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The BBC's service, which is now set to launch in spring 2008, will provide a "guaranteed non-subscription" digital satellite service.
The boxes will provide a HDTV satellite version of the popular Freeview service, with a number of BBC, ITV channels in high definition plus all the existing services that the current Freesat service provides.
Currently both Channel 4 and five have agreements with Sky which require their channels (with the exception of Film4) to require the use of a "Freesat From Sky" card. This means that you currently need to purchase a card from Sky Subscriber Services Ltd for 20 to watch Channel 4, five, Five US, Five Life and Sky Three.
Whilst this card is included as part of the 150 cost of Freesat From Sky, Sky have in the past invalidated the existing cards and demanded payment for a new one from Freesat users. Last time Sky did this the telephone number that was provided told customers that the must subscribe and mislead callers telling them no replacement cards were available!
The BBC/ITV service will have several potential uses:
a box-swap replacement to upgrade an existing Freesat from Sky or Sky subscription box for a box with HDTV services;
a multi-room installation with an existing dish fitted with a quad-LNB;
connection to a Windows Vista Media Centre or Windows Home Server;
Mark Thompson (BBC Director-General) said "The BBC's objective in launching Freesat is to support Digital Switchover by providing another way for licence payers to receive digital television channels and radio services, subscription free from the BBC and ITV.
"Its primary purpose is to drive digital take-up in analogue homes, particularly in those areas which are out of digital terrestrial coverage. Freesat also offers a trusted free-to-view digital upgrade path that gives licence payers all the benefits of digital television (notably high definition capability) guaranteed free of subscription."
Michael Grade (ITV Executive Chairman) said "Freesat will build on the success of Freeview by offering viewers a simple and cost effective way of upgrading to digital TV. By filling in the current gaps in Freeview coverage, Freesat will ensure that a free-to-air, no strings attached option for accessing digital TV is available to the whole of the UK ahead of digital switchover. By offering HD capability we will future proof Freesat if, as expected, high definition television continues to capture the imagination of UK viewers."
What channels will be provided?
The current single-channel HDTV service for the BBC is only a test service. It seems reasonable that the BBC will provide the main channels in HD resolution. This will probably not extend to the BBC regional news services, and may not initially include the national variations in HD.
ITV1 is the only network of theirs with regional variations, so again a "Network" version of the channel will be provided in HD, with SDTV potentially regional adverts inserted. It seems reasonable that ITV2, ITV3, ITV4 and CITV will also broadcast in HD.
It seems that the other public service broadcasters, Channel 4, five and S4C will want to get on board. This will require E4, C4, More4, five, five Life and five US to change their broadcasts, or for the new BBC Freesat to simulcast these channels as HD.
Channel 4 told the Guardian that the channel "currently has exclusive [digital satellite] carriage deals in place with Sky Digital for the majority of its channels (other than for Film4, which is broadcast free-to-air). Under the Communications Act we would expect to become subject to obligations to ensure the availability of the core channel on all satellite platforms, which would require that Channel 4 was available on Freesat."
As for the other non-public service Freeview channels:
Ftn, The Hits, TMF, UKTV Bright Ideas, UKTV History are locked into Sky subscription agreements, but obviously it would be to the benefit of Freesat if these channels could be made available to the extra 2.5 million homes.
Sky Sports News is a subscription service on satellite and Sky Three would have to go free-to-air, which may happen to show Sky's benevolence.
Your comments are always welcome. Please use the form below to add your thoughts or questions to this page. We will get back to you as soon as we can.
David Haworth Tuesday 17 February 2009 6:10PM
Les - the plot doth thicken. Spoke to Humax technician and he accepts that there is a sound problem on the HD 108 channel which he says is down to it being 5.1 Dolby ( I disagree!) and thinks I may be able to tone it down using my Denon amp. Agrees that the Std Def picture on Freeview is better than Freesat and suggests I turn off the Humax upscaling and use the Pioneer's only. Agrees that the "delete a file' option is a problem that they are working on. My Humax still crashes at least every two days. Not happy! Where is Briantist?
