|Dish Network Vip722 High-Definition DVR|
|Home Theater Media Servers Satellite & Cable Receivers/PVRs/DVRs/TiVo|
|Written by Bryan Dailey|
|Friday, 01 February 2008|
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HD Movies and Television
I love football, but I enjoy actually golfing more. Other than watching the occasional big game like the 2008 USC/Illinois Rose Bowl event, I rarely watch football games live. I’d rather be out on the golf course during the sunlight hours and then drive home to watch the game. I intentionally bury my head in the sand so that I don’t accidentally hear the score of the football game on the TV in the bar at the course or in my car on the way home.
I was looking forward to watching Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers end Eli Manning's and the New York Giants' season on their frozen home turf in the playoffs this past weekend. Unfortunately, Favre’s game got colder than the surrounding 23 below zero temperature, and he couldn’t put together any kind of drive in the last quarter, even after being given the gift of two shanked field goals by the Giants' kicker.
Favre’s farewell performance did nothing to impress me, but what I was impressed was the quality of the camerawork by the Fox crew. The new turf at Lambeau Field is a mixture of real and synthetic, heated so it does not turn into the equivalent of a frozen block of ice. Several times throughout the Fox broadcast, the cameras would show extreme close-ups of the players’ cleats on the turf and the level of detail was quite good. I saw only a few little jagged lines and very little flicker in the white lines of the field. The Vip722 has a slightly clunky slo-mo and frame-by-frame capability, but it is good enough to pause some action on the screen to make your own play-by-play assessment of a close call.
With astonishingly low temperatures, every player, coach and spectator in Lambeau field had a white puff of water vapor coming from their mouths and noses with every breath. In other words, there were a lot more fine details to resolve visually here than in your average football game. Watching someone breathe in cold air on standard def is no big deal. During close-up hi-def shots of players on the sidelines, it becomes much more interesting. The details of the steam coming off the players’ heads and the steam coming out of Tom Coughlin’s ears after his kicker missed two game-winning kicks are what make HD great.
Being shot on native HD cameras, most high-def football broadcasts look great, but what about a TV show? Having always been a fan of the Terminator movies, even the kind of silly third one, I was looking forward to the new Fox series, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I made sure to record this show on the Vip722.
With the MPEG-4 format that allows for more video bandwidth, I saw much less video compression on the Vip722 than I did with on the older boxes like the 921 and 924 from Dish Network. The picture was more three-dimensional and had richer colors. In the first episode of Terminator, where a young John Connor is being chased through his school by an evil Terminator who posing as a substitute teacher, the potential for motion artifacts was huge, but there were few, if any notable ones. It was a pretty typical, shoot-em-up action scene, but it ended with a big twist. The shiny metal of the Terminator’s internal frame, poking through the ripped open human skin tissue on the leg was extremely detailed, and I didn’t see the contour lines that I would expect to see on these shiny surfaces.
You can still expect to be underwhelmed in this area. Unless you spring for a video processor of the caliber of a DVDO VP50pro, you probably are not going to be wowed by the performance of standard-definition picture of any satellite receiver, especially when viewed on a big-screen TV. On the 722, the standard definition looks decent on my 19-inch Dell. However, it is horrible on my 61-inch JVC. Although my TV scales up to 1080p, the amount of data that is in a standard-definition signal is small enough that, when stretched to fit in a 1080p-resolution large screen, it simply does not look great.
I have come to expect very little in the standard-definition realm, but I do know that the 722 is much improved over the very old 921 Dish Network high-def MPEG-2 DVR. Watching a friend’s 921 on my reference system, the 921 was very washed-out and flat. I was hoping for a small improvement between the 722 and 622, but when I did an AB comparison between the two, the picture quality was exactly the same. To make a long story short, the standard def on both the 622 and 722 is better than on their predecessors, but still won’t impress anyone.