S3 Pixelization/Houston -- anyone else still having problems?

Discussion in 'TiVo Series3 HDTV DVRs' started by golubian, Sep 17, 2007.

  1. golubian

    golubian Member

    Apr 5, 2001
    Houston, Texas


    I'm in Houston on Comcast. Since around May, the NBC and ABC HD channels, as well as Starz HD, will randomly and frequently become so pixelated as to be unwatchable. This makes recording HD primetime shows on NBC and ABC a waste of time, as the odds are that I won't be able to watch what was supposed to record.

    I've read all the threads. I know there are lots of theories. But has anyone gotten to the bottom of this? Is it a Tivo problem, a cablecard problem, a signal strength problem? It's especially frustrating as there seemed to be a similar problem with the TivoHD, and Tivo seems to have gotten right on that one.

    For those in Houston who were also experiencing this problem (which I know was with the same channels, at least the ABC and NBC affiliates), has the problem improved? If so, any idea what you did to improve it?

    I'm pulling my hair out at this point. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
  2. flyers32

    flyers32 New Member

    Oct 30, 2006
    I live in houston had the same issue. Call comcast and tell them. They seemed to have fixed my issue.
  3. golubian

    golubian Member

    Apr 5, 2001
    Houston, Texas
    Any idea what they did? I talked to Level 3 support this morning. They're sending a truck on Sunday. The guy I talked to said it's one of three issues: 1) the cablecards, 2) the signal or 3) the Tivo units themselves.

    Since I swapped out cablecards and still had the problem, he said it was not likely that. Since I'm having it on two boxes, he seems to think it's not the Tivo's.

    That said, I've seen all the threads with others who have been totally unable to get the problem fixed. So if you have some clue as to what they did to fix your problem, please let me know so I can tell them on Sunday.
  4. lhntx

    lhntx New Member

    Sep 11, 2007
    Houston (my...
    I've been having the same problem on my two series 3's for months. Time warner (now Comcast) has been out 3 times. The last time, the telephone service person told me to tell the guy to replace lines when they came out, but the tech refused when he arrived. He said that his superiors had talked to Tivo and Tivo admitted that the problem was with the Tivo's. So I've kind of given up after hours on the phone with Comcast and Tivo plus having to sit at home waiting for the cable guy only to have them do nothing. I've even removed all of my season passes from HD. This has been a very long and frustrating process.
  5. CCourtney

    CCourtney Member

    Mar 28, 2006
    El Dorado...


    No problems with this on my TiVo HD.

  6. dcollens

    dcollens New Member

    Mar 12, 2002
    I am with Cox in Fairfax and had similar problems. It all started with my original install of cable and I had pixelation and brief audio/video outages with my SA DVR.

    Having had Tivo in the past, when I originally tried the Cox DVR I was appalled and ordered my S3 within an hour of trying it.

    Same problem with the S3 as with the Cox box. On Saturday I had a tech our from Cox. He installed an amplifier on the line, and replaced a short section of RG59 cable with RG6.

    There have been no problems to date at all since this took place.
  7. Das Achteck

    Das Achteck Member

    Mar 8, 2005
    The problem is still there for me. I don't know the root cause (I have my theories), but I can observe fluctuating signal strength, and when it falls below a certain point the breakup starts.

    The first thing I did was replace all the splitters I was using with a distribution amp which instead of degrading the signal gives it a boost of 4-5 dB at each outlet. This made a marginal improvement. It is marginal because when the signal drops, it falls off a cliff. Sometimes I even get an "off air" message on the screen.

    Like others, my worst issue is with NBC and ABC and their associated channels. With football starting I popped into RadioShack and grabbed an indoor antenna (15-2186). It is working better than I had expected. On CBS the signal is actually stronger than the one from Comcast.

    PBS and ABC have a weaker signal than the others and are subject to very infrequent and very brief breakups. It may be coincidental, but they are both on the same tower while almost everyone else is on another tower. From my location they are only a couple of degrees apart and the antenna seems to be pretty omnidirectional. In addition PBS is broadcasting on VHF; it must be lonely there. They are having other problems as well, as evidenced by the abandonment of HiDef. Maybe they cut the transmitter power to lower the electric bill :rolleyes: .

    Now, since my TiVo is analog and not digital, I can positively state that this issue arises with no TS3 or THD present. And since the issue is present when I bypass the CableCARD in my TV I can state positively that the issue arises with no CableCARD present.

    I wanted to stick a Comcast box in the mix but they have been out of STBs with HDMI for weeks and there are a lot of people in the que ahead of me. I don't want Comcast to roll a truck until I can see whether the issue is still there when tuning with Comcast equipment.