David Haworth, does your remote control have a audio button on it. If so when you are on BBC HD change the audio from Dolby Digital to Stereo. The Dolby Digital level is higher than the Stereo level. When Stereo is selected it brings the sound level of BBC HD down to the same level as BBC 1. This also applies to the HD channel "LUXE.TV" the Dolby Digital audio level is higher than the Stereo level.
NottsUk - might work but I don't want stereo I want DD.
It is difficult for me to emphasise just how loud the sound is on the HD channel - it is mind-blowingly loud to the point where I think it will blow the speakers. This is a serious problem which Humax have not properly addressed in suggesting it is just 5.1 v stereo. They are supposed to be coming back with an answer but have not done so yet.
Also system has just crashed again. I am really p---- o-- with this PVR - believe me this is no Tivo.
Les - just to emphasise the point - when switching from say 107 to 108 you dare not do it without first switching the sound to almost nil. It is ear-screechingly loud and I believe cannot be accounted for by differences in output from one channel to another. We are not talking 10% here it is 10-20 times louder. This only happened when Humax told me to 'factory reset' and restart the box. Before then it was just slightly louder. This is a Humax problem- but why only on 108?
David Haworth - Channel 107 (BBC Four) only has three audio options, stereo, mono (L) and mono (R). Whereas 108 BBC HD has four audio options, Dolby Digital, stereo, mono (L) and mono (R). What seems to be happening when your switch from 107 to 108 is the audio is changing from stereo (107) to Dolby Digital (108). Try changing BBC HD to stereo and see if you get the same problem then when switching from 107 to 108. ITV HD also has the Dolby Digital audio option so tonight at 10.35pm, according to TV Times, ITV HD are showing the film American Pie 2, so see if you get the same audio problem when you select ITV HD. If you do then the problem must be with the Dolby Digital circuitry.
David/Notts UK As earlier stated where I've routed everything eg: Technomate 6800 =- Humax DTR - Toshiba DVD through my Sony Amp HDMI ports and single out to the TV HDMI in port -Minimized sound on the connected components - disabled the tv sound output and allowed the Sony surround amp to solely control sound output having selected the Dolby 5.1 Digital on the amp this provides a fully balanced sound output. I have no volume difference whether viewing and listening to a standard transmission or an HD one. Obviously my Amp is able to correct any im-balances there are between components attached to it.
David - Have you tried by-passing the Denon with a direct HGMI connection from the Humax to the TV? Doing that would certainly highlight any problem with the Humax's circuitry or whether this an issue solely when you are paired to the Denon amp.
Les - Humax connected to TV through HDMI and sound to Denon through Optical link. Older (but fabulous!) Denon does not have HDMI switching. Sound problem is on both TV and Amp. Spoke again to Humax (why do I bother?) who suggests broadcasting differences which is clearly wrong as it only happened after Humax told me to 'factory reset' for other problems I was having. This is clearly a software problem. I have 'factory reset' three times this morning and on the 3rd reset the sound came back to manageable levels. Now I only have to worry about lower picturequality v Freeview which Humax tends to agree with and system crashing every two days. Humax says I should set the box to 'auto shut off' and make sure I always switch on the Humax and wait for it to reboot before switching the TV on. Have you ever heard anything so daft! So when you do that the Humax switches off whenever you switch inputs -say for DVD,Freeview etc. This is one crap box!
David. - I have thoroughly tested my setup this morning and can confirm a "PROBLEM" with HD sound on the "HUMAX" Whilst my Sony amp manages every thing OK the remote volume level on the Humax is either off or Pumping up the volume at full blast when in HD mode. This doesn't happen with the Technomate. I will now raise this wioth Humax also
I have a very useful Excel spreadsheet which allows me to see which Freesat channels I can watch whilst recording 2 other channels with my Humax FOXSAT HDR recorder. But I need to input the frequency and polarization of my local BBC1, BBC2 and ITV1 channels in the SW of England. How can I get this information?
