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RocketRobz

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Rojelio Reyes
Sorry if this is the wrong place or site to post this, but I've seen some people talk about MeTV here now and then, and I don't know of any other site to post this.
Still, if a mod is reading this, please move this to the correct sub-forum, if available.

A few years ago, I've noticed that MeTV (and their sister networks) are making their newly acquired filmed shows play smoother than the shows they aired in the past, which still happens to this day, except for most of the animated content.
The first show I've noticed this happening in, is Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (either that or Daniel Boone, but I didn't know if the effect was applied by the network).

It seems this is a result of the network applying a soap-opera effect, which is usually found as a feature on most digital TVs, albeit the effect running at 30fps, instead of the full TV frame rate of 60fps or higher.
Since the network themselves are applying the effect, it is also noticeable on old analog TVs.
The taped shows have a higher frame rate to begin with, so those don't count.

You'll notice the effect in Buck Rogers, M*A*S*H, Lost in Space, Monk, and The Dick Van Dyke Show, to name a few shows.
Other M*A*S*H viewers have noticed it in this page. (See the comments.)

A more noticeable example would be in The Waltons.
Most episodes have the soap-opera effect applied, but in (certain?) two-parter episodes such as The Thanksgiving Story, one part would play normally without the effect (my guess is because of the digitally-added "To Be Continued" text, increasing the internal frame rate of the video file), but the next part would play with the effect applied.

I've tried contacting MeTV about removing the effect (along with fixing the deinterlacing bug where the even/odd fields are thrown out, resulting in choppy playback) a couple of years ago, but they never got back to me, unfortunately.
I guess because their target demographic only cares about rewatching the shows they grew up with, it gives MeTV a reason to either prioritizing the effect removal very low, or not bother removing it at all.
Unfortunately, as a result, videophiles like me would have to resort to buying the shows on DVD and/or Blu-Ray, if you wanted to wanted to watch the shows without video enhancement effects of any kind applied.
For the shows that don't have a Blu-ray release (ex. M*A*S*H), and/or for people with no internet access, then if you wanted to watch in HD, the only free TV option is MeTV (and sister networks like H&I, Decades, and StartTV), and because of that, you'll have to bare with either the soap opera effect, or the choppy playback due to the deinterlacing bug (which tbh, is less distracting than the SOE).

There's a reason why features like this on most TVs are not something that's forced to be turned on, so I'm really tired of this.
I feel that if/when they remove the effect from the shows they air, they'll potentially gain more ratings as a result (and maybe a tiny bit more, if they fix the deinterlacing bug as well).

Anyone else tired of seeing the soap-opera effect on networks like MeTV?
 

Josh Steinberg

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I don’t think they’re adding a soap opera effect.

I think they’re actually speeding up the playback of the episodes slightly to allow them to fit within a shorter running time so that they can squeeze in more commercials. It’s been a while since I’ve had access to MeTV but that’s what I recall seeing there, as well as with some other networks running older material in shorter time slots. And that’s what’s giving it an unnatural, smoothed look - it’s running faster than it should. They may or may not be pitch correcting the audio to make it less noticeable, I don’t have a recollection of that one way or the other.
 

RocketRobz

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I don’t think they’re adding a soap opera effect.

I think they’re actually speeding up the playback of the episodes slightly to allow them to fit within a shorter running time so that they can squeeze in more commercials. It’s been a while since I’ve had access to MeTV but that’s what I recall seeing there, as well as with some other networks running older material in shorter time slots. And that’s what’s giving it an unnatural, smoothed look - it’s running faster than it should. They may or may not be pitch correcting the audio to make it less noticeable, I don’t have a recollection of that one way or the other.
Seeing that you haven't watched MeTV in a while, I can totally understand that.

I've noticed the speedup as well, but in cases like that, it's both the visuals and audio being sped-up.
What MeTV is doing though, is adding interpolated frames for the show to play smoother, instead of speeding it up, thus leaving the speed of the audio intact.
I know this, because I captured openings of Buck Rogers, MASH, and The Flintstones, and viewing them frame by frame, there are artifacts you wouldn't notice during normal playback.

Buck Rogers for example, has this artifact caused by blending both frames, each containing text of the year 2047, and 2048.
This is because the effect doesn't work well on text (and animation, for that matter).
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century - Season 1 opening intro (blended to 30fps).avi_snapshot_00.22...png


MeTV airs the final Season 1 episode of Buck Rogers without the effect applied, so there's no artifacts like the one above.
I have captures of the opening both with and without the soap-opera effect (and with no time differences), for comparison.
 

Ron Lee Green

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I watched Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea on MeTV about 2 or 3 weekends ago, and I thought the picture looked HD. Very sharp and clear. I didn't know about the soap opera effect then, but now that I think of it, you're right. It sort of looked live on video instead of film. I must say it didn't bother me, though. I kinda liked it. LOL
 

Artanis

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I watched Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea on MeTV about 2 or 3 weekends ago, and I thought the picture looked HD. Very sharp and clear. I didn't know about the soap opera effect then, but now that I think of it, you're right. It sort of looked live on video instead of film. I must say it didn't bother me, though. I kinda liked it. LOL
I do too, Ron. I especially love the Season 2 episodes of The Twilight Zone (that were shot on video tape instead of film), with the soap opera effect while wearing a pair of pulfrich glasses. The 3D effect is incredible.
 

jcroy

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This sounds very weird.

