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Sky High Def? Try Standard Def first!

Discussion in 'Plasma TVs' started by RobbieTT, Mar 28, 2005.

  1. RobbieTT

    RobbieTT
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    I have been reviewing some plasma screens at various friends and colleagues houses. The screen results have been interesting in themselves but not as some interesting as some recent Sky+ recording.

    Several weeks ago the bit rate on Sky One shot through the roof. Roughly in the order of 300 to 400% increase. Now for me in 32" Sony range I must say that all I noticed was my disc space on the hard drive being taken up a at a drastic rate (I only had a 40Gb drive at the time). The plasma users had a different perspective. Having seeing a before and after recording on Sky+ on a 43" Pioneer I have to say that I am shocked.

    The picture difference on a quality broadcast, such as CSI, was amazing. Free of digital left-overs, good blacks, strong colours and quick response to fast action. It was like a piece of muslin had been removed from the screen.

    Having seen it I am a little less critical of the Pioneer screen. But the burning question is:

    Why go High Def if the performance of Standard Def is currently running with such a handicap?

    Seems like the market will accept low quality pictures while the current system is capable of so much more. The cynic in me could offer that Sky is keeping the bit rates low to provide a bigger leap from SD to HD.

    At the moment I feel like the man who wants his car to go faster. The car dealer is suggesting a bigger engine, whilst I have just noticed the 2 tonne of lead he has hidden in my boot...
     
  2. Rahmorak

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    The quality of existing Sky broadcasts p's me off immensely. Hair detail is non-existent, grass is non existant etc. etc. A decent analgue signal (in the old days at least, seems some are now just digital broadcast over analogue) blows the socks of most Sky stuff.

    I don't know how my wife puts up with my constant cursing of Digital broadcasting. :)
     
  3. binbag

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    I was about to post asking if Sky were testing their bandwidth for HD. The PQ on some broadcasts has increased noticably recently - but it doesn't seem to be consistant (apart from the channels begin with Sky). Also BBC 4 stands out. A couple of times the channel surfing has stopped and I've watched just to wallow in the image. I'm watching 72" from 12 feet back if it counts for anything. The PQ on these occasions is at least equal to DVD IMO.

    My Sky pet hate is the lack of a global volume setting - nothing like waking up the whole house when you mis-key a channel to lower the WAF!
     
  4. braveknight

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    Why go high def? Firstly, because as you say, we can't rely on the broadcast quality on standard def. If we had - and could rely on - higher bitrates, if they could roll out better compression / decompression techniques then it would take some of the pressure off of wanting high def. As it stands, HD broadcasting stands to offer quite significant benefits - even if you are downscaling to an SD panel.

    Secondly, HD is just better. No matter how much bandwidth you give to standard broadcasts, there is still a limit to how good they can be.

    Why are current streams so highly compressed? To increase the amount of channels or streams, and/or to reduce the cost per channel / stream. The HD conspiracy theory is a bit fanciful IMHO - we've been subjected to low quality standard broadcasting since before HD was talked about.
     
  5. Jeff

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    Bit starved HD also looks crap, if anything it's even more distracting. Lets hope they get it right!
     
  6. RobbieTT

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    I agree with you, current broadcasts are blighted by low bit rates in order to cram in extra channels on a low number of satellites. So what will prevent HD going the same way? As you say, we've been subjected to low quality since before HD was talked about. What has changed in the market to ensure HD quality if we cannot currently get high quality SD broadcasts?
     
  7. braveknight

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    I think the main thing is that it has to be initially launched as a premium service. They can't do that if they don't maintain the quality. The problems are likely to come later as they move it into a mainstream service - what will stop them from squeezing the compression ratios?
     
  8. RobbieTT

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    Would have been nice if the 'HD Standard' included a minimum bit rate (or other measure, if a better one exists) for broadcasters. Otherwise this rush for HD may only produce a new digital connection and ever-tighter content protection.

    Reminds me that when broadband was launched in Germany it had to be at least a 2Mb connection to gain the official 'broadband' status. Without such controls 'broadband' in the UK is as low as 256kb. Without legislation HD may suffer a similar fate.
     
  9. pwood

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    Glad to see this posting confirming SKY SD's improvement. The PQ on likes of Rescue Me and NipTuck is very good. I just wonder why SKY are only now putting out better bit rates. Have they got better technology or something.
    I read a post from a broadcast engineer who said he gets to see the original quality before signal is uplifted and its miles better than what we end up with into our TV's.
     
