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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi folks,


Well, people have been asking for something like this. Now that I went ahead and did it I sort of regret it. This hasty project wasn't nearly as successful as my DVD screen shots. At least the DVD screen shots portrayed something of the real image. These ones don't really do justice to how good regular cable can actually appear on the Panny ED plasma.


I've had a DVR (digital video recorder, called a "PVR" by my cable company) for the last month. It's going back. While the recording convenience has certainly been nice, I just don't care for the picture. The signal doesn't look as good as my former HDTV box. The DVR puts everything through that extra digital conversion (well, at least the analog channels) and I find the overall look of cable more "digitized" than I like.


Also, it locks the aspect ratio controls of my plasma, meaning I can't use my plasma's better stretch/zoom modes. I don't like being stuck with the 3 meager "stretch" (fat people), "zoom" and "4:3" modes this cable box offers.


But, since you can pause TV with these things, before I sent it back I whipped out my digital camera and snapped some hasty screen shots.


Unfortunately what I discovered is that, of course we are starting with a lower res signal with compressed cable channels. But I saw a quality drop with the recording mode and when I froze each frame it looked even worse - scalloping appeared on straight lines, more digital blockiness to details. When that compression is moving by at a fast pace in regular motion it sort of "puts together" the details of the image, but when you freeze it you see only part of that information, and more grunge to the image.


So, with all those things downgrading the image, adding another step by photographing it only further removed the images from how they really look.


Ok, enough of that, here they are anyway. This was quick and I didn't bother calibrating for every channel, so as per NTSC ("Never The Same Color") the image can be all over the place.


This series of images are pretty good cable signals on the Panny ED (using the stretch mode of the DVR - I reduced horizontal stretching just a bit with picture size controls).

Pretty Good Cable Signals


Even though I find a healthy proportion of my cable channels are like the above, I want to give newbies an idea of the full range of signal quality, all the way to worst so they get an idea. Next up are "Average Signal Quality." A lot of my channels are at this level (although, in person then look probably better than the "Good signal" screen shots).

"Average" Cable Signal Quality


Finally, I searched for the friggin' worst signals I could find. There are very few channels that look this bad. Yet in person even these are watchable (as they look better than what you see here). The soccer channel is the worst case scenario. The feed was really soft, compressed, blocky and dim. Watching a lot of far away little soccer figures in a low res format (NTSC cable) blown up on a widescreen display stresses the limitations of NTSC. I took shots from near to far.

Crappiest Signals On The Dial


It's too bad I couldn't find a good soccer feed to post a comparison, because with a good feed sports can be thrilling on this panel - not Hi-Def but surprisingly clear and dimensional.


Well, that's it such as it is. Since I took the shots I figured I might as well post them.


Cheers,
 

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Nice of you to go through the trouble to do that. They don't look bad to me at all.


Remember, those photos are going through many conversions. From your camera, then to your comp, then to the server, then to our comp screen.
 

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Thanks for that, Rich... excellent information, as always, for us info junkies.


Been on the fence for a year now, and I'm finally seriously contemplating a plasma. Your wonderful posts and pics are great inspiration. Even the worst of these don't really scare me; my analog set, which can be quite incredible (to my eyes) on the good stations, doesn't look much (any?) better on the bad ones than your panny. Lends credence to the argument that the ED pannys do a decent job of SD... one of my chief criteria.


Cheers! ...Perry.
 

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Well thanks Harkness for , again, a superb post. You took some fears out of my future SD experience later this afternoon , since my 7UY comes in today. I was getting nervous with all the posts about how bad the quality was. I find that both the first and second quality are pretty good to my eye. BTW what cable company do you have, Rogers?


Again thanks for the great posts.
 

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Another excellent post Rich. I see nothing to be ashamed of here - some of the high quality shots look near DVD quality to my eyes and even the worst aren't too painful. However, I know you say it's better in person, but I question whether perhaps the opposite is true. It concerns me that viewing a representation of your 42" plasma screen at such a small size on my monitor hides/minimizes many of the artifacts so common in NTSC, much the same way a poor quality JPEG looks much clearer when downsized. Given, the same argument could be said about your DVD screen shots (which I've really enjoyed and plan to use as a reference for calibrating my new 42"!), but this issue just occured to me.


As always, your input is greatly appreciated!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by housecor
Another excellent post Rich. I see nothing to be ashamed of here - some of the high quality shots look near DVD quality to my eyes and even the worst aren't too painful. However, I know you say it's better in person, but I question whether perhaps the opposite is true. It concerns me that viewing a representation of your 42" plasma screen at such a small size on my monitor hides/minimizes many of the artifacts so common in NTSC, much the same way a poor quality JPEG looks much clearer when downsized.
Very good point and in practice it's both true and not true.


You're right: many of the artifacts we see happen when an image is moving. In a still shot you don't see that swimming, modulating noise of mpeg compression and analog noise. Also, my TV's deinterlacer, and it's processing for video especially is only so-so in that often enough I'll see some dot crawl or de-interlacing artifacts on cable channels.


