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Old Sep 14, 2009, 01:22 PM   #1
VirtualRain
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Quality of video on AppleTV compared to cable?

Has anyone compared the quality of HD TV shows offered on the AppleTV to the quality of the same shows delivered on cable? Is there generally more or less visible compression artifacts?
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Old Sep 14, 2009, 02:09 PM   #2
cdavis11
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Generally cable is better.

Apple TV, though it claims 720p, is more like digital cable widescreen. Good, but it's not going to please someone used to HD channels on cable.

That said, I really enjoy mine. I stream content and use is mostly as a kids movie player. We watch WallE, Finding Nemo and Cars and have no complaints.

The TV season passes are ridiculously expensive, imho.
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Old Sep 14, 2009, 02:17 PM   #3
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Apple's version of HD on Itunes is subject to wide discrepancies and viewpoints. Depending on who you ask, chances are you'll get varying viewpoints. Personally I don't mind Apple's HD -- is it better than my cable company? Yes! Brighthouse Networks have added so many different HD channels in the last year that serious macroblocking issues have resulted. Is it better than BluRay? Probably not, I don't own any BluRay equipment, therefore I do not wish to compare it to something I don't have.

Today, I encode everything using Compressor with the AppleTV preset. In the end, I end up with a carbon copy of what Apple sells on Itunes and it looks fine on my TV using my AppleTV. The last thing I need right now is another stupid electronic box with a bunch of discs lying around.
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Old Sep 14, 2009, 02:24 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by cdavis11 View Post

Apple TV, though it claims 720p, is more like digital cable widescreen. Good, but it's not going to please someone used to HD channels on cable.
Have you even encoded anything in HD properly for the AppleTV? What my cable company is passing off as HD is what I consider an abomination. Everything that I have on my AppleTV in HD is about 100 times better than anything Brighthouse is pushing through. It's cleaner, looks better, and sounds better. Comparing a properly encoded HD movie to a wide-screen digital cable program is unintelligent to say the least.
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Old Sep 14, 2009, 02:47 PM   #5
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I'm not expecting Apple HD to compete with blu-ray... I'm more interested if it is better than typical cable HD... which as others have commented... seems like an abomination to me. It's such a travesty to have the capability to offer such an amazing picture and then screw it up with brutally heavy compression so that the end result has so much macro-blocking the picture actually looks better in SD.
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Old Sep 14, 2009, 03:09 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by cdavis11 View Post
Generally cable is better.

Apple TV, though it claims 720p, is more like digital cable widescreen. Good, but it's not going to please someone used to HD channels on cable.
No way.

Digital Cable Widescreen? That stuff looks horrible, and ATV is miles better. HD shows and Trailers looks quite great on my tv through ATV, while the HD cable is just okay as far as HD goes.
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Old Sep 14, 2009, 03:27 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by VirtualRain View Post
I'm not expecting Apple HD to compete with blu-ray... I'm more interested if it is better than typical cable HD
Properly encoded - Yes. Most users use Handbrake (x264) or a derivative of FFmpeg; these are not the greatest encoders on the market, but they do what most people want, and that is, to get video from the computer to the AppleTV pretty quickly. The following was encoded using compressor 3.5 + AppleTV preset. Take it for what it's worth.




Last edited by jlasoon; Sep 14, 2009 at 03:40 PM.
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Old Sep 14, 2009, 03:48 PM   #8
VirtualRain
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Properly encoded - Yes. Most users use Handbrake (x264) or a derivative of FFmpeg; these are not the greatest encoders on the market, but they do what most people want, and that is, to get video from the computer to the AppleTV pretty quickly. The following was encoded using compressor 3.5 + AppleTV preset. Take it for what it's worth.



I know I can get good quality compression if I do it myself... I'm more interested in the quality of the TV programming content supplied by Apple/iTunes... if I buy Survivor in HD on AppleTV am I going to get a better picture than if I watch it on cable in HD?

BTW, Another solution I've tried is bit-torrenting episodes... sadly, those are just repackaged rips from cable so they look just as bad as cable... if not worse.
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Old Sep 14, 2009, 04:10 PM   #9
jlasoon
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What I've just posted is exactly the quality you'll get from Itunes. Not better, not worst. These are encoded with Apples own AppleTV settings.

Sadly I do not advocate downloading episodes or movies. That's between you and your conscious. As for me, I could care less where you get your entertainment from.
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Old Sep 14, 2009, 05:26 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by VirtualRain View Post
Has anyone compared the quality of HD TV shows offered on the AppleTV to the quality of the same shows delivered on cable? Is there generally more or less visible compression artifacts?
As you can see, opinions greatly vary. Some of this is tied to the unique situations at work via each cable system. Some cable systems have better "pipes" so they don't have to compress as much as other cable systems.

There is also an "eye of the beholder" effect, a "cable industry are tyrannical monoplists" effect, and the ever-present "Apple can do no wrong" effect.

