Comcast HD Quality Reduction: Details, Screenshots - Page 28 - AVS Forum
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post #811 of 2079 Old 04-07-2008, 10:33 AM
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We just had a DirecTV HD system installed here at work for the General Manager's office. I have to say that the quality was really good. There's a boatload of channels as well. One of the things I really liked about it, is there's a setting to hide the SD versions of the channels in the guide. All the HD versions are on the same numbers, so if you want ESPN News HD, you just type 207. Between that and selecting all of the SD/HD resolutions you want to pass through, the DirecTV system is much easier and better to operate than the clunky 'built for SD' I-Guide that Comcast uses.
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post #812 of 2079 Old 04-07-2008, 01:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tmcmahon2 View Post

I haven't read the entire thread but...

I watched part of the Battlestar Galactica season opened on UniHD last night via Comcast and there were very lots of scenes where the compression degraded the picture quality. The scene where Baltar arrives at his new home was very similar to the pic of Anthony singing in the first post. (The guy with the gloves and the mic)

I agree with you, I was also watching Battlestar Galactica on my 50" Pioneer Elite 1150HD and I also have Comcast and the channel was UniHD and the show was very grainy. I don't know if it's because of the darkness of the show, but it almost looked as if pixels we're missing. Being an amatuer to HD I still thought it was a good quality PQ, but no doubt the show was grainy. However, earlier in the day on UniHD they we're showing dirtbike riding and the PQ was amazing and very clear.
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post #813 of 2079 Old 04-07-2008, 01:11 PM
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I think they implemented this in NJ. I watched John Adams last night and noticed a drop in quality from last week. I didn't see any tiling (except during one extreme pan-zoom), but during movement it looked like a smoothing filter was applied to the video to remove the extra details. This was especially noticeable during scenes with people were standing still and talking. Whenever a person was talking, the details in his/her face were softer than when he/she was not talking or moving.

What's confusing though is that according to the first post, the difference in bitrate for HBO between FIOS and Comcast is very small since the bitrate for HBO is small to begin with. With that small a bitrate, HBO should look bad all the time, but I didn't notice it until this week.
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post #814 of 2079 Old 04-07-2008, 02:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DoubleDAZ View Post

Cable could go all-digital, but for whatever reasons, they chose to support their analog customers.

They chose to support nothing. The FCC has mandated that cable support the analog customers through 2012.

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post...ntil-2012.html
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post #815 of 2079 Old 04-07-2008, 02:08 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Morac View Post

What's confusing though is that according to the first post, the difference in bitrate for HBO between FIOS and Comcast is very small since the bitrate for HBO is small to begin with. With that small a bitrate, HBO should look bad all the time, but I didn't notice it until this week.

Much of the content on HBO is already heavily filtered to reduce bitrate requirements. Recordings from HBO and Cinemax vary from 8Mbps to 13.3Mbps ABR on FiOS, depending on the program.

Most movies I've recorded from HBO and Cinemax are 11Mbps or less, and on those programs, the percentage difference in bitrate between Comcast and FiOS is often less than 5%. However, a few HBO/Cinemax programs recorded from FiOS were 13.0-13.3Mbps ABR, and from what I recall, all of those were under 11Mbps on Comcast. So far, I've directly compared only one of those higher-bitrate programs (300) and still did not see a difference -- when there was blocking, it was present on both Comcast and FiOS feeds -- despite the larger percentage difference in bitrate.

Someone suggested that I record HBO's boxing on both providers to compare, but I have not done that yet.
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post #816 of 2079 Old 04-07-2008, 02:16 PM
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could you do something on history hd?
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post #817 of 2079 Old 04-07-2008, 02:37 PM
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I have Comcast, but never heard of UniHD-What is that? I only ask because I thought my Comcast did not offer this tv show in HD. If I am wrong, then I need to get with the program and learn about UniHD.
Thanks in advance-
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post #818 of 2079 Old 04-07-2008, 03:03 PM
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UniHD = Universal HD, parent is NBC, sister of SciFi, USA, etc
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post #819 of 2079 Old 04-07-2008, 03:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neo1022 View Post

They chose to support nothing. The FCC has mandated that cable support the analog customers through 2012.

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post...ntil-2012.html

That article glosses over a couple of very important points:
  1. The FCC analog support mandate ONLY APPLIES TO LOCAL OTA STATIONS! The FCC has no jurisdiction over the "cable" channels (TBS, CNN, etc.) so Comcrap could convert the rest of the system to digital if they wanted to.
  2. The FCC ONLY mandates that cable supply analog signals of these local stations to connected analog sets. They ALLOW (and, in fact, encourage) conversion of the system to DIGITAL, but require that the conversion be at no additional cost to the customer.
Personally, I think that cable is stuck providing some level of analog service to their customers for some time. There are lots of other tricks (SDV being the one that I am most familiar with) to bring more HD without 3:1 degradation and without dropping all analog.

