Is Your HDTV Super Bowl Ready? Set-Up Tips For The Best Picture

January 30th, 2012 · 4 Comments · 3D HDTV, Cable TV, Connected TVs, LCD Flat Panel, LED LCD Flat Panels, News, Plasma

Surveys show about 1 in 5 HDTV owners end up NOT watching the big game or other programs in high def due to improper setup (source: The Nielsen Co.).

Follow our check list to make sure your HDTV is ready for Super Bowl viewing with the best, sharpest picture. We take you step by step from TV signal to a full high definition image.

HDTV Source

There are three possible ways to see the game in high definition, over-the-air, cable or satellite.


To receive the game in HDTV via free over-the-air broadcasts you will need an antenna and know if your local NBC station’s transmitter is within roughly 25 miles from your home. You will also need to have a line of sight to the transmitter tower. If you have a building, hill or mountain between you and tower you probably won’t be able to get reliable over the air reception. Check with and/or your local NBC station for more information about what size and type of antenna you need to see the game, as well as the direction you need to point it. Because of all that is involved, the vast majority of viewers choose cable or satellite. An HDTV over-the-air tuner is built-in to all HDTVs.


You need the right equipment and settings to see the game in glorious high definition. First you need to make 100% sure your cable or satellite box is a “High Definition” model. The cable and satellite providers will rent you a standard def box if you do not specify a high definition model. Most HD boxes have either the letters HD or HDTV or “high definition” on their front panel. If it doesn’t, it is probably a standard def model and you will need to get a replacement before the game.

You also need a high definition wire to connect between the box and your HDTV. The best and least expensive one is called HDMI. It carries both the picture and sound over a single cable. Get the Hi-Speed type as it can handle any current or future signal you will receive. Retail stores usually charge $25 to over $100 for an HDMI cable. Most installs need at least a two meter (6 ft.6 inches) or three meter (9 ft. 9 inches) cable. HDMI cables do not tolerate sharp bends well, so make sure the cable is long enough. Amazon makes a great Hi-Speed HDMI Cable that sells for $9.99 for 3 meters or $7.99 for 2 meters with free shipping.

Cable/Satellite Box settings

First learn from your program provider which channel carries the NBC high definition signal, as many cable and satellite companies still simulcast the standard definition version on a different channel. Tune to the NBC HD channel and confirm reception. Next, through the cable or satellite box remote control you must set the box’s resolution to your HDTVs resolution. If you have a 1080p HDTV set the box’s output to 1080i (the TV will automatically convert the “i,” for interlaced, into “p,” for progressive). If you have a 720p HDTV, then set the box’s output to 720p.

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Cable/Satellite Box Aspect Ratio Setting

You’ll also need to make the set top box is in “16×9” not the “4×3” mode. If this is not set correctly you will see a smaller cropped image.

You are now finished with the settings on your cable/satellite box. Onto your TV settings.


Adjusting the TV

First confirm the HDMI cable is connected from the set top box is to an HDMI input on your HDTV. We choose “HDMI 1” as this is the most frequently used source in our house, though any HDMI TV input will work the same. Using the TVs remote control set the TV input to the corresponding one to where you connected the HDMI cable.

Aspect Ratio

Your HDTV will have settings for aspect ratio and most sets have a second sub-control. The main aspect  setting you need will be the one labeled “Full” , choose it. If your set has a sub-control called “Dot-by-Dot”, “Native”, or “Just Scan” use it. Panasonics have a sub-menu that lists Size One or Size Two. Choose Size Two. All these modes allow the HDTV to place the entire image on the screen without cropping it (called overscan even though TVs don’t scan anymore). This control gives the viewer everything the director sees at the highest resolution. Your HDTV will now match the NBC HD signal pixel for pixel. On some HDTVs this control will be grayed out if the set’s picture “mode” is set to Vivid or Sports, it usually requires standard, custom or a user labeled setting (see picture modes below for more information).

