interested in Over-The-Air (OTA) antennas and signals, especially with the rise of high definition (HD) television screens. There are presently two types of OTA signals: digital standard-definition signals and digital high-definition signals. Analog signals are also available in Canada. Following is an explanation of what each is, why you'd want them, and how to find out if you can get them. All, of course, in relation to TiVo and other DVRs.

  • Digital, high-definition (HD): This is the highest quality signal broadcast from antennas, and it's also generally higher than the compressed signals from satellite providers DirecTV, Dish Network, and cable companies. Local stations broadcast these ATSC signals in every major metropolitan areas and many smaller ones in the US. They sometimes carry more than one stream of HD signal allowing for more programming options. It is these channels that DirecTV is adding to its new satellite and broadcasting in the MPEG4 format. But the DirecTV, Dish Network, and cable rebroadcasts of these channels are down-rezzed so that the HD image loses much of its clarity and sharpness. In many cases the differences are enormous. For that reason, even if you have DirecTV, Dish Network, or cable equipment that can get these locals, you'll be better off with an antenna pulling these stations in from the local towers. Also, getting the signal this way is much more impervious to weather conditions especially rain-fade.
  • Digital, standard-definition (SD): Digital SD broadcasts are part of the transition to ATSC digital television and are often overlooked. They generally provide the same picture as the discontinued analog version, but at a much higher quality, and with a better chance of clear tuning. Basically, though, there is very little that can deal with these signals that doesn't also do HD, so there's not too much to do with it.
  • Analog, standard-definition: Generally called NTSC, this is the old-fashioned and original television broadcast. This has been discontinued as of June 2009 in the US, but still exists in Canada.

Equipment: To record these high quality HD signals, the latest TiVo options are the Roamio OTA and the TiVo Bolt. The Roamio OTA will record from off-air only, whereas the TiVo Bolt will record from cable or off-air (but not both).



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