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Ken S 04-07-2008 09:37 PM

Comcast Blurs High Def Image...
From The New York Times - April 08, 2008

Is this how you treat your customers when you're the largest cable provider?
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March 31, 2008, 3:38 pm
Comcast’s Blurry High Definition Picture

By Saul Hansell

Not only has Comcast been slowing down Internet users exchanging files with the BitTorrent protocol, it has been quietly reducing the quality of some high definition television networks it carries as well.

Most people will hardly notice the change, and the HD channels affected are still a lot better looking that standard definition signals. But Ken Fowler, a devoted high definition video aficionado did. He had Verizon’s FIOS video offering. But he also signed up for Comcast’s service in order to watch the Washington Nationals in high definition. On some networks carried by both operators, Mr. Fowler noticed that the picture quality on Comcast was inferior.

“I noticed that there was more blurring in the movement and less detail on the screen,” he said. Mr. Fowler, a financial analyst by profession, started to measure the difference between the Comcast and FIOS systems. He posted the results on AV Science Forum, a Web site for hardcore video buffs.

In images he posted, MTV and Discovery, among others, are distinctly more blurry or blotchy than those on FIOS. This occurred mainly in scenes with rapidly moving images. This makes sense as video compression systems eliminate redundant information from one image to the next, which is fine for talking heads and such, but too much compression distorts pictures of sports and other action scenes.

Mr. Fowler recorded some of these programs and found that for some channels, Comcast was transmitting 20 to 35 percent less information. Some networks, including ESPN and the major broadcast networks were not degraded, he found.

Jenni Moyer, a Comcast spokeswoman, confirmed that the company, like all cable and satellite systems, does compress its signals, but it tries hard to maintain the quality.

“Compression is a reality: We use it and other providers use it,” she said. “Our goal is not to have any kind of noticeable impact on picture quality.”

At issue here is how cable systems manage the increasing number of networks broadcasting in high definition, given the limited capacity of their networks. Cable systems are roughly divided into 6Mhz channels, each representing the amount of space one traditional analog signal would occupy. Digital cable can squeeze ten to twelve signals of standard-definition TV in one of these channels. Until recently, most cable systems put two high-definition stations in each channel.

Now Comcast is putting three signals into some of its channels. And that causes it to compress the signals more.

Comcast is not alone. Time Warner is also starting to put three high-definition networks on some of its channels.

This made me wonder whether we are going to lose some of those wonderful networks that the compression of digital cable have given us, Animal Planet, Tennis, D.I.Y., Soap and so on—because the move to HD will use all the bandwidth these networks are using.

Not so, cable experts say. The easy way to free up space on a cable system is to eliminate the remaining few dozen analog channels. This will require more people to get digital set top boxes, but some systems, including FIOS are doing this to make more space for HD channels. Also, there is technology called switched video that changes which networks are on what channels depending on what people in a given neighborhood are actually watching. Proponents say that this approach can handle an infinite number of networks, even in high definition.

deacongreg 04-08-2008 03:00 PM

Re: Comcast Blurs High Def Image...
It is obvious for now that if you want HD, the best source is your Blu-Ray player.

Enoch 04-08-2008 08:52 PM

Re: Comcast Blurs High Def Image...
Why Cable HD Sucks HARD! And why it always will:
Compression, and recompression. For the greedy sake of squeezing a few more paid-for "Butt-Flexor 2000" channels in the mix. The revenue temptation is too great for them not to.

wes 04-09-2008 08:56 AM

Re: Comcast Blurs High Def Image...
Cancel your TV and watch movies on Blu Ray 99% of TV programing is rubbish anyway!

prerich 04-09-2008 08:32 PM

Re: Comcast Blurs High Def Image...

Originally Posted by deacongreg (Post 13679)
It is obvious for now that if you want HD, the best source is your Blu-Ray player.

It's the best source for movies. You can't watch a live sporting event on a blu-ray. That was my initial reason for going to HD - sporting events, namely the Superbowl, the NBA playoffs, and NCAA Football and Basketball. They should stop cheating people out of the signal that they are paying good money for (and BD nor any other format can replace live HD broadcast for sport).

Dave Moritz 04-10-2008 04:48 AM

Re: Comcast Blurs High Def Image...
This is just another example of cable not caring and acting like they are the only game in town! They over charge and provide inferior service and product. I for one am glad I do not have to tolerate Comcast here in Phoenix. Because I would drop them in a heart beat!

While Blu-ray is going to provide the best viewing experience, it does not provide live content live cable and satellite does. And there are still plenty of HD programing that is not currently on Blu-ray. Cable companies have done things that ****ed people off since I can remember, all the way back when MTV played nothing but music videos. All I can say is cable sucks and people should dump them and get Direct TV or Dish Network!

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