Sky has just added fuel to the current high definition TV fire by announcing that when it launches its UK HD broadcasting service on May 22 it will be broadcasting all of its channels in the 1080i HD format.
On the surface this announcement might not seem particularly important. But actually it’s significant for three main reasons.
First of all, it runs counter to previous announcements from Sky suggesting that it would deliver its HD broadcasts in 720p and 1080i formats, depending on which format was best suited to the type of material being shown. For instance, it’s generally considered that 720p looks better with sports footage, while 1080i looks better for documentaries and movies.
Next, since some US HD TV series are filmed in 720p, the 1080i-for-everything decision raises the prospect of Sky potentially having to use scaling processing to turn these shows into 1080i for its own platform – a procedure that tends to reduce the final picture quality.
Finally Sky’s 1080i decision provides further ammunition for the scaremongers who claim that the 720/768-line TVs most of us are buying now aren’t able to do full justice to do the UK’s high definition sources. While Sky was intending to use some 720p broadcasts this argument didn’t hold up at all, as 720/768-line TVs could be argued to look better with 720p broadcasts than a more expensive 1080-line TV would. But now that the UK’s first HD system is looking set to go exclusively 1080i, that argument fades and saving up for a 1080-line TV suddenly seems to make much more sense.
In reality the differences in picture quality between a 1080i picture on a 1080-line screen and a 1080i picture downscaled to 720p are minimal unless you’re talking about really large screen sizes. But we somehow doubt that this is the message the mainstream press/shopfloor salesmen will be pushing as they try to scare you/tempt you into getting rid of that 720-line TV you’ve only just bought in favour of one of the new, premium 1080-line models.