My HD Tivo gives me a headache, what can I do?

Discussion in 'TiVo Series3 HDTV DVRs' started by TrekCycling, Oct 5, 2007.

  1. Oct 5, 2007 #1 of 21
    TrekCycling

    TrekCycling New Member

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    Feb 25, 2005

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    Wow, this isn't working out well at all. My wife and I bought an HDTV back in April. After being loyal Tivo customers since the day it came out (we were one of the first to buy it in Oregon where we live) we had no real choice but to swtich to Comcast DVR.

    We were ecstatic when HD Tivo was released. $600 (the box + the 3 year) was pricey, but not too much to have our beloved Tivo back. Ever since then it's been a headache, literally. The box works fine in terms of recording shows. It's speedy, something I'd never say about the Comcast DVR. It shows SD signals better than the Comcast DVR as well, a surprise. The problem is that fall TV season has started and we're learning painfully that HD Tivo doesn't do the HD part right. At least our box doesn't.

    The picture is blurry. The sound is a mixed bag. Tonight we had to crank our TV up to 50% of total volume (we usually watch TV at 30) because the the sound from the speakers on the TV was coming out strange, the music overpowering the dialogue on 30 Rock and The Office dialogue playing at a very low volume.

    The worst is the picture, though. On HD channels the picture is blurry, often pixelated during any kind of fast motion. Even the slightest. You can almost see little panels where it's trying to put together the picture. It not only completely defeats the purpose of the HD TV, but it is literally painful to the eyes.

    I'm not entirely certain what to do about this. Is this normal? Would a new box solve these issues? Are these known issues? Is a service upgrade in the works?

    At this point, given that the main reason the HDTV was purchased was for actually television it's tempting to revert back to SDTV or at least revert back to an SD Tivo and get a Comcast HD box for sports (going back to Comcast DVR isn't an option). Please tell me there is some hope. I have a PRP with Best Buy for the TV and the Tivo. It's extremely tempting to walk in with both tomorrow and go back to analogue. At least then the headaches while watching The Office, of all shows, will go away.
     
  2. Oct 5, 2007 #2 of 21
    EVizzle

    EVizzle ^^MacGvyer^^

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    St. Paul, MN
    I have no real advice to give, other than to gather insight from other HDTivo users in your area and compare their experiences to yours. Then I would gather information about the broadness of this issue and if that goes nowhere, get technical specs (signal strength and much much more) so you can identify if it is a cable or tivo issue.

    Don't give up... it will all be worth it when your Tivo and HD get along! :)
     
  3. Oct 5, 2007 #3 of 21
    Kablemodem

    Kablemodem Get the ketchup.

    19,354
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    May 26, 2001
    Sherman...
    I've noticed that the sound on NBC is horrible this season. On several shows the dialog is too soft while the music is too loud, and the commercials are twice as loud as the shows.
     
  4. Oct 5, 2007 #4 of 21
    TrekCycling

    TrekCycling New Member

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    Feb 25, 2005
    That's exactly what we experienced. I guess I didn't phrase that well. But yeah, that's what happened tonight. With CBS (notably CSI: Miami) it's crazy pixelation in addition. NBC is some pixelation and blurriness, but not as bad.
     
  5. Oct 5, 2007 #5 of 21
    ThatBozGuy

    ThatBozGuy New Member

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    Oct 13, 2006

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    Cant help ya with the picture, but the sound I just might.

    I had the same exact problem with the sound, it wasnt the TIVO HD it was the TV and sound system settings.

    When I was just running the tv sound I had the music overpowering the dialogue ,after a lot of hair pulling and reconfiguring it turned out my tv was set for surround sound when the tivo and channel was just feeding stereo, when I set the tivo config to match stereo suddenly everything was balanced and the music was at the proper level versus the dialog.

    The tv was doing some kind of widening or equalizing to distribute surround sound even when it wasnt getting it and since the music is often more centered than dialog it was stronger on the left and right channels while the dialog was shipping back some of the sound to non existent back channels.

    I had the same type of problem with some channels when it was going through my sound system, and it turned out to be a setting for my system that was expecting a wide surround and was only getting stereo signal with a hall effect setting which was my default movie setting, it made it low output and quiet for a lot of stuff.

