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MOTOROLA HD Digital Cable Box with DVR

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How do I get started with digital cable?

Getting started with digital cable means connecting your digital TV (or old analog TV) to the set top box converter your cable TV provider supplied to you and setting up the cable box. There are many different models and makes of cable boxes.

Cable TV Set Top Box brands:
o Motorola
o Scientific Atlanta/CISCO
o Samsung
COMCAST Set Top Box User Manuals

Your provider may even use two or more different manufacturers for their cable boxes. Within each maker you will have HD models or HD models with a DVR or dual-tuner models. Also, boxes can have different jacks such as component video or HDMI. Make sure you get a box that meets your needs. Digital cable is not always High Definition, but to get HD you need a HDMI, or component video cable connection as these are the only cable hookups that allow High Definition video signals to pass to your HDTV and allow the on-screen graphics you need to use the channel guide, DVR and other functions.

What is HDTV?

High Definition TV or HDTV means a digital television signal of 720p, 1080i or 1080p resolution displayed on a digital TV capable of processing at least 720p or 1080i resolution. The HDTV must have HDMI, DVI or Component video input connections and usually has S-Video and Composite video inputs for lower resolution sources such as VCR, DVD player or Game Consoles.

What is DVR?

DVR stands for Digital Video Recorder. A standard VCR records and plays analog video. DVR records and plays digital video. Unlike an analog cassette tape, the DVR hard drive allows recording and playback to occur simultaneously. DVR offers the ability to control your viewing experience by pausing (time shifting) live TV and providing trick playback modes (pause, fast forward, slow forward, fast rewind, slow rewind).

• Record Programming
Record hours of TV programming. The total hours of recorded content will vary based on the storage capacity of your box and type of content (digital, analog, or HD) being recorded. Disk capacities now are in the range of 160GB allowing plenty of recording time, 50 hours, 90 hours of TV shows recorded on disk for instant playback. You can archive shows you want to keep to a VCR if you run out of disk space and you can erase old shows you no longer want.

• Maintain a personal library of recorded programming, accessed by using the electronic program guide.

• Control Live TV
Pause, rewind, and fast-forward live TV.

HDTV display technologies

HDTV display technologies today are Plasma flat panel, LCD flat panel, DLP projection or even CRT with even newer display technology available soon such as Organic LED screens. HDTVs are widescreen with a 16x9 aspect ratio instead of the squarish 4x3 aspect ratio of older analog TVs. Plasma display panels are typically 50 inch screen sizes while LCD run from 32 inches (some smaller) up to typically 46 inches. Makers include Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, Pioneer, Sharp and more.


Picture Quality

Your actual picture quality will be limited to the format that the broadcaster chooses. Some broadcasters, rather than broadcasting in high definition (720 lines progressive,1080 lines interlaced) will send out their standard television signals in digital format, and this is known as "Standard Definition Television" (SDTV), which is limited to 480 interlaced lines of resolution or about half that of High Definition. Other broadcasters may choose the middle format known as "Enhanced Definition Television" (EDTV), which delivers 480 progressive lines of resolution. Our older analog TV broadcasts by comparison are about 330 lines of resolution. A VHS tape from our VCR is about 250 lines.

HDTV Connections

You may be familiar with standard connections to your TV, such as from your VCR, DVD player or game console. These include, from worst to best, coaxial cable connection, composite video (RCA Type), S-Video and Component Video cable connections.

HDTV rear panel inputs and outputs

With HDTV sources, you will need to become familiar with some new digital cable connections that you may not have seen before. The different digital connections may not be supported by your television or HDTV decoder. You should check the manual or the rear of your HDTV set or tuner to determine what connections are supported. Many of the digital connections allow copy protection capability to prevent recording.

Audio Video Connections
HDTV Basic Setup

The connectors are available in four and six pin configurations. The six pin configuration contains power connections for powering external devices. Firewire is a two way connection that is capable of transmitting both video and audio. Firewire is able to establish a connection with other devices linked on a home network. Firewire connections on digital televisions and set top boxes also support a copy protection scheme known as Digital Transmission Content Protection (DTCP) which is more flexible than the HDCP scheme used with DVI and HDMI. A broadcast transmitted in HDTV and sent over firewire to a device for example could be embedded with special instructions to allow a single, several or unlimited copies of a particular program, or they can block the recording capability out entirely.