    At some point I hope to be able to show Comcast that they are not providing me a consistent signal and that they need to find the reason.
  8. lethcoeb

    lethcoeb Not a new member

    Apr 19, 2002
    There were HDMI STBs available at the 290 and Hollister/Tidwell storefront last week, in case you are really interested...
  9. Das Achteck

    Das Achteck Member

    Mar 8, 2005

    Thanks for the tip. I really am interested, but not enough to start driving all over town and standing in line to see if they have one. I don't think you can call the centers directly looking for one. With the indoor antenna I am in pretty good shape for now; NBC and ABC are the two that can be totally unwatchable from Comcast.
  10. spaceboytom

    spaceboytom Tivo Since 2001

    Jan 8, 2006
    Houston, TX
    I have seen occasional heavy pixelation on my SD HBO channels recently, but my HD network feeds seem fine. I'm using a TivoHD and when I look at diagnostics the signal strength is definitely dropping out (I think down into the 60% range). But odd thing is I can immediately switch to one of the network HD channels and the signal is 95-100%. I guess I would assume either weak or strong signals across the board, but that is not the case.

    Clear Lake area, TivoHD, Motorola M card
  11. puckettcg

    puckettcg New Member

    Feb 10, 2006
    I don't know if this gives anyone any comfort, but my Dad, who has comcast HD cable, and NO TIVO's, has a pixelation issue as well. I previously had to put signal booster's on all my cable inputs because I wasn't getting a strong enough signal to keep a consistent internet signal (would sometimes drop out for days at a time and the Comcast service rep was actually pinging it trying to get a two-way signal) or video on-demand. I am 100% convinced its a cableco bandwidth issue. I'm now on Verizon FIOS, and miraculously, I no longer need my signal booster's - and my Dad now has the booster's. I'd suggest trying a booster - the other issue is the signal gets weaker the more times you split the cable. They are cheap; I initially paid about $50 for my first, but later found one at radio shack for closer to $20.

    That's also why Comcast is dropping all analog channels in 2009 in this area, and actually FIOS only has 11 analog channels (even with the fiberoptic network).
  12. astrohip

    astrohip Well-Known Raconteur TCF Club

    Jan 6, 2003
    There is also another thread on this...

    Someone a lot smarter than me posted what the reason was in a past thread. From memory, it was related to Comcast adding the new HD channels this summer. When they did, they crammed more signal in the same amount of pipe, and created some "instability" in the feed (my word, not the smart guy's). He even figured out which channels were on which part of the pipe and was able to show that ABC/NBC (among others) was in this specific bandwidth that was causing the problem. This was for our specific area. Other parts of town might have a similar problem, but different channels.

    This instability can cause problems in some equipment, but not all. And cablecard equipment seems particularly vulnerable. That's why you rarely hear about this with their DVRs. I have an SA8300HD, and it almost never has pixellation. I also had my S3 for 8-9 months without any problem, and within days of Comcast adding channels, up pops my problems (and everyone else's). That's why you never heard about this prior to the last few months.

    Because the problem is signal related, minor ancillary problems can set it off. If you have perfect cabling (new RG6) and high quality splitters, you may never see it. Older houses (I have RG59 from 20 years ago) may be enough to trigger it. Sometimes an amp helps; other time not. Or who knows *what* the exact tipping point is?

    Since it rarely affects cable STBs or DVRs, Comcast finds it easy to ignore. But the fact that some S3s are immune, and others aren't, and that changing cablecards doesn't fix it, pretty clearly shows it to be a signal problem, and not a pure TiVo problem. But until Comcast makes some type of major change in their signal distribution system, I think we are just SOL.

    Yeah, I'd love to see our price increase go to fix this :D :D
  13. Das Achteck

    Das Achteck Member

    Mar 8, 2005
    Yup, that was me that postulated that the addition of all those new channels (some of which happened before Comcast officially rebranded the service) has led to this state of affairs.

    Your description pretty well agrees with my views. And your comment on your SA box is the first I have seen that gives credence to another speculation I have had - there may be something in a Comcast box that makes it more tolerant of crappy signals. So unless you use CableCARDs in your TV/TiVo or tune your TV to the real unencrypted channel (like 88.1 or 88.3 aka 312 and 313) you will not have the problem. That is what I want to test when I get my hands on a Comcast STB with HDMI.

