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The TOTEM Poll: Totally Off Topic, Everything Media
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Old August 2nd, 2008, 07:11 AM   #1
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video quality

I realise it may depend on the individual cable company, but on average, which is a better signal - off air or via a cable company?

I've heard that cable uses more "compression", so the signal is less "pure"...

does anyone have a definitive answer??

Bobby
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Old August 2nd, 2008, 09:21 PM   #2
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Woohoo! My first post!

In my experience I find it not only depends on the carrier but the programming as well.

I watch a lot of PBS HD, and I find the picture quality to be higher using my antenna rather than watching it as clear QAM as provided by my cable company (Time warner, WNY). The clarity is pretty much the same, but I find that the broadcast signal has a higher dynamic range in both audio and video. Some programs are even sent out at 720 over cable rather than the 1080i that they're broadcast over the air as.

Other channels, such as the big three (ABC, NBC, CBS), seem to be the same on both for primetime. I dont really find the sound up to par on the cable sometimes, but more often than not, thats not a major factor.

As far as standard def channels (but still digital) its a tossup. Could go either way.


The thing that really amazed me (maybe more like disappointed me) was satellite versus broadcast. It's most definitely lower quality "HD" on satellite. My media PC does a better job of upscaling and resizing plain analog cable channels than the HD claimed by the sat companies. SciFi channel in particular, and a number of others (even on occasion the big three during primetime) have a lot of compression artifacts, blockiness, low dynamic range, just in general not impressive (to my eyes). occasionally it's even so bad that it looks like it's being played over the web and scaled full screen.

I may just be biased because my job has me looking at high definition (or higher) all day long sometimes. I guess I'm used to a certain picture quality and pick out immediately when it's just not up to snuff (again, to my eyes).

--Andy P
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Old August 3rd, 2008, 08:05 AM   #3
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Thanks for all the info! Welcome to the "boards"... :)
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Old August 3rd, 2008, 08:00 PM   #4
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Cable vs OTA

Hate to say -- it depends...
Some cable tv systems send channel 1-99 in analog then higher channels in digital. Number varies, but typically, digital is their second tier service, not basic. Right around CH55 on analog cable is the poorest signal, generally speaking.

Generally digital will be better quality. Of course some are all digital, FIOS is, for example. But again, if the cable operator is not well positioned to capture the OTA signal at his location (they use an antenna too), it can look worse than at your location. I've seen them re-broadcast a fuzzy analog signal in digital, it's still fuzzy.

Not knowing details of your situation, if I could get the station OTA on DTV and the tv's signal strength shows it strong enough, that will be probably better than most cable systems.

You can lookup the strength of DTV though:
http://www.antennaweb.org/aw/welcome.aspx
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