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post #820 of 2079 Old 04-07-2008, 04:01 PM
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Not sure if I have Uni-HD. Since I'm not at home, I'll have to wait until then to confirm.
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post #821 of 2079 Old 04-07-2008, 04:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Morac View Post

What's confusing though is that according to the first post, the difference in bitrate for HBO between FIOS and Comcast is very small since the bitrate for HBO is small to begin with. With that small a bitrate, HBO should look bad all the time, but I didn't notice it until this week.

It generally doesn't. HBO illustrates an important point about obsessing about bitrates. Bitrates alone do not indicate what the quality will be. There is conjecture (I tend to believe it) that part of the reason that HBO's average bitrate is low is that their material is mostly 24fps and their repeat flags take advantage of this. This allows a significantly lower average bit-rate. (I'm not sure what happens with their boxing and other "live" events. Also, because most of their material is film, the encoding that they use does not have to be done "on the fly" and can make multiple passes for greater compression efficiency with good quality.

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post #822 of 2079 Old 04-07-2008, 04:12 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neo1022 View Post

They chose to support nothing.

Yes, the choice was withheld from them. They were forced to support their analog customers, perhaps even against their will.
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post #823 of 2079 Old 04-07-2008, 04:41 PM
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So drop in quality is permanent-until analog customers are ousted? Too bad- I was wowed when I first got comcast HD on my new plasma- now everything in Hd is just OK, nothing spectacular. My parents were going to come over and check it out (trying to presuade them to spurge a little bit) but lately I am so unimpressed with every HD channel. Someone mentioned HBO's John Adams special not looking great- I agree, nothing jumps off the screen as it use to. As for animal planet and sci-fi-forget it-total crap in my opinion. lets hope this doesn't last too long, totally bummed over this.
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post #824 of 2079 Old 04-07-2008, 04:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neo1022 View Post

They chose to support nothing. The FCC has mandated that cable support the analog customers through 2012.

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post...ntil-2012.html

DoubleDAZ is essentially correct. It's cable's choice whether or not they go full digital or not. The FCC just laid out the rules as far as choices. If they don't, then they have to support analog signals for their customers. If they do, then no analog support is required.

Cable has to weigh the expense of probably 50 million plus cable boxes versus the revenue they get from those subs. It's not surprising they are moving relatively slowly towards 100% digital.
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post #825 of 2079 Old 04-07-2008, 07:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davehancock View Post

It generally doesn't. HBO illustrates an important point about obsessing about bitrates. Bitrates alone do not indicate what the quality will be. There is conjecture (I tend to believe it) that part of the reason that HBO's average bitrate is low is that their material is mostly 24fps and their repeat flags take advantage of this. This allows a significantly lower average bit-rate. (I'm not sure what happens with their boxing and other "live" events. Also, because most of their material is film, the encoding that they use does not have to be done "on the fly" and can make multiple passes for greater compression efficiency with good quality.

Last time I checked HBO, they had a peak bit rate of about 14.1 Mbps. When you consider that they encode using 24 progressive frames per second, it's comparable to video at a peak bit rate of ~17.6 Mbps. The other thing to consider is that HBO uses variable bit rate encoding. This essentially means that they maintain constant quality, reducing the bit rate when there's less to encode. So when you compare average bit rates between VBR and CBR encoding, you must take this into account. HBO's ABR of ~11 Mbps isn't necessarily that much worse than an HDNet or the like at ~17-18 Mbps. VBR encoding is good and it's bad: it's bad because a lot of the time you deliver less quality than you could be. But the picture isn't necessarily bad - it's whatever quality level they've set. And I'd say HBO's quality level is good - not great. VBR is good because it takes less space when you record it, and a VBR stream can be rate shape-stat muxed in with other programs with less loss than a CBR stream could be, assuming you don't pack them too tightly. But when you rate shape too aggressively, or re-encode, the picture quality really suffers.

I'd be willing to bet that HBO does all of their encoding in real-time, not offline. So the encoding doesn't benefit from multiple passes.
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post #826 of 2079 Old 04-07-2008, 08:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davehancock View Post

There is conjecture (I tend to believe it) that part of the reason that HBO's average bitrate is low is that their material is mostly 24fps and their repeat flags take advantage of this.

