Should I get digital cable?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by John_Kiger, Dec 16, 2002.

  1. John_Kiger

    John_Kiger Agent

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    We have an HDTV monitor (Panasonic, 34" CRT). We play DVDs through it, watch analog cable, and that's about it. Since I live in a rental property, there's no hope for an HD antenna, or any HD until it comes through the pipe. In the meantime, the cable company is trying to sell digital service--not necessarily HDTV in my area, however. Some occasional widescreen sneaks in now and then, but it's still rare. The Q: Will I notice a great difference by getting this service enhanced to digital cable for a few bucks more a month? Thanks for your opinion. All answers and comments are welcome, whether or not helpful. [​IMG]
    John
     
  2. Scott Pagac

    Scott Pagac Stunt Coordinator

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    Here is my own experience with Digital Cable (Time Warner, Wisconsin)...
    Pros:
    More channels available (many non-subriction channels are worthless)
    *Much* better audio
    Digital audio output (useful only on certain channels)
    On-screen channel guide (maybe one of my favorite features)
    Cons:
    Sometimes slow response times to commands (channel selection, etc.)
    Compression atrifacts are *very* evident on many channels
    I can see the atrifacts on my non-HD 27" Sanyo TV (don't laugh!) [​IMG] so I can imagine they will be very distracting on a HD set (even worse again with a stretch mode?).
    I like a few of the extra channels I get and I do find the sound to be much better than that of analog cable. I can no longer live without the channel guide, either.
    HD channels are supposed to be offered beginning in the next couple of months, but my HD set is still over a year away. If you can stomach the few cons, the extra amount of $$$/month is not too bad a trade off. Just don't expect miracles.
     
  3. Eric Samonte

    Eric Samonte Screenwriter

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    I would suggest u "try" them. Most cable carriers have a 30 day trial period. If u don't like how it looks, get rid of it. Nothing is better than checking it out with ur own eyes I suppose.
     
  4. John_Kiger

    John_Kiger Agent

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    Thanks for the replies. I should try it, I guess. I dread sliding that 200 lb. television out from the wall, and the furniture it all resides in. I hadn't considered the improved sound for television broadcasts, that's a good point. We have Charter Communications in this area, so the hot deal being sold now is 80 or so digi music channels to go along with it all. What are all the toys, without changes?
    Otis
     
  5. Mathew Shelby

    Mathew Shelby Second Unit

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    I think that the best thing about subscribing to digital cable is more selection of channels. But lately I have been hearing myself and my girlfriend saying that there is nothing to watch, despite having almost 250 channels. Comcast is our provider in Tallahassee and it is over $100 month w/ HBO and Skinemax. I would say if your budget allows for it, go for it. But like someone else said, don't expect miracles.
     
  6. Dave Gilbert

    Dave Gilbert Second Unit

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    I'll second what Scott said. The audio improvement on digital channels alone was worth the upgrade for me. Add in specialty channels only available through digital cable or satellite (My wife and I are addicted to LeafsTV during hockey season) and you're laughing.

    See if your local provider is running any specials, and try to get a trial period. I got $75 off the digital box I bought, and had a couple of months to see which of the 200 channels I actually watched before picking out my channel package.

    My monthly cost is the same as analog cable, I save $5/mo. on my cable internet and $2/mo. on The Movie Network. Aside from the intial cost of the cable box, I actually save money vs. analog cable. That was a huge selling point for my wife, and the reason I finally took the plunge.
     
  7. david-e

    david-e Auditioning

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    I understand that the FCC has a requirement for apartment owners that will allow you to place a dish, either Direct or Dish. You just need to have a southern wall for this to happen.
    For local channels check one of the antenna sites. There is a program that you just type in your zip code and it tells you if, what size and where to point a UHF
    antenna for local HDTV. It is not a big deal. You just have to assert your rights.
    I hope this helps.
    emoney
     
  8. John Geelan

    John Geelan Screenwriter

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    The improved sound and more channels are the best thing about Digital Cable.

    I was able to watch and hear The Sopranos season in Dolby Digital 5.1, yes my Reciever said it was getting the DD signal from the Cable Co. So that is an improvement over regular cable.
     
