Cable Artifacts

Jan 21, 2007

Some time ago, my family tried out digital cable. We were thoroughly unimpressed at the 'digital quality' and subsequently dropped the service. But strangely enough, the digital artifacts that annoyed us so greatly are now showing up in the analog signal. We routinely see compression issues and dropped areas in the picture, and it only seems to be getting worse. Is Time Warner digitally encoding the signal before they send it out on the analog line? It sure seems like they are, but I don't see the benefit in doing that. Maybe it's cheaper on their end? Does anyone else with cable see this problem?

6 Comments
kip
10:52 PM on Jan 21, 2007
Hmm.. the first 70-80 channels are still transmitted analog, even if you have digital cable. I don't see any reason why they would digitally encode the basic cable channels before sending them out over the analog lines either, since even the digital customers would be getting an analog signal. Maybe the feeds they get from the networks have switched to digital?
Dustin
4:48 PM on Jan 22, 2007
I saw this every once and a while when I had analog cable. I didn't understand how it was happening either. It only happened rarely back when I noticed it last year. But I now have a digital package, so I wouldn't know if it's getting worse. The digital quality from Time Warner has actually gotten a little better since they introduced the service around 2000. When I had it back then, it seemed to take really long for some channels to "load." The blocky-ness seems to be much less nowadays. I assume filters have improved some since then.
d2
11:42 AM on Jan 25, 2007
Having seen (and muttered obscenities about) this on my analog-only system, I suspect that kip's right:
Maybe the feeds they get from the networks have switched to digital?
On an unrelated note, I was watching a rerun of the first Star Trek movie when it hit me that they used this sort of artifacting to imply a weak/jammed signal. That seemed pretty cool: usually I'm quick to criticize movies that don't even try to mirror reality (CSI drives me *NUTS* for all it's inconsistencies and implausible stuff). But Star Trek movies have used this sort of digital artifacting (i.e., block-level compression degredation instead of analog static) to convey weak or failing communications since a few years before I was aware of digital artifacts. How cool is that!?
Jonah
8:52 AM on Jan 26, 2007
That's an interesting take on the situation, guys. I hadn't thought of the case where the digital feeds arriving at the cable company could have switched. That's probably what's going on.
George
10:42 AM on May 10, 2007
Wow! So I'm not going crazy after all. I have Cox cable here in Connecticut. The old analog version and I'm now seeing just what you are describing every night I watch on on most of the channels. The tech came out today (I could not be there) and, of course, he said the picture looked fine to him. I asked about the way they receive the channels and he told me that the CBS channel, one of the ones I taped last night when I saw the compression artifacts, is still received over the air via their original analog channel. They have not gone digital as yet. A&E was a mess last night, as well. I've seen basketball games where the floor will freeze or blur out when the camera pans across. Watching "Ghost Whisperer" is a real challenge now. Every dark scene gets blocky and faces turn to stone. What's the deal? Is this the future of television??
Jonah
9:22 AM on May 11, 2007
Hey, it's 'digital quality.' No one ever said it was any good. :-)
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