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Ramblings from the Restaurant at the Ragged Edge of Reason

Freeview DVB-T in New Zealand

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by , 10th January 2009 at 09:41 AM (2762 Views)
New Zealand has finally (early 2008) released digital terrestrial broadcasting for most of the free-to-air channels.

Strangely given the usual technology lag the providers chose to implement this new service in the H.264/AAC format rather than the more established MPEG2 format used by almost all other countries. This has both its advantages and disadvantages, the decreased bandwidth requirements mean that more channels can be broadcast in the same amount of brodcast space and the quality that can be achived is higher.

The most evident disadvantage is decoding the video. Most DVB-T hardware now has built in MPEG2 decoding as standard allowing the video streams to be decoded in hardware and not taxing the computers CPU. The issue with using these cards in NZ is that as no H.264 decoder is built in this task falls solely to the CPU. This is unfourtunate as the full HD streams can easily overwhelm many processors and the added processing requirements make the computer in question less responcive.

All is not lost on the decding front though as most modern video cards do include support for hardware decoding of H.264 video. This support has only been added comparitively recently and so for the most part you are limited to using a PCI Express graphics card in order to get this functionality.

The next complication is software, support of this encoding is no where near as common as the MPEG2 standard meaning that media applications like Vista's Media Center simply do not support NZ Freeview and probably will not untill the full Windows 7 release. Support for the EPG is also limited as it to uses an encoding not found elsewhere so you are limited to using certain bits of software like Cyberlink PowerCinima which in my experience needs every update avalible to become moderatly stable.

Overall though Freeview is a refreshing change from the imperfect 4:3 aspect analogue TV that we have been stuck with for so long and once you have the system up and running the quality of the picture is supurb.

NZ's favourite TV Programmes in digital quality



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