I've been thinking that it would be a good idea to have one of these so that instead of a bunch of different threads people could just look at this one. Can one of the mods stabby this? (Thanks!) Ground Rules: Nobody is stupid. Nobody's new purchase sucks. The thread is for informational purposes to help people who are just getting into high-definition displays and are confused by all the acronyms and tech-geek words some of us throw around. Definitions. Resolution: TV standard in the US is set to several different standards based on vertical scanning lines. 480: 480 vertical scanning lines. There's actually 540, but only 480 get displayed. This is the standard of regular TV and DVD. 720: 720 vertical scanning lines. This is a high-definition format. 1080: 1080 vertical scanning lines. This is the maximum resolution available commercially today. Refresh type: Interlaced: Denoted by an "i" after the scanning lines. This refresh type draws even numbered scanning lines in one pass, then draws odds on the next pass. Advantage: uses much lower bandwidth. Disadvantage: picture can show as duller and can create artifacts in fast-moving sequences. Progressive: Denoted by a "p" after the scanning lines. Scanning lines are drawn one after another. Disadvantage: takes a lot of bandwidth Advantage: Crisper picture, less artifacting. Refresh Rates: Refresh rates are the number of times the piture on your display is redrawn. 60hz: This is the standard used for most commercial displays. Most film is mastered at 24hz, which requires your display device or source device to perform what's called 3:2 pulldown, converting 24 frames per second to 60 frames per second. 24hz: This is the standard used for most films. Only the more advanced sources can even output at this, and you still need a TV capable of displaying it. However, I can tell you this: a source mastered at 1080p24 displayed on a TV capable of displaying in that format looks un-freaking-believable. Aspect Ratio: The aspect ratio of a video source is the ratio of the horizontal to vertical. Regular TV is 4:3 aspect ratio. HDTV is 16:9 aspect ratio. Movies use a x:1 format, so a movie that is 16:9 would be listed as 1.78:1. Common movie aspect ratios are 1.85:1, 2.35:1, and 2.85:1. 16:9 was chosen as the widescreen TV standard as a rough compromise between the various aspect ratios that could be used. The difference between the aspect ratio of the source and the aspect ratio of your display is what causes the black bars or letterboxing. Most video purists recommend that you always buy a movie in Original Aspect Ratio, preserving the director's vision. Optical Discs: An optical disk is a storage medium that is read by laser from a shiny disc. There's four optical disk standards in widespread use today. Compact Disk: Maximum storage, 650MB. Uses an infrared laser to read data. Typically used for music. Carries approximately 72 minutes of stereo music at 320kbps. Digital Versatile Disk (DVD): Maximum storage, 4GB (single layer) or 9GB (dual layer). Uses a red laser to read data-shorter bandwidth than infrared means more data on same surface. Most widespread movie medium today. Commercial DVD players can typically only read up to 480p60. Many DVD players can interpolate 480p60 source material to 1080i or 720p. This is not the same as HD-DVD or Blu-Ray. Blu-Ray Disc (BD): Maximum storage, 25GB (single layer) or 50GB (dual layer). "Next generation" optical media developed by Sony. Uses a blue laser (again, shorter wavelength) and a shorter focus distance to pack more info onto a disc. Commercially available BD players can read and output material up to 1080p24 and lossless audio formats. NOTE: BD is not DVD. DVD is a trademark of the DVD Forum, and DVD Forum expressly does not support BD. BD players are currently manufactured by Sony, Pioneer, Samsung, and Panasonic. The PlayStation3 contains a fully-functional BD player. I can tell you from personal experience that the PS3 BD player is actually pretty nice, especially for a console-based player. High-Definition Digital Versatile Disc (HD DVD): Maximum Storage, 15GB (single layer) or 30GB (dual layer.) A 45GB triple layer disc has been proposed, but is only theoretical at this point. (Note: Toshiba has officially announced a 50GB triple layer disc today (1/7/7) at CES. No word on compatibility