  10. peezee

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    More and more of these US series are now shot and produced in... HD (1920x1080i@60 most often). So for sure they must look great *before* broadcast. :)
    Obviously Sky must be fiddling with bitrates every now and then, maybe doing some tests...? Anyway it's the proof that SD could (should?) look much better even on our SD screens (CRT's, plasma's, etc...)...
     
  11. Jeff

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    Someone in the know once told me that if they get enough complaints they bump up the bit rate but only on a temporary basis. Also note how you don't tend to see compression artefacts in adverts, I wonder why that is? :rolleyes:
     
  12. RobbieTT

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    I have just been browsing the Digital Spy Forum and found a huge thread of people moaning that the bit rate had gone up! Seems like quite a few would prefer more programmes on their Sky+ planner than appreciate the extra quality. One or two plasma or projector owners have thrown in a vote for more quality but have been drowned out by the 'more-the-better' brigade.

    Brings up a worthwhile point. The articles I have read so far seem to suggest that Sky HD will be a PVR device. So Sky will have to balance not only bandwidth vs quality but storage space on hard drives too. Seems like Sky are getting complaints from both sides of the quality debate...
     
  13. Image Retention

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    Knowing Sky, they probably did it to make Sky+ users upgrade to the 160 box.
     
  14. David PluggedIn

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    depends on how you have Sky connected :)

    with the right setup you can see *plenty* of detail!
     
  15. danny daniell

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    Come on then Dave.....fill us in! :)
     
  16. braveknight

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    Methinks he is using an SDI mod...
     
  17. superpixel

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    Where is the extra bandwidth needed for high-def coming from? or is it just lying wasted already...

    It's a fair point about standard-definition though. The 5/10/20 minute ultra-high bitrate DVDs (dont know how much more bitrate there is to your average movie) used to show off plasmas (I know LG have one, as do Hitachi and Sony) look stellar. Most people mistake them for high-definition in fact. My local Richer Sounds has the LG one running through a S-video split...every single plasma - Relisys and Vision etc included - looks stunning. But I guess the original recording/source before encoding matters a lot too...
     
  18. Rahmorak

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    I'm not convinced, MPEG (similar to JPEGG) is lossy and some of that loss is in areas of low contrast, therefore a field from a distance, hair from a distance etc. gets 'smoothed' which is most noticeable at low bitrates but still present at higher bitrates.

    I don't feel the bitrate is high enough in the majority of cases unless we are looking at close ups of heads, close to the action on the pitch etc.

    I wold love to be proved wrong though. Freeze a frame, take a piccie and let us see. :)
     
  19. samjet

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    a bit of info that may have been covered elsewhere - if it has sorry

    was talking to a friend in the electrical trade (nothing to do with tv's etc) and he was telling me that sky have got some of the new hd kit out on trial as his friend is one of said people testing the kit

    now i admit to knowing next to nothing on this subject but i assume that sky must be transmitting some programmes in hd to enable this testing to take place :confused:
     
  20. MAW

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    Rahmorak, I agree, it's 'garbage in, garbage out' all over again. SDI makes the max of what is being transmitted, if it's not there, SDI is not a magic wand, it can't put it back. I have a few installs where they have one of Daves modded boxes, incuding some where all other components are well up to scratch, detail is there or not according to content. Many channels it's hard to see the difference over RGB and sync. An obvious gain in clarity sometimes though. Dave, where is the future headed with SDI, DVI becoming commonplace? As it appears that skyHD boxes will be available from Xmas, and reading between the lines, will display SD and HD content on their digital output, that must be making the SDI market very tough.
     
  21. David PluggedIn

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    Well the whole garbag in /garbage out argument applies to all AV , it will apply equally when HD appears and 90% of the content is still SD :)

    exactly. My argument is really that the whole 'low bandwidth' argument about Sky is often way off the mark, some channels are garbage, but the good ones are better, and as screens get larger the difference is more pronounced.

    Well at the moment it is all speculation, lanuch dates, specifications, content etc. I would hope that they do deliver SD on the digital out just to make connections manageable. SDI will always be the enthusiasts choice, a niche market (sort of like the CRT market) so we are not expecting to get a call from Dixons any time soon..
     
  22. MAW

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    LOL the AV market is all about speculation! SDI just seems a bit more out on a limb than it used to, as there are now other methods of digital connection being built into sources. The SDI things I've done have all pleased their owners, it's so hassle free, genuine plug and play. Setiing up scaling for HDCP is rarely so simple, you can feel the damn stuff being suspicious, if you see what I mean. An abnormal number of blank screens, flickering, blank again, before an image is displayed. Sometimes it feels like you are pushing your luck.
     
