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Old December 7 2011, 04:12 PM   #1
Location: Fifth Circle of Hell
Laying the Littlest Hobo smackdown on HD TVs

This needs one of my tedious set-ups so please bear with me till I get to my point:

One of the problems some of us have with HDTVs, especially the LCD and LED variety is that they often eliminate the actual cinema/film look of movies and TV shows. I believe the term is deinterlacing - basically they remove that "sheen" associated with film and render the images to look like high-quality videotape.

I first noticed this when I was watching the Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland on a 1080 LCD. I thought I was watching the 1970s BBC shot-on-video production the way the thing looked like Chomakey'd studio green screen. That is not a positive thing, and it actually put me off HDTV. Fortunately my brother did some extensive testing and comparing and realized that this effect does not exist with plasma sets. So when I did make the switch to HDTV last year, it was a plasma. A bonus to plasma is it's more forgiving to non-HD programming and DVDs, so when I want to watch my 1960s Avengers episodes, or classic-era Doctor Who, or whatever, the images look fine (that is actually the real deal-breaker for me - I'd rather stick with a tube than not be able to watch my Six Million Dollar Man or, for that matter, the videos I took of my grandparents or during my trip to Britain in 1991).

Anyway, what I'm getting is I thought it was just me. I have a hell of a time trying to describe video vs film to people because it seems a lot of people can't tell the difference anyway. So, OK, I'm legally blind anyway without my glasses. Maybe my wonky astigmatism was behind it.

And then last night I was at a Christmas party and a colleague was telling me about her disappointment with HDTV and Blu-ray. Seems she bought either an LCD or LED set and she says it was great for sports, but useless for watching anything not mastered/remastered in HD. And then, with no prompting from me, she said she was watching one of the big films for the first time on HD - "And it looked like The Littlest Hobo."

Canadians will know exactly what that means. For those who don't, Littlest Hobo was an iconic Canadian TV series of the 1980s. Which was shot on grainy, low-resolution videotape. Sure enough, I finally found someone else who noticed this. Not the "grainy/lo-res" part because of course Avatar or whatever wouldn't be that and that's not what she meant anyway - but the key point is it looked like a videotaped rather than a film production to her.

Apparently some sets are supposed to have a setting that can fix this. I don't know - I'm more than happy with my plasma (I don't get near the headaches I used to get watching tube or, for that matter, the LCD set I borrowed for a while). But regardless, it was interesting to see I'm not alone.

So have others noticed this effect too? That they go see a movie in the theatre (2-D, 3-D doesn't matter), and when they get the Blu-ray later and go to watch it, suddenly it's like they're watching Doctor Who circa 1986 rather than "a movie". And is it indeed possible to adjust an HDTV's settings so fix this? I'm under no illusions that a lower-key "format war" is underway and there's no guarantee plasma will win in the long run; but if I'm gonna shell out money for an LCD/LED down the line I want to be able to enjoy quality, not substandard images, no matter what I'm watching.

"These are historical documents - preserving them is important. Tarting them up for a night out in the twenty-first century is unnecessary" - Toby Hadoke, "Should mistakes in old episodes of Doctor Who be fixed on DVD" (Doctor Who Magazine #445)
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Old December 7 2011, 04:46 PM   #2
The Laughing Vulcan
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Re: Laying the Littlest Hobo smackdown on HD TVs

Turn everything off!

All modern sets come with loads of front-loaded image processing that you do not need. I've got a Panasonic LED edged LCD 37" panel, and it took me about a month to get it looking right.

Overscan off to get as much as the image as possible on screen (although in old shows like TNG, the boom mike sometimes drops into shot)

Vivid Color - off
Contrast Automatic Tracking System Off
Picture Noise Reduction - Off
Intelligent Frame Creation - Off (Creates Blur and Block artefacts, but useful for fast moving sports broadcasts)
24p Smooth Film - Off (This in particular turn film to degrained video)
Resolution Enhancer - Off

Most TVs have a series of viewer modes, TV, Cinema, Photo, True Cinema, Game (and with isfccc Professional settings)

I go for Game, no matter what I watch, as to get the shortest possible response time, minimising input lag, the TV will switch off a whole lot of image processing that you aren't even aware of, and can't normally access.

