Dismal cable quality (analog and digital)

Seth_L

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I just moved into an apartment and got WOW (Wide Open West) cable. The quality is just dismal. The analog channels have pretty poor picture quality and the digital ones are far too compressed and look horrid. The audio on a lot of the channels is mono! Dolby Pro Logic II Movie Mode struggles to pull anything out of the channels that are in "stereo".

Previously I had Time Warner / Brighthouse Network cable which was noticably better on the digital channels than WOW and especially better on the audio. I also had an antenna in the attic that gave me HDTV (which I miss badly).

Where I'm at now I can't have an antenna on the roof (and no attic). I can get both Comcast and WOW cable. From what I've seen at other people's houses Comcast's picture quality is just as poor as WOW. I'm not sure about the audio. Supposedly I can install a Dish/DirecTV, but I was never all that impressed with the quality of them either.

So, short of moving out, what can I do? Is the quality of DiSH and DirecTV noticably better than the overcompressed crap that I'm currently paying for? Should I be looking at Voom?
 

Carl Johnson

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Have you considered calling the cable company to let them know about your concerns? It's not likley, but perhaps there's a technical problem on your line that could be fixed.
 

Steve Zatkoff

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I have WOW cable just outside of Chicago and the picture quality has been great! I have not had any of the issues that I had with TCI/ATT/COMCRAP cable over the years. Call and get a tech out to look at your problem.
 

CalvinCarr

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You may just need an amplifier on your lines. Definetly call them before giving up.
 

Seth_L

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Well, a 10dB signal amp cleaned up the analog channels some. The digital non premium channels still look like crap though. I'm going to look more into DiSH and DirecTV.
 

LizH

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How many TVs do you have? And do you have cable broadband service?

If you're running cxns to multiple TVs (and connecting to the `Net via a cable modem), that will put a considerable strain on your signal. I've got three TVs and a cable modem myself.
 

Wayne Bundrick

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Unless you're getting dropouts in the digital channels (typically huge blocky chunks of the picture freezing and loss of sound), then the digital signal quality is good enough and no improvement in signal quality is going to improve the picture quality. If excessive compression (such as little tiny squares where the color isn't quite what it should be, especially in darker areas of the picture) is the cause of the picture quality problems, nothing you can do will cure it.

I have two suggestions. First, make sure your TV set is calibrated, especially the brightness (black level), because if it's too high then you will see all the noise in the dark parts of the picture where MPEG hides innaccuracy to achieve its lossy compression.

Second, make sure you are sitting far enough away from the screen. The simple truth is that people are buying TVs that are too big for the size of the room they put them in and they are sitting too close to the screen. Analog NTSC (and digital 480i) is intended to be viewed from 7 picture heights away. For a 36 inch TV that's almost 13 feet away! Line doubling can help shorten that distance some but not much, you still can't get as close as with true HDTV, which is intended to be viewed from 3 picture heights away. With a 42 inch 16x9 widescreen (about the same height as a 36 inch 4x3 TV) the minimum viewing distance for HDTV is just over 5 feet away.
 

GuyMaren

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Another possibility is poor signal distribution in the building. This may be the responsibility of the landlord to fix. In that case, lots of luck!
 

Jason_Els

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Older multiple dwelling buildings are a pain in the ass for the cable installers. It's essentially a cast of too little signal spread amongst too many outlets. The cable modems use a different segment of the spectrum than the TV so they don't put "a strain" on the analog/digital signals. If you live in an older building it may not have been prewired and even if it is, the cabling is likely not up to digital-quality standards.

Talk to your cable company and have a technician come over to see what can be done if you haven't already. Failing that, definitely look into satellite. There usually isn't much cable companies can do in multiple dwelling buildings but sometimes there is. It all depends on the wiring. At the very least, get a cable modem. They're awesome.
 

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