  23. David PluggedIn

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    Your right. SDI is niche, it is digital video as it should be, simply plug it in. The new HDCP/HDMI interfaces are typical of worst excesses of the IT industry, market a technology, sell it and then get it working..in that order :)

    As you imply , HDMI it is all about copy protection, nothing to do with ease of connection, picture quality or other user features. A pointless act as well given that the average video pirate will just stick a camcorder on a tripod in front of a screen, the illegal copiers and their customers dont care about quality, but the enthusiast suffers as a result..pointless rant over :)
     
  24. Likvid

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    All these channels are crap anyway, adverts, adverts every 10 minutes.

    Who watch this crap? it's all commercial jumbo mumbo with reruns and reruns everyday.
     
  25. Gordon @ Convergent AV

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  26. pwood

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    Here is a copy of the post from Simonmw I was on about.
    I'm jaded by all the talk of HD. Being a cameraman/editor by trade it's also me who has to foot the bill for equipment upgrades to keep up. I have viewed HD and it is impressive, although resolution isn't everything. I have several problems with the idea of HD, especially from the BBC.

    The first is that we can't even get a decent standard def digital broadcast right. It suffers from horrible compression and washed out colours. It's totally abysmal, yet people want to move to HD. All we'll get is HD but with the same awful high compression rates.

    I don't know if anyone here has seen a direct feed from a standard def broadcast camera, but I can tell you it's light years away in quality from the image you see on your TV screen via Freeview! If bandwidth is freed up for HD transmission I would much prefer it to be carrying a much, much higher bitrate SD transmission that EVERYONE could benefit from (and pays their license fee for) rather than a HD signal for a minority of people who can afford such things as 52" HD plasma TV's etc.

    The comments by the BBC about a £2000 HD camera are also misplaced. The camera he is referring to is obviously the Sony FX1. Now while a few yuppies and indie moviemakers may buy the camera, how many of them actually have the TV to display the image? The vast majority of the public will not be recording their holidays in HD. The BBC guy seems to be assuming there will be an explosion in HD. We've only just pursuaded people to get DVD players and digi boxes, In my own profession I have only just started getting requests for more DVD's than VHS dupes. People aren't going to be making HD the defacto standard even if HD-DVD became available tomorrow. It took 6 years for standard DVD to reach critical mass.

    I also wish these companies would announce something solid rather than beating around the bush. All this talk of 'soon' and 'quickly'. It creates uncertainty in people who might be wanting to buy a TV now, when in reality most of them won't be able to get HD into their homes in an degree of quantity until at least 2010, probably much, much, later.

    Then there's all the confusion in the US. We need to get one thing absolutely clear. The US is NOT going totally HD. There is a common misconception that their analogue turn off is to do with making HD transmissions the standard. It is not. All it is is to do with digital TV which encompasses all the SD resolutions too. Many stations will continue on with SD because HD is just too much. They can also have several SD stations to increase advertising revenue as opposed to just one or two HD channels in the same bandwidth. Make no mistake the TV stations over there are not exactly over the moon at the idea of having to upgrade all their equipment to HD. So many of them simply won't
    .
     
  27. Rahmorak

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    Very true. Many people have said how much better HD looks on an SD panel and I get the impression this is largely down to the amount of compression.

    Which makes me very scared, because the bitrates some people have mentioned for HD broadcasts would not be much different (on a quality per pixel basis if that makes sense) than the SD signal, i.e.the same old crap just with more lines. Sure it may look better when down-sampled but I reckon an excellent SD signal (8-10mbps) will be better than a poor/average HD signal imo, especially taking visual acuity into account.

    Still, I want an HD panel on the off-chance Sky get it right, and for the lovely HD-DVD when it arrives. ;)
     
  28. braveknight

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    There will always be naysayers to anything. HD could be heavily compressed, and far below it's potential - yet still be significantly better than the SD we have now, and possibly even the SD that we could have with less compression.

    As long as that is the case (that it still offers significant benefits), I say bring it on - because we aren't about to get the broadcasters to sort out SD!!
     
  29. Jeff

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    I've seen some of the US HD material and at times the compression artefacts are just as bad if not worse than a lot of SD stuff. I'd rather have SD and no artefacts than HD with.
     
  30. MAW

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    It's fashionable to knock anything that's new. Mr Camera man does seem to talk sense though, I for one will not be shelling out for Mr Murdoch's HD, I never get to watch it anyway. Sure it will be better than anything current, if only that connection will be better. Scart must be the most godawful plug in the universe.
     

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