with G1&G2 products.) Uses the same blue laser as BD, but the same focus distance as DVD, which is why storage capacity is less than BD. It does, however, make production and switchover costs for existing DVD manufacturers lower. Commercially available HD DVD players can read and output material up to 1080p24 and lossless audio formats. The only commercially available HD-DVD players are manufactured by Toshiba (RCA and Microsoft both have players, but they're rebadged Toshiba drives) and HD DVD currently has less studio support than BD. However, HD DVD discs are selling considerably better than BD discs, and up until the PS3 was introduced the players were selling quite a bit better than BD players, possibly because of a major price advantage. The XBox360 has an available HD DVD player addon. Update: Since this writing, BD has taken a significant software sales lead driven by the PS3. Total HD Disks: Just announced by Warner Home Video, the Total HD Disk will include both a BD and HD DVD compatible layer. It seems likely that BD-25 and HD-30 will be used. Only Warner will be using these disks at first, and none have been released as yet. Cabling standards Video Only Composite: Little RCA-plugged cable that carries one mixed analog video signal. Please do not use this anymore. Carries resolution up to 480i. S-Video: Multi-pin cable that carries an analog video signal but separates colors and gives less bleed than composite. Go ahead an use this for your VCR if you still have one. Carries resolution up to 480i. Component: Three separate video cables that carrry an analogue signal. Has bandwidth sufficient for 1080p, however copy protected DVDs will only display at 480p over this cabling standard and ICT-enabled HD-DVDs and BDs will also only display at 960i. ICT has not yet been implemented for HD-DVD or BD, and there is debate about whether it will. DVI: Carries a digital video signal up to 1080p from source to display. Will display upscaled DVD output as well as ICT-enabled HD-DVDs and BDs at full resolution supported. Being phased out in favor of HDMI. Audio Cabling Analogue: Analogue typically uses RCA plugs to carry one channel of information decoded by your source to your amplifier. While this is generally considered substandard as most applications are stereo only, some high-end sources have 5.1 analogue outs that can be connected to inputs on a receiver for lossless audio. Optical: Can be either TOSLINK or Coaxial. Can carry a digital audio signal to a receiver. Considered to generally be better than your analogue cabling except as above. Will carry Dolby Digital or DTS signals for 5.1 sound. Will not carry a lossless signal. Combination A/V Coaxial: I assume that everyone knows what this is. Please don't hook your cable box directly to your TV with this. If you have a cable-card TV, knock yourself out. HDMI: Digital signalling cable that can carry both lossless audio and up to 1080p60 video. Can also carry signals back from display to source, allowing some nifty integration tricks with your setup (like shutting down stuff that isn't being used and such.) Does have some issues. Different types of audio Stereo: Your basic binaural signal that simulates live music by outputting an offset signal to left and right channels. Quadrophonic: Basically stereo interpolated to give "echoes". Not widely in use. 5.1: An audio codec ("code/decode") that contains five discrete channels of information for front right, front left, rear right, rear left, center front. There is also a subwoofer channel that can either be muxed into the five channels or separated out to a subwoofer (hence ".1"). Any time you see ".1" it refers to a demuxed subwoofer channel. 6.1: See 5.1, except you add a rear center. 7.1: See 5.1, except you add side channels. Dolby Digital 5.1: A digital audio standard promulgated by Dolby Sound Labs. Approximately 10 years old. DTS: A different 5.1 standard. Has a higher bitrate than 5.1 and better channel separation. Lossless: An audio compression scheme that is lossless can be decompressed into a signal identical to the master. Thanks Vaevictus for the clarification. Dolby TruHD: A lossless audio standard that is encoded on many HD-DVDs and some Blu-Ray discs. TruHD can be 2.0, 5.1, 6.1, or 7.1. DTS HD Master Audio: DTS's answer to TruHD, another lossless format.