Monday, March 31, 2008

HDTV Antenna - the simple way

So I've mentioned that I'm considering dropping cable TV after the spring season, due to the fact that the 2 "cable only" shows I just can't wait for DVD for are ending, and pretty much everything else I watch is on the major networks.

So I started looking around for an antenna for my TV. I was a little shocked by the wide selection (and the prices! $25 to over $100??? For an antenna?) and I suspected that since the "HDTV" antenna was sitting right next to regular old coax cable marketed as "HDTV READY!" with a fair markup, there may be some hype going on.

Back to the internet to do some research before I spend "dumb money".

As it turns out (as I suspected), an HDTV signal is broadcast over the air in the same manner that TV has always been broadcast. The difference is in the tuner, not the antenna. Something else I learned is that there are a lot of people making their OWN antennas. Hmmm.

So I grabbed a basic design, and decided to go "all out". I bought the screws (98 cents) the washers (88 cents) and the UHF/VHF Transformer (sounds impressive, doesn't it? $3.79 at Lowes). The board, wire coat hangers and cable TV cable were all "reclaimed" or "found". Total cost to me was under $6. That's a savings of $14 over the cheapest "store bought" rabbit ears I could find, and given the nature of rabbit ears I have no doubt that this works far better (just take my word on the engineering techno mumbo jumbo, K? THX!)

I used this design (video) and it took me about an hour while watching Reaper yesterday afternoon. Hooked it up today, and get a BETTER picture than Comcast for the local HD stations. I pick up about 24 stations total, although 6 of those are "regular" and "HD" versions of the same station.

I'll get some pictures up later, but I'm quite pleased with myself.


antennaguy said...

To viewers already receiving a cable or satellite network, the benefits of Off-Air antennas are compelling. There is only so much room on cable or satellite bandwidth in which to squeeze signal, so data is compressed to fit, resulting in a somewhat "soft" picture. An OTA signal is the gold standard in digital reception because it's almost completely uncompressed and also FREE. Local digital TV broadcasts are everywhere. But bandwidth limitations force cable and satellite providers to not carry all local channels in many areas, or may not offer all of them in high definition. Contract disagreements between local cable operators and local broadcasters mean that major networks may not be available in several areas. DISH Network® offers local HD coverage to about 47 percent of U.S. markets, while DIRECTV® reaches about 76 percent, but for an additional monthly fee.

What about those other millions of viewers who want to see their favorite local shows and in HD. The answer is to add an OTA antenna to other signal reception sources. This not only gives a viewer the ability to receive all their local stations, but, with the right digital antenna and location, some viewers may even be able to receive out-of-town channels, carrying blacked out sports programs or network broadcasts not available in their home town. As an added benefit, an OTA antenna provides back-up reception options for local cable or satellite signal loss due to equipment failure or rain, snow and ice fade and to smaller TVs and second sets in homes not wired for whole-house signal distribution.

Daniel said...

That certainly explains why the HD picture I get from my $5.65 homemade antenna looks noticeably better than the same local channels on my $39.95 a month cable!

Thankfully Tivo lets me specify which source I want to record from!