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UPN intentionally degrading Star Trek: Enterprise?
PostPosted: Sat Feb 19, 2005 8:02 am Reply with quote
inkling
 
Joined: 05 Feb 2004
Posts: 342




Has anyone else noticed this?

Ever since Babel One episode, it looks worse than DVD.

The closest thing I can describe it as, is someone put a gaussian filter on every encoded frame.

Even the 4:3 commercials, which normally look fine, are blotchy during that hour, so the advertisers are getting ripped off along with the viewers.

What's up with that?

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 19, 2005 10:52 am Reply with quote
Scott Larson
 
Joined: 15 Oct 2003
Posts: 713
Location: Portland, OR




Naturally this leads to the "is your station mutlicasting?" question. My UPN station has no subchannels and the highest bit rates in town and the show looks razor sharp to me, although I've only watched two or three episodes and have nothing to compare it with.

"Kevin Hill" is UPN's other weekly drama series that's shot in 24 fps video. I think it's the best looking show on TV right now. Everything is sharp and there's no grain dancing in the shadows like on filmed series.
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not multicasting
PostPosted: Sun Feb 20, 2005 3:35 pm Reply with quote
inkling
 
Joined: 05 Feb 2004
Posts: 342




Scott Larson wrote:
Naturally this leads to "is your station mutlicasting?"


dtvstream says one program only. One audio channel too, no spanish. The funny thing is, if you watch UPN before that hour, and watch UPN after that hour, it looks like it's supposed to.

About the only difference from last month is the PSIP info started appearing about the same time the image degraded. But other shows look fine and have PSIP.

The degraded image is so bad it affects the commercials in 4:3, making them uglier than usual.

I checked the bitrate on the video and it's the same. It's like someone hit a 'low quality' switch for that hour. The audio is the same 2.0 it's always been.

I'll check Kevin Hill and try to find other HD programs. HD programs are pretty scarce on UPN.

"It's dead, Jim." -Dr. McCoy to Les Moonves about Enterprise.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 20, 2005 9:03 pm Reply with quote
Scott Larson
 
Joined: 15 Oct 2003
Posts: 713
Location: Portland, OR




I can't think of any way your station could accidentally be upconverting the SD letterboxed version if they're pulling it from the UPN feed. My UPN station repeats Enterprise's episode on Sunday nights but they have no equipment to record HD (it's a miracle the owner is even broadcasting in HD) so they reair the letterboxed SD version. If your station doesn't air it on Friday nights at 8PM, they may be airing some freak upconverted SD version.

The only other HD show on UPN that's worth checking out is Veronica Mars. It's shot in 16mm so it's kinda grainy and soft and the barrel distortion on the wide lenses will make you dizzy, but they somehow make some scenes look incredible. Believe it or not, it's a clever, well-written and fairly well-actied series with intertwining subplots and smart characters.

UPN also has two hours of mediocre comedies in HD on Monday nights. They're all shot on 24 fps video like Kevin Hill and look pretty good. They're so unpopular in my area that my staiton doesn't bother showing them in HD half the time. No one complains!
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upconverting could be issue
PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2005 3:12 am Reply with quote
inkling
 
Joined: 05 Feb 2004
Posts: 342




Scott Larson wrote:
I can't think of any way your station could accidentally be upconverting the SD letterboxed version if they're pulling it from the UPN feed.


I agree. The UPN Friday night feed should look as good as UPN can send it. The re-run on Sunday night is where I expect to see the 4:3 bars-on-side.

Oddly enough, the re-run zoomed in looks better.

I do not think it is an accident.

Not enough stream data has changed from the previous month to cause the lower image quality, but I'll admit I haven't checked the quantizer tables yet.

There must be something causing the low-res.

Piracy concerns maybe, if you notice some recent reports.

Pre-empt of broadcast flag with lower quality image.

No matter what you call it, it still looks really bad.

I need to watch more HDTV shows to gather more data.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2005 11:55 am Reply with quote
Scott Larson
 
Joined: 15 Oct 2003
Posts: 713
Location: Portland, OR




Well that's just totally not right! Very Happy

No one is using the broadcast flag yet and if they were, the picture would still look exactly the same. Most stations, especially UPN stations, barely have enough equipment to keep a reliable HD signal on the air much less implement new forms of copyright protection.

If the owners of your UPN station have other interests, they're probably not too concerned if Enterprise doesn't look good enough for the ten geeks in their market who watch the show in HD. You might try emailing them or calling them. It's possible they've programmed something wrong or have forgotten to fix something.

