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Amazon VOD pixelation on Premiere

Discussion in 'TiVo Premiere DVRs' started by smbaker, Apr 7, 2011.

  1. sbiller

    sbiller Active Member

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    WMHJR,

    I completely agree with you. The problems appear to be isolated to the Premiere platform. I don't think its just the Elite though. Any Series 4 box will exhibit the poor video decoding quality.

    My theory is the videos have been encoded to optimize the playback on the Series 3 platform and there is some sort of incompatibility with the decoding being done on the newer platform.

    ~Sam
     
  2. rparadis99

    rparadis99 New Member

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    Denver, CO
    For what it is worth, I rented Larry Crowne HD via Amazon on a TiVo Premiere (not an Elite) on New Years Eve and agree that the quality was awful.

    Numerous pixelation issues and the audio dropped in/out. I would say, on average, it happened every minute or two.

    In my experience, it has been the HD encoded titles on Amazon and not the SD ones that give my TiVo Premiere problems.

    I rent a number of their "daily deals" in SD to watch on my Premiere. Like others have said, I've never experienced a single problem with movies in SD.
     
  3. wmhjr

    wmhjr Well-Known Member

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    Is there anyone out there with a Premiere AND an HD box who find a different result? Or asked another way, how about those with Premiere and HD units who find similar results? Hmmm.... I think i'm going to post a poll to see if we can get more objective results.
     
  4. wmhjr

    wmhjr Well-Known Member

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    I just contacted Tivo support, who seemed to have "never seen or heard of this issue before" (Deja Vu with Tivo - seems like every time there's an issue they've never heard of it from anybody else). Got a case number and a (very weak) promise that it would be escalated to level 2 technicians and would be resolved within 7-14 days. I'm to call back if it's not fixed. Same old response. Oh well.
     
  5. sbiller

    sbiller Active Member

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    I also posted on the TiVo Forums but its unclear whether TiVO employees even read those forums.

    http://forums.tivo.com/pe/action/forums/displaythread?rootPostID=10511852
     
  6. rparadis99

    rparadis99 New Member

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    In fairness to Amazon and TiVo, I reported the problem to Amazon. It seems like their problem to me and I explained that they might have a reproducible test case. Amazon was kind enough to offer a full refund of the purchase price in addition to stating that they will look into the problem.

    In this case, Amazon encoded HD content appears to be compatible with Series 3 but not Series 4 TiVos. Your test is by no means scientific but I've seen significant problems with two HD titles (Date Night and Larry Crowne) on my TiVo Premiere in the last year that I have rented from Amazon. I just checked and I've rented 5 HD titles in that timeframe (the other 3 had little or no issues). I've never noticed any of these types of issues with SD titles.

    It might behoove Amazon to see if they can reproduce and fix the issue on their end. Like you, I doubt TiVo will do much to resolve the issue.

    One other side note, the TiVo devices are very picky about how external videos are encoded. When I download my own home videos to the device, I can get similar problems to occur during playback depending on how I encode the video.
     
  7. sbiller

    sbiller Active Member

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    May 10, 2002
    Tampa, FL
    I'm guessing that the release of new software to the Premiere's this quarter (i.e., the major upgrade) will correct this problem because Amazon will become a streaming-only service like Hulu Plus.
     
  8. wmhjr

    wmhjr Well-Known Member

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    I guess I'm confused by the above. I'm not sure how we can say it seems like Amazons problem when:

    1) It doesn't seem to happen on ANY other devices, including non-Tivo devices I have.

    2) You yourself mention that even your own home videos can get similar problems.

    This to me also points to the Premiere being at root cause.

    I also don't know what you would consider scientific. There are a bunch of other things, but removing every possible variable is in fact scientific. There is only one further thing I could possibly have done. Download the exact same content to both one of the HDs and the Elite at the same approximate time and validate that (as usual) the Elite has the issue and the HD does not.

    Could you elaborate on exactly why you feel this is an Amazon issue, and what exactly you would do for a better test? I have eliminated network subnets, physical network segment, CAT5E cables, RG6 patch cables, switch, switch ports, RG6 cable runs, HDMI handshake, HDMI cables, and displays from the equation. Fact. As a byproduct, I have also eliminated SNR and signal strength as the issue (because of the previous changes). Ever heard of Occams Razor?
     