The higher volume level on 108 BBC HD is a transmision problem. I have two boxes , Humax HD and Pace HD and the problem is identical on both boxes. you just have to tweek the respective volume levels and input attenuators (if you have them) to achieve a comprimise that is managable.
Les - at last! Hope you have more success with Humax than I did. Any thoughts on 'Auto Shut off' which means that the Humax box shuts off whenever you switch inputs. Bob - I am not just talking higher volumes I am talking ear-splitting volumes - is that what you have been getting?
Bob - I Have as my previous post a Technomate 6800 HD PVR capable which I bought just before Christmas (Latest Model) and this HD sound issue as I pointed in my earlier post just does'nt exist with this box. Because I can control this problem via my Sony amp it isn't as David Haworth is finding. I had to by-pass my amp to replicate David's issue. Humax suggested using an optical connection but as David has this connection then I can't see the issue being resolved by me connecting in this manner as Humax have suggested. I will however check this tomorrow and also try an AV cable connection. The receiver and Remote volume control shouldn't switch from a completely "Off" position to Full volume with no user variable settings in HD mode.
David - Re auto shut off (standby mode) is normal. A Scart connection works in the same manner as you switch between connected components. My friend has the Humax DTR and Technomate basic non HD non PVR. When he sets the Humax to record an HD program eg: a football match and its in standby whilst he watches another program on the Technomate in SD then Humax recording is activated by the timer schedule and records the match OK. This also works for him when the Humax is set up to record two programs.
David, Earspliting volumes canot be controlled of course,that has to be a reciever fault. I find that to high a volume from the humax is more dificult to handle so I have the volume quite low and balance the volumes with the input attenuators and amplifier volume, it helps also if you have auto volume balancing on TV output which some TV's have. As far as the diferent channels is concerned you set up for the majority at a slightly lower volume. If you can't put up with turning the volume down on the HD channel then turn of DD, it's your choise, better quality or uniformity.
Bob - thanks for your inputs. If I had to control the level of sound to the HD channel then such is the difference that I would not be able to hear the other channels. If this difference is a BBC thing surely they must know about it and actually do something about it. Continually changing the volume everytime you change channel is not 21st century watching. Unfortunately trying to email the Beeb is very trying as they take you through so many loops you forget what you are doing in the end.
Just seems silly that every time you switch inputs you have to wait for the Humax to reboot.
Bob - also what is the point of HD channels boasting about broadcasting in full surround sound if the best option is to turn it off! Will have to get my personal technical advisor (son) to see if he can sort things out.
David - Don't see how this can be a Beeb problem when the Technomate handles variable volume control either directly with the receiver or it's remote when receiving HD. Still to check out the other connections by-passing the Sony amp..............Will keep you posted
David - If you have to continually reboot it confirms you must have a faulty reciever. I've had these sort of random and persistent faults many times when I worked as an engineer and allmost allways replacing the unit cured the problem. When I talk about differences in volume they are not that excessive and certainly controlable, lets face it you can get variations between diferent programs on the same channel but 5.1 DD is definately louder.
David Haworth - Tested out the connection options optical and RCA and there is little variation. Optical and HDMI are noticeably upped in volume but the audio is crisp and clear compaed with the RCA audio. I was watching Arte and ANIXE HD - German Channels on Astra 1C where there are similar variations in sound volume output that requires volume adjustment although not as dramatic as the Humax where you have nothing at all or thumping out at full volume. Consolation this afternoon was that Arte HD was showing a short TV Drama centered on a French Naturist camping site boobs bums and wedding tackle in all their glory. Continentals seem considerably more liberal in their viewing habits than we are obviously.
