SD picture on an HD display... how bad will it be?

Bruce Carillon

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Dec 23, 1999
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I currently have a 36" Sony KV-36XBR250 and I love the picture I get from my SD Comcast cable. I don't use a box just standard coax straight to the TV. I'm really itching to buy a new 50" Sony SXRD but I'm real concerned about how the SD picture quality will be. Even if I go with the Comcast HD package, a large majority of what we'll watch is still going to be SD. I'm sure it's unfair to expect the SXRD to have as good a PQ as the 36" Sony KV-36XBR250, but how much worse will it be? I have tried to see this scenario at several dealers and none of them can display SD cable with the SXRD since they don't have it connected that way.

Thanks for your thoughts.
 

Craig

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Oct 20, 1999
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Depends of the quality of the incoming signal (to state the obvious). When Comcast upgraded their entire cable package to digital in my neighborhood it made a big overall improvement in picture quality for the regular/SD channels. Of course some look better than others, but they're all watchable, and some actually look very good (for SD that is). They're not in the same league as the HD channels of course, but they're not bad.
 

ChrisWiggles

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Nonsense, it will look significantly better. Your XBR is just an SDTV. Moving to a higher definition television with quality processing should dramatically improve the quality of SD content.
 

Bruce Carillon

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Dec 23, 1999
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Hi Chris... I am assuming that since the XBR is designed for SD that it would do a better job than the SXRD which is designed for HD when displaying SD programming. I have a very good Comcast signal so that shouldn't be a problem. Seems like I've read many times where HD TVs just don't do a very good job of displaying SD. I'd love to be wrong and get an SXRD!

Any other comments are appreciated.
 

johnADA

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Now thats nonsense!!!
It takes a real good scaler to take a crappy 480I signal and clean it up to display it in TV who's native resolution is higher.
 

Joel...Lane

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I recently bought a Sharp AQUOS 32" LCD and fed it a coax SD signal coming from Dish. Looked horrible. So bad in fact I returned the tv.
 

ChrisWiggles

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If you assume decent quality processing, viewing at a higher resolution is a significant improvement in resolution of fine detail in an SD source. Obviously some SD sources such as broadcast or cable are quite poor. But for other content such as DVD, the difference between viewing on a 480i display or on a display with significantly higher resolution with decent scaling is a drastic improvement in image quality.

Don't believe me though, go view a high end playback system playing back good quality SD content such as from a quality DVD.

I watch SD content all the time at 8-feet wide scaled to >720p and the difference between that and viewing at 480i is so huge it's laughable that people can stand watching 480i!
 

Bruce Carillon

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Dec 23, 1999
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What I'm really interested in would be SD cable. Straight from the coax, I'd put the PQ of my XBR250 up against anything. I'm spoiled with such a great picture that I'm afraid the SXRD will have worse PQ with the exact same connections etc.

It's frustrating because the three dealers I've been to can't show me how SD from cable looks on the SXRD.
 

johnADA

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He was talking SD from cable or sat, not a DVD player. Under those terms, SD quality with normal de-intelacers offered in most HD TV's will look grainy, pixelated compared to a standard SD TV.
The most complained about problem associated with HD TV purchases are just that. Under bad broadcasting they look much worse than the TV it replaced and people dont understand all thats involved.
 

ChrisWiggles

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I understand that. The point is that it is an SD source. You can test the scaling and deinterlacing quality of a display this way. That way you can ascertain how it is handling this content and whether it is doing a good job of it or not. It may be particularly advantageous to test with video-based DVD content, and objectively with the HQV Benchmark DVD which is particularly useful for this kind of testing as this is exactly what it's designed for.
 

johnADA

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Thats not a fair assessment of what you'd get.
As it stands now most stores display high quality feeds to their TV's to get you into the WOW factor.
And then on lessor models markups, they feed them poorer stuff to push the higher marked up ones.
Kinda like what I could do here.
Take my bedroom LCD, which isnt professionally calibrated and feed it a movie at 480I.
Then move to the living room, same movie, professionally calibrated LCD using a Oppo 971H with DVI and set to 720P.
You'd get WOW, I want that one!!!
Then get it home and be disappointed!!
 

ChrisWiggles

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I understand that. SD is SD. DVD or otherwise. You can't compensate for bad sources.

Most of the peopole who get an HDTV and are saying that SD looks worse are comparing it to the improvements in other content. Relative to an SDTV, it can be pretty hard to make SD content look worse on an HDTV. A lot of times, the crap in the signal may just be resolved better and is more visible with a larger screen size, and the elimination of a whole slew of other artifacts that may previously have obscured some of the crap in the content. People get used to ignoring those artifacts, and so they think that SD has suddenly gotten worse, when the reality is that in all likelihood it's actually gotten better.

