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HDTV off the air reception in Palo Alto

Original post made by Parent, Midtown, on Apr 20, 2008

I bought an HDTV this weekend, and I'm wondering what I need to do to receive an off the air HDTV signal from a local station.

Has anyone in Palo Alto been able to receive an HDTV signal off the air (as opposed to cable or satellite) using an indoor antenna? Or is an outdoor antenna required?

The local HD stations are all in San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland, with the closest ones about 15 miles away.

Any advice is appreciated, especially antenna recommendations.

Comments (15)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bubba
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 21, 2008 at 4:06 am

Up here in the Hills tin foil and a coat hanger work just great


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bodie
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 21, 2008 at 7:48 am

Parent: there's an indispensable resource on the web for this very question. Go to:
Web Link
Once you go to that site, fill in the information it asks for, and it will tell you where to point your HD antenna to receive which channels. Alll you really need to fill in is your street address. You can skip any other info like name and phone. The next page lists all the digital channels, and then you can "view a street level map" to see where the signal is coming from.
I've had mixed results with a pretty cheap indoor/outdoor antenna, which I was able to put outside. Some channels came in great, others not as well. I'm going to try and tweak it a little. I haven't tried it exclusively inside.
One cool thing about off-air HDTV programming is (based on what I've heard and seen) is that its less digitally compressed than programming on cable or satellite. I've compared football games on satellite vs. off-air and the picture off air is much sharper.
Another cool thing is that there PBS programming is not currently carried in HD on satellite. I'm not sure about cable though.
Good luck - post your results when you get "juiced up!"


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 21, 2008 at 8:43 am

We get some great signals from our outside anntenna. We get 4 stations for PBS channel 9, but we get intermittent signals from channel 54. This antenna has been on our house for eons and probably needs some tweaking.


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Posted by Bodie
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 21, 2008 at 10:55 am

What kind of antenna do you have, Resident? I have a plastic one I got at fry's. I can't remember the brand name, but its about 5 inches x 11 inches and maybe 1.5 inches thick. I think the larger ones that look like a square 18 x 18 or so are probably better.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2008 at 3:06 pm

Not really sure as it came with the house, but I think from the other things attached to it inside that it must be quite old, possibly as old as the house, about 40 years.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 21, 2008 at 6:59 pm

Thanks for all the helpful comments and suggestions.

I ended up using a legacy outdoor antenna that the previous homeowner installed. I was reluctant to use it because I had to run 110 feet of cable to get from the antenna to my TV, and I thought the signal loss due to such a long cable would render the signal unusable. So, first I tried using a $25 indoor antenna from Fry's which got me exactly zero digital stations (NB: I've never seen as many "returned by customer" stickers on any product category at Fry's as I saw on the whole row of indoor TV antennas). Then I tried the legacy outdoor antenna.

To my surprise, using the outdoor antenna with the 110 feet of RG6 cable, I was able to pick up 44 digital over-the-air stations, of which 8 are high-def (either 720p or 1080i).
Channel | Call Sign | Network | Resolution
==========================================
7-1 KGO-HD ABC 720p
9-1 KQED PBS 1080i (sweet!)
11-1 KNTV NBC 1080i
20-1 KBWB IND 720p
36-1 KICU IND 720p
44-1 KBCW FOX 1080i
54-1 KTEH PBS 1080i

Many of the other 44 digital channels I pick up are unwatchable -- the picture keeps breaking up into blocks. But this will hold me until I get Directv HD installed.

BTW, I'm very happy with the Vizio VO27L 47" 1080 LCD I bought at Costco. Standard def looks nice, and HD even better. I don't have any complaints watching sports on it, which has been a consistent knock on LCD TVs.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dave in Mt.View
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 22, 2008 at 10:23 am

I got a 26" Sony HDTV this past November. First thing I tried was simply connecting it to the old outdoor TV antenna which hasn't been used for 10+ years. The auto-channel-search feature found like 40 digital signals including the ones listed by others. The "main network stations" and PBS come in rock solid. Perfect picture!

Then I tried the Comcast feed, no 'cable box', just connected to coax directly to the TV (i.e. basic cable) Found like 70 digital signals! Turns out that many are simply the regular channels duplicated in digital. Not HD.

However Comcast is sending the 'over the air' HD signals, NO BOX NEEDED. You won't get any 'premuim HD' channels but you do get most of the same ones you'd get with an antenna.

