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ESPN HD/ESPN 2 HD Picture Quality Improving? (5/2011)

post #1 of 480
Thread Starter 
FYI, feel free to comment on ESPN on ABC, and the other channels that comprise the ESPN Family of Networks as well (ESPNU, ESPNEWS, ESPN Classic, ESPN Goal Line). Be sure to list the city you're watching from, your pay tv provider, and call letters of the station (when applicable).

Anyways, Is it me or has the picture quality of ESPN HD/ESPN 2 HD deteriorated this year? This is especially noticed when football (both college & NFL). It seems like the grass is always moving or "swimming" and the crowd in the background seems to be a blurred, distractive mess. I don't know if it has to do with my cable company or not trying to pack in more HD per qam or not, but the picture quality seemed better a year ago. What leads me to believe that its not the cable company is that commercials, ads, studio shows, and highlights look great on ESPN HD & ESPN 2 HD.
post #2 of 480
My take on ESPN and ESPN2, it has looked like garbage for about the last 5 years. I'm watching on E*.
post #3 of 480
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Wellman View Post

Is it me or has the picture quality of ESPN HD/ESPN 2 HD deteriorated this year? This is especially noticed when football (both college & NFL). It seems like the grass is always moving or "swimming" and the crowd in the background seems to be a blurred, distractive mess. I don't know if it has to do with my cable company or not trying to pack in more HD per qam or not, but the picture quality seemed better a year ago. What leads me to believe that its not the cable company is that commercials, ads, studio shows, and highlights look great on ESPN HD & ESPN 2 HD.

ESPN/ESPN 2 have looked like garbage for about the last year. It's unacceptably poor now, whether you're on Comcast, Directv or Dish. Almost makes me not want to watch.
post #4 of 480
Yes it is a nasty, soft, compressed pixelated mess.
post #5 of 480
The picture sucks - watching on D*. And the animated crap on the bottom line for SportsCenter... now on ESPN News makes it all the more unwatchable.
post #6 of 480
Thread Starter 
I'm glad I'm not the only one having issues.
post #7 of 480
And what's with their studio? Those banks of lights are a ridiculous back drop for what they do. Less is more, guys.
post #8 of 480
Plus, when Boise plays on that gawd-awful blue field, no television can make it look good. What a disaster. If I were ESPN and any other network, I'd make it clear to the school that unless they change the color to green, they won't be on TV. It's horrible watching a game played there.
post #9 of 480
I think some of their games can look pretty good, particularly the primetime ESPN Saturday night games. Some of the early afternoon games can look good or bad, it just depends on which crew does the game. PQ on MNF has been really poor the last few years.

It just seems like more and more channels are compressing their signals and creating a sub-standard PQ. Then when the provided compresses it on top of it, you can get some real crumby channels. They convince everybody how great HD is, looks great everywhere for a few years, and then they start compressing it.
post #10 of 480
I've also noticed the deterioration in picture quality. I thought it looked great three years ago when I first went HD, but within the last year, it's gotten a lot worse.

The one exception is ESPN Regional productions that are in HD (Big East Network, SEC Network, etc.), which usually look spectacular, but as far as I know, they are totally separate in many ways from ESPN/2/U.
post #11 of 480
You do realize that in the state of Boise, the grass is naturally blue. No need to adjust your television set. Otherwise, ESPN Tueday night football looked OK.
post #12 of 480
Sure it varies a bit with games, but I haven't really noticed.

However you said you are on Time Warner, I have viewed ESPNHD from a TWC area that has implemented SDV, and ESPN looks simply awful, you can see the pixelation from the overcompression. That's a TWC thing, here on Comcast in Southeast PA, ESPNHD/ESPN2HD are two of the few(if not the only) HD channels where there are just 2 HD's per QAM/physical channel.
post #13 of 480
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ak3883 View Post

Sure it varies a bit with games, but I haven't really noticed.

However you said you are on Time Warner, I have viewed ESPNHD from a TWC area that has implemented SDV, and ESPN looks simply awful, you can see the pixelation from the overcompression. That's a TWC thing, here on Comcast in Southeast PA, ESPNHD/ESPN2HD are two of the few(if not the only) HD channels where there are just 2 HD's per QAM/physical channel.

But my question then is, why do studio shows, highlights, and commercials seem to look fine on ESPN HD & ESPN 2 HD, while game productions look like bovine fecal matter?
post #14 of 480
Thread Starter 
Watching the CHI/OKC NBA game on ESPN HD. I dunno if it has to do with the fact that the center court camera is much closer to the action than say midlevel sideline camera of for a football game. But the CHI/OKC game looks pretty decent. I would dare say, watchable.
post #15 of 480
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Wellman View Post

But my question then is, why doe studio shows, highlights, and commercials seem to look fine on ESPN HD & ESPN 2 HD, while game productions look like bovine fecal matter?

