Surveys show about 1 in 5 HDTV owners end up NOT watching the big game or other programs in high definition due to improper setup (source: The Nielsen Co.).
Follow our check list to make sure your HDTV is ready for Super Bowl viewing with the best, sharpest picture. We take you step by step from TV signal to a full high-definition image.
There are three possible ways to see the game in high definition, over-the-air, cable or satellite.
An HDTV over-the-air tuner is built-in to all HDTVs, but to receive the game in HDTV via free over-the-air broadcasts you will need an antenna and know if your local NBC station’s transmitter is within roughly 25 miles from your home. You will also need to have a line of sight to the transmitter tower. If you have a building, hill or mountain between you and tower you probably won’t be able to get reliable over the air reception. Check with antennaweb.org and/or your local NBC station for more information about what size and type of antenna you need to see the game, as well as the direction you need to point it. Because of all that is involved, the vast majority of viewers choose cable or satellite.
You need the right equipment and settings to see the game in glorious high definition. First you need to make 100% sure your cable or satellite box is a “High Definition” model. The cable and satellite providers will often rent you a standard def box if you do not specify a high definition model. Most HD boxes have either the letters HD or HDTV or “high definition” on their front panel. If it doesn’t, it is probably a standard def model and you will need to get a replacement before the game.
You also need a high definition cable to connect between the box and your HDTV. The best is called HDMI. It carries both the picture and sound over a single cable. Get the High-Speed type as it can handle any current or future signal you will receive. Retail stores usually charge $25 to over $100 for a 6-foot HDMI cable. Amazon makes a great High-Speed HDMI Cable that sells for $7.99 for 2 meters with free shipping.
Cable/satellite box settings
Getting the proper resolution
First learn from your program provider which channel carries the NBC high-definition signal, as many cable and satellite companies still simulcast the standard definition version on a different channel. Next, through the cable or satellite box remote control set the box’s resolution to match your HDTVs resolution. If you have a 1080p HDTV, set the box’s output to 1080i (the TV will automatically convert the “i,” for interlaced, into “p,” for progressive). If you have a 720p HDTV, then set the box’s output to 720p.
You’ll also need to make the set top box is in “16×9″ not the “4×3″ mode. If this is not set correctly, you will see a smaller cropped image.
First confirm the HDMI cable is connected from the set top box is to an HDMI input on your HDTV. We choose “HDMI 1″, as this is the most frequently used source in our house, though any HDMI TV input will work the same. Using the TVs remote control, set the TV input to the corresponding one to where you connected the HDMI cable.
Your HDTV will have settings for aspect ratio and most sets have a second "sub-control". The main aspect setting you need will be the one labeled “Full”, choose it. If your set has a sub-control called “Dot-by-Dot”, “Native”, or “Just Scan”, use it. Panasonics have a sub-menu that lists Size One or Size Two. Choose Size Two. All these modes allow the HDTV to place the entire image on the screen without cropping it (called overscan even though TVs don’t scan anymore). This control gives the viewer everything the director sees at the highest resolution. Your HDTV will now match the NBC HD signal pixel for pixel. On some HDTVs this control will be grayed out if the set’s picture “mode” is set to Vivid or Sports, it usually requires standard, or custom (see picture modes below for more information).
Reducing Motion Blur
LED and LCD TVs that have 120 Hz, 240 Hz or 480 Hz refresh allow users to reduce blurry motion by engaging these circuits during sports programs. Different set makers call them different names such as "Motion Plus" or "Motion Flow" etc. This mode must be in the “On” position to get crisper motion. Consult your TVs “on screen” menu for this control or your owner’s manual. Note, Plasma TVs have full motion resolution without these circuits, so no adjustment is necessary
All HDTVs have preset picture modes as a starting point for picture optimization. Avoid the following preset modes for the best game viewing: “Sports”, “Vivid” “Dynamic” and “Game” Yes, it sounds counter-intuitive, but these presets are generally made to produce the brightest image on the showroom floor, not the best picture in a home. Use modes such as “Movie” or “Custom” as the best starting point. If your set does not have those modes, choose “Standard”.
By taking a few minutes to check our simple list you can be assured you are viewing the Super Bowl and all other programs with the best high-definition image your HDTV is capable of producing. Now you’ll really be ready for some football.
This story was originally published on HDGuru.com.