Unfortunately, all these mean mean you really can't get a good answer to your question. Best advice is to watch some HD on your own cable system, then watch some HD on vs TV (hopefully on the same HDTV) and judge for yourself.

Technically, cable sources at 1080i should be superior to TV 720p max as long as cable is not re-compressing too much (noting that Apple's 720p content is also heavily compressed for Apple TV).

Bottom line: a great deal of this on an individual basis is "eye of the beholder", meaning the only way to get a good answer is to test it and judge it yourself, on your own TV, using your own cable system and TV. If the outcome would affect your TV buying decision, just keep your receipt.
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Old Sep 14, 2009, 07:22 PM   #11
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Bottom line: a great deal of this on an individual basis is "eye of the beholder", meaning the only way to get a good answer is to test it and judge it yourself, on your own TV, using your own cable system and TV. If the outcome would affect your TV buying decision, just keep your receipt.
Thanks, I may try it. I'm having trouble seeing value in an AppleTV. I thought if the quality is noticably better for TV viewing, I might be able to justify it that way. I guess we shall see.

It's an interesting discussion at any rate. I encourage others to provide their thoughts.
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Old Sep 14, 2009, 09:13 PM   #12
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Check out the ilounge comparision

Check this out for a decent comparison:

apple-tv-20-vs-blu-ray-dvd-hd-cable-the-comparison/

Mind you in NZ we have 1080i encoded with H.264 at a high bitrate with DVB-T, so that beats the pants off of Apples HD, but most of the world doesn't have that advantage.

Cheers, Ed.
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Old Sep 14, 2009, 11:27 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by eddyg View Post
Check this out for a decent comparison:

apple-tv-20-vs-blu-ray-dvd-hd-cable-the-comparison/

Mind you in NZ we have 1080i encoded with H.264 at a high bitrate with DVB-T, so that beats the pants off of Apples HD, but most of the world doesn't have that advantage.

Cheers, Ed.
That's incredibly helpful. Considering my cable doesn't look near as good as the cable shown in the link above, I'm fairly certain I'll be impressed with AppleTV assuming they treat TV content the same as movie content when it comes to encoding.

Here, I think we're lucky to get 1080i in MPEG2 at 12Mbps (when the feeds are typically twice that) so it looks AWFULL!!!
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Old Sep 15, 2009, 03:30 AM   #14
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True HD is is better than Apple TV/iTunes 720p content.

STuff filmed and broadcast in HD on a good cable network is usually crystal clear and of higher quality than what is on iTunes.

Sometimes you'll find stuff on HD Cable that is merely upscaled standard-def content. That stuff isn't all that great to look at.

Then there's probably issues with service in some locations, but overall, HD from a cable company is of higher quality than encoded h.264 content.

To me though, the difference, though obvious, is irrelevant. I just don't care. iTunes HD is plenty good enough for me.
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Old Mar 10, 2010, 04:15 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by jlasoon View Post
What I've just posted is exactly the quality you'll get from Itunes. Not better, not worst. These are encoded with Apples own AppleTV settings.

Sadly I do not advocate downloading episodes or movies. That's between you and your conscious. As for me, I could care less where you get your entertainment from.
So how do you get the video into Compressor? I can't get a .ts file to open...I guess what I would like to know is if you could post a how-to on how you do it only if you have some free time. Thanks!
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Old Mar 10, 2010, 04:59 PM   #16
trip1ex
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Also depends on your TV, size of it and how far you are sitting from it.

And I agree that the difference is irrelevant.

You're getting a great picture either way.

And the best way and really only way to know for sure is to judge it for yourself.

I find most people are way too picky. And are too focused on paper specs rather than real world results.
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Old Mar 10, 2010, 07:27 PM   #17
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I don't Know how you guys are encoding your movies. First the HD off of Itunes depends on what it is and who encoded it. I bought this season of Damages and it looks far better than what I see from FX on Direct TV, plus no bugs etc. 2nd even my SD DVD encodes look great if the source is good , I Did an encode of the New Richard Gere movie Hachi. The Disk looks great, Using the Handbrake Apple TV Preset with the quality bumped to 64%, the file came out to about 1.30gb and loks stunning on my 47" 1080p Bravia.
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Old Mar 10, 2010, 10:01 PM   #18
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I have digital cable and the HD quality for original programming is almost always superb. I'm not sure what the difference is between cable and satellite though.

But yeah, I have a 32" 720p TV, and the difference for me isn't really something I care about. iTunes HD gives me a really good, clear picture, my Blu-Ray encodes look great, my DVD encodes look great... for full-screen films, I even drop the video down to 640x480 and it still looks indistinguishable from the source DVD to me.

My only issue is that when I use Handbrake for sports or tv sitcoms, I get an almost "cinematic" look to it... I can't explain it, but with sports and sitcoms, you get an almost crystal clear pic, like you're watching things through a window, but when converted to h.264 video, it looks as if its been turned into a film. Hard to explain, but its a noticable effect. Its still a clear picture though, and not something that bothers me enough to want to change discs.
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