Games go through another compression stage than content originated at the studio. The feed from the production truck is sent out either via-uplink (most common) or by fiber optic (mostly big events or Monday Night Football as fiber isnt available at every venue) and this requires the signal to be initially compressed before getting to integration in Bristol. If there's a place the signal can fall apart its during this stage and then again on the way to your home.

I'm not convinced ESPN studio shows look all that much better, its just there is little to no action or movement so the compression scheme doesn't have to work as hard and the picture holds up better for simple talking heads. This is also why closeups on games look better than wide-angle shots.

Some of the perception of good picture quality also comes from how contrasty the picture looks. A picture with snappy whites and deep blacks will appear to be sharper, so there is both an aesthetic consideration and a technical consideration as well. The amount of contrast is of course a personal decision by the video shader. Games with lots of haze, smoke, rain or atmosphere (which chokes contrast) will also usually appear to look worse. There is a very intriguing white paper online as to how contrast and saturation affect the perception of how sharp an image appears over another, even the two technically have the same pixel count.
post #16 of 480
Yeah I've noticed the ESPN networks has been hit and miss for awhile now. Sometimes it'll look great and other times it'll look like I'm watching some kind of low bitrate webcast. Hopefully the MLS playoff games will be the former.
post #17 of 480
Quote:
Originally Posted by Demolition Man View Post

Yeah I've noticed the ESPN networks has been hit and miss for awhile now. Sometimes it'll look great and other times it'll look like I'm watching some kind of low bitrate webcast. Hopefully the MLS playoff games will be the former.

This is true for just about all sports broadcasters. Even though CBS NFL usually looks great (NFL venues are all fibered), their college basketball product is spotty. Same goes for FOX and TNT is a mixed bag with their NBA. NBC's Sunday Night Football struggled for a couple of years before things started to turn a corner with PQ and their Notre Dame stuff is still not that great.
post #18 of 480
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ABCTV99 View Post

Games go through another compression stage than content originated at the studio. The feed from the production truck is sent out either via-uplink (most common) or by fiber optic (mostly big events or Monday Night Football as fiber isnt available at every venue) and this requires the signal to be initially compressed before getting to integration in Bristol. If there's a place the signal can fall apart its during this stage and then again on the way to your home.

I'm not convinced ESPN studio shows look all that much better, its just there is little to no action or movement so the compression scheme doesn't have to work as hard and the picture holds up better for simple talking heads. This is also why closeups on games look better than wide-angle shots.

Some of the perception of good picture quality also comes from how contrasty the picture looks. A picture with snappy whites and deep blacks will appear to be sharper, so there is both an aesthetic consideration and a technical consideration as well. The amount of contrast is of course a personal decision by the video shader. Games with lots of haze, smoke, rain or atmosphere (which chokes contrast) will also usually appear to look worse. There is a very intriguing white paper online as to how contrast and saturation affect the perception of how sharp an image appears over another, even the two technically have the same pixel count.

Thanks ABCTV99, that does shine some light to it. I don't know whether or not you're with Disney or not, but it does explain some of the issues. I honestly didn't think it was a 720p vs 1080i issue with ESPN. I know there are networks that can do a very good 720p and I'm not anti 720p. If it looks good to me whether it be 720p or 1080i, I'm all for it. I would've thought 720p would be able to hide some of the picture quality flaws compared to that of 1080i (noted usually when a 1080i station has subchannels, since that takes away bitrate).
post #19 of 480
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Wellman View Post

Thanks ABCTV99, that does shine some light to it. I don't know whether or not you're with Disney or not, but it does explain some of the issues. I honestly didn't think it was a 720p vs 1080i issue with ESPN. I know there are networks that can do a very good 720p and I'm not anti 720p. If it looks good to me whether it be 720p or 1080i, I'm all for it. I would've thought 720p would be able to hide some of the picture quality flaws compared to that of 1080i (noted usually when a 1080i station has subchannels, since that takes away bitrate).

The worst part about producing HD content is that it almost always looks good leaving the truck. AND it almost always looks pristine leaving the studio integration point, because everyone is watching a digital high-end monitor. And then it falls apart and what people see at home is crap for an innumerable number of reasons (and it may not even look crappy to everyone). So short of making sure all of the infrastructure is in place, reasonable compression schemes are being used and everything is being done to make sure the broadcast sparkles on the production end (and I've never worked on a show where an engineer has said "I'm just gonna make this show look like crap tonight.") there isn't a whole lot that can be done.