But this does hinge on the quality of the processing, etc, which is why it's worthy to test that in advance of a purchase. A specialty dealer should be more than willing to help you with that. Big box stores, well, that's why one shouldn't shop there.
 

ChrisWiggles

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It is an exact assessment of what you get. If you feed a display video-based 480i, you can examine how it's handled. There's no difference between a video-bassed DVD and broadcast in that regard. The only difference is that broadcast may be noisier. You would want to be sure you're testing video-based DVD to test video cadences, rather than just any film-based DVD which would be different because any good processor should reconstruct that differently because it's film cadence rather than video cadence. But as long as you use correct content, it should reveal exactly what the display is doing (outside of the tuner performance) for SD content. You would want to use composite video out on the DVD player, and again to repeat myself, to be sure you're using video-based content, not a movie DVD. The HQV DVD is superb for all these tests, BTW, and is exactly the kind of thing you'd want to use to test scaling performance on interlaced non-film cadence sources.
 

johnADA

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Ah, but you just said it all in what he is asking to begin with!!

DVD video is "not equal"with whats broad casted on and average and not even close at all at times. The poorer the signal the worse it looks noise wise, pixelating wise etc. and you said it yourself with the maybe noisier.
The stores , whether high ended ones or box stores no longer offer cable and or OTA signals all full well knowing HD TV's tend to define a bad signal and not mask it like a SD TV does.
 

ChrisWiggles

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Well, to experienced eyes, the "masked" SDTV image actually looks worse. This is what I was explaining above as well when I stated:

"Most of the peopole who get an HDTV and are saying that SD looks worse are comparing it to the improvements in other content. Relative to an SDTV, it can be pretty hard to make SD content look worse on an HDTV. A lot of times, the crap in the signal may just be resolved better and is more visible with a larger screen size, and the elimination of a whole slew of other artifacts that may previously have obscured some of the crap in the content. People get used to ignoring those artifacts, and so they think that SD has suddenly gotten worse, when the reality is that in all likelihood it's actually gotten better."

There is a lay perspective that essentially arises at the conclusion that HDTVs make SD content look WORSE than SDTVs (assuming reasonably decent scaling). That's ridiculous, though it's a conclusion some people may mistakenly arrive at due to their confusing the relative poverty of SD broadcast when compared with higher quality sources in an HD system, rather than comparing the absolute quality of that content with how it would appear on an SDTV.

It's a similar line of poor logic which claims that high-end audio systems make poor recordings sound poor. No, they sound significantly better than on a poorer quality system, but sound RELATIVELY worse when compared to high quality recordings on a high quality system.

That is, the delta between good and bad content in high-end systems increases, creating the ILLUSION that poor quality content has gotten worse, when in fact ALL the content has improved. This holds basically true for both audio and video systems.
 

johnADA

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Your talking professionally wise, in which the lay person doesnt understand or does not care to understand.
While all the content does improve as you state, in which it does, but this illusion is not and illusion to the lay person. What wasnt once there, its now there and the masking is considered a good thing.
I even understand what you saying and have seen it first hand, but on the other hand, like I stated, the masking at times does look better!
 

ChrisWiggles

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That's fine with me. I'm not concerned with the whims of an average non-critical user who is not overly concerned about image quality. I concern myself with accuracy. Many people may well "prefer" an inaccurate, poor quality image. I don't really worry myself with such desires. I concern myself only with adherence to an accurate ideal.
 

Joseph DeMartino

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SD TV also looked horrible to my eye when I hooked up my first HD LCD TV, and again with my LCoS HD set right out of the box. Even the HD content looked a little shaky, but the SD content was hideous. Rather than return either of them I got out my copy of Avia Guide to Home Theater and ran a simple calibration on them. HD looks incredible, SD looks just fine, thank you very much. It is amazing how much better an SD signal looks when you aren't pumping in tons of video noise in order to make an image "sharper". With a decent scaler and some basic user adjustments SD can look very good indeed on an HD set. My Westinghouse bedroom TV (with a Faroudja processor) and my JVC HD-ILA both have decent scalers and produce good results. I don't watch a ton of SD cable content (I mostly wantch the networks, HBO and Discovery - all in HD), but what I do watch looks very good and my SD DVDs look the best they have ever looked, falling somewhere between digital SD cable and true HD cable signals.

Regards,

Joe
 

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