One step forward...but two steps back.....

Discussion in 'Displays' started by Alan Lackey, Aug 25, 2003.

  1. Alan Lackey

    Alan Lackey Agent

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    I took my wife with me to a friend's home this weekend to let her watch pre-season football on his new Pioneer Elite 630HD. She has been warming to the idea of replacing our RPTV with a new HDTV set.

    But...while she was amazed at HD material she was far less impressed with the picture on D* programming.

    As I sat and we browsed through the channels I began to look with a more critical eye and realized that the D* channels actually looked worse on this set than they do on my 7 year old Pioneer RPTV.

    The picture looked really soft, almost blurry, whereas the picture on my set looks much sharper and in some ways better. I thought the processing in these new sets, with the line doublers and scalers, was designed to actually make non-HD signals look better than their predecessors.

    While I have read these kinds of comments before here and on the AVS board, I have started to question the wisdom of purchasing a set when our viewing habits run down the middle with regard to DVDs versus D*.

    Is it safe to assume that this is the case for all new HDTV oriented sets? Am I just used to the picture on my set, because when sitting with it this weekend after watching his Elite...I had to agree that our picture did appear to be clearer and easier to watch...and I am pretty critical. Is this to be expected with the DLPs as well?

    I apologize for rehashing a constant issue here, but I have been reading and "shopping" new sets and now am at a crossroads of trying to make the decision to pull the trigger or wait for more HD programming from D*.

    Thanks for any opinions on this matter....
     
  2. Paul.Little

    Paul.Little Stunt Coordinator

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    TVs, like computers, follow the "GIGO" rule. When you throw line doubling into the equation, it becomes "Garbage In, Double Garbage Out." Any noise and distortion in the broadcast becomes doubled along with the picture. Add to that the distortion created by stretching the 4:3 picture to fit the 16:9 set, and standard programming shown on HDTV sets tends to look really crappy. I would be inclined to use your existing RPTV for as long as it continues to work well.
     
  3. John Royster

    John Royster Screenwriter

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    Just tell her that all monday night football games will be in HD. It really is nice.

    That way you get football and she can watch "trading spaces" on the old TV.

    [​IMG]
     
  4. Josh~H

    Josh~H Stunt Coordinator

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    Alan, it's true: standard 4:3 programming will often look pretty bad on widescreen HDTV's. I've found that on my Toshiba HDTV (widescreen), 4:3 looks pretty OK when I don't stretch the image, and I'm using my component input. This results in pillarbars on the sides of the image, and I don't like the burn-in idea, so I generally stretch and live with the less-than-ideal picture.

    Honestly my 10 year old 27" Samsung has a better picture on analog stations than my 1 year old Tosh has. Part of the problem though is that a larger screen just magnifies what imperfections there are. Notice that a 2.5" handheld TV has a great clear picture...but small screens are no fun! [​IMG]

    If you can afford the space, I'd put a widescreen TV (or better yet, front projector!) in your home theater, and leave the existing 4:3 TV in the family room. Head to the home theater to watch DVD's or HDTV, and do your casual watching on your existing set. This will prolong the life of both. [​IMG]
     
  5. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    Alan,

    You have only looked at one set using one DirecTV box and noted very soft picture from non-HD channels.

    A lot depends on which box your friend was using with the set, and how he had it configured for displaying non-HD material.

    All HD-capable DirecTV boxes can upconvert regular D* channels to 1080i and feed them to the set. The problem is that the quality of this upconversion is very variable.

    If your freind has a Hughes mfg box (marketed under Hughes, Toshiba, Mits, and Philips names), the upconversion is very soft and nasty looking. Newer designs from Zenith, Sony, and Samsung do much better.

    Even with a Hughes box, you can switch the output to 480i via S-video and let the set do the upconversion to 480p, this looks much better but you must switch inputs on the tv and outputs on the box.

    Again, newer design boxes can be set to output 480i as 480p via component cables, and pass HD as 1080i.

    I have a 57" Sony widescreen set and have used both a Hughes box and now a Sony HD-200. If I went thru the chicken dance to switch the Hughes to 480i output via S-video and switched inputs on the tv, the picture was pretty decent except on some of D*'s badly overcompressed channels. Just letting the box do 1080i upconvert resulted in a pretty nasty soft picture.

    The Sony (same as Zenith 520 box) does a good enough upconversion to leave it in 1080i mode all the time. It can also be set to output HD channels as 1080i and 480i channels as 480p (not as radical an upconvert and thus better) automatically, both via component cables eliminating the switching dance, which gives me an ntsc picture actually better than on my '99 model analog 53" Hitachi ultravision.

    My main advice would be not to make a judgement based only on what you saw at your friend's house. It could very well be that you were seeing a 1080i upconvert done by a Hughes box--about the worst possible scenario for viewing ntsc pictures on an HD-ready set.

    It may be difficult to impossible to get an idea of the true quality of a set's performance with ntsc sources in stores, but given a good stb or a strong native ntsc signal, most any HD-ready set can and will deliver an nice picture.
     
  6. Alan Lackey

    Alan Lackey Agent

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    Steve:

    Thanks for the info...I will pass this onto my friend. He is new to home theater and has done little to even go through Avia on his set. He is also running the Sony HD200 and may not have it set as you recommended.

    The OTA-HD and DTV-HD programming was amazing. It was the SD signals from DTV that were disappointing, but once again there is most likely some tweaking left to be done to get his system at its best.

    I had already given him Gregg's info to get it ISF calibrated during the next trip to TN, so that might also help.

    Thanks for yours and everyone else's input. I will be joining the HDTV ranks soon, but just had to rant a bit [laugh].
     
  7. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    Alan,

    I have the HD-200 also. I get the best results with the least hassle by using "Variable 2" as the output format.

    This can be done with the remote, button on the lower left corner under the flip-up cover on the remote. Press button repeatedly until the display on the front of the box says "variable-2".

    In this mode, the box will output 1080i and 720p as 1080i, and everything else as 480p. SD stuff should now look at least watchable from most D* channels. Documentaries that use lot's of ancient film footage will still be pretty nasty.

    Even with this, if you spend an hour or two watching HD and go back to an SD channel, the SD suffers in comparison, but still looks better than it would on an interlaced set.

    Once you get up and running with HD, you probably won't be watching that much SD stuff any more. Discovery HD even runs Trading Spaces in High Def.
     

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