Reducing Motion Blur

LED and LCD TVs that have 120 Hz, 240 Hz or 480 Hz refresh allow users to reduce blurry motion by engaging these circuits during sports programs. Different set makers call them different names such as Motion Plus or Motion Flow etc.. This mode must be in the “On” position to get crisper motion. Consult your TVs “on screen” menu for this control or your owner’s manual. Note, Plasma TVs have full motion resolution without these circuits so no adjustment is necessary

Picture Modes            

All HDTVs have preset picture modes as a starting point for picture optimization. Avoid the following preset modes for the best game viewing “Sports”, “Vivid” “Dynamic” and “Game” Yes it sounds counter intuitive, but these presets are generally made to produce the brightest image on the showroom floor not the best picture in a home. “Game” mode automatically disengages and locks out motion blur reduction circuits. Use modes such as “Movie” or “Custom” as the best starting point for user control optimization. If your set does not have those modes choose “Standard”.

Picture Controls

Ideally you would use a test disc like the Disney WOW: World of Wonder on Blu-ray disc to optimize your picture settings. If you don’t have one follow our guide to settings here.


By taking a few minutes to check our simple list you can be assured you, your friends and family are viewing the Super Bowl and all other future programs with the best high def  image your HDTV is capable of producing. Now you’ll really be ready for some football.


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Copyright ©2012 HD Guru Inc. All rights reserved. HDGURU



4 Comments so far ↓

  • Snappy Dan

    The idea that you must be within 25 miles of the tower and be line of sight to get reliable over the air TV reception is just plain wrong. Depending on your location and equipment it is possible to get reliable reception out to 70 miles. Also, don’t use antennaweb. Its information is just palin wrong. The best tool is tvfool dot com. And lastly, the general rule of thumb is that the best HD comes from the free over the air signal. Both satellite companies, and most cable providers, add extra compression to the signal before rebroadcasting it.

    From a curvature of the earth point of view you are correct as far as range is concerned, it can be up to 70 miles. However, that’s going to be a large antenna to pull in the signal and without a hill, mountain or major obstruction in the way. I should have written exceptions or stated “in many cases or practically due to variables such as terrain, position of transmitters, size of antenna and equipment etc.”.

    As far as compression, depends on the cable provider. I have Verizon FIOS, Cablevision and DirecTV and up to recently an antenna. The Verizon FIOS was equal in quality to OTA (they claim they don’t compress) while the DirecTv was inferior but better than Cablevision for the local networks, last time I checked.

    I gave up on antennas after losing the third one over a period of about four years due to freaky winds up to 90-100 mph gusts, an event that until recently never occurred except during very rare big hurricanes.

    HD Guru

  • Atlatl

    “Surveys show about 1 in 5 HDTV owners end up NOT watching the big game or other programs in high def due to improper setup”….DAMN, a lot of morons!

  • Vnny Vin

    So do you think the TV would do a better job converting or the cable box? Just curious what you think.

    model of TV and model of cable box all matters obviously. just curious what you think in general is better.
    or no human would be able to tell the difference anyway?

    Lets step back a little. The purposes of the article above are to get the 1 of 5 viewers that have an HDTV, but don’t currently have HD signals feeding their TVs to learn how to view the game and other programs in HD.

    The second was to get the 50+% of HDTV owners that use the factory default settings (according to TV makers surveys) to adjust their user controls to view a better picture.

    Considering the number of HDTV makes and models and the number of HD cable boxes it is impossible for anyone to make a general statement on set box vs. internal TV processing. Our advice is given in a way that we feel will benefit the most readers.

    Our hope is folks will check their own TVs connections and settings and many will be able to see HDTV football for the first time or adjust their TV settings for a more enjoyable experience.

    HD Guru

  • Vnny Vin

    HD Guru,

    you say:
    “Cable/Satellite Box settings
    Next, through the cable or satellite box remote control you must set the box’s resolution to your HDTVs resolution. If you have a 1080p HDTV set the box’s output to 1080i ………. If you have a 720p HDTV, then set the box’s output to 720p.”

    Is not better to let the fancy TV do the conversion rather than a cheap cable box ? I set my cable box to “pass through” and my TV converts to whatever the channels broadcast resolution is. This does however cause an extra pause when changing to a channel with a different resolution.

    Down conversion is easier to perform than upconversion. With 720p channels (ESPN, Fox, ABC, etc.) there is no downconversion. From a practical point of view setting the box at 720p is simpler for owners of 720p HDTVs. I would recommend “what you see is what you get” wysiwyg but most STBs don’t have this feature.

    HD Guru

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