Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Free OTA HDTV

I must confess, for the last couple of weeks, that I've been a little bit obsessed with receiving 'Over The Air' Digital TV. I've been reluctant to sign up with either Belll or Roggers for their so called 'Digital Cable' not only because I find the CAD 35+ per month fee oppressive, but the channels that they offer in their 'Basic Digital' package are all free channels that you could receive in Analogue if you stuck a basic antenna in the rear of your TV. Additionally we do not watch a lot of TV. In a typical week, we watch the American Idol shows and '24' on Monday. And that's that. The girls watch TVO kids for an hour every day and that's that. 

The US was supposed to complete their Analogue shutoff by Feb 17 '09, but this has been extended till June 12 '09. Canada makes the shift by 31 Aug '11. After that you're on your own.

I still have my old CRT that I brought over with me from Dubai. It's probably 12+ years old, but works fine. It has a built in multi-system tuner and has dual voltage capability. But methinks that it's time has come. As soon as I re frame the wall of the Media Centre, I'll get a new LCD to go on the wall.

But I digress.

So. What do you need to receive Digital TV???
1. A Television set ( this should be a no brainer)
2. An ATSC tuner (this should preferably be built into the above mentioned set)
3. A HDTV Antenna (A 4 bay works well for 40 miles. An 8 Bay will work better and up to 80 miles. I'm told that anything of the Gray-Hovermann 8 bay design will enable reception for 100 miles)

If however like me you do not have the ATSC tuner built in and still have that old CRT from the days of yore - then in addition to the above, you need the following

4. ATSC Converter Box

What the box does is convert the incoming 720p or 1080i signal and downscales it to 480i which is what is called SD or Standard Definition.

Finally, you need some but not all of these

5. Patience (for when things just don't work)
6. Some lengths of RG6 cable (The Antenna MUST be connected to the receiver)
7. A sense of balance (to be able to stand on a sloped roof)
8. A lack of Common Sense (to go up on the roof in Winter)
9. Gloves (so that your fingers do not freeze)

After a bit of basic experimentation (this translates directly as impatience) which involved me assembling the antenna and pointing it out the basement window, I was receiving only 3 channels clearly. CBS English, CBS French and Omni 1. I then screwed the antenna to a spare 2x4 and took the antenna out on to the deck where I received 7 channels. While this was nice, I was still not receiving CTV on which we watch American Idol.

This morning, after having spent the week hunting and gathering, I assembled the parts required to take the antenna on to the roof. I decided that the easiest way out was to bolt the mast to the vent pipe exiting the roof. This is where the gloves would have served me so well.

How did I determine distance and positioning?? Google Earth. Enabling the ruler tool, I drew a straight line from my house to the CN tower. This gave me the distance as well as the elevation of both my place and the CN tower as well as showing me (by eyeballing the path over which the line travelled) the direction.

So was all of that effort worth it??? You tell me.
These are the channels that I receive crystal clear. And FREE. Most, if not all are broadcast in 1080i. FYI. Neither Belll nor Roggers (Yes. that typo might keep me free from litigation) deliver full HD even at 720p. It's simple really. There isn't enough bandwidth to allow for all of their channel to allow HD.

Canadian Channels 
CBC HD 
CTV HD 
CITY HD 
SUNTV HD 
CTS HD 
GLOBAL HD 
E! HD 
OMNI.1 HD 
OMNI.2 HD 

American Channels 
NBC HD 
CBS HD 
FOX HD 
TheCW HD 
PBS HD 

The Antenna that I bought is a very basic version and set me back CAD 30. I will upgrade to an 8 Bay Channel Master by summer when the new LCD TV is in.

For resources to get OTA HDTV in the GTA region, I would go to these sites.

c. http://www.tvfool.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=15&Itemid=1 (download a .kmz file for Google Earth showing stations and locations in Google Earth)
d. http://www.remotecentral.com/hdtv/ (for a list of stations in the GTA/Buffalo area with the broadcast resolution as well as a very big map showing distances etc.)

Where did I buy my stuff from???

e. http://www.3jdirect.com (run by Joseph from his house and located in the Woodbridge area. Bought the Artec T3AP DTV Converter Box)
f. http://www.electroncanada.com (located on Keele & Steeles - they are a closeout store - I picked up a vent mast mount kit as well as a F connector compression tool for 9.99 that normally retails for 19.99 elsewhere)
g. http://www.eoutletcanada.com (located on Dufferin & Steeles as well as locations in Mississauga and Markham - bought the 4 bay antenna from them)                    
h. http://www.partsforhdtv.com (located on Esna Drive in Markham - Have not bought anything from them due to their distance from me, but they do have similar offerings as the above three)

9 comments:

Karl said...

So. What do you need to receive Digital TV???

So what if you don't have those 9 things but you have Dhiraj D'souza's phone number would it still work ?????

No sports channels, not a good thing. ...... I guess just a matter of time eh.... DD will find the sports channels soon.

Dhiraj Athanasius D'Souza said...

What do you need sports channels for??? All you get is curling!!!!! And bollocking from Elva for watching too much sports...

Avinash said...

A very nice post D. Detailed to the point it feels a little like we're getting a glance behind the Wizard's curtain - rest assured 'tis a good thing. Thanks for the knowledge! As Dan would say, "Sharing is caring."

Dinesh Alexander D'Souza said...

Belll annd Roggers willl nott bee happpy camppers whenn thiis commes too liight.

Gooood Shiiit maaan !!

Dhiraj Athanasius D'Souza said...

Yes. I'd expect a good Rogering from them!!!

Joseph (3J-Direct) said...

Much thanks for the referral! It is great to see you were happy with my products & services.

All the best with your OTA Expedition!

Joseph,
3J-Direct

Himanshu said...

Hey Dhiraj, great post man... I was investigating this myself back in the days (but I lack skills and patience) and the time the cost of the whole setup was just around $250 CAD. How much did this cost you in total.
I just went the other route for now... and convinced Rogers to not charge me anything... so for next two years I am not paying for HD or HD box.... but time is running fast so any info will be great, it will help me evaluate my options with them ;-)

Dhiraj Athanasius D'Souza said...

Hi Himanshu, thanks for the comment. The breakdown was CAD 53.00 for the converter box and CAD 50.00 for the antenna. Should you have an HD capable TV, you can drop the converter box.

BTW Rogers do not offer true HD. Theirs is a HD minus. In theory, you have limited bandwidth that can travel over the coaxial cable and therefore some for of compression (QAM) exists at both ends. True HD is clarity personified.....

Ellie Springer said...

Hi,
I'm trying to contact Joseph frmo 3J. Do you have his contact info?

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