Firewire IEEE-1394 6-pin and 4-pin cables

DVI is an uncompressed digital connector used to pass digital video signals one way from HDTV receivers to other source devices, such as PVR, D-VHS or other devices. The DVI connection is found on televisions capable of HDTV, and employs a copy protection scheme developed by Intel known as High Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) which uses a special authentication protocol to protect programs from being copied. When enabled, the end user device, such as a HDTV receiver must first verify that it is licensed and allowed to be received and if it is, a hardware handshake is exchanged and the program is transmitted. HDCP allows a broadcaster to enable reception of a program on a digital television, but can disable recording of the broadcast on digital VCR's or personal video recorders. DVI requires separate audio connections.

DVI cable

VGA connections, also known as D-Sub-15, have been around for many years in the computer world and also separate the video stream into its red, green and blue elements. The 15 pin VGA connector is used to link a personal computer with its monitor. Many HDTVs today support VGA for PC connections.

VGA cable

Component Video
The component video connection is the most common way to connect HDTV set top boxes and HDTV cable or satellite decoders to high definition televisions. Component video separates the video signal into 3 distinct streams (red, green and blue), in which the video signal is carried via three individual cables using RCA type jack connections. There are two types of component video, Y,Cr,Cb (normal interlaced DVD players) and Y,Pr,Pb (Progressive scan DVD players, HDTV decoders and DTV inputs on televisions). Separating the video stream prevents color bleed through and delivers a dramatic increase in picture quality compared to composite video where the red, green and blue segments are compressed together into a single channel. Requires separate audio connections.

Component Video cables

High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) is the new connector on the block and is the successor to DVI. It began appearing on new HDTV sets in late 2003. HDMI, unlike DVI, which can only pass video, is capable of passing both video and also multi channel audio (8 channels). Also, the video portion is compatible with DVI devices if they are HDCP enabled. The digital connection is also smaller than DVI. Eventually HDMI connections will replace DVI on HDTV sets. HDMI is evolving and has undergone several revisions. HDMI 1.0, 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3 can be found on various hardware. The latest version, 1.3, is needed for the very best high end audio found on some Blu-ray and HD-DVD movies. HDMI has all the capability required currently for the highest quality video and audio plus future expansion.

HDMI cable

Component Connections

How you connect your components to your HDTV is an important consideration.

Setup your set top box to match your native HDTV video mode, 720 lines progressive, 1080 line interlaced or 1080 progressive. Some set top boxes have a switch located in the back of the unit and others have a on-screen menu setting which performs this function.

Use the remote control to navigate the on screen menus. The arrow keys (left, right, up, down) and the Enter or Select key should be all you need to move around and select the option you want.

Check that the aspect ratio is set to 16:9 preferred, or "full screen mode" on your television, set top box and DVD player. Most recent mid range to high end televisions also now have the capability to "zoom in" or "stretch" a 4:3 ratio broadcast to fill most of a wide screen picture, although there will be a noticable picture distortion or loss of some top and bottom details with 4:3 broadcasts.

Some HD cable TV decoders have the capability to record High Definition broadcasts using a built-in hard disk. It is important to remember however that the high bandwidth nature of high definition broadcasts will significantly reduce your recording capacity as they consume many times the amount of storage space compared to standard broadcasts.

HDTV hookup to digital cable box using component video.
Select proper INPUT on TV using TV remote control.

Cable TV set-top-box hookup
Cable TV hookup diagrams, cables

Note: If you connect your HDTV using HDMI but your TV is not HDCP compliant, you may have to use component video connections instead.

Scientific Atlanta Digital Cable boxes

Note: Scientific Atlanta has been bought by Cisco

When first setting up your new cable box, never hesitate to call your cable TV provider if problems arise. Your digital cable box is not passive, that is to say the box is receiving information from your provider other than TV programming. Your cable box needs to be initialized, loaded, authorized, programmed as well as converting TV signals. Therefore any problems you experience should be checked out with your support staff at the cable TV company. Doing so may save you time and effort. If you are not getting the answers you need, try the internet. Search Google, try forums and also read your owner's manual for the cable box.