The first week our UPN station went HD, a bunch of us spent the first forty minutes of Enterprise helping their engineer through the Internet to adjust everything on his end so we were all getting the best possible picture. I think we saw everything that could go wrong that night -- vertical banding, no picture, choppy picture, pixelization, audio delays, automatic fallback to SD. The engineer was just great though. He kept apologizing even though we were all being entertained by his mistakes. Now our UPN station has the best HD picture in town.
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pixelization is best description of it
PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2005 3:18 pm Reply with quote
inkling
 
Joined: 05 Feb 2004
Posts: 342




Scott Larson wrote:
If the owners of your UPN station have other interests, they're probably not too concerned if Enterprise doesn't look good enough for the ten geeks in their market who watch the show in HD.

The first week our UPN station went HD, a bunch of us spent the first forty minutes of Enterprise helping their engineer through the Internet to adjust everything on his end so we were all getting the best possible picture. I think we saw everything that could go wrong that night -- vertical banding, no picture, choppy picture, pixelization, audio delays, automatic fallback to SD. The engineer was just great though. He kept apologizing even though we were all being entertained by his mistakes. Now our UPN station has the best HD picture in town.


Probably only 5 tuners catch HD Enterprise in this market, mainly because they don't send the HD signal to Time Warner. Four of the tuners are in my machine.

Pixelization is a good description of the problem. Too bad there isn't any way to get ahold of any UPN engineers at the UPN station here since FOX runs their stuff.

I wasn't trying to suggest the broadcast flag was the cause, merely wondering if UPN has cooked up their own stop-gap solution to the rumored piracy problem by forcing it to low-quality mode to tide them over until July 1.

Could be SD quantizer tables loading for HD image. That might explain why I can see the macroblock boundaries. It's very noticable. Even the credits are blotchy, where they used to be razor sharp.

The question is, is it intentionally set wrong in the main feed, or not?

The local station should be echoing the main program feed without modification, other than PCR and STT timestamps, local PSIP and some local commerical splicing, so it would seem to me that if I can see the problem, anyone else could too, in every market in which the program airs.

Now that might add up to 100 people.

Once ST:E is gone, there will not be any spacer fare in HD, as Andromeda on WB and Stargate on FOX are SD.

Noticed NBC was a bit slow out of the gate getting Las Vegas into HD mode last night. CSI and 24 both came in with the usual awesome clarity.

ABC can't manage to switch from GMA to local morning news and back without putting an awful squeal in the audio.

Lots of growing pains, I suppose.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2005 4:44 pm Reply with quote
Scott Larson
 
Joined: 15 Oct 2003
Posts: 713
Location: Portland, OR




All I can tell you it's perfect 1080i here and the picture quality hasn't changed in months.

Your UPN station has an engineer. All stations have to by FCC regulations. The poor guy probably maintains more than one station (like here) and this probably won't be his highest priority but it doesn't hurt to complain and it won't get fixed if no one complains.

UPN stations do not "echo" the network's main feed directly. UPN's HD feed to their affiliates is 45 Mb per second. They decompress that, add their local bug or whatever they want to the video and recompress it to the bit rate they want to transmit. All networks do this except for FOX who has given their affiliates a special "splicer" that allows them to add their bug to FOX's slower feed without recompressing it. Also WB saves a little money by sending a lower bit rate to their affiliates (something like 30 Mb/s).

Obviously your affiliate could be screwing up UPN's feed in all kinds of ways.
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re-encoding snafus
PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2005 12:06 am Reply with quote
inkling
 
Joined: 05 Feb 2004
Posts: 342




Scott Larson wrote:
Obviously your affiliate could be screwing up UPN's feed in all kinds of ways.


Is decode/encode common practice for all the stations?

Sounds like too much committee to me. Thanks for the heads-up about how they are doing it.

Veronica Mars HD was screwed up same as Enterprise HD.

I find it hard to believe that a seasoned broadcast engineer would not watch their own product to make sure it is good.

I've never worked in the broadcast industry, but I can imagine cheap green monkeys on the consoles, instead of seasoned engineers because that's how companies work.

Hire people cheap and dumb and make customers guinea pigs while they learn. That trick has to be as old as business itself.

I have noticed what looks like lots of reboots of the encoder, both on Enterprise and Veronica Mars.

So maybe they already are getting complaints.

I'll watch more UPN HD to see what data I can gather before I go bothering some probably overworked engineer.

KTXH is the problem broadcaster, by the way. Maybe you could ask your engineer to call their engineer.

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Re: re-encoding snafus
PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2005 10:50 am Reply with quote
Scott Larson
 
Joined: 15 Oct 2003
Posts: 713
Location: Portland, OR




inkling wrote:
Is decode/encode common practice for all the stations?

