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BBC digital TV image quality - they must step up (inc pictures)

Discussion in 'LCD & LED LCD TVs Forum' started by David Mackenzie, Aug 4, 2005.

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  1. David Mackenzie

    David Mackenzie
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    I'm posting this in the LCD TV forum because it's particularly an issue for us, seeing as our displays are clear enough to show up these sorts of flaws. The quality of BBC's channels is considerably poorer than most others (not including the shopping channels). They seem to be using very outdated encoding equipment, and on top of that they seem incompetent as to good practices for successful digital TV broadcasts. Their News 24 studio feed is fed from what looks like an old 4:3 analogue camera with the top and bottom cropped to give a widescreen image. It has a lot of picture noise visible, which wreaks havoc for the encoding process.

    Yet just a few channels up, SKY News, despite the handicap of being in 4:3 and thus having big black borders down the sides of the screen, is far more pleasing to the eye. Of course, remember this isn't a comparison of the quality of their journalism, I'm guessing BBC's will be better by far. But what is the reason for this? Channel 4's news also looks miles better than BBC. The same goes for regular programming - BBC's stuff is plagued by block noise, yet most of C4's is crisp and clear.

    I've gotten so put off by this that I've previously locked the offending channels out or just stopped watching them entirely. Now I don't watch much TV, let alone BBC channels which don't appeal to me at all, but this is not good enough for a public service broadcaster.

    The equipment used:
    Sony KLV-26HG2 LCD TV
    Sony VTXD800U Freeview receiver (RGB connection)
    Canon Digital Ixus 40 camera

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    And now, BBC:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The bottom two pictures are the worst I have ever seen, and are worse than the usual standard. They're the reason I felt compelled to write this thread. It doesn't usually sink to this level.

    These outdated practices must stop, especially in preparation for HDTV. We can't let them mess up HD the same way they messed up Standard Def.
     
  2. c.jelly

    c.jelly
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    I think I'm correct in saying that five have one of the best ( if not THE best) quality pictures on dsat.

    When they showed Saving Private Ryan a few years back it was DVD quality.
     
  3. ctf7

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    german pay tv has a much worse picture quality than BBC so dont complain ;)
     
  4. David Mackenzie

    David Mackenzie
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    C.jelly, yeah, Five has always looked pretty good to me. I don't know about DVD quality but certainly a lot better than the examples I posted above.

    That's surprising and disturbing to read about German pay TV looking worse.
     
  5. Rob1698

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    I watch BBC on satellite and I don't think it is that bad. Maybe they buy less bandwidth on terrestrial?
    Some channels are better than others. BBC Parliament usually is outstanding, but of course it is always showing a very static picture which makes it easier to encode.
     
  6. David Mackenzie

    David Mackenzie
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    Rob, I'll bet terrestrial's limited bandwidth has something to do with it. It's good to know that the better quality is available if you want to pay for it, which is fair enough I guess - but like I said, other channels seem to manage fine on terrestrial.

    Maybe it depends on where you live too - I've heard other people say that the quality is a lot better on Freeview compared to Sky. Perhaps up here, BBC Scotland are using poor quality methods to uplink (correct term?) the signal from London?
     
  7. Rob1698

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    BBC on satellite is FTA (Free To Air). It does not even require a FreeView card, just the simplest receiver you can find and a dish.
    This is the reason we can receive it here... no way to legally view Sky.

    Judged by the delays, some of the BBC channels are uplinked from London and others received and uplinked again from regional stations. There are many BBC1 and a couple of BBC2 variants on satellite, and when showing the same content they are not all synchronous. BBC Scotland more often has different content than the others.
     
  8. Chris Muriel

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    A quick comparison of video datrates I just checked using TSReader with a Nebula USB DigiTV box :

    ITV : 3.2 Mbps
    BBC1 : 4.7 Mbps

    This may not be representative as the bitrate will vary with content - they all use statistical multiplexing in an attempt to allocate bandwidth dynamically between shared channels on a multiplex depending on content and demand.

    Chris Muriel, Manchester.
     
  9. Andy3

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    Funnily enough Lyris, I'd been toying with the idea of posting something similar. I've noticed the quality of BBC News 24 varies quite a lot - sometimes their studio pictures look awful. Sky News always has a very 'fine' quality about it and more natural colours, compared to BBC24's pink face effect. I think the studio lighting has a lot to do with this. Sky News looks to be based in a large studio with lots of room for proper lighting, but News24 has the feel of a small 'broom cupboard' crammed with lights. I'm sure that daft illuminated desk doen't help either. The whole thing looks very aggressive and forced, whereas Sky News looks nice and easy and relaxed.
    Also, some late-night stuff like Hard Talk or Straight Talk seems originate in PAL, as subcarrier 'hatching' is sometimes visible.
    Over on BBC Two, Andrew Neil's This Week always has a slight 'ring' to the video. They probably think we won't notice!
    It seems to me that the BEEB doesn't have enough up to date production stuff to cope.
     
  10. andrewfee

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    Half of the problem is that they use far too much "edge enhancement" (sharpening) which means they're transmitting a lot of extra information, meaning there's more visible compression, but it also makes the image look a hell of a lot worse on a good display too.
     
  11. quinnmar

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    I read a thread somewhere, probably here, that Sky increased the bitrate (from ~2Mbps I think) to the Sky One transmissions as an experiment and were plagued by complaints by viewers that it was eating up their HDD space.

    I can't find the thread, but if I do, I'll post a link.
     
  12. David Mackenzie

    David Mackenzie
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    Yeah, they use far too much edge enhancement - probably gradually along every step of the chain.

    A show about movies, presented by a friendly guy talking in Times Square, is the same. In fact it's originated from NTSC and is subjected to the worst standards conversion I've seen in years. All the blacks have a green tint to them!
     
  13. ancientgeek

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    I find the best BBC transmissions better quality than the best Sky on Sky. But perhaps BBC uses a wider range of sources.

    I think you have to take into account that the source material is often far from perfect, and that BBC have taken the decision to trasmit everything widescreen. Where the original material is not widescreen, there is cropping and scaling which reduces quality slightly.

    Finally, on sattelite, BBC is coming from a different satelite, I think, and depending on your dish alignment, you may be getting a poorere signal for the BBC channels.
     
  14. David Mackenzie

    David Mackenzie
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    They should have held off widescreen on everything until they have proper widescreen equipment. The results from using equipment designed for 4:3 are poor, as we've seen. That said there's a lot of poor practices being used that should be avoided. It's like they haven't been properly trained on how to use digital properly.
     

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