    As to commercials they are on average 7-8 decibels louder in general and again this is not a tivo thing, but is often related to local insertion versus net feed.

    I confirmed all of this later by running the tivo sound out to a straight amplifier with no processing and none of the problems( with the exception of the commercial volume increase ) were there.

    All sound problem I had were processing problems outside of the tivo.

    Hope that helps ya to look in the right directions.
     
  6. Oct 5, 2007 #6 of 21
    MikeyB

    MikeyB Distracted Member

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    Jan 7, 2005
    VA
    I had the same sound problems with CSI:NY (and some other CBS show from Monday night). And that was on my SD Series 2 boxes!
     
  7. Oct 5, 2007 #7 of 21
    bkdtv

    bkdtv New Member

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    DC Metro Area
    Picture quality is heavily dependent upon the compression applied by your broadcast affiliate and cable provider. Higher compression = lower quality. Blurriness and pixelization are part of the original picture signal, and the direct result of over compression.

    There's nothing Tivo or anyone else can do about overcompression by your broadcast affiliate or cable provider.

    If Comcast is applying the excess compression, then you would get a better picture by mounting an off-air antenna for locals. If your local broadcast affiliate is responsible, then there is nothing you can do (beyond calling them to complain). Depending on where you live, you may be able to use a larger antenna to receive locals from a different market. For example, in my case, CBS HD looks noticeably better in the Baltimore market than it does the DC market, but the opposite is true for NBC, which looks better in DC. I am able to receive both with an antenna, so I've setup my guide and season passes to use the networks in each market with the best picture quality.
     
  8. Oct 5, 2007 #8 of 21
    TrekCycling

    TrekCycling New Member

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    Feb 25, 2005
    Surround sound isn't turned on. So that's not the problem. How big/what kind of an antenna do you have to get to receive good quality OTA signals? Also, if you're recording OTA am I correct to assume you only get one tuner or is that all internal and it can record two channels over the air? Wondering because that's where the big problem is currently. The other shows we record (mostly non-HD shows off of Comedy Central, etc.) have no problems in this regard. I guess I should check and see if HD on TNT, HBO, etc. suffers from a similar problem. Anyway, which antenna should I consider?
     
  9. Oct 5, 2007 #9 of 21
    Hyrax

    Hyrax Member

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    Sep 1, 2007
    First of all, my TivoHD is fantastic. Picture quality is just about the best I've seen on my small TV (50" LCD) and large screed (100" projector). The sound is also excellent. I happen to get all my material OTA and connect the Tivo to my receiver and then connect my receiver to the two TVs. From experience, the TivoHD looks and sounds as good or better than the ComCast DVR.

    One OTA antenna allows you to record two shows at once. I found my local Comcast was compressing the bitrate on NFL games (on NBC) over 25% more than what I get OTA. On Fox both OTA and Cable bitrates were low. Talk to an Antenna guy for the best antenna for your area.

    NBC's sound is definitely lower during shows than during Ads (I press mute quickly when the Ads start). However, it is a dolby digital 5.1 broad cast and it does sound good when played back that way. Sound does get weird whenever a DD 5.1 sound is downgraded to stereo. I bet you'll get better sound if you play with the sound settings on your TivoHD and TV so you are getting DD 5.1.
     
  10. jtown

    jtown New Member

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    Sep 26, 2002
    You can record two OTA channels at the same time, same as cable.

    As far as the sound goes, it's hard to say where the problem lies without knowing how your system is set up. However, I have noticed that there is a HUGE variation in audio quality. I don't just mean from channel to channel or even between different shows on the same channel. I'm talking about during some shows. Sporting events are the worst when it comes to audio. One minute they'll be sending a full surround mix then the commentators suddenly get dropped so low I can't hear them. Then they'll bounce to the side speakers, then back to center. Just terrible.

    In general, switching between channels usually requires adjusting the volume and sometimes the settings on my digital audio decoder. There's one show in particular on ESPN that has the absolute worst audio mix. I have a custom setting I use when watching that show. It's no the Tivo's fault. All it does is record and play back the digital feed. Crap in = crap out. It would be the same on any other reciever (DVR or not) that uses the digital signal.