Are they (metv) really using a frame interpolation program/device (ie. which generates the "soap opera" effect), and re-encoding it to the 1080i resolution with 60 interlaced frames-per-second before broadcasting ?

Or is there something like a "flag" in the broadcast signal, which can trigger a tv screen to "force" it to turn on the "soap opera" effect ?

The former seems like a waste of resources and electricity.
 

Angelo Colombus

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I have MeTv Chicago on my Directv and it looks awful with i guess a low rez picture. My guess is because Directv does it that way and if i were to watch MeTV with a over the air antenna it would look much better.
 

Jay_Z_525

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I have a guess as to what’s happening.

I’ve noticed that when shows move to the afternoon slot on Decades, they also develop the Soap Opera Effect. For example, I Love Lucy. When it aired before noon, there was time compression and a little flickering. When it shifted to 1pm, on came the SOE and rapid smooth movement.

Dick Van Dyke has always had the Soap Opera Effect, and has always aired in the afternoon. Yet the promos don’t exhibit this overly smooth, quick movement.

My guess is that the masters they’re airing already have time compression built in. When they want to squeeze in more commercial time, they crank up the speed and try to smooth over the motion. So we’re getting a double whammy of speed and over-smoothing.
 

RocketRobz

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This sounds very weird.

Are they (metv) really using a frame interpolation program/device (ie. which generates the "soap opera" effect), and re-encoding it to the 1080i resolution with 60 interlaced frames-per-second before broadcasting ?

Or is there something like a "flag" in the broadcast signal, which can trigger a tv screen to "force" it to turn on the "soap opera" effect ?

The former seems like a waste of resources and electricity.
Those are good questions.
I don't know if this will answer those, but something else I've noticed, is that when a lot happens on screens, there would be some frames not interpolated, and instead showing duplicated frames.
Another weird thing that happened in a Season 2 Buck Rogers episode, "The Satyr", is that most of the episode played with the SOE, but later on, after a commercial break, the effect has dropped, and instead plays back with minor jerkiness.
I have a guess as to what’s happening.

I’ve noticed that when shows move to the afternoon slot on Decades, they also develop the Soap Opera Effect. For example, I Love Lucy. When it aired before noon, there was time compression and a little flickering. When it shifted to 1pm, on came the SOE and rapid smooth movement.
My guess is that they acquired new prints that time.
The old SD prints of MASH didn't have the effect, but when they got the new HD prints, they have the soap-opera effect, except for some episodes which have the deinterlace bug instead, and only two (I think?) of them played normally (ex. "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen").
Dick Van Dyke has always had the Soap Opera Effect, and has always aired in the afternoon. Yet the promos don’t exhibit this overly smooth, quick movement.

My guess is that the masters they’re airing already have time compression built in. When they want to squeeze in more commercial time, they crank up the speed and try to smooth over the motion. So we’re getting a double whammy of speed and over-smoothing.
Yeah, I've heard in the past that the time compression is done by the distributors of the shows.
What doesn't make sense to me though, is over-smoothing/interpolating the footage to account for the sped-up footage caused by time compression?
I'm not sure if that's the best way to hide time compression.
Even the modern shows like Monk don't have time compression (to my knowledge), and yet some episodes still have the SOE applied.
 

Worth

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....What doesn't make sense to me though, is over-smoothing/interpolating the footage to account for the sped-up footage caused by time compression?
I'm not sure if that's the best way to hide time compression.
Even the modern shows like Monk don't have time compression (to my knowledge), and yet some episodes still have the SOE applied.
They're not likely adding interpolation if it's been sped up. Just the fact that it's been sped up will make the motion look smoother.
 

Purple Wig

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Good thread. I notice it most on MASH, but the strange thing is it doesn’t seem to be consistent. In their 1 hour block, sometimes 1 episode is fairly watchable and the other distractingly sped up.
 

Harry-N

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I believe the first time I noticed the "soap opera effect" on MeTV was on an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE. I was somewhat amazed that the technology existed for them to broadcast a show that way. It has now of course gone further and is prevalent on THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, ANDY GRIFFITH, M*A*S*H, etc.

There has been a noticeable trend on MeTV and its sister networks, DECADES, etc., to "modernize" their shows, I suppose in an effort to attract younger viewers. Way back when they started, all of their shows were 4:3 and suffered from the ills of being a 480i compressed sub-channel - smeary motion artifacts, blocky images, etc.

Then one day a number of years ago, they began the process by upgrading their subchannels to 16:9 - still 480i - but now widescreen so at least their commercials could fill the screen. Then came the next subtle change when they began the effort to widen some of their shows to utilize the wide screen. Many of their shows still do just that. Those that they have the ability to, they chop off a small amount of the top and the bottom of the image, which gives the show a sort 1.66:1 look. Some retain the normal images, others slightly widen the image giving the actors a somewhat bloated look.

