November 13, 2009

BBC denies HD channel quality drop

The Head of BBC HD has posted again that there are no quality issues with the channel. Here's Danielle Nagler's latest post...and have a look at the immediate reactions in the comments below.


tvsersity said...

The woman is either delusional, or just believes her own spin.

BBC HD looks terrible now, really terrible. It's so rare to see even a single shot which looks high-def on it now there's little point intyping '108' instead of '102' etc on the remote.

And if they really are going to reduce the bit-rate even lower, to 5-6 mbits, then the channel will likely be completely unwatchable.

Lakota said...

She's probably being 'directed' to deny it. She's quite welcome to view it on my TV and HD box and then tell me the picture quality is up to scratch.
Big disappointment lately.

riggs said...

I agree with one of the comments that this seems to be DAB all over again. Start out with high bitrates then slowly reduce the quality over time.

tvsersity said...

I was watching a little Channel 4 HD this evening. It's rather sad that even when it's showing upscaled SD it still looks as good, sometimes better than BBC HD does.

Mark said...

It's just a very happy coincidence that this has happened just after Virgin have finally added some more HD channels. Imagine if this had occurred while BBCHD was still cable's sole HD channel?
I fully expect the BBC to respond to the criticism, despite their protestations to the contrary. The similarities with the launch of DAB radio are cause for concern, however.

Lewpy said...

Does anyone know the current bitrate that Virgin Media recode BBCHD in to?
BBCHD is encoded in MPEG4, whereas VM uses MPEG2 for HD channels (at the moment). If VM have followed BBCHD's drop in bitrate, then the finger should be pointed at VM: MPEG2 requires more bitrate for the same PQ than MPEG4 (assuming correct coding, etc.)

I don't have SkyHD so can't check, but has the PQ dropped on that as well for BBCHD?

Nialli said...

I think it's more complex than just the bit rate drop: the new encoders the BBC has been using since August are a big part of the problem too. They're supposed to deliver HD at lower bitrates, but don't appear to deliver on that promise.

Lewpy said...


I totally agree it is more complex than just bitrates.
However, I am also willing to give the BBC the benefit of doubt, as they do have a very competent bunch of engineers working for them :-)
My thoughts are that the PQ leaving the BBC is good, and this is what they are saying.
However, the bitstream leaving the BBC is NOT what we see on our Virgin Media STBs, because VM has to reprocess the signal to make in compatible (changing codecs from MPEG4 to MPEG2).
Could it not be the quality of VMs recoding process that is now being highlighted? Yes, it may have due to the encoding changes at the BBC that is causing the issues in VMs recoding process, but that it something outside of the BBCs control and something they can not be responsible for.

So the BBCs changes may have caused the problem, but it is not within their control to fix.

A statement from VM engineers would be nice :-)

Or we have to wait for VM to fully rollout MPEG4 STBs and flip all HD signals to MPEG4 so they can "bit stream" the BBC output direct and unadulterated to our TVs :-)

What I am getting at is the BBC is not responsible for the PQ all the way to our VM-connected TVs.

BikeNutt said...

@Lewpy - The problem is at the source and not (necessarily) the MPEG2 re-encode that VM do. Sky & Freesat viewers are also affected and appear to be even worse off judging by some of the comments on the BBCHD Blog.

Lewpy said...

@BikeNutt - Ah, that is the one aspect I couldn't check, so thanks for the information :-) One would hope that Sky and Freesat just "bit stream" the BBCHD signal unadulterated from the BBC. My faith in the engineers at the BBC is shaken (but not stired).

Nialli said...

I've just watched the Doctor Who special and thought it looked marginally better than BBC1's standard def. It wasn't a bad picture by any stretch of the imagin
ation, but not what it used to be. I've just checked my recording of last week's Wild Russia from Nat Geo HD and there's a sharpness that's just missing from BBC HD. Anyone watching Top Gear in HD? How's it looking?

Lewpy said...

I just watched Top Gear in HD, and it definately looked HD to me. In-car shots from their Romanian trip were clearly SD, whereas the in-car shots around the test track were HD.
In-studio shots were clear for the presenters, with the background audience clearly out-of-focus (all a depth-of-field thing).
Outside shots definately contained more detail, with things like number plates readable at greater distances, etc.
I thought I saw some cloud/sky issues towards the end, when they were on the "fabled" road ... then it became clear it was the helicopter's rota-blades coming in to shot :-)

BikeNutt said...

They love to use various filters on the lenses in the exterior Top Gear footage. I always think this emphasizes banding problems - SD or HD. Quite often you can actually see static concentric circles on screen as they filter radially from light to dark.

Nialli - interesting that you thought Doctor Who looked so-so. I thought it looked really good and didn't spot any major artefacting - including teh opening credits which at least one other BBCHD blogger commented on.

Nialli said...

I don't think I've ever noticed bad artefacts on BBC HD.
Sorry if I gave the impression I thought the picture was "so-so": it was good, but not as spectacular as BBC HD used to be. The detail on faces (notably Lindsey Duncan's) was fine, as was the red rock, but it didn't blow me away. If I think back to Wild China or Power of the Planet I remember being dazzled by the PQ: either I'm more fussy these days or things aren't what they were.
I don't have a dish so I can't compare the BBC HD picture between Sky, Freesat and VM - has anyone been able to do a comparison?
Incidentally, this week they're showing Sam Raimi's marvelous Simple Plan on BBC HD. That'll be a good test - lots of sparkly snow and woodland scenes.

Sniper in the Trees said...

I think we're simply getting used to it....
It doesn't "Stun" me like it used to either but I'm not sure it's the providers lowering the quality, it's our eyes getting accustomed to higher quality.

I'm on Sky HD and BBC HD looks pretty much HD to me... I sometimes find Discovery HD to be a little poor, but some of that is upscaled SD I'm sure.

James said...

I first got VMHD just before the Beijing Olympics and this looked phenominal on BBCHD (albeit there were sound issues with it randomly switching between Dolby Digital and Pro Logic). I do think that BBCHD still looks 'good', but in comparason to something that details wildlife footage - the difference is clear. If you have a newer LED HDTV of lucky enough to have an OLED HDTV, you will see a bigger difference.

Jon said...

It's not b
the physical quality that is all the problem. It is the dire programmes they are choosing to screen.

Cash in the Attic rather than Merlin - what dross! Doctor Who in SD only.

Makes Ch4-HD seem brilliant!

Nialli said...

I'm watching tonight's Life and the PQ is breathtaking. The sequence with the Monarch butterflies was eye popping, as were the fighting bees and amazing ant metropolis. Anyone else similarly impressed? And why don't those butterflies just stay in Mexico??!

tvsersity said...

I watched the Doctor Who special on BBC HD and thought it looked really weak. Dark scenes in particular were a mess of artefacts and looked considerably worse than a DVD.

I haven't seen the latest Life yet, but previous episodes have looked barely HD to me.

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