Tv visuals degraded by Tivo HD (is that normal?)

Discussion in 'TiVo Help Center' started by Maxwell Horse, Jan 10, 2008.

  1. Maxwell Horse

    Maxwell Horse New Member

    14
    0
    Dec 29, 2007

    Advertisements

    Hi, guys. I just hooked up my Tivo HD unit a few days ago.

    I have standard basic cable. No digital. No hi-def anything. I basically just fed the incoming coaxial cable into the TivoHD, and from there, the signal goes to my standard CRT TV.

    However, I'm a little frustrated. It seems that the picture quality that I'm seeing through my cable has slightly degraded by having the TivoHD as the middleman. I know people sometimes complain of having various problems that result in "tiling" and outright unwatchable signals. Make no mistake, the effect I'm talking about is more subtle than that.

    My TV picture is worsened, but rather than outright "tiling," the images onscreen look almost like they've been subtly "simplified." Almost like they've been put through the "Paint Daubs" filter in Photoshop. The images also look slightly more distant, like I'm looking at them through a very subtly opaque membrane.

    Often times I will see a lot of active "noise" (more subtle than "macro blocking") on screen, even when there is no action onscreen. For example, a couple days ago, an episode of "Yes Dear" was on. There were shots in a hosptal room in which the camera was completely still. In the background there was some relatively plain wallpaper, yet there was a noticeable amount of "noise" dancing around on the wallpaper (and noticing that made me notice the fact that there was subtle noise dancing around everything else on screen too). I quickly removed the cable from the Tivo and plugged it into the TV. The dancing noise was gone.

    Mind you, I'm not talking about playback of Tivo recordings. This is watching Live TV. (And I'm quite sure that this "paint daubs" effect is also transferred to any Tivo recordings I make.)

    Just this afternoon, I was playing around with my setup to understand the problem better before I posted here. USA was playing an episode of Monk. I tried hooking the cable directly into the back of my CRT TV. Okay, it looked relatively normal. The picture looked "there." Then I hooked the cable into my VCR, and then ran a coax from the VCR to the TV. It looked pretty identical.

    Then I tried running the incoming cable into the Tivo, and then into the TV. Boom, instant (yet subtle) and annoying change. I was getting that "paint daubs" filter effect on everything. The picture no longer looked like it was fully "there." (As I type this, I realize what I'm describing might be common traits of when digital compression become noticeable to a viewer.)



    Is there any remedy to this? Is this something that always happens (yet is never mentioned) when one hooks up a Tivo to standard cable? In my previous post to this site (http://www.tivocommunity.com/tivo-vb/showthread.php?t=380457) a helpful responder (bkdtv) recommended that even though cable cards aren't necessary with analog cable, that I might consider having cable cards installed anyway. I think his gist was that I would experience improved picture quality. Is THIS the type of thing he might've been talking about? Tell me, if I were to follow this advice and have cable cards installed, might this rememdy the phenomenon I'm seeing?

    Thanks for reading.
     
  2. shane_pcs

    shane_pcs New Member

    16
    0
    Jan 2, 2008
    Frisco, TX
    I am sure you have checked this, but it sounds like you have the smoothing option enabled under the settings. This tends to make the picture look more blurry. This is disabled by default, but is it possible that you enabled it? I would also try a different coax cable just to be sure.
     
  3. Maxwell Horse

    Maxwell Horse New Member

    14
    0
    Dec 29, 2007
    Thanks for responding Shane. The smoothing feature is definitely off. I'm also working under the assumption that the coaxials are okay, based on the fact that those are the same cables I'm using when I hook the cable directly into the back of my TV to draw my visual comparisons from.
     
  4. greg_burns

    greg_burns Now in HD

    6,392
    2
    May 21, 2004
    Slower...
    EVERYTHING is recorded with a Tivo. When you view Live, you are viewing the front of the buffer at Best Quality. Since you only have analog (and no cablecards), you are probably seeing the subtle effect of mpeg encoding.

    Perhaps, if you had cablecards, you would get the digital simulcast of those same analog channels. If you did there wouldn't be any encoding going on, perfect bit for bit recording.

    Try playing the startup animation (Press 0 on the remote from the Tivo Central). Does the picture look sharp? If so, there is nothing wrong with your Tivo.
     
  5. Maxwell Horse

    Maxwell Horse New Member

    14
    0
    Dec 29, 2007

    Advertisements

    Thanks for the input, Greg.

    The startup animation does not have the annoying effect I'm talking about. So I guess that means there's nothing actually wrong with my Tivo. I wonder, does that fact still allow for the possibility that I'm seeing the "subtle effect of mpeg encoding?"

    I guess what I'm asking is, even though the Tivo is probably fine (because that animation is clear) might the problem still be fixed by getting cablecards?
     
  6. greg_burns

    greg_burns Now in HD

    6,392
    2
    May 21, 2004
    Slower...
    It might indeed if you local channels are digitally simulcast. Plus, with cable cards and basic cable (that my setup) you can tune the HD versions of your local channels. I even get about 5 or more other HD channels too like A&E, DisocveryHD, TNT, TBS, ESPN. Even w/o an HDTV, the picture will look much better. (Although probably letterboxed).

    If you know what your QAM channel number is for you local HD channels you could tune to it right now. You just won't have any guide data to record it with, will have to do manual recordings.

    Some cable providers will give you CC without digital package, others insist you upgrade first. I had digital with a promotion for a year, then downgraded, but kept the cards. ;)
     
  7. Stephen Tu

    Stephen Tu Well-Known Member

    2,014
    40
    May 10, 1999
    Yes, absolutely. Bkdtv knows what he's talking about, I always notice his posts are accurate & thorough.