I then use the isfccc menus to get the image the way I want it in terms of colour, contrast and sharpness. (Incidentally, sharpness should be zero)

I also am just as draconian turning off the picture settings on my Blu-ray player and my DVD player.

What this means is that what is on the disc, will get onto the screen as is, with no mucking around in between.

Once you're at this point, you can start tweaking settings for your own preferences. I find that I have different settings for DVD than I do for broadcast television. TV is broadcast at less resolution, and with a lot more artefacting, so turning on some of the image processing helps.

But I find this way that if I'm watching film, it looks like film, even on an HD display. DVD is good, Blu-ray is better. But having said all that, when it comes to older TV from the nineties and early 2000s, I'm glad I still have a DVD player hooked up to a CRT screen in the other room.
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Old December 7 2011, 06:31 PM   #3
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Re: Laying the Littlest Hobo smackdown on HD TVs

23skidoo wrote: View Post
So, OK, I'm legally blind anyway without my glasses.
Off-topic nitpick: You can't be legally blind *without your glasses* as legal blindness refers to best-corrected vision.
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Old December 7 2011, 07:35 PM   #4
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Re: Laying the Littlest Hobo smackdown on HD TVs

Not sure the best judge of picture quality is someone that describes themselves as just about legally blind, as well
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Old December 7 2011, 11:24 PM   #5
Owain Taggart
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Re: Laying the Littlest Hobo smackdown on HD TVs

Not entirely sure what you mean, but I think it really differs on how the movie or TV show was produced. I do notice that some HD shows feel a lot like SD DVDs, where oftentimes DVDs and not Blu-Rays are offered. Sometimes it's just due to the fact that it's a really good quality DVD. Maybe it's related.
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Old December 7 2011, 11:34 PM   #6
Out Of My Vulcan Mind
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Re: Laying the Littlest Hobo smackdown on HD TVs

In my experience, SD (either TV or non-upscaled DVD) looks bad on a big HD TV, but upscaled DVD looks good and Blu-ray and HD satellite look great as long as you've got a good Blu-ray player that upscales well and as long as you've got your TV settings properly fine-tuned and you're using good quality HDMI cables.
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Old December 7 2011, 11:34 PM   #7
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Re: Laying the Littlest Hobo smackdown on HD TVs

I've been an owner of a 720p LCD for a few years, and now own a 1080p Plasma, and yes, I will agree that Plasma looks more "filmic". However, my old 720p was quite watchable and didn't look flat or grainy on either SD or HD content. I think the most likely explanation of that would be that the TV wasn't calibrated properly. There's a myriad of settings and a myriad of different options for upscaling SD content (from none, to very good upscaling).
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Old December 8 2011, 01:27 AM   #8
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Location: Sac, Ca
Re: Laying the Littlest Hobo smackdown on HD TVs

Yeah I made the mistake of getting a LCD for my first HDTV (because the image looked perfectly fine in the store), but I like to watch movies with the lights off, and the second I put in a Star Trek movie, I was appalled at how freakin bright and washed out the space scenes were. No matter how much I adjusted the settings, it would still light up my entire living room.

So I immediately exchanged it for a Plasma, and have been in love with it ever since. Now when the lights go out on screen, the room you're in goes totally dark as well, and it really feels like a true theater experience.
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Old December 8 2011, 07:32 AM   #9
J. Allen
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Re: Laying the Littlest Hobo smackdown on HD TVs

My 720p HDTV looks great to me. Blu-ray looks spectacular on it, DVDs come out looking better than on a standard TV or in a DVD player, and my Netflix streaming videos look terrific. The only place they look better is on my HP monitor.
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