However, at the same time the very digital compression means that a still image doesn't capture the full resolution and clarity of the image either.

On the "good" shots, in the live signal from about 9 feet away there was little to no visible mpeg/analog noise. It was super clean and clear.

In fact, the one with the "crocodile guy" was from a show on rescuing crocodiles. It was absolutely thrilling. Watching the crocks thrash around in a river had a window on the action sense of vibrancy, clarity and image size that I've never seen on a tube set.


So, in neither way are the screen shots truly accurate. But I think they give a general idea of the range of signal quality.


Also, remember that we are looking at the shots very close. To get an idea of the distance I watch from, you'd be about 3 feet from your computer monitor (well, at least on the resolution setting I'm using: 1024 x 768). The image should smoothen out from that distance. As far as the size goes, given I watch NTSC from between 9 and 10 feet from the plasma, I don't see that the size of the screen shots ufairly minize image defects.

Quote:
Originally posted by housecor Given, the same argument could be said about your DVD screen shots (which I've really enjoyed and plan to use as a reference for calibrating my new 42"!), but this issue just occured to me.
Overall I find my DVD screen shots still don't capture how good the real image looks on my plasma. There are very few artifacts to speak of and the picture looks even clearer and more vibrant.
 

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Rich,


Were you using the 8000HD from Rogers? The SD on the 3250HD was quite poor until a few firmware pushes were under its belt. Were you able to do an A/B test with the 8000HD and 3250HD? (I guess that would require you to get Rogers to activate both boxes, which would cost a few bucks!).


If anyone looked closely at the news channel shot in the "worst" section (CP24), those temperatures in the top right corner are in celsius, not fahrenheit! You'll note that the shot of the QEW highway (just beneath the temperatures) doesn't show any snow.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Ross (sorry, delayed reply).


Yes I'm using the 8000HD from Rogers. It was supposedly a new unit, newly arrived at the store when I picked it up last month. Whether that means it has the latest firmware I don't know.


My other HD box is the Scientific Atlanta Explorer 3100, from Rogers. That's what I've been using up 'till now. I haven't done a direct shoot-out but probably will before the 8000 goes back.
 

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Quote:
Also, it locks the aspect ratio controls of my plasma, meaning I can't use my plasma's better stretch/zoom modes. I don't like being stuck with the 3 meager "stretch" (fat people), "zoom" and "4:3" modes this cable box offers.
Does the 8000HD give you the option of outputting standard definition programming in 480i or 480p? If you can do that, the stretch modes on the panny will work.
 

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i hate to go off topic here. I was looking at your svid vs. component comparison shots. the svid does look better. Am I to infer you are running your dvd's via the svid then?




great right up by the way!!! Always interesting and one of the reasons i purchased a 7uy.
 

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Nice work Rich. I am sure it has helped a lot of people feel comfortable with their buying decision


On the screen shots I notice that you use soccer feeds as an example of a poor signal. I think the problem here is not from the North American station but rather the compression used to get the signal across the Atlantic from Europe. You only have to compare the half time show on Sportsnet which is crystal clear to the actual game footage which can be very poor


Have you ever seen a soccer match which had good picture quality? I see a lot of digital artifacts on a Sony HD RPTV and was hopping that the ED Panny might help my situation
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by Vcook
i hate to go off topic here. I was looking at your svid vs. component comparison shots. the svid does look better. Am I to infer you are running your dvd's via the svid then?
I switch between watching via S-Video and my component progressive scan signal from my DVD player. The S-Video looks sharper, with reduced dithering/picture noise but suffers from de-interlacing artifacts.


The component image is smoother in terms of de-interlacing, and a little better with shadow detail. so sometimes I use that depending on my mood and program material.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by 3lions


Have you ever seen a soccer match which had good picture quality? I see a lot of digital artifacts on a Sony HD RPTV and was hopping that the ED Panny might help my situation
You know, I don't recall ever seeing a good signal for a soccer game, probably for the reasons you site I suppose. They always look compressed to hell. That's one reason I searched for a soccer game to show some of the worst signals.
 

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I thought all the HD boxes required digital cable service which converts analog SD to digitial. There had been some talk that recording further degrades the signal and the SA80000HD is still new and has been the subject of complaints but I was hoping firmware upgrades would be resolving these problems. Is it just the PVR that you don't like?


This is disappointing news as I have just ordered a 42ED and had planned on getting this same box thru Cox next week. I was trying to figure out if people were setting up this box to pass thru all signals to the TV as I thought that allowed you to use the aspect ratio on the TV.



I have been searching and reading all your posts and would hope you will continue to post any additional comments here rather than in the hardware PVR forum although I check both. Based on what I thought had worked for you I had planned on using both component and S video connection on the same box so I could swicth to the Svid connections for sd signals. However if the signal is already digital coming into the cable box, why would using an S video or component connection give a better picture when the conversion has already taken place?


Hopefully when my ED comes next week I can start experimenting and adding to the knowledge base rather than just taking.
 
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