Oh, the fun you'll have with HDTV - Curt Yeomans

You can find some very interesting things on the new channels you get via High Definition Television (HDTV).

I recently got an HDTV conversion box hooked up to my TV, and the results were a plethora of new channels to watch. For example, I spent last Saturday watching the movie "Moonraker" in Spanish on one HDTV channel, and that wasn't so bad.

Later in the day, I found a program called "The Beatniks" on WSB-TV channel 2-2. This is a channel which normally plays classic television series like "Perry Mason," "The Streets of San Francisco," "Magnum P.I." and "Airwolf."

It's essentially TV Land for the poor man.

Anyway, "The Beatniks" is this late-night, B-movie program which, from what I could tell, is produced in Buffalo, N.Y. It's a bunch of beatniks interrupting a decent, bad movie, like Elvira if she were the "Mistress of the Pot," instead of the "Mistress of the Dark." Last Saturday, the film of the night was "Son of Godzilla."

Cinema at its best, I'm tellin' ya. Giant mutant Praying Mantis and a giant spider v. the big green guy and big green guy, jr.

Well, every five minutes, "The Beatniks" would cut to a commercial break -- the same four or five commercials every time (including a low-rent one for an occult festival which will happen next month in what looked like a giant, super sewer in Buffalo). When "The Beatniks" came back from the break, you'd have to listen to a bunch of beatniks babble on about something unimportant, or a band that was mediocre at best, ramble on for five minutes. Then you'd get another five minutes of the movie.

Let's be honest, after a half hour of that, I wanted to see the son of Godzilla burst onto that stage and breathe his rings of fire on "The Beatniks."

The fact is HDTV is coming whether we want it to arrive or not. The federal government has mandated traditional broadcasting formats cease in February 2009. After that, all channels will be broadcast in HDTV.

So what is the difference between standard TV sets, and HDTV sets?

Standard, or old school, TV sets have 480 scanning lines. Scanning lines are the horizontal bars which create a picture on our TV screens. The fewer lines being used, the easier it is to see the lines, which can create a semi-pixelated effect. An HDTV has 720 scanning lines, enough to make the lines very hard to see.

Also, HDTV's are different from their ancestors in terms of aspect ratio. The aspect ratio is the dimensions of the screen. You will notice standard TV sets have a box-shaped 4:3 aspect ratio. HDTV's are widescreen, which means they have a 16:9 aspect ratio, which matches the aspect ratio of a screen at the local movie theater.

All of that means it will be easier to see all of the subtle details of an image -- like a wart on the end of someone's crooked nose.

However, there are some real gems on HDTV channels. 11Alive has an HDTV channel which only tells you the local weather. This is a great tool because it's like having the Weather Channel without asking yourself, "Why is Jim Cantore tempting fate by standing right in front of those hurricane-generated waves? Does he have a death wish or something?"

Georgia Public Broadcasting has two HDTV channels which show the exact same show that is being shown on the regular broadcast channel. Ion television (formerly the I network, which was formerly called PAX TV, which was formerly a bunch of static), has three or four HDTV channels. The Trinity Broadcasting Network has five HDTV channels, which can give you every variation of Christianity out there.

Get ready Henry and Clayton counties -- HDTV is here to stay.

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 247 or via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.