  9. wmhjr

    wmhjr Well-Known Member

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    I sure hope not. Frankly, one of the big advantages of Amazon HD for me previously with my HDs was that I didn't have to worry about the buffering and other issues associated for example with Netflix streaming. I stopped using it because it was so hit or miss and just wasn't worth the trouble. Amazon HD downloads have been rock solid for me with the HDs. Netflix never was. Because of this I've really never played with Hulu.
     
  10. rparadis99

    rparadis99 New Member

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    I'm eliminating all other wild possibilities (as Occam's Razor would suggest).

    Fact: The video is encoded, encrypted and generated by Amazon for download to a TiVo. Amazon collects all money in this transaction.

    There are two possible solutions to the problem:

    Solution #1: Amazon re-encodes the video so it is compatible with TiVo Series 4 devices (which have different software than the Series 3). This is a software change on their system that must undergo testing to make sure the video is compatible across all devices (TiVo and other) under which the video might get distributed.

    Solution #2: TiVo upgrades their software so that it can playback the video that Amazon is passing it. Obviously, the Series 3 plays it fine and I am betting that other devices that support Amazon Video work too (e.g. smart TVs).

    The reality is that one entity (Amazon) collects the $4.99 fee for the HD rental in this case. It is in their best interest to fix that problem. TiVo provides the software interface and the playback hardware but not the actual video.

    TiVo does have some motivation to fix the problem but (based on my experience transferring home movies to the TiVo) I believe the problem could ALSO be fixed on Amazon's end.

    As a general rule, if you can fix problems on the server side, it is preferable to fixing it on the 1000s of clients.
     
  11. EldRick

    EldRick New Member

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    So far three movies from Amazon, and all have had patches where pixelation breaks up the images on my PXL, and not while streaming.

    The way to get these fixed is to call Amazon and request refunds - that will focus their attention on the issue if they have to give a lot of refunds and promotional credits...
     
  12. wmhjr

    wmhjr Well-Known Member

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    Well, frankly, I completely disagree with you (with the exception of fixing issues on the server side USUALLY. That USUALLY only extends to if you're forced to make non-standard proprietary changes which can then lead to issues elsewhere or in the future. I believe that to be the case here. Making a change to encoding to accomodate JUST the Premiere could end up having a negative effect on other devices, which seem to work perfectly at this point - plus why should Amazon fund Tivo software quality issues?). Amazon provides this content to all kinds of devices - and to the best of my knowledge this issue exists only on the Tivo Premiere. I have not experienced this issue with Tivo HDs or other devices which can access the exact same content. There is no evidence at this point provided by or even mentioned by anyone that the issue exists for any other device. As a technology professional with considerable experience in doing RCAs, etc on extremely large (including global) enterprise systems, I would focus in this case on the device. It may well be an issue where Amazon would make a change, but those changes SHOULD BE DRIVEN BY TIVO, AS IT IS THEIR DEVICE WHICH SEEMS TO HAVE THE UNIQUE PROBLEM WITH CONTENT WHICH IS COMPATIBLE WITH VIRTUALLY EVERY OTHER KNOWN DEVICE. It should NOT be driven by Tivo customers to Amazon.

    The reality is that Tivo collects both an up front sales revenue for the device purchase, and THEN a MONTHLY service fee for continuing to use the device. So, your facts are in fact not facts. Tivo collects a monthly service fee which MUST be included in the conversation. Beyond that, let's ask it another way....

    If you bought a new car that ended up not being able to consume either gasoline or diesel without those products being modified, would you then expect each energy company to modify their product to fit the specification created by the auto manufacturer? Or, would you FIRST insure that the auto manufacturer researched to discover the problem, document it, and work with providers to resolve it? You may think this is a ridiculous analogy, but from a logic perspective, it is actually quite relevant.


    The bottom line here is that until such time as there is any evidence that this functionality is problematic with other devices, and given the fact that we are all paying Tivo, it is IMHO clearly a Tivo responsibility to deal with the issues. It is their responsibility to deal with Amazon. Frankly, in terms of total revenue, the amount of revenue from Tivo customers using Premieres to get downloaded HD content is probably not even a bug on the windshield of their offerings, and there is little/no motivation for them. OTOH, the Premiere is the majority share of new equipment revenue for Tivo, they have increased service fees to account for "increased functionality" and own the overall responsibility to support their devices - which they cleary advertise and market can use such online HD content.

    I am not bashing Tivo here. However, I do get so very tired of Tivo issues getting blamed on other factors, and frankly claiming that the troubleshooting that I did was "hardly scientific" falls into the "let's just excuse Tivo" category. No insult intended here and please don't apply any anger to my words. I'm just trying to be very clear and precise.
     