    For the analog channels, Tivo has to digitize and MPEG encode them. This happens for everything going through the Tivo, even "live TV" is really recorded TV, just it's recording to a temporary buffer instead of to the now playing list. This is inevitably going to cause some degradation. For the noise problems you might try the "RF smoothing" option. Sometimes a cable signal amplifier can help things.

    As for the cablecards, this will help only if you are in a so called "analog digital simulcast(ADS)" area, which a lot of cable companies are using now. (Search the local HDTV info section of avsforum.com ). If this is the case, getting the cablecard will usually get the Tivo to use the digital copies of the channels rather than the analog, which will often give you better quality, both from the signal and avoiding the encoding round in the Tivo. At minimum you'll be able to get your high-def locals, then the Tivo can downconvert them for your standard TV.
     
  8. Maxwell Horse

    Maxwell Horse New Member

    14
    0
    Dec 29, 2007
    Greg and Stephen, thanks for taking the time to help out. I will probably investigate getting cable cards in the near future and cross my fingers that it does the trick. (Hopefully Cox won't make me commit to an additional digital package to go with them.) In the meantime, it's nice to know that there is a reasonable technical explanation for the artificats I've been seeing.
     
  9. jrm01

    jrm01 New Member

    2,619
    0
    Oct 17, 2003
    Pittsburgh
    Does your TV have AV inputs? S-video inputs? If so, you will get better picture quality by connecting the tivo to the tv with those (s-video preferred).
     
  10. ZikZak

    ZikZak Neurostim Addict

    2,894
    0
    Aug 12, 2002
    Arecibo, PR
    Have you tried obtaining a digital OTA broadcast from an antenna? What does that look like?
     
  11. kinggabbo

    kinggabbo Member

    31
    0
    Dec 20, 2007
    I am also a new Tivo HD owner. I have also seem the "noise" the OP is talking about. I mainly see it on Fox football games in HD. I have OTA. Before I had TV HD the games were perfrectly clear. I was wondering if there is anything that can be done about it or if this is "normal:".
     
  12. greg_burns

    greg_burns Now in HD

    6,392
    2
    May 21, 2004
    Slower...
    The OP wasn't talking about HD channels, not even digital SD ones. You shouldn't be seeing any noise. Since it OTA, maybe you don't have a strong signal and it is breaking up?
     
  13. BobB

    BobB Devout Tivonian

    707
    0
    Aug 26, 2002
    Brookline, MA
    I'm guessing the problem is caused by the fact that, as previously mentioned, everything coming through the TiVO is recorded, at least to the buffer, before you see it, which means that even at Best quality it is being compressed. I also noticed a slight degradation of picture quality when I got my first TiVO many years ago and attributed it to this phenomenon. I decided to put up with it for the sake of the many advantages TiVO added to my viewing experience.

    Now I'm on my third TiVO, an HD one, which doesn't compress digital channels. Nirvana!
     
  14. Maxwell Horse

    Maxwell Horse New Member

    14
    0
    Dec 29, 2007
    Jrm, my TV is pretty low tech. The only inputs it has is a standard coax input in the back, and the standard yellow-white (audio) and red (video) inputs in the front. I've fiddled with a number of scenarios and I actually discovered that by using the yellow-white-red inputs on the TV, if anything, actually showcases the compression/noise artifiacts from the Tivo middleman even more. So right now I have my cable going to the Tivo, Tivo going to VCR through yellow-white-red inputs, and the VCR going to the TV through standard Coax, because that's the scenario that produces the least amount of noticeable noise. (Although the degration in visuals is still there and annoying.)

    I don't think my TV has S-video inputs.

    Thanks for commenting, ZikZak. No, I haven't tried this. I actually don't seem to have an antenna laying around, so this experiment would have to wait.


    Thanks for the additional feedback, Bob. It's nice to have confirmation that someone else has experienced (and been annoyed) by this. Nice to know I'm not crazy.

    Bob, let me ask you a sort of obsessive compulsive question.

    THESE DAYS FOR YOU:
    You say that now you have both a TivoHD and digital cable, you don't notice the problem. Meaning, you can now do these two differenent scenarios:

    1) Watch TV with the cable hooked directly to the TV.

    2) Hook the cable into the Tivo--the Tivo being the "middleman"--and then input to the TV.

    ...And you no longer see a compromise/change in visual quality between the two hookups.


    IN THE PAST
    Whereas in the past, when you were experiencing the same problems I currently am, you would:

    A) Watch TV with the cable going directly to the TV.

    B) Watch TV with the cable going to the Tivo, and then to the TV.

    ... And you would notice an annoying drop in picture quality (probably caused by digital compression) going from scenario A to B.


    Here's the weird part of the question: If you had to guess, would you say the visual quality you see on your TV today is at least as good as what you were seeing in scenario "A" above?

    The reason I ask is, the paranoid cynic in me wonders if the following is at all possible: That BOTH of your current setups of "#1" and "#2" are providing the same level of slightly-crappy-looking TV (the same look of scenario "B" from the past), and the only reason you don't get annoyed by the visual quality on your TV now, is because there is no basis for comparison available to you now?

    Meaning that today, it wouldn't matter if you hooked up the cable directly to the TV, or if you added the Tivo to the equation, because the picture will be slightly compressed-looking either way. And the only reason you don't notice is because the (slightly compressed-looking) visual quality is identical between the two setups.

    Do you think that could be happening with your setup now, or do you think that your digital TV reception (with or without Tivo-middleman) is legitimately good? I hope I'm making it clear what I'm asking.
     

Share This Page

spam firewall

Advertisements