It seems like Comcast is compressing some of the HD content. There seems to be less 'digital artifacts' via antenna assuming you get a good signal.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dave in Mt.View
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 22, 2008 at 10:23 am

I got a 26" Sony HDTV this past November. First thing I tried was simply connecting it to the old outdoor TV antenna which hasn't been used for 10+ years. The auto-channel-search feature found like 40 digital signals including the ones listed by others. The "main network stations" and PBS come in rock solid. Perfect picture!

Then I tried the Comcast feed, no 'cable box', just connected to coax directly to the TV (i.e. basic cable) Found like 70 digital signals! Turns out that many are simply the regular channels duplicated in digital. Not HD.

However Comcast is sending the 'over the air' HD signals, NO BOX NEEDED. You won't get any 'premuim HD' channels but you do get most of the same ones you'd get with an antenna.

It seems like Comcast is compressing some of the HD content. There seems to be less 'digital artifacts' via antenna assuming you get a good signal.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by David Nin Mt.View
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 22, 2008 at 10:23 am

I got a 26" Sony HDTV this past November. First thing I tried was simply connecting it to the old outdoor TV antenna which hasn't been used for 10+ years. The auto-channel-search feature found like 40 digital signals including the ones listed by others. The "main network stations" and PBS come in rock solid. Perfect picture!

Then I tried the Comcast feed, no 'cable box', just connected to coax directly to the TV (i.e. basic cable) Found like 70 digital signals! Turns out that many are simply the regular channels duplicated in digital. Not HD.

However Comcast is sending the 'over the air' HD signals, NO BOX NEEDED. You won't get any 'premuim HD' channels but you do get most of the same ones you'd get with an antenna.

It seems like Comcast is compressing some of the HD content. There seems to be less 'digital artifacts' via antenna assuming you get a good signal.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by David Ni
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 22, 2008 at 10:24 am

I got a 26" Sony HDTV this past November. First thing I tried was simply connecting it to the old outdoor TV antenna which hasn't been used for 10+ years. The auto-channel-search feature found like 40 digital signals including the ones listed by others. The "main network stations" and PBS come in rock solid. Perfect picture!

Then I tried the Comcast feed, no 'cable box', just connected to coax directly to the TV (i.e. basic cable) Found like 70 digital signals! Turns out that many are simply the regular channels duplicated in digital. Not HD.

However Comcast is sending the 'over the air' HD signals, NO BOX NEEDED. You won't get any 'premuim HD' channels but you do get most of the same ones you'd get with an antenna.

It seems like Comcast is compressing some of the HD content. There seems to be less 'digital artifacts' via antenna assuming you get a good signal.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by David Nelmen
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 22, 2008 at 10:24 am

I got a 26" Sony HDTV this past November. First thing I tried was simply connecting it to the old outdoor TV antenna which hasn't been used for 10+ years. The auto-channel-search feature found like 40 digital signals including the ones listed by others. The "main network stations" and PBS come in rock solid. Perfect picture!

Then I tried the Comcast feed, no 'cable box', just connected to coax directly to the TV (i.e. basic cable) Found like 70 digital signals! Turns out that many are simply the regular channels duplicated in digital. Not HD.

However Comcast is sending the 'over the air' HD signals, NO BOX NEEDED. You won't get any 'premuim HD' channels but you do get most of the same ones you'd get with an antenna.

It seems like Comcast is compressing some of the HD content. There seems to be less 'digital artifacts' via antenna assuming you get a good signal.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Phil
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 21, 2008 at 8:39 pm

I just purchased the Digital Stream converter and only get 10 channels (including Spanish & Chinese) as opposed to 12 (also including foreign language) over regular analog. Amazingly ABC, CBS, Fox, and PBS don't come in digitally. I really hope things get better because it's pretty bad.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by golfer100
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 23, 2008 at 6:15 pm

Posted 11/23/2008
Just tried my new TV with rabbit ears antenna and did not pick up any digital signals. It sounds like an outdoor antenna is required??


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Greg K
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 23, 2008 at 6:30 pm

Try pointing your antenna towards San Francisco. Direction makes a huge difference. Most of the transmitters are in San Francisco, even if the TV station has an address in San Jose or Oakland.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Greg K
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 23, 2008 at 7:31 pm

Also, you cannot just turn on a new HDTV and directly tune to your broadcast digital channels. You need to go through a scanning setup procedure for the TV to identify the frequency used by each digital. Your manual will have details on how to do this.


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