Les Nicol - ARTE HD and ANIXE HD are on the new ASTRA 1M satellite that was launched towards the end of 2008. Channels from other ASTRA 1 satellites at 19.2 degrees East started moving over to this new satellite a couple of weeks ago. ASTRA 1C satellite is positioned at 5.0 degrees East, unused.
Notts-UK Thanks for the info. Will run a scan to see if the sat listing comes up. Not sure if Technomate updates the listing in this way or whether it comes as part of a package download. Obviously the parameters will be there in the scan.
Les - I see we taken views to the usual level! Much more interesting than my little problems I suspect. This is my first foray into the satellite world which as you will gather has been a little fraught. Don't suppose the Humax will allow me a little glimpse! Tried to email BBC but you are taken to so many pages you lose the will to live but I did get through on the phone which was even worse than Humax so I gave up on that one as well.
David - Just to say that the Arte program wasn't in any way pornographic but as child actors as well as adults were involved I couldn't see such a program being shown in this country. I think the continentals are much more relaxed about nudity than we are and all that that implies the consequence for us here is staggeringly high teenage pregnancies - "Alfie"----- Whilst there is a crucial need to protect youngsters somewhere we seem to get the balance wrong between the need to protect eg: baby "P" and the absurd situations where parents can't take photographs of their children in school plays etc. Maybe it's just the kind of society we live in ---
David Haworth: It is worth noting that the 5.1 sound signal is a 100% different mix from the usual stereo pair. The 5.1 is six channels of sound that make up the whole mix, if you switch into an out of this without a 5.1 system you will hear the channels mixed together which increases the total volume.
Brian - I know you will be busy catching up but thought I would mention considerable improvement in BBC World News content and service presentation. Also now getting full 16" x 9" screen picture - not loosing the 1" at the top and bottom of the screen.
Brian/Les - I have sorted out my volume control on the HD channel! Although why on earth Humax couldn't have told me I don't know.
The 3 units (Humax/TV/Denon) all have volume control/outputs and being an old Hi-Fi nut I would never use any output at full volume because that is when the most distortion occurs. However - setting the Humax to full volume output and controlling the sound with the Denon has solved the problem. It doesn't seem to bring the sound level of HD any higher up but lifts up all the others .
Now I only have to worry about the much lower picturequality of Freesat v Freeview which is still an issue for me and which I can confirm having seen my brother-in-law's setup yesterday and a green screen whenever I leave the Humax on overnight and have to reboot- Humax says it is a 'handshake' problem whatever that is. And of course broadcasting childrens programmes on HD channel at 7.00 pm! Welcome back Brian.
David Haworth - Pleased you got your sound sorted out Re your picturequality - are you saying that your Brother in Law's equipment is the same as yours but managing a satisfactory quality of picture in Freesat and Freeview or is his set up different to yours?
David - Mean't to say that I think you will find that the Humax remote only needs to be moved fractionaly from having no sound to pumpimng up to full volume (excepting when managed as you've found out via your Denon.) As far as I am concerned there's no way that should be! There has to be an issue when the user can't control a gradually peaking up of the volume from no volume to maximum on a variable scaling with the Humax receiver or remote control. As I mentioned in my earlier posting My Technomate receiver with Dolby digital maintaines its variable volume control no matter how it's connected to other devices. The Humax only manages it's volume variable setting when connected directly to the TV. As soon as it's connected to another device( s) it seems that the ability to set the volume by the receiver or it's remote is disabled as far as any variable control is concerned.
Les Nicol: I'm still sure that the Dolby Digitaloutput is not volume-controlled by the receiver, whereas the standard stereo signal is. So, when the volume level is down at 0, the Dolby Digital is muted, above that level it is simply "on".
So, anything (amplifier) decoding the Dolby Digital has to provide the volume control itself, whereas the stereo pair is attenuated both in digital and analogue form, and so you get two volume levels, one from the receiver and the second from the amp (stand-alone or in a TV).
