Film TV

Grainy vs smooth

From the popup text of the comic reproduced below:

We’re also stuck with blurry, juddery, slow-panning 24fps movies forever because (thanks to 60fps home video) people associate high framerates with camcorders and cheap sitcoms, and thus think good framerates look ‘fake’.

The first DVD I played on my old Loewe TV when I got it (in June 2002, though staggeringly I appear not to have blogged about it) was scene two of O Brother, Where Art Thou — where our three heroes try and jump aboard a freight train.

I dug it out to try the DVD player with the new TV, the other day.

With the ol’ Pioneer DV-344 and component cables (actually just repurposed RCA cables), the picture is amazingly clear, and the film incredibly smooth. So much so that, as per the comment above, it does look like it was shot on cheap video — in fact it reminds me a little of old programmes from the 60s shot on video.

I assume that a combination of the component cables, plus the TV refreshing at 100 Hz is doing it.

I’m far more used to material being shot on film looking a teensy bit grainy, but I suspect I’ll get used to it.

PS. Even the TV reception looks better than it did in the shop. Not sure what the deal is there… though in real life we view the screen from further away than it is in the shop.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

5 replies on “Grainy vs smooth”

The cartoon is a slave to resolution and ‘frame rates’, but doesn’t seem to understand that we see far more detail in stationary images than we do in moving images.

We don’t need millions of pixels in a TV or movie image (provided it fills an equivalent proportion of our field of vision to a standard TV), because we can’t process them all anyway. A stationary image on a computer monitor, or a page of text, needs to be in high resolution because we can see all of its detail without having to concentrate on movement.

To anyone who claims they can tell the difference between 576 pixels of height and 1080 pixels of height in a picture on a 32 inch screen at normal TV viewing distance, I challenge them to read a newspaper that is moving about in front of their face.

I’m at a loss to explain why all (but one) electronic retailers I’ve ever been to, who are selling expensive digital video gear, have all the TVs showing the same signal reproduced ad nauseam in breathtaking analogue. Any chance that they have of showing off the superior signal-processing circuitry they may have, or giving you a chance to actually compare like-with-like picture reproduction is lost. It’s almost pointless going to a retail outlet; if you ask to check out the remote for a TV, invariably the answer is “Sorry, no”.

What’s wrong with feeding the same HDMI signal into the back of each unit? Or tying the remotes down to the bench with chains?

Philip I run a few 32″ outside for V8 races – we typically *cough* intercept the live satellite feed which beams in at 720p with sweet bugger all compression.

Let me tell you, the couple of times we’ve instead had to watch the 576p channel 7 broadcast with extremely heavy compression has been as obvious to everyone as cat sh#t vs a cinnamon donut…

“Moving” images is exactly what Australia’s piss poor heavily compressed digital tv channels are utterly crap at – but even stationary images are hopeless, try looking at all the grass in Night Garden on ABC2, it’s just a mash of compression artifacts.

The problem is the bitrate available with the number of MPEG2 channels each network streams in their signal – even the HD channels are horrible. Compare that to the temporary HD MPEG4 channel that was used for the 3D channel – now that was bliss (though still a far cry from Blu-ray).

Having once sold TV’s, I can say that sales staff will crank up the brightness and contrast on the display models to basically make them really bright and shiny. It used to be because the default settings on cheap tvs were very high and a lot of customers would mistake brightness for quality. If you wanted to move the better sets, you had to make their advantages literally *glaringly* obvious.

The difference between your home and the store is that you’ve probably got the set at more moderate levels that are more suitable for your eyes and the room its in. For longer term viewing, the more moderate levels will look better.

What you’re seeing there, Chris, is the difference between two types of encoding and compression, not the difference between two levels of resolution. My comparisons ignore broadcast TV because it’s usually dodgy. Using DVDs or Blu-Ray is the only way to compare two screens properly.

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