    Not that HDMI has anything to do with it, but it will be far easier for me to cleanly patch it into my rig.
  14. F4Boy

    F4Boy New Member

    Dec 10, 2002
    I have the problem with FIOS and their SD channels and music channels using an S3. All HD channels are fine. Spoke with Tivo and they say they're aware of the problem and working on a fix, several people on the boards have heard this for a while, but at least now Tivo is acknowledging the issue. That's thie info I've been getting. Personally, like some of you, I think it has something to do with the signal and that the Tivo boxes are much more sensitive than what's given out from the cable cos.
  15. golubian

    golubian Member

    Apr 5, 2001
    Houston, Texas
    Comcast tech came out today. He got someone at the Comcast mother ship on the line via his radio (I could hear the conversation), and the mother ship absolutely, positively insists that this is a Tivo software issue, confirmed by him during a four hour phone call he claims to have had with Tivo. I repeatedly told the tech that this was an S3, not the HD Tivo for which Tivo had conceded there was a software problem. Comcast mother ship nonetheless insisted that Tivo had confirmed to him that the pixelization on the S3 is a software problem known to Tivo.

    I'm not sure who or what to believe. I have to think that it's a combination of things, given that in the Houston area this problem appears generally limited to a few discrete channels that many of us are having problems with. I can't really think why Tivo's software would have no problem dealings with all the other HD channels, but for some reason have a problem showing the local ABC and NBC affiliates.
  16. golubian

    golubian Member

    Apr 5, 2001
    Houston, Texas

    So I went to Radio Shack today and picked up their amplified indoor HDTV antenna and a splitter. I plugged in the antenna, re-ran guided setup on both my S3s, and attached the antenna.

    Voila! No more pixelization on the local ABC and NBC channels.

    I wish Comcast and/or Tivo would get their act together on this. Fortunately there's a viable workaround (at least for the non-premium broadcast channels). I'm only wondering why it took me four months to get around to getting the antenna.
  17. bensler

    bensler New Member

    Sep 9, 2007
    Can you tell me what antenna you purchased from radio shack? I live in Houston near the medical center area and would not mind purchasing one? You just hooked it up near your TIVO, correct? Much thanks!
  18. 20TIL6

    20TIL6 BaDoop BaDoop BaDoop

    Sep 7, 2006
    Cypress, TX
    That's just it. It's channel specific. If it was a TiVo problem, like it was with the HD and SA cablecards, I would expect tiling across additional channels. But it's tied to certain channels, and also, it's very intermittant.

    I live in Cypress, NW Houston. When I first hooked up my S3 units, all was fine. Then maybe a month or so later, I get tiling on Nick, Speed, HGTV, maybe a couple others. But none on the local HD channels, none on Discovery HD, etc. At this time some other folks around Houston are having tiling issues on their local HD channels, but no problems on Nick, Speed, etc.

    It seems regional. My Mom, who lives like 7 miles away, problems with same channels as me, but not local HD channels like others.

    I thought at the time that we were looking at too many channels riding together on a single frequency. I don't pretend to understand it, but some frequencies were "crammed" and I think Comcast was not aware of how their channel distributions affected cablecard devices. I had a cablecard TV (with no TiVo) and it suffered with this issue as well.

    I worked with Comcast extensively, they never blamed the TiVo (probably because I had a TV without a TiVo doing the same thing), but could not get it resolved either. I was prepared to cancel Comcast service and let them know. Then my problem channels cleared up all by themselves.

    I was fine ever since, then a few weeks ago, I started getting tiling on the locals like other folks in Houston. Never had problems with these before. For a couple of days, I just used my OTA antenna for these channels (with no problems). The problems with the locals over cable went away in less than a couple of days, and I've been completely fine since.

    I think Comcast is figuring out the impact of their channel/frequency distribution on cablecard devices, and they are now understanding that their adjustments might have a negative impact. My stuff has stayed consistent, but I think they are shifting things around. I'm not too worried about it though. Since July 1st, they have had to start deploying cablecard STB's, so I think cablecard understanding and support in general is going to get better.

    But in the end, I'm glad to have an OTA antenna as a back-up.
  19. Das Achteck

    Das Achteck Member

    Mar 8, 2005
    See #7 in this thread.
  20. christib

    christib New Member

    Mar 26, 2007
    Just thought that I would mention that there are many folks in the Norfolk, VA area with Cox having tiling/pixeling problems with the S3 as well. It seems intermittent and on various blocks of channels for folks around the area. Lately for me, it is very frequent and on all of the local channels. I went for months with little to minor problems and then it came back with a vengeance. We seem to have no problems without the cable cards and signal strength is high per Cox. Still waiting on the supposed fix from Tivo but I am getting very frustrated!

    Here is our thread: http://www.tivocommunity.com/tivo-vb/showthread.php?t=342132&page=1&pp=30

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