It must be done at all stations (except for FOX due to their unique method of HD distribution). They can't pipe a 45Mb/sec stream directly into an ATSC stream.

Quote:
Sounds like too much committee to me. Thanks for the heads-up about how they are doing it.

The problem was how stations were going to add their bugs and station ID's and other graphics to the network's feed. When HD started in the late 90's, there wasn't any way to add graphics to an HD MPEG stream without decoding it first so it became accepted practice for the networks to send their affiliates a high bit rate HD MPEG stream to minimize the artifacts that were going to be caused when the station added their graphics and reencoded it for ATSC.

Since FOX went HD years later, they were able to give their affiliates machines that were fast enough to add graphics directly to the ATSC stream (splicing) that FOX sends them (they're Linux machines too!).

Quote:
Veronica Mars HD was screwed up same as Enterprise HD.

OK, your UPN station is definitely screwing up their HD.

Quote:
I find it hard to believe that a seasoned broadcast engineer would not watch their own product to make sure it is good.

Most engineers have a long list of stuff they're working on at any moment especially when they have several stations to take care of. Less than 10% of their audience watches HD so it's not like they're going to get fired over it. Some stations don't even have a way to monitor their HDTV in their control room. They rely on us to call and tell them something is wrong.

Quote:
I've never worked in the broadcast industry, but I can imagine cheap green monkeys on the consoles, instead of seasoned engineers because that's how companies work.

They've eliminated the green monkeys. They've replaced them with no one. Now you have seasoned engineers doing everything themselves. As deregulation has allowed owners to own more stations in the same market, they now have fewer engineers maintaining more stations.

Quote:
I have noticed what looks like lots of reboots of the encoder, both on Enterprise and Veronica Mars. So maybe they already are getting complaints.

I doubt it. This is UPN. Nobody watches UPN! I can imagine the engineer telling his boss that the encoder is broken and they're going to have to spend some money to fix it and the boss telling him to just forget it for now.

Quote:
I'll watch more UPN HD to see what data I can gather before I go bothering some probably overworked engineer.

They're usually very nice although don't expect him to fix it that day. Just call up the station and leave a message for engineering telling them what you're seeing (leave an email address too). If you're lucky, the guy had just forgotten to do something or was pulled off on some other emergency and forgot to finish something.

Quote:
KTXH is the problem broadcaster, by the way. Maybe you could ask your engineer to call their engineer.

In Portland most of the station engineers work together and share equipment and coordinate projects. Most stations share two towers in this area so they probably see each other more than people from their own stations.

Ooo boy, KTXH is owned by FOX Broadcasting. Good luck on getting them to improve a competing network's product.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2005 11:04 am Reply with quote
Scott Larson
 
Joined: 15 Oct 2003
Posts: 713
Location: Portland, OR




Also check out your area's OTA reception thread at the AVS Forum if you haven't already. Others are seeing what you're seeing so at least you're not alone.
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parsing the PSIP
PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2005 12:08 am Reply with quote
inkling
 
Joined: 05 Feb 2004
Posts: 342




Scott Larson wrote:
Also check out your area's OTA reception thread at the AVS Forum if you haven't already. Others are seeing what you're seeing so at least you're not alone.


Hey thanks man.

That's a good link. Looks like UPN is misbehaving here in town.

It did make me want to know how bad it is.

So I loaded up A/65b and spent a few days making a parser for the ATSC stream.

Tried to read ATSC reference parser, but it wasn't readable.

Tried to read dtvstream, still didn't grab me.

Tried to read psip.cc (dlarrick code) but still nothing.

Once I got my own multi-packet payload section extract working, it was all over but the cosmetics.

pchdtvr 1.0-rc5 now shows all the pretty program information. I'll release it soon. Same location as always.

UPN switched off all ATSC but NULL for past 24 hours or so. That was funny to see.

Thanks for the feedback. I think I finally understand a bit more about the screwups in the stream. WB can't match PID's with the MGT table. I won't even touch them.

Maybe what they say is true:
Never assume malice when incompetence will suffice.

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Re: parsing the PSIP
PostPosted: Sun Mar 06, 2005 3:49 pm Reply with quote
Scott Larson
 
Joined: 15 Oct 2003
Posts: 713
Location: Portland, OR




inkling wrote:
Never assume malice when incompetence will suffice.

But don't forget that your UPN station is owned by a competitor, Fox Broadcasting. It will be hard to tell the difference between malice and incompetence. I really wish they hadn't deregulated station ownership to this degree. Twenty years ago you never would have imagined that the FCC would allow, say, NBC to own a CBS staion in a major market.
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UPN intentionally degrading Star Trek: Enterprise?
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