Scientific Atlanta 3250HD Digital Cable box

Cable Box - Rear Panel

Scientific Atlanta Cable Box - Front Panel

Scientific Atlanta 3250HD Set Top Box initial setup

The latest software, programming information and service information needs to be downloaded into the box from your cable TV provider. Plug in the box but do not power it on. Wait several minutes until you see the time of day or four dashes on the front display. Now power on the box. Press and hold the SETTINGS button until the Message light blinks. Now press the VOL -- key. HDSr should display on the front panel to indicate picture format mode.

Your brand of cable box may offer the capability to change settings while you are watching a TV program. You may also be able to do the following:

1) set a FIXED picture format so that all incoming programs are set to a specific format for your TV.
2) set a PASS-THRU picture format so that whatever format the program is in, it is sent on to the TV unchanged.
3) set a UPCONVERT picture format so that any program is upconverted to 720p / 1080i.

Keep in mind that your HDTV will convert or scale incoming video to the TV's native screen resolution. So, if your HDTV has a native resolution of 720p, a 1080i signal is scaled internally to 720p. For any particular HDTV, you need to experiment with the settings and see which combination looks best on your screen.

Do not assume that any jacks or ports on the cable box are operational as many cable TV providers disable them. Also remember that the box is operating under control of software which can be re-programmed or changed at any time and downloaded to your box by your cable TV provider. For these reasons, always call your cable TV provider when needed for any issues or problems which arise.

Scientific Atlanta 8300HD Digital Cable box

SA Explorer 8300HD DVR

Your setup process will differ depending on what type of converter box you have and what cable connections you use. Setup for High Definition TVs and Digital Video Recorders will be more involved than standard definition TV and a non-DVR cable boxes. You need to use your SA Explorer 8300HD DVR remote control for the cable converter/DVR setup so become familiar with the buttons.

Press CBL button to ensure 'Cable Mode'

'A' button on the remote control

'B' button on the remote control

With your TV turned ON and the cable box turned OFF but plugged into power, press the GUIDE and INFO buttons on the front panel of the cable box at the same time.

SA 8300HD Cable box front panel buttons

For HD setup, press the 'B' button and for the SD setup press the 'A' button on the remote control. For SD setup you can skip ahead to SET Parental Control but for HD setup press the 'A' button to continue with the SETUP WIZARD. You will press the 'A' or 'B' buttons on the remote to make your selections at each step as the Wizard walks you through the setup process. When you are finished, press the POWER button on the remote to begin watching TV.

On-screen menu - select using the remote

If you want to make changes after using the setup wizard you can do so by accessing the on-screen menus. Press the remote control SETTINGS button once for QUICK settings or twice for GENERAL settings. Then use the UP, DOWN and RIGHT Arrow keys to make your selections.

Cable TV - Cable Box Setup - Scientific Atlanta 4250HDC


Motorola FAQ

Motorola Set-Top-Box front panel

MOTOROLA HD Cable Box Setup:

To access your HD settings:
1) Ensure that your cable box is plugged into a power outlet and is turned off.
2) Press the MENU key on the front panel. If your TV is on, the on-screen display menu appears listing the settings you can configure.

Use your cable box remote control or the cursor keys on the front panel to navigate the on-screen display:
Press the UP Arrow and DOWN Arrow keys to highlight the setting you wish to change. Press the RIGHT Arrow key to select an option for that setting.
To exit the setting and move to another setting, use the UP Arrow and DOWN Arrow keys.
To exit the menu and save your settings, press the POWER or MENU key.

• If you are not using an HDTV, selecting a video resolution other than 480i causes the on-screen display to go blank. If this happens you can use the front panel of the cable box to change the setting back to 480i.
• Some TVs cannot display 480i or 480p on their component video inputs.
• There is usually a selection called RESTORE DEFAULT SETTINGS. This will do a RESET to factory setup.
• On-screen graphics may not be available if you use the IEEE-1394 Firewire hookup.

Motorola cable box rear. This box has HDMI, IEEE-1394, component video, composite video Outputs

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