And now they've found the way to add the soap opera effect to the filmed shows that seem to have been remastered. When they were airing M*A*S*H before the widescreen remaster, the show looked absolutely horrendous on their network. Once the remaster started airing, on came the soap opera effect. I don't know what they're doing to accomplish it, but it's always on the shows that have been remastered.

Old video shows like Carol Burnett now look a little better too than they did when they first showed up on the network. I recall tuning in to an early showing on MeTV of MAMA'S FAMILY and the motion artifacts were just awful. The credits jerked their way up the screen in a very unnatural way. Today, they don't look as bad, and the shows, while not being anything close to high-def, at least look presentable.

I don't know what the ultimate end game of MeTV is, but I at least applaud them for trying to make these old shows look as good as they can.
 

Larry.P

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I can't stand to watch The Carol Burnett Show on ME-TV the way they broadcast. Sometimes during the Q+A, Carol's head is halfway off the top of the screen! Give me back the 4:3 ratio please.
 

Harry-N

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I agree. I'm no fan of the altered aspect ratio. It would be much better for me if they'd just stick to the 4:3 ratio and show the best prints they can, but they seem to insist on making things fill up the dreaded black bars.
 

Charles 22

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For the shows that don't have a Blu-ray release (ex. M*A*S*H), and/or for people with no internet access, then if you wanted to watch in HD, the only free TV option is MeTV (and sister networks like H&I, Decades, and StartTV)
Maybe you didn't realize how that came across, but to me you're stating that these other networks have HD, and to my knowledge none of them do but METV. Does anybody have a clue what METV will be digitizing next?
 

RocketRobz

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Maybe you didn't realize how that came across, but to me you're stating that these other networks have HD, and to my knowledge none of them do but METV. Does anybody have a clue what METV will be digitizing next?
Yeah, I forgot that other non-Weigel networks like Cozi are also in HD. Sorry about that.
 

Charles 22

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Yeah, I forgot that other non-Weigel networks like Cozi are also in HD. Sorry about that.
What in the world are you saying? I'm saying those networks you mentioned are NOT in HD, not that they are and you left one out. Honestly, I'm so used to those networks being garbage, maybe they're HD and I don't know it, but OTA I rather doubt it. What are they allegedly doing 720 or 1080?

Okay, I just checked and I live in a major city with virtually unlimited antenna range. All the stations listed earlier are NOT in HD, it's 480i rubbish. The only stations doing HD and retro both, with the exceptions of the more recent retro like Friends, is METV and Comet. Maybe your area is the opening stage of those stations going HD, but I think most of the local affiliates are picking up a national signal.
 

RocketRobz

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What in the world are you saying? I'm saying those networks you mentioned are NOT in HD, not that they are and you left one out. Honestly, I'm so used to those networks being garbage, maybe they're HD and I don't know it, but OTA I rather doubt it. What are they allegedly doing 720 or 1080?

Okay, I just checked and I live in a major city with virtually unlimited antenna range. All the stations listed earlier are NOT in HD, it's 480i rubbish. The only stations doing HD and retro both, with the exceptions of the more recent retro like Friends, is METV and Comet. Maybe your area is the opening stage of those stations going HD, but I think most of the local affiliates are picking up a national signal.
Their internal feeds are in HD, not the stations which broadcast the feeds (which are of course, 480i).
The New York station broadcasts MeTV in HD, as well as an area I'm almost close to (alongside Decades, StartTV, and H&I), though that specific station broadcasts both Decades and StartTV in low power frequencies, for those outside the area.

So what I'm saying, is that those who want to watch retro shows in HD without a Blu-ray set or the internet, will have to watch MeTV, Decades, or other known HD retro stations, if the local stations already broadcast them in HD (which admittedly are so few, as the majority are SD).
 
Last edited:

Charles 22

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Their internal feeds are in HD, not the stations which broadcast the feeds (which are of course, 480i).
The New York station broadcasts MeTV in HD, as well as an area I'm almost close to (alongside Decades, StartTV, and H&I), though that specific station broadcasts both Decades and StartTV in low power frequencies, for those outside the area.

So what I'm saying, is that those who want to watch retro shows in HD without a Blu-ray set or the internet, will have to watch MeTV, Decades, or other known HD retro stations, if the local stations already broadcast them in HD (which admittedly are so few, as the majority are SD).
Thanks for the clarification. If I understand you correctly, if nobody but NY is able to get it, and it sounds like even then it's just a niche area of that, I'm not sure saying they're all in HD is the best thing to say. But if I understand your overall tone, you weren't so much emphasizing which stations had HD (which is where I was concentrating on) but that there ARE retro stations that run HD, but their powers are very limited for the time being. I mean, even METV has maybe only 25% of their stuff in HD, though the signal is always HD (sending out crud 480i, etc, but over the 1080p signal). I'm still curious as to why they vary their signal between 720 and 1080 so much.
 

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