The great majority of blueray stuff is also 24fps and the bitrate is a lot higher than broadcast stuff. Nothing I've seen on broadcast has come close to the PQ of blueray/hd-dvd.
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post #827 of 2079 Old 04-07-2008, 08:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neo1022 View Post

The great majority of blueray stuff is also 24fps and the bitrate is a lot higher than broadcast stuff. Nothing I've seen on broadcast has come close to the PQ of blueray/hd-dvd.

I hope as Blu-ray gets adopted by a majority of cable customer they start comparing the difference in HD quality and realize how they are being shafted by the cable companies.
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post #828 of 2079 Old 04-07-2008, 08:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neo1022 View Post

The great majority of blueray stuff is also 24fps and the bitrate is a lot higher than broadcast stuff. Nothing I've seen on broadcast has come close to the PQ of blueray/hd-dvd.

IMHO, you never will either.

The closest to that are the network HD feeds from ABC, CBS and The CW. They average around 35-40 Mbps. But even that will more than likely vanish when they upgrade their infrastructure to go 8PSK and put at least two HD streams per mux. The current QPSK mux transport rate is about 44.7 Mbps and they only do one HD stream per mux. Going 8PSK can get them to a transport stream of about 73 Mbps. But, they will stuff at least two streams per mux, or 36 Mbps per stream (total) instead of the current 44.7 Mbps. Then again, they could go 16QAM and get near 98.3 Mbps, plus use MPEG-4. Then they could send four HD streams to the affiliates. Sigh, all that great video quality, lost to the inferior ATSC standard with suits that have to add lots of streams to their DTV channel Or in this case, cable companies cramming HD down a pipe that is too small.

It has been discussed in various threads that re-encoding of MPEG-2 to MPEG-2 wants to have a 2:1 ratio from source to destination, to reduce various types of re-encoding MPEG-2 artifacts. So, for 18 Mbps OTA MPEG-2 (ya right, as if anyone does that these days), that would mean 36 Mbps at the source and that source will no longer exist. But, because so many stations are also doing SD streams, where the HD gets limited to about 15 Mbps, the network feed will still work.

Notice that I didn't mention NBC, which is only providing about 22 Mbps for the HD video. Ouch.

Yep, Bluray (when MPEG-4 is used), will be hard to beat. Of course, there will be newer technology down the road that will make MPEG-4 look sic. Real 3D TV anyone? How about Holodecks where the program surrounds you, sight and sound!

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post #829 of 2079 Old 04-08-2008, 12:14 AM
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Originally Posted by thetman View Post

So drop in quality is permanent-until analog customers are ousted? Too bad- I was wowed when I first got comcast HD on my new plasma- now everything in Hd is just OK, nothing spectacular. My parents were going to come over and check it out (trying to presuade them to spurge a little bit) but lately I am so unimpressed with every HD channel. Someone mentioned HBO's John Adams special not looking great- I agree, nothing jumps off the screen as it use to. As for animal planet and sci-fi-forget it-total crap in my opinion. lets hope this doesn't last too long, totally bummed over this.
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from what I understand broadcast channels are not "over-compressed" (yet). But a lot of that depends on the show. Lost was pretty impressive this season.

On the other hand, you are right, I noticed the sat channels started loosing resolution around Feb. here in MPLS. As well as, the tiling, sound dropouts, etc.

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post #830 of 2079 Old 04-08-2008, 12:40 AM
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You all remember a couple of years back when DirecTV was sued for providing customers with HD Lite? Whatever came to that case? I am with Comcast and I have noticed PQ degradation within the last two weeks. Discovery HD which had been the showcase of high def programming is now like watching a slightly improved SD shows. This is really p**ing me off. Can't get the real potential of my HDTV...ughhh! I see DirecTV or FIOS in my future...along with 52 other tenants in my condo complex.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by cheezz View Post

You all remember a couple of years back when DirecTV was sued for providing customers with HD Lite? Whatever came to that case?

Nothing significant.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cheezz View Post

I see DirecTV or FIOS in my future...along with 52 other tenants in my condo complex.

I'm the only person in my condo complex even remotely interested in making any type switch, and that includes the guy across the street who was among the first to look into DirecTV (when I was board president). Everyone is pretty-much fine with things as they are.
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post #832 of 2079 Old 04-08-2008, 06:21 AM
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Originally Posted by JimboG View Post


Why doesn't Comcast just kill off analog channels?



...because 90% of their consumer base won't even notice these changes in quality.

Let's not forget that there is a great percentage of people out there with HDTVs that are watching SD content thinking its HD.