  13. rparadis99

    rparadis99 New Member

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    No offense taken. I guess we will agree to disagree. As I stated, Amazon was very fair (full refund) and said they would look into the problem. TiVo would be wise to do the same.
     
  14. wmhjr

    wmhjr Well-Known Member

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    Amazon certainly appears to be fair in their policy, but that doesn't fix the problem. It only refunds the purchase price for the HD content from them. It does nothing to affect the fact that we're paying Tivo a monthly fee (which they increased for the Premiere). I have zero faith that the problem will be resolved by Amazon, as it appears to me that they are properly encoding the content (based on the fact that I have not found any other device reported to have consistent issues with their content other than the Tivo Premiere). It's more cost effective for them to just refund the fees for that very small percentage of customers using a Premiere, broken down into a yet even smaller group that actually take the time to request a refund.

    Problem is that based on other experiences, I seriously doubt Tivo will dedicate any real measurable effort toward this - especially if people simply accept the performance and just ask Amazon for their money back. No pressure - no action. With limited resources they'll devote dev time to other issues/projects. JMHO as somebody with a great deal of experience in development, running development and running very large technology shops. Product management and marketing drive prioritization of work breakdown structure.
     
  15. whitej125

    whitej125 New Member

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    Oct 9, 2005
    I just jumped back on the Tivo bandwagon with the Tivo premiere. Prior to this, I had "cut the cord" and used a Roku player for Netflix and Amazon VOD. So naturally I wanted to keep that content coming.

    I too am noticing the pixelation issues on both Amazon VOD *and* Netflix. Neither of which occurred on Roku.

    The software engineer in me thinks this is actually a Tivo issue, not a content provider issue. Amazon, for one, does not have one version of a video for the Tivo 3 and another version for the Tivo 4 (premiere). However, there appears to be a difference in how these two systems decode the content.

    Now... I have not seen a teardown of either the Tivo 3 or Tivo 4. But I'd suspect something is different in the video decoding department. Either they switched to a different decoder hardware/chipset or removed it altogether in favor of software decoding. Both could be ways to lower the cost of the unit.

    I'm hoping this is a software issue so that there is a possibility of a fix. But seeing as this thread has been around for 6 months, I fear it might not be.
     
  16. nrc

    nrc Cracker Soul

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    Living in a...
    For Amazon, TiVo uses a different encoding of the video than most (possibly all) other devices. So the fact that a video is clean on Roku but not TiVo doesn't necessarily mean that TiVo is at fault.
     
  17. whitej125

    whitej125 New Member

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    Oct 9, 2005
    Roku vs. Tivo, I agree... but Tivo 3 vs. Tivo 4?
     
  18. Dr_Diablo

    Dr_Diablo Dr_Diablo

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    I've downloaded many vids from Amazon an whenever there's a dropout from the DL Amaszn has made it right by either offering to DDL again or refund the fee of that video
     
  19. whitej125

    whitej125 New Member

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    Oct 9, 2005
    Same here, Amazon gave me credit for the video which is great! But, that's not solving the problem here, that's solving the symptom. I don't want the money back, I want to watch the movie for which I paid.

    The reason I bought the Tivo Premiere was precisely because it combined the content I was used to getting from Roku with cable. Had I known Netflix and Amazon were going to work like crap, I would have stuck with the cable company DVR + Roku separately.
     
  20. digitalfirefly

    digitalfirefly New Member

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    Apr 15, 2005
    I've been experiencing pixelation on my Tivo Premiere and Elite. I've rented about 6 or 7 HD movies from Amazon through the Tivo recently. Sometimes it's better than others, but the last movie I rented the pixelation was pretty frequent.

    I've tried downloading the movies at off peak hours (after midnight, early AM) to ensure my modem us getting enough bandwidth. I actually work for a small cable company and I can see that my modem is getting it's full speed (20meg). I'm running wired from my Tivo to my router. I've been hard wired for about 6 months. I used to think the pixelation was because I was wireless, but I'm still having it since running a wire.

    I've downloaded movies on my Xbox 360 and PS3 and had no issues at all. I can stream HD content on Netflix and Hulu with no issue at all. Like someone said, it seems like Amazon is just streaming it, and the Tivo is recording it. It's not actually downloading a file, so there's no error correction. If there's any kind of packet loss, the video isn't being retransmitted.

    My next step is to try and stream a movie on my Roku to see if that's any better than downloading it to my Tivo.
     

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