  9. John_Kiger

    John_Kiger Agent

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    Thanks again for all the help. I'll take your findings to the "board meeting" with my wife and see what comes. We do have this nice Yamaha sound system which has only shown its stuff on DVD productions up until now.
    John Kiger
     
  10. Dave Moritz

    Dave Moritz Producer
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    Hey John,
    IMHO I would stay away from digital cable! I agree with Scott Pagac statement regarding poor picture quality and more channels than analog cable. Many of the cannels are using lower data rates to help make a few channels look better. And another thing is that there is more than Digital channels going through the cable. There is basically all the digital channels, analog channels plus all the data from the internet conection. That is shared with everyone in the service area. If you decide to try cable internet? Yes you can get very good download speeds but there are times in the day when others are online and your connection will get slower. Cable internet is not a dedicated connection. But it is a shared connection so the more people in your area that are online the slower your conection will be. Some times it is very fast depending on the site you go to and other times it is slow. Digital cable is embarasing inregard to the picture quality and overall performance. When you concider how much money the cable company gets from you for the digital service. Many apartments will allow you to mount a small dish. Have you discused the possiblity of being able to place small 18-20" dish on the roof? The dish would provide a much better picture and would give you more channels for the money. I have seen HD HBO and it looks increadible. And here is something else to concider. Cable companies have for the most part have hit the limits in regards to bandwith. How do they think they will be able to offer a HD signal when most of the regular channels look like sh_t? I would look into talking the apartment manager into letting you have a HD dish and go from there. I have Charter Communication in my neighborhood as well and there digital cable sucks! I am only saying this because I am just watching out for a fellow HT fanatic that enjoyes movies/music.
    I hope this helps and have a Merry Christmas
    [​IMG]
     
  11. Tom Moran

    Tom Moran Agent

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    For what it is worth I went from Analog to Digital Cable (AT&T, St. Paul, MN) and finally to Direct TV once I got my first HD monitor (Panasonic 36").

    I was thoroughly disappointed with Digital Cable on the video front but as others have mentioned the audio is better. However, both cannot touch Direct TV if that is an option for you.

    I now have the great surround digital audio, excellent picture quality and most importantly High Definition for HBO, Showtime, HD Net and over the air broadcasts with an add on antenna for my DirecTV Dish. The best thing is my bill is about $35 less each month.

    I will need to upgrade the antenna which is somewhat disappointing considering I live in a major metro area but I suppose and advantage I have being closer to the broadcasters is negated by all the obstructions in the city.

    The net of all this is that I would only upgrade to digital cable if surround audio is important enough to to risk a slightly worse picture and if Direct TV is not an option.

    Tom
     
  12. Rob Rodier

    Rob Rodier Supporting Actor

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    Digital cable is the worst thing that ever happened to me. The artifacts are unbearable. The remote response is soo slow. My VideoGuide from 1995 had a much more intelligent gui. The box runs hot, and inn my case was not flexible at all. (No s-video, or toslink or spdif, again you may be more lucky)

    The biggest issue was the artifiacts. So annoying. An often times un-watchable I coulden't go back to analog fast enough (even though it took 18 months) The "more" channels are a questionable trait as well. A lot more of nothing.


    My take.

    -rob
     
  13. JasonLC

    JasonLC Stunt Coordinator

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    I have had Dish Network for a year and now I am a very happy Cox Digital Cable subscriber when I compare it to Dish Network. Both systems were hooked up to my Toshiba 57H81 and I use Theater Wide 1 Zoom Mode to view 4:3 content and the digital coaxial output of the digital cable box to get DD 2.0 or 5.1 sound depending on broadcast. I had on average a 115% signal strength on my Dish so the signal is fine obviously. My Dish Network PQ had slight pixelation on channels such as HBO, and then on other channels the pixelation was so bad it was definitely unwatchable especially on ESPN etc and being blown up on my 57" HDTV made it worse. Watching the Analog Cable channels through my Explorer SA2000 STB's Composite video outputs(SVideo has the combing bug on this box), are very watchable and on the local channels it is even better. As far as the digital channels 100-999, the premium channels look near DVD quality, plus have DD 5.1 sound and quite a few movies. Now this is partly because my Toshiba has one of the best line doubler in the industry. ALL digital channels are in DD 2.0 if they aren;t in DD 5.1 except for the Game Show which is actually DD 1.0(Center Channel Mono ONLY) As far as PQ on the other channels it varies, but even the worst PQ channels look just as good or better then the best PQ channel which is HBO on Dish Network. This is a scary though for DSS since Dish Network is suppose to have less compression then Direct TV. Of course the PQ of your digital cable depends on how good your cable lines are in your area. Luckily all are line have been freshly upgrade about 2 years ago around here which makes the analog and digital cable PQ truly shine. Finally now in January Cox is offering HDTV to my area, we will see how that goes.
     