    And compression can really kill the video quality. Best case is full bandwidth unprocessed clear out to the affiliates who then use the network's mandated equipment to compress the signal for distribution to the viewers. One compression step with very high quality processing. I think it's FOX that does it like this. (I could be wrong. Might have been ESPN.) At the other end of the spectrum are networks that compress the signal on-site before shooting it up the the satellite, compressing it yet again before sending it to the affiliates, who compress it yet again using whatever process they feel like before distributing it to the viewers. So the signal gets stepped on multiple times with no quality control at the end point. I think NBC is one of the networks doing it that way.

    There's a thread around here where someone gave a breakdown of the controls and procedures used by the various networks for live broadcast. Look for the thread complaining about NBC's crappy HD quality a few weeks ago.

    It's not fair to blame the tivo for poor video quality when you're talking about HD. It's a digital signal recorded in its raw form. What you're seeing is exactly what you'd see with any other cable receiver. It's the same signal the cable company's DVR would record/playback and it's the same signal the cable company's receiver would decode live. It is what it is.

    Moving to digital has commoditized much of the equipment used in television viewing. Either the signal is intact or it isn't. If it's intact, then that's it. There's nothing to process. There's no encoding. There's no quality settings to pick. The digital signal is recorded, the digital signal is played back. If the content of that signal is of poor quality, no variation in decoding/recording/playback equipment is going to change that.

    Your best bet it to see if you can pick up the OTA (Over The Air) signal using an antenna. This might eliminate the final compression step that might be happening at the cable company. No guarantees but you can get a decent amplified indoor antenna at Wallyworld for $30 and return it if it doesn't work.
     
  11. TrekCycling

    TrekCycling New Member

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    Feb 25, 2005
    Okay, but here's a question. If I go OTA for network TV, does that mean the TV has to be switched to that only? i.e. I can no longer record cable as well seemlessly? It seems like that would be a problem.

    As far as blaming HDTivo goes, there's a whole thread about that. What I know is this. We briefly had the POS Comcast DVR. It was a really bad DVR, but at least the picture looked good. Really good. The shows we watched exhibited none of the artifacts that they do with HD Tivo.
     
  12. bkdtv

    bkdtv New Member

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    Jan 9, 2003
    DC Metro Area
    No, the Tivo will seamlessly integrate both cable and OTA signals in the same guide. You can record any two simultaneously; you can record two cable, two OTA, or one of each at the same time.

    In my case, I have Verizon FiOS (with DC locals) and OTA locals from Baltimore integrated into the same guide. The FiOS locals are bit-for-bit identical to the OTA locals so there was no point in my using the OTA locals from DC.

    If you compared the Comcast DVR now, I doubt you would see that difference. Many find the output from the HD Tivos to be an upgrade over the Comcast DVRs. That was true in my case.

    Cable and broadcast configurations are not static. They change with time. Cable providers apply additional compression -- reducing quality -- to squeeze new channels onto their systems. Broadcast affiliates take bits away from their HD feeds -- reducing quality -- and use those bits to create separate subchannels for news, weather, or stocks.

    I referenced the DC vs Baltimore CBS affiliates in my previous post. My DC CBS affiliate (WUSA) used to look just as good as the Baltimore affiliate. However, their station's management decided it was more important to have a separate weather channel than the best possible HD quality. They took 4Mbps from the HD channel and gave that to a new SD weather channel; that significantly reduced PQ on sports broadcasts. The Baltimore CBS affiliate looks just as great as ever, so I watch that now instead.
     
  13. jlib

    jlib Lean Forward

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    Nov 21, 2002
    Carmel...
    Just out of curiosity, what is the native resolution of your display and what resolution are you sending from the TiVo HD? Does the pixelization/macroblocking also happen on OTA recordings?
     
  14. TrekCycling

    TrekCycling New Member

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    Feb 25, 2005
    I just got an antenna today. Just to see if there was a difference. If there isn't that means the problem is either with Tivo or the source (i.e. the network). At least there we rule out whether Comcast is the problem or not. I just called Comcast and they don't want to deal with it. On hold with Tivo now.