And, let's not forget (as we ALWAYS do here) that we are AV nerds that actually look at this stuff, the average consumer does not.
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post #833 of 2079 Old 04-08-2008, 06:26 AM
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Originally Posted by mrvideo View Post


Notice that I didn't mention NBC, which is only providing about 22 Mbps for the HD video. Ouch.

Interesting. I think NBC looks great compared to the others. (?)


CBS is CRAP on Comcast.

It used to look great, now it's close to SD. I won't even watch that channel. Too bad because Survivor would look great.
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post #834 of 2079 Old 04-08-2008, 06:55 AM
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Originally Posted by thetman View Post

So drop in quality is permanent-until analog customers are ousted?

pretty much.

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post #835 of 2079 Old 04-08-2008, 07:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jcurran01 View Post

Interesting. I think NBC looks great compared to the others.

It looks good via my local affiliate (OTA) as well. Then again they recently had a firmware update of the their encoder, improving the MPEG-2 encodings.

Quote:


CBS is CRAP on Comcast.

It used to look great, now it's close to SD. I won't even watch that channel. Too bad because Survivor would look great.

Is your local affiliate also transmitting one or more SD streams? That will reduce the quality. Both of the affiliates (NBC/CBS) have SD streams. Local viewers have complained about problems when they are watching sports on either. I don't watch sports. On the NBC affiliate, the large twirling NBC Peacock during promos macroblocks really bad. The chief engineer was hoping the firmware update would help reduce that problem. It didn't.

Most cable companies take what is given them via a direct feed, or via antenna, and feeds the video stream directly to the QAM modulator. Take a look at the CBS affiliate via OTA and compare.

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post #836 of 2079 Old 04-08-2008, 07:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cheezz View Post

You all remember a couple of years back when DirecTV was sued for providing customers with HD Lite? Whatever came to that case?
cheezz

It's still pending. The case is alive and well, just moving slowly.
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post #837 of 2079 Old 04-08-2008, 08:17 AM
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I'm curious as to which HD set top boxes you all have. I wonder if the 3:1 compression looks noticeably better on newer more powerful HD/DVR set tops. The latest models have faster CPU's and more memory for video frame decoding. If the 3:1 uses slightly more CPU usage and/or video decoding memory?

I have a Motorola DCT-6412 phase 2 DVR. It has a 300 MHz Broadcom CPU, which feels really bogged down with I Guide A24(74.53) software. The diagnostics claim there's 128 MB of RAM. I do notice some detail loss during fast motion... and the HD 'pop' is not as significant from Discovery HD (3:1) compared to MHD or TLC (2:1 here). While still miles away from SD, I would be curious to know if a newer box, such as a DCH-3416, or even the upcoming DCX series performs better. I'm also curious if the Scientific Atlanta boxes yield better video quality. The fact that they have a native or selectable output resolution alone makes me think the SA boxes may have a better video processor as opposed to Motorola's 'fixed' hd resolution output.

Perhaps set top software or firmware can be applied to add post-processing video effects to minimize or reduce the effects of mosquito noise and blocking? I.e) better video driver?
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post #838 of 2079 Old 04-08-2008, 08:18 AM
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We need to do that for Comcast too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by keenan View Post

It's still pending. The case is alive and well, just moving slowly.

Originally Posted by cheezz View Post
You all remember a couple of years back when DirecTV was sued for providing customers with HD Lite? Whatever came to that case?
cheezz

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post #839 of 2079 Old 04-08-2008, 11:18 AM
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Originally Posted by cypherstream View Post

I wonder if the 3:1 compression looks noticeably better on newer more powerful HD/DVR set tops. The latest models have faster CPU's and more memory for video frame decoding. If the 3:1 uses slightly more CPU usage and/or video decoding memory?

No. The MPEG-2 spec defines the decoder, and all of the set-top boxes use hardware decoders that are full precision or very nearly so. These boxes don't do any kind of post-processing that will make up for over-compression.
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post #840 of 2079 Old 04-08-2008, 11:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mkanet View Post

We need to do that for Comcast too.



Originally Posted by cheezz View Post
You all remember a couple of years back when DirecTV was sued for providing customers with HD Lite? Whatever came to that case?
cheezz

Different specific issues. DirecTV was sued because they stated specific resolutions that were later shown to be false. Other than a local Comcast VP of Marketing(SF bay area) stating that "we send them as we get them", essentially the same point made in the Verizon ad, I've never seen anything specific from Comcast that anyone could bring suit against. All they've done is use the term "HD", which can mean whatever they want it to mean.
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