Brian - Running both receivers side by side both on with the Sony amps remote switching the HDMI ports bewteen the two. The Humax volume as you say is either on or off with the master volume being controlled by my Sony amp. However the Technomate through the Sony amp and using it's own remote can over-ride the Sony setting in that it can drop the volume on all the Dolby speaker channels equally and not just the stereo pair. It can't over-ride beyond the upper volume set by the Sony's volume control. I always use the amp's volume control as the master anyway but there is that notable difference between how these boxes function which I probable would not have picked up had I not attempted to assist David Haworth with his issue.
Brian - Whilst one can archive from the Humax via a pen drive(I earlier posted the proceedure) I am going to have a go at seeing what I can do with recorded programs coming off the Technomate. I have a Buffalo Turbo 500GB external laptop Drive connected to it. I'll connect to my PC and see what if anything is possible with my de-cryption and re-coding software!!!!
Briantist - my brother-in-law's setup is Humax through the latest Sony 40W4500 and mine is through the Pioneer 428.I still say the picture on Freeview is noticeably better than Freesat.
Just read a review of the Humax on reghardware.co.uk and he says the same thing that the upscaling of Std Def through the Humax is simply not good enough considering that it is 90% of current viewing, although he is not sure whether it is a Humax or a bandwidth problem, only that it worse. I really didn't want to pay£450 for a picture that is worse than the one I have now and children's TV from 7.00-9.00 pm on the HD channel, and a unit I have to reboot everytime I leave it on. I have never had a bad picture on Freeview only on Freesat.
Brian - Humax suggested the same ie turn the output from the Humax to 'original' using the V-format button on the remote and then use the TV's mapping/upscaling. This I have done but my comments remain the same - which I suppose could mean it is a bandwidth problem and something you would presumably know more about.
As I have said before I maybe being super-critical but I cannot ignore that I have spent £450 and apart from Sunday night when the HD channel is at its best, I have not moved forward in the visual aspect(actually backward) but the sound through my very good audio setup has improved.
Any comment on my daily 'green screen' issue? I hate to say this but in 10 years my Tivo has never crashed!
David Haworth: If you are in a situation where you have a fully digital end-to-end broadcast chain (digital camera, digital studio, digital distribution, digital transmission, digital reception and digital screen) then there are few factors that effect the picturequality when you only change the transmision/reception part of the chain.
Or to put it a different way, if we are comparing satellite, Freeview and cable reception using a built-in or HDMI connected receiverbox then the only difference in the whole chain are the parameters used for the MPEG2 encoding.
This parameter effects the level of information carried about the picture, when the factor is changed to reduce the number of megabits output from the encoder the main effect is to make the picture "blurry" and only in very poor levels does the picture first become "pixelated" and finally "blocky".
Sometimes it is noticeable, for example the BBC News on Freeview (as I recall) is very bandwidth restricted (and mono) whereas the satellite version appears clearer.
As I keep saying, any attempt to "sharpen" a "blurred" picture that is a result of MPEG2 encoding will simply show up the data that the blur hides. The TV controls should be set to hide these, not to reveal them!
Have you tried using the Freeview testcard to ensure that the TV picture levels are optimum?
Brian - I read with interest your reply but as I am not the only one who thinks that Freeview reception is better than Freesat on Std Def could you confirm whether you agree?
My son downloaded the optimum settings for the Pioneer 428 and set them accordingly and I have no hesitation in saying that the picture on Freeview in terms of colour rendition ,contrast and sharpness is exceptionally good and far better than the 36' Sony CRT I still have. To be honest it is not that far behind HD and far better than any LCD I have seen (only wish I had bought the 50'!)
The picture is by no means unwatchable on Freesat but in the way that a reviewer gives one TV 5 Stars and another 3 Stars that is what I see, and it is not what I expected for £450. I have no doubt than when we start to get semi-decent HD programming I shall change my mind.