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Understanding Basic A/V Jargon


The first step to deciding what technology to integrate into your home is to have a basic understanding of what everything means. TV commercials and the big box retail store salesman throw phrases like “1080p HD” and “10,000 to 1 contrast” around like there’s no tomorrow, but what do they all mean?


Resolution a measure of the number of pixels on the display. The smaller the pixels, the finer and sharper the image; therefore the higher the resolution, the better the image. Resolution is measured by multiplying the number of vertical pixels by the number of horizontal. The numerals 720, 768, 1080 refer to a fixed number of vertical pixels that make up high definition images. Typically, a picture with more than 700 vertical pixels is considered standard baseline HD.

Ex. Displays boasting a 1080 resolution (which have 1080 vertical pixels and 1920 horizontal pixels have 2,073,600 total pixels.

When viewing on a 42" screen, the difference between a 768 and a 1080 resolution image is not very noticeable to the human eye. However, the difference between the two images is much more apparent on a 100" screen as the pixels become larger because of the increased size of the screen.


Many times, 1080 is followed by either an “I” or “p”. What is that?

Interlaced (i): The images are separated into odd and even horizontal lines and delivered in 2 alternating fields; the first field contains the odd lines and the second field contains the even lines. The lines are alternately refreshed at 30 frames per second.

Progressive (p): All of the lines of the image are drawn in sequence which solves the distortion of interlaced images


Aspect Ratio: the ratio of image width to image height

Standard TV - 4:3 (or 1.33:1)

Widescreen - 16:9 (or 1.78:1)

Cinema - 2.35:1
Contrast Ratio: Ratio of white to black

A contrast ratio of 400:1 means that the lumen output of a projected white image is 400 times greater than that of a projected black image. A higher contrast ratio will always project a richer image with better color saturation because the difference between white and black is greater. When comparing equipment, contrast ratio is not a good basis of comparison because there are so many different methods of measurement.

Display Technologies

DLP (Digital Light Processing): a display technology that consists of an array of tiny mirrors where every mirror represents a pixel. Every mirror is connected to an electric hinge that controls the amount of colored light that is reflected from the mirror to the lens and onto the screen.

LCD (Liquid Crystal Display): Liquid crystals exist in an intermediate state between liquid and solid, and realign under electric stimulation. The change in configuration dictates how the light bounces off or passes through the crystal.

Plasma: Many tiny cells located between two panels of glass hold an inert mixture of noble gases (neon and xenon). The gas in the cells is electrically turned into a plasma which then excites phosphors to emit light.


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