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High Definition is basically increasing the resolution of digital TV broadcasts to show more detail compared to the 625 lines of PAL or 525 of NTSC. Older Than They Think: Analog broadcasts in HD go back to the 1950s, but did not take off until the 2000s. Furthermore, computer users with VGA monitors have effectively had HD since the 1990s.

These three resolutions are generally regarded as HD:

  • 720p (1280x720, progressive-scan)
  • 1080i (1920x1080, interlaced)
  • 1080p (1920x1080, progressive-scan)

Note that 480p (640x480, progressive-scan) is not regarded as High Definition, but Enhanced Definition. Some PC monitor manufacturers bill a resolution of 2560x1600 (yes, it exists; no, it's not cheap) as "XHD".

Usually broadcasters tend to choose between 720p and 1080i depending on their type of programming; for instance ABC, Fox, ESPN and the A&E/Lifetime networks go with 720p to reduce image blur during fast motion in sporting events and films, and to address bandwidth concerns. 1080i broadcasters such as NBC, CBS, the Discovery networks and Food Network and HGTV go for image clarity. However in many cases the average consumer has no need to understand either format, as they all provide a great picture. 720p sets are cheaper than 1080i televisions, though as prices go down, 720p sets are becoming fewer and fewer. 1080p is mainly a media resolution utilized by camcorders, Blu-ray and the PlayStation 3 as it is not currently possible to broadcast a 1080p signal over the air.

Despite the list below, basically everything new since 2009 on major networks and cable has been filmed in high definition television in North America. The few shows that haven't, such as America's Next Top Model and Big Brother, have varying reasons, such as probable unease by Tyra Banks over the format, and in the case of Big Brother the high cost of refitting a show with multiple voyeuristic cameras with the HD variety (which are useless when most of your Hard Core fans watch on the web and accept low video quality), or have a budget so low they have to use old SD technology by default.

The ultimate resolution, which is drooled over by home theater buffs as it's the exact size of a 'frame' of a digital theatrical film, has a width of 4096 pixels and a varying height between 2200-3100 pixels depending on film aspect ratio standard; this is known as "4k" and let's just say right now the cost is in Porsche purchase territory has very little content for it, and you're just better off hoofing off to the theater to experience it.

An increasing number of television programmes are now filmed in the format, though the majority of films are still filmed using celluloid. Movies that were shot on film have also been "high-deffed" from the original prints which technically are already HD (and nearly every film now is transferred to a digital format after editing via computer at a resolution slightly above or roughly twice that of 1080p). With the increasing availability of HD camcorders and the increasing popularity of the winning format in the brief HD-DVD war, BluRay, HD will become the norm. Consumer items such as the iPhone and Flip cams, and even $100 point-and-shoots with HD capability have accelerated this transition even further.

Some classic sitcoms and dramas which are on film can also be remastered into HD if the original negatives are available; this is seen on many shows which air on Universal HD and HD Net, along with programs such as the original Star Trek, which saw an acclaimed re-release in the format in both syndication and on Blu-ray.

The net result of this has been to show more detail and clarity on pretty much everything, from football replays to craggy faces, and also given both makeup artists and local news anchors who could get by with just a smidge of makeup much bigger challenges to deal with.

It's also resulted in a lot of people buying new televisions, especially in the United States after the FCC had forced the digital conversion (originally planned February 12th, 2009 but delayed by the President to June 12th).

Of the Sixth Generation of game consoles, the Play Station 2 and Xbox both technically supported HD, but very few games used those modes, especially on the Play Station 2, which only had TWO games that supported 1080i (Gran Turismo 4 and Tourist Trophy, which, it should be noted, ran on the same Game Engine). The HDTV Arcade Game Database highlights which games do support the 720p and 1080i modes. Homebrew for either platform will be more likely to leverage the higher resolution. Most games (but not all) among all four consoles support 480p, at the very least.

Of the Seventh Generation of video game consoles (the PlayStation 3, 360, and Wii), only the Wii doesn't have HD capabilities. This has the side effect of making it so some PlayStation 3 and 360 games have near illegible text or HUD elements on non-HD TVs(since the game programmers expected it to be played on widescreen HD sets), a problem not present in the Wii due to the aforementioned lack of HD, though the Wii's 480p resolution is considered enhanced definition..

Programmes shot in High Definition:

Films shot on High Definition Video: