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Over the air TV

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by yooperdave, Nov 11, 2012.

  1. yooperdave

    yooperdave Minister of Fire

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    Anyone on this site have and info on what is required to get set-up for ota tv reception?? Are there actual digital/hd tv antennas...or does a "traditional" antenna work just as well? Not really interested in dish or direct as it is for the cottage and am not there full time (yet). The closest town with a tv station is about 11/2 hrs. away. Thanks!

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  2. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Start with one of the two sites dedicated to telling you what channels are available for you and jut what is required to get them.

    http://www.antennaweb.org/

    and

    http://www.tvfool.com/index.php?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=29

    I used this info and built my own antenna which mostly needed to pick up the UHF band for all of the channels available to me. It is awesome using OTA television. Most stuff is broadcast in full HD and not the compressed HD you get from cable. Oh, and it's free. Modern TVs, certainly about all flatscreens, are plug and play. You just plug the antenna into the TV and you are set.
  3. flyingcow

    flyingcow Minister of Fire

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    Those two sites work good as a guide. Works best if you got precise GPS coordinates with you elevation. Hopefully you're on a hill. Digital TV is pretty much line of site. As the crow flies I am about 58 miles from the nearest TV transmitter. I am up high. Pull about a 54 out of a scale of 100 on the digital meter on the TV. i bought one of the biggest antennas the radio shack had. Used good cable, plus an inline booster.

    Love it.
  4. GaryGary

    GaryGary Feeling the Heat

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    I setup ota for my daughter in LA a couple weeks ago after a move using just a very simple set top antenna from Fry's.

    It works very well. Quite a few channels and the picture quality is very very good -- better than my Dish gets.
    She is thinking that she won't bother getting the cable hooked up again.

    Gary
  5. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Yeah you can but a "digital HD" antenna but it doesn't do anything more than your "regular" one does. Just have to have a digital ready TV to hook up to it. I pick up OT from 35 miles away. Well, I do when the leaves are off the trees.
  6. scajjr2

    scajjr2 Member

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    DTVUSA's site is great for getting help on OTA. http://www.dtvusaforum.com/forum/

    We cut the cord 2 years ago by putting 2 antennas up in the attic ( a ChannelMaster 4228d and an AntennasDirect yagi). The CM points toward Boston (get about 25 channels) and the yagi points toward Manchester, NH to get the local ABC station (mainly for news/weather). We have an HTPC hooked up to the living room plasma, the 2 bedroom TV's have mini-pc's attached and the 2 desktop PC's (mine and wife's in our separate office/dens) have TV tuner cards in them. Have a Synology Diskstation with two 2Tb drives that has all our movies,TV shows, music. Toss in Amazon prime, PlayOn, uTorrent and we have all our needs met. And save about $100/month over what we used to pay Comca$t.

    The only drawback is if you are into sports. There cable/sat is king.

    Sam
  7. TradEddie

    TradEddie Minister of Fire

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    tvfool and antennaweb have great information. The bottom line is that there is no such thing as a "digital" or "HD" antenna, however most markets no longer use VHF frequencies, they moved everything to UHF. Digital signals can be decoded at much lower signal strength than the analog signals so the broadcasters use a much lower transmitter power, trying to approximate the old coverage area. There are winners and losers in this, depending on where you live and what frequencies your favorite channels previously had, or are now using. I'm on the wrong side of a hill, surrounded by trees, and I can get all the local stations using an attic antenna and amplifier.
    Out on the margins, things are more complicated, digital signals suffer the "cliff effect", unlike analog signals where the picture gets progressively snowier as you move away, digital broadcasts will be perfect up until the point where the electronics cannot interpret the signal, and then you have no picture at all. Some people find that their old analog picture was snowy but watchable, but now they get nothing. This isn't directly the fault of a digital signal, if the digital broadcast was still at the power of the old analog signal, they'd have no problem.
    The up side of this is that slight improvements in your setup can make big differences. Also, some TVs have better electronics to process weak signals than others.

    TE
  8. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    I know one thing about HDTV and OTA signals . . . I actually started watching football games just because I was blown away by the details you could see -- beads of sweat, blades of grass, etc. I was simply amazed at first at the clarity.
  9. SlyFerret

    SlyFerret Minister of Fire

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    As far as the antenna goes, RF is RF, and the modulation type (Analog vs. digital) really doesn't matter in this case. Don't let yourself get suckered into spending extra for an "HD" or "Digital" rooftop antenna.

    The only place that I can think that the labeling on the box might actually be worth something more than just marketing is with respect to the little amplified indoor antennas. It is possible that the amplifier circuits in those could be optimized for digital signals. In that case, it isn't really the antenna that is special though, only the active circuitry.

    -SF
  10. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    The thing about the set top antenna is that if it moves, you'll lose reception.
  11. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Even though you don't get snow or half reception you do get something called pixelation, when reception is not quite good enough for good reception. This means the screen can freeze, the sound goes away, and part of the screen will be gone but it acts all chunky with stop and go, until it either goes away or comes back fully. Not a gradual fuzz or slight haze, but it is not all or nothing. If we get a realy heavy rain storm I can get some of this chunky reception. My attic antenna would serve me better if it were mounted out in the open air but being homemade, it would not get wife approval.

    Oh and good antennas are cheap online. Get a good brand like channelmaster and not something from radio shack or lowes.
  12. OhioBurner©

    OhioBurner© Minister of Fire

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    I used the antennaweb site to get me going, cut off the cable 4 years ago and installed a high gain channel master antenna 3 years ago. I went with a chimney mount for the antenna as to not drill any holes, but it is pointing straight at a tree to get to most channels. Antennaweb will tell (and show) you were all the channels are being broadcast from so you can aim your antenna, or if it reveals they are coming from lots of directions you might want to get a rotator. I helped my folks install a new antenna too, and we needed the rotator to get about half the channels.

    Unfortunately, when I lined the chimney the antenna was mounted too we lost signal strength. Might have to move it eventually but so far we have just lived with the fact that one of the channels we often watch wont come in at all on one tv and it occasionally pixelates on another.

    Any modern tv within the last few years will be digital ready, if you have an old tv you'll need a digital converter which usually go around $30-60, probably could get one at wall mart or on amazon.

    Amazon has a lot of antennas, I think I went through summitsource myself. I can't remember which one I got now, it was either antennacraft or channel master, winegard is also a good one.

    Digital is so much better now, and besides the HD aspect I love actually having a channel guide and stuff for regular tv. We also supplement it with streaming netflix for like $8 or 9 a month. Its not super great but lots of series that my wife watches, and tons of kids shows too. Unfortunately we probably watch more tv now than back when we had $100/mo cable.
  13. WhitePine

    WhitePine Feeling the Heat

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    We get better results than antennaweb predicts for our location. Their claim that their results are very conservative appears to be true. We have a lot of trees in the way and the signal has to cross a ridge between the transmitter site and our house, but we still get the signal. The transmitter site is about 35 miles away. I put up a very high gain UHF antenna http://www.solidsignal.com/pview.as...Antenna-(91XG)&c=TV Antennas&sku=853748001910 which feeds a quality, mast mounted Channel Master preamp http://www.solidsignal.com/pview.as...ply-(CM7777)&c=Pre-Amplifiers&sku=02057207774.

    A first quality preamp is essential. Cheap preamps add noise to the signal and can actually make it worse than an unamplified signal.

    Besides being free, the OTA signal is of higher quality than that coming from the cable and satellite providers, as they compress the video in order to stuff more data into their systems' available bandwidth. We also get the Create channel, which has a lot of neat shows. As far as I know, it is only available OTA.

    I bought my antenna and preamp from solidsignal.com, which is a reputable seller of quality products with reasonable prices. I buy nothing from Radio Shack.
  14. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Although all digital, I think the signals still are a mix of vhf and uhf near me.
  15. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    Mix of UHF and VHF where I live as well.
  16. OhioBurner©

    OhioBurner© Minister of Fire

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    Some folks might not understand the correlation (or lack there off) between channels and VHF/UHF so figured I'd elaborate, FWIW.

    In the old days of analog tv, channels were named after the channel they were on. I mean channel '4' was on RF channel 4 and 50 was on 50. But thats not the way it is anymore. Channel 4 is probably on channel 20-something, for example. Most all channels now, regardless of name, fall on RF channel 14-51 (the UHF DTV band - minus channel 37, channels over 52 got reallocated to something but I can't remember what). This is because with digital, a broadcast can display whatever 'name' it wants to and you TV will display that. So to keep things simple, they use the same channel names they used to but are now actually broadcasting on a different frequency.

    To see this, and figure out if your local channels are VHF/UHF go to antennaweb.org and the get started button, and type in your zipcode. You'll probably want to drag the 'pin' to your actual location on the map, when I did I picked up like 8 more possible channels.

    You'll get something that looks like this:
    [​IMG]

    Those are all my local channels, and there true RF channel is indicated under their name. For example the first one, channel 10, is actually being broadcast now on 21 (but it still is 10 on my tv, but thats just a facade). If you look at that list you'll see every single channel is broadcasting on a different RF channel than what it used to. And while many of them used to be VHF, none of them are anymore. In fact I only have 2 channels period that are in VHF and they arent regular channels and I dont watch them.

    [​IMG] (not my address but good for this example)
    In that whole list only channels 68 and 8 are VHF and they arent ones we watch.

    Low VHF (channels 2-6) are almost completely abandoned due to crappy performance and high interference on digital tv now, and they require the largest antennas anyhow. And in most areas all the popular channels are all UHF now as you can see thats thew way we are here.

    [Edit forgot to add the rest...]
    High VHF is (channels 7-13)
    UHF is (14-69, the DTV UHF band was supposed to be 14-51 except for 37, and 52-69 were supposed to be reallocated for something other than DTV but I dont remember what)

    So depending what RF channel your local channels are using, you might be able to look for a UHF only, or a UHF+high VHF antenna probably. If you need the low VHF still make sure you get an antenna that will still do that because not all of them will anymore. Also you can match up the handy color coding, like for example if I wanted to get those channels that are in violet, I need to look for antennas that are coded violet. Antennaweb also calculates the compass angle based on you pinpoint, so you can aim them easily with a compass. Beats moving it a little and going down the ladder to check each time!
  17. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    I think it might all depend on where you are. I just looked again, and it sure looks to me like 4 of the 8 stations are still on vhf. Thankfully most in the same location.

    Maybe 5, since 17 may be vhf, (not sure).

    Attached Files:

  18. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    It's been awhile since I've been to antennaweb.org . . . last time I was there in fact was when my wife and I bought a HD TV that was still using CRT technology -- that TV still works, but weighs almost as much as a small woodstove.

    Interesting info OhioBurner . . . how can you tell which stations are VHF, high VHF or UHF though . . . I couldn't figure this out based on your last post.

    Here's the info from my area . . . interestingly enough from when I checked several years back I appear to have "lost" some stations according to antennaweb.org -- which is interesting since my wife said something a few weeks ago about it seeming like we didn't get as many stations as we used to when the stations first switched to HDTV.

    Attached Files:

  19. TradEddie

    TradEddie Minister of Fire

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    To see if a station is UHF or VHF, look at the reported RF channel. 2-6 is low VHF, 7-13 is high VHF. The stations still use their old channel name designations to avoid confusion, even if few are still transmitting on the that channel. It appears that the high VHF channels are still in use in busier markets, but it just depends on topography, history, adjoining cities frequencies, and local corporate politics.

    TE
  20. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Great thread guys. There has always been uhf and vhf. Neither is the "DTV" range, it's just that since the transition to DTV most stations chose to transmit in the UHF range.

    Most UHF antennas are flat and can be hung on a wall, VHF antennas are the monsters with the the horizontal beam with elements sticking off to the sides. Those VHF suckers can be well over 10 feet long and wide. It is good to be all UHF but most UHF antennas are pretty good at catching the high VHF.
  21. OhioBurner©

    OhioBurner© Minister of Fire

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    You guys do still have multiple vhf channels... interesting. I helped my dad throw up his antenna and he had 1 out his 11 different stations still on VHF, and it was one he used so we opted for the combo antenna.

    Sorry my browser crashed and I had to retype most of my post, I left out some stuff when I put it back in... I just filled in a couple of the blanks. Looks like TradEddie answered though, make sure your looking at the RF Channel and 2-6 is low VHF, 7-13 is high VHF, and 14-69 is UHF basically
  22. TradEddie

    TradEddie Minister of Fire

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    Wow, this thread reminded me to look up what new stations I might get, and it seems like antennaweb has revised its calculations to be extremely conservative. tvfool seems much more accurate as to what I can get. I live on the wrong side of a hill behind many trees, and even with an attic antenna I can still pick up 20+ stations (mostly crap), antennaweb says I can only get 2. Winter is best when the leaves come off, but even in summer, it's better value than paying cable bills.

    TE
  23. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    When I first started down the OTA road I searched and found that I could get 20 some channels. Great! Well, I could get all the majors and about 15 channels of crap. Religious channels, shopping, and spanish. Oh well, you get what you pay for. I am very happy with getting all of the majors without a rotator or amp from the attic so we don't have to look at it. Over the air HD is really nice. I like to watch jeapordy and alex is really funny looking when you can see all of his makeup, same with the newscasters.
  24. Badfish740

    Badfish740 Minister of Fire

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    I wanted to jump on the OTA bandwagon but topography and spousal issues put a wrench in the works ;lol There's a 400' high ridge 3 miles directly east of my house that plays havoc with broadcasts coming from NYC. Philly TV is easy to get since everything is relatively flat to the southwest, but we're Giants fans so getting Philly stations in clear as day on Sunday would do us no good. Then there's the fact that my wife is addicted to food network, which is good for me (she's a great cook and always trying/learning new stuff), but you only get them through the dish or cable...
  25. OhioBurner©

    OhioBurner© Minister of Fire

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    Yeah no way around loosing some channels. I surely do miss my Giada De Laurentiis! Our local PBS has lots of cooking shows though we enjoy, just no sexy gals doing the cooking lol. Nowadays you can get a lot of shows online too.

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