  14. Elias

    Elias Stunt Coordinator

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    I thought I would chime in. I live in Baltimore, MD, and my digital cable service is run by Comcast. I have had digital cable for about 1 1/2 years bundled with cable modem internet access. The digital cable signal is excellent here with no artifacts or graininess as noted in some replies above. Audio is vastly improved on digital channels and I get very good Pro Logic surround because of this. Unfortunately, there is no digital audio out on my box and I am forced to deal with a slight 60 Hz buzz that my cable box sends to my pre/pro. Only the premium and movie channels are processed as digital signals. The remaining channels (network and basic cable) are analog, but these appear sharp on my TV with decent sound. Comcast Baltimore has HDTV channels, but I cannot comment on these as I am still holding on an HDTV purchase. I think the main advantages to digital cable, as mentioned above, are the added channels (multiple HBOs, etc), greatly improved audio signals, and HDTV access.

    I was recently in NYC and had an opportunity to see Time Warner digital cable. Frankly, I was tremendously disappointed. Clearly, the video signal was far worse than Comcast's, with lower resolution and intolerable digital artifact. It appears that the quality of digital cable service varies among different companies and in different cities. My advice to you is to find a friend in your area with digital cable and see how good the video signal is (on analog and digital channels), and what kind of audio outs are available on the cable box before switching from analog or considering a DISH purchase.

    That being said, I agree that satellite TV offers the best channel selection for the money and the best viso and audio signals. The HDTV selections are also greater on satellite TV than digital cable. The main drawbacks are 1)that outdoor hardware needs to be installed, which might be difficult in an apartment complex, and 2) the satelite receiver takes longer to load the channels and TV guide than the digital cable box does. Furthermore, I get a discount from Comcast with combined digtal cable/ high speed internet access, which makes digital cable the more affordable option at the moment. When I move out of my apartment into a real home and purchase an HDTV, I will probably switch to satellite TV, though I am fairly satisfied with Comcast digital cable for now.

    Elias
     
  15. Andrew W

    Andrew W Supporting Actor

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    Just another opinion...
    In Austin, digital cable sucked on my 57" widescreen. They could never get me an HDTV converter box and all the digital channels were compressed and multiplexed to crap.
    I had a constant rolling hum-bar they could never get rid of. Had it all taken out except roadrunner.
     
  16. Rob Rodier

    Rob Rodier Supporting Actor

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    Sounds to me like digital cable is a lot like cellular service. In some areas it offers great advantages, and in other you are constantly getting charged for "analog roam"

    -rob
     
  17. John_Kiger

    John_Kiger Agent

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    Gadzooks, ye olde threade is back on top again! Thank you for all the helpful and interesting comments. There's more too it than I thought.

    I don't know what the rules are on mentioning providers, perhaps the moderator can intervene if I'm out of line. I'll just say that the provider here is Charter Communications (no digital cable, no dessert at the table), and their analog service has been satisfactory to date. I don't have any cronies with a true digital TV who could tell me locally. If there's any good news about Charter, please offer that.

    Thanks again for all the input. Merry New Year.
    John
     
  18. Rob Rodier

    Rob Rodier Supporting Actor

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    I would begin by asking your provider

    S-video out?
    Toslink of spdif digital out?

    If both of those get a "no" than I would stay far away. If they get a "yea" than it might be worth more investigation.

    good luck

    -rob
     
  19. Ian Alexander

    Ian Alexander Auditioning

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    The FCC ruling regarding the installation of a dish is not a requirement but prevents homeowner or other similar regulations from preventing the installation. It does not say that you can install the dish on private property (ie. the apartment building). The apartment building owner can limit what common elements you can attach the dish to such as walls or roofing. The typical way around this is to attach it to your balcony or patio. If this does not provide a southern exposure, you have little choice but to try and mount it to a pole that gives you the necessary exposure.
     

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