All the networks have very specific practices for how the originate programming and most aren't that different from one another, the differences are mostly in the infrastructure (some are newer and more robust than others) and content delivery pipelines (meaning cable broadcasters are at the mercy of providers and networks are at the mercy of locals). Sometimes there are little things that will make one broadcast look better, lighting is huge as is exposure ratios, much of these things are difficult if not impossible to control in sports situations, which is why entertainment shows even at 720p will look spectacular but a game might be eh.

I'm not with Disney FYI.
post #20 of 480
Thread Starter 
Man, its too bad there isn't an easy way to fix this problem, ABCTV99. It just drives me bonkers. I had a feeling that producers weren't purposely screwing it up. Its just that there seems to be a general consensus that no matter who the cable/satellite/iptv/fiber optics provider, the problems reported all seem to be the same.
post #21 of 480
For the most part, to my eyes, EspnHD etc...looks very good on my Comcast System here in Atlanta.
post #22 of 480
The only thing I can say for certain is that ESPN's MNF broadcast is noticeably worse than all of its competitors--Fox, CBS, NBC, and NFLN. Something is going wrong somewhere. Sometimes Fox has the same problem as ESPN, but to a much lesser extent (probably because Fox broadcasts are generally in daylight). Close up, low motion/replay shots look fine. Game action sometimes is passable; sometimes it looks like a webcast.

And I'm on FiOS, so the ESPN broadcast is being passed uninterrupted. And I seriously doubt my setup is somehow just screwing ESPN in this equation. ESPN's college football broadcasts generally look very good. MLB is decent (not a lot of motion there, so it's probably not a good reference). Basketball is another one that really does generally not look good on ESPN.
post #23 of 480
Quote:
Originally Posted by URFloorMatt View Post

The only thing I can say for certain is that ESPN's MNF broadcast is noticeably worse than all of its competitors--Fox, CBS, NBC, and NFLN. Something is going wrong somewhere. Sometimes Fox has the same problem as ESPN, but to a much lesser extent (probably because Fox broadcasts are generally in daylight). Close up, low motion/replay shots look fine. Game action sometimes is passable; sometimes it looks like a webcast.

And I'm on FiOS, so the ESPN broadcast is being passed uninterrupted. And I seriously doubt my setup is somehow just screwing ESPN in this equation. ESPN's college football broadcasts generally look very good. MLB is decent (not a lot of motion there, so it's probably not a good reference). Basketball is another one that really does generally not look good on ESPN.

Agree 100% and think that is the biggest point, ESPN is consistently the worse PQ of any channel that broadcasts NFL games. FOX shows a lot more games so they occasionally and a few good ones, but I'd say on average the are disappointing to both CBS and NBC.

That being said, it could just be I prefer the sharper picture of NBC and CBS, with a few more motion artifacts than the always soft and mosquito noise picture of FOX and ESPN. They none are perfect, but maybe I'm more sensitive to one.
post #24 of 480
ESPN looks great as long as everything on screen stays perfectly still.
post #25 of 480
ESPN's coverage of NASCAR is hit or miss as well. Some weeks, the PQ looks really good. But most weeks, it's pretty weak.
post #26 of 480
Thread Starter 
Anyone notice how decent the picture quality on the Miami/Virginia college football game on ESPN? No swimming grass or any video noise. It looks pretty good. Now if you go to ESPN 2, the Purdue/Illinois game looks like total garbage. Swimming grass and overly excessive video noise up the ying yang.
post #27 of 480
The college football games I watch on ESPN3.com look bad. But it is free. I love watching football games on my local channels OTA in HD with an uncompressed signal. Also for free.
post #28 of 480
I wonder what you guys are talking about. ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNews and ESPNU in HD on Comcast digital cable in Sacramento, CA are outstanding--reasonable color, very good sharpness and good sound quality. Must be the channel compression applied to cable systems in your area.
post #29 of 480
Quote:
Originally Posted by RayChuang View Post

I wonder what you guys are talking about. ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNews and ESPNU in HD on Comcast digital cable in Sacramento, CA are outstanding--reasonable color, very good sharpness and good sound quality. Must be the channel compression applied to cable systems in your area.

What's your viewing distance and screen size?

Sure, if looks fine on my 57" if I'm 15ft away.
post #30 of 480
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jedi Master View Post

The college football games I watch on ESPN3.com look bad. But it is free. I love watching football games on my local channels OTA in HD with an uncompressed signal. Also for free.

Nobody cares - the rest of us willingly pay for the ESPN family because it's still orders of magnitude better than espn3 or the limited selection you get on locals.
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