Standard-def fare can sully HD broadcasts

  • Article by: DON LINDICH , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 30, 2011 - 10:09 AM

Q I have noticed when I watch the news in high-definition that the announcers and most segments look crisp and clear but that some of the segments look fuzzy and grainy. Why does this happen?

A What you saw was a segment recorded in standard definition and inserted into the HD broadcast.

HD cameras are not yet ubiquitous. Depending on the importance of the event, the station might not have an HD camera available to use to record it. Most viewer-submitted and amateur footage would probably fall under this category, as well.

Sometimes the stations will put bars on the side of the standard-definition segments to fill up a HDTV's wider screen. This is a sure sign that it was originally recorded in standard definition.

No HDMI needed

Q My dad would like to enhance his TV sound by connecting his satellite TV box to his stereo. Unfortunately, his analog stereo receiver does not have HDMI inputs. Should he buy a new one that has HDMI capability?

A He can use his current receiver. Leave the HDMI connected to the TV for the picture (as well as TV sound if he does not want to use the stereo sometimes) and connect the RCA audio outputs from the satellite box to any non-phono input on the receiver. The receiver will then play the TV sound.

New Nikon cameras

Nikon has released a compact system camera, the Nikon 1. The J1 and V1 models sell for $649 and $899, respectively, with kit zoom lenses. Three other lenses were announced, as well.

Nikon's new system has been controversial, and understandably so. Although it has interesting electronic features, the Nikon 1 misses on the most important points one should consider when buying a compact system camera.

The Nikon 1 sensor is significantly smaller than Sony NEX or Olympus/Panasonic Micro Four-Thirds sensors. The small sensor means that image quality, low-light capability and depth-of-field control all suffer. Although the sensor is about half the size of a Micro Four-Thirds sensor, the camera bodies are not smaller. The $499 Olympus E-PM1 camera is lighter than either Nikon while packaging a much larger sensor, image stabilization and an accessory shoe for a flash or electronic viewfinder.

Why would anyone go for a smaller sensor in a bigger, heavier camera body for more money? I fear big-box store shoppers will buy it just because it says "Nikon" on the front. That would really be a shame for both the buyer and the companies delivering much more for the money.

Submit questions and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.

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