    The native resolution of the TV is 1080i. I'm sending hybrid to the TV from the Tivo HD. I played around with different options last night and nothing made a difference. The pixelation/paneling, whatever was still there.

    I'll report back next week on how OTA goes. I'm doing some tests right now, but the head to head is how CSI: Miami, the Office, etc. look. I still have them on my Tivo and they're awful. If the OTA is similarly awful, then I'm not sure what to do then.
     
  15. bkdtv

    bkdtv New Member

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    Jan 9, 2003
    DC Metro Area
    There is a simple, objective test to see if your cable provider is applying extra compression to their feeds, reducing quality.

    Schedule a recording for the same program on the cable and OTA versions of the channel. Then click on the each recording and hit the INFO button. Scroll down to the bottom (using page -) of the Info screen until you find recording size. Compare the recording size for each recording. If the cable recording is smaller, that means they are applying more compression and degrading quality. If the recording sizes are identical, then that means your cable company is passing the OTA feed as is.
     
  16. TrekCycling

    TrekCycling New Member

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    Feb 25, 2005
    Thanks for the tip on checking the size. I get the feeling I won't get a true test of this until the week. I just checked a show on KGW (the big problem channel last night) and "Rachel Ray" was the exact same size OTA and through cable. But it's 720p. Maybe 1080i is different?
     
  17. rainwater

    rainwater Active Member

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    Are you sure you are recording the HD source? Rarely does HD issues result in a picture being "blurry".
     
  18. TrekCycling

    TrekCycling New Member

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    Feb 25, 2005
    Blurry isn't the best word to describe it. It's pixelated, blocky, very strange. It looks really good when the action is slow. But when the action the screen gets moderately busy it gets this way. And yes, I know I'm recording the HD signal.
     
  19. cgould

    cgould Member

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    Dec 28, 2002
    Bay Area, CA
    You might have a bad harddrive or some other HW fault on the Tivo.

    In some cases there are signal problems w/ the cable (low or over-high levels), or some decoder/cablecard bugs (SA vs motorola), but that would be all channels, and others in the area might see it, and signal levels should theoretically affect the cable STB also.

    Is it only HD? or "High" quality analog or SD digital also?
    Does it occur on the exact same spot & same appearance, when you are playing back a program (eg problem in recorded signal/file, or maybe bad spot on hdd), or is it random on playback (HDD/HW problems)?


    The HD/S3 Tivos have *exceptional* video quality, even SD, certainly HD.
     
  20. jtown

    jtown New Member

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    Sep 26, 2002
    If your TV has an ATSC tuner, you could attach the antenna directly to the TV and see if the OTA broadcast looks any different.

    Also, I did a quick search and didn't see HDMI, Component, or DVI anywhere in the thread. How is your Tivo connected to the TV? And you say the input is 1080i. Are we talking about a CRT or LCD. An LCD listed as 1080i is generally really a 1366x768 set (aka 720p) that downscales a 1080i image to its native resolution. True 1920x1080 LCDs almost always state "1080p" on the box and specs. If you're scaling a 720p image up to 1080i in the Tivo, then scaling from 1080i back to 720p on the TV, that could explain some of the degradation. However, you said you tried all modes with the same (or at least extremely similar) results so that's probably not it.

    As for the pixelation during fast motion, that's what compression looks like. If you get large blocks and the video or audio freezes momentarily, that's a problem with the incoming signal. If there is not stutter in the playback, it's a good signal with low quality content. If I get this right, the first picture will be "Poor Signal" pixelation and the second will be "Compression" pixelation. (The "poor signal" type is also what you would expect to see from a bad/failing hard drive.) The "compression" one can't really be seen in such a low resolution picture but I'm posting it to provide a contrast to the unmistakable pixelation caused by a poor signal.

    BTW, the content is just the first random show I found of each example. "poor signal" is from an OTA channel I barely pick up. The other one is the first fast-motion show I caught.

    [​IMG]
    Poor Signal

    [​IMG]
    Poor Content
     

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