« Previous | Main | Next »

Points of View and HD Picture Quality: a response

Post categories:

Danielle Nagler Danielle Nagler | 14:20 UK time, Friday, 13 November 2009

Hello,

As there is no conspiracy around picture quality, and therefore no great revelation to make, I can only apologise to those of you who found my Points of View appearance a disappointment. But given the blog inches which have been devoted to the subject - and the challenges therefore for new joiners - I thought it might be helpful to set out clearly and at slightly greater length than is possible on air, the issues that are being debated.

The charge made by a number of you is that the substantial drop in bitrate for BBC HD since the channel was launched - and in particular the reduction in bitrate in August when new encoders were introduced - has had a "catastrophic" effect on the picture quality offered by the channel.

For those not in the know, it might help to clarify what bitrate is. Just like MP3 music, pictures can be broken down into digits or bits, and transmitted as a stream of information. The bitrate is the number of bits of information sent every second. This debate is to an extent about the impact that more bits per second has on quality. Those who believe that picture quality has deteriorated because of the drop in bitrate are of the view that picture quality is determined to a significant extent by the "speed" at which bits are transmitted. My view, and the view of the BBC HD team that works with me, is that picture quality is less to do with "speed" and more to do with the way the information is processed.

Now back to what has happened to date.

  • When BBC HD launched as a trial service in June 2006 it was one of the first HD channels off the block. It used first generation systems with first version software, and used a bitrate of around 19Mbs. Consistent picture quality was a big issue even with a pretty limited range of content.

  • By June 2007, new software delivered improvements to picture quality, and the bitrate reduced to around 16Mbs.

  • By August of this year, the old hardware was reaching the end of its life and was no longer supported effectively. We therefore put new encoders into service, supported by new software. These encoders handle pictures differently from the old, and are able therefore to work with a lower bitrate of 9.7Mbs.

  • The new encoders were tested in advance of being slotted into the BBC HD broadcasting chain. But that testing did not pick up problems with some very specific mixes and lighting changes. These issues became apparent very quickly during the broadcast of a Championship Football match on the channel. We acknowledged the problems, apologised, have put a temporary solution to the problem, and are testing a permanent one.

  • There also appear to be some issues around picture "noise" - basically more fuzziness in what should be solid areas of pictures - which we have been seeing a bit more of since the encoder change. As far as we can tell, these are as a result of the "better" pictures now being transmitted to TV sets by the new encoders. Because the new technology conveys the picture information captured by cameras more comprehensively, for the first time we are seeing information that has been picked up but which was effectively "softened" by the system previously in place. We're obviously working on dealing with that too.

  • But, with the exceptions I've outlined, in our view the new encoders are as we hoped delivering the same or better picture quality across the majority of programmes, the majority of the time.

We all need to accept that a great deal of our perception of HD picture quality is driven by our pre-conceptions. Some Dutch research published last month (the report I saw was from Informa, dated 28 Oct 09) highlights the extent to which views on picture quality are driven by expectation and emotion. On an HD TV, without an HD connection or receiver, some people will believe that they are watching HD pictures and believe they look substantially better than SD. I have no doubt that for those who believe the bitrate cut has killed picture quality, none of the changes to the encoders that we will make to address the problems which we know are there will make any difference, unless they go hand in hand with an announcement that we've upped the bitrate.

I hope what I have outlined makes clear there is no grand cover-up - and I know that the Head of Technology for BBC HD, Andy Quested, has plans to write at length on the testing that we have done and the detailed assessment that underpins the view that there is no decisive relationship between bitrate and picture quality. I hope it is also clear to everyone - regardless of where they sit in this debate - that it would be an act of extreme stupidity for the BBC deliberately to create an HD service which set no higher standards, and delivered no better picture quality, than its SD channels.

Picture quality, and beyond that the overall delivery of the channel, is of course of the utmost concern. But so too is ensuring that there are programmes available that people want to watch on BBC HD. At the moment we are airing around 40 hours of new content a week on BBC HD, a reflection of the extent to which the mainstream of BBC programming is moving across to the new technology. Sunday night sees the long-awaited arrival of Top Gear on BBC HD, in conjunction with its return to BBC Two. The coming weeks will also see the first ever Children in Need night in HD, and a broadcast of a special Children in Need concert. There's new contemporary comedy and drama, and we are going of course to be bringing you the last appearances of David Tennant as Doctor Who, and next year will see the arrival of Matt Smith as the new Doctor, and the first full series to be made in HD. Next year will also herald moves into HD for The Apprentice, and a number of other major series are also in discussion, alongside an emphasis through the year on some major science programming. The Christmas schedule will be out in the next couple of weeks - we're in the process of finalising it - but I can promise you that the vast majority of BBC treats will be in HD, and we will be offering extended broadcast hours through the holiday period.

I'm delighted that beyond the commentary here, more and more of you and your friends are finding and enjoying some of the new programmes that we're showing in HD. We will keep on extending the range - and managing the quality of what we do - and trying to organise those programmes as best we can for you while the BBC HD shelf gets progressively fuller.

Best wishes,
Danielle

Danielle Nagler is the Head of BBC HD, BBC Vision.

Comments

Page 1 of 6

  • Comment number 1.

    "I have no doubt that for those who believe the bitrate cut has killed picture quality, none of the changes to the encoders that we will make to address the problems which we know are there will make any difference, unless they go hand in hand with an announcement that we've upped the bitrate."

    Yet more condescention, Ms. Nagler?

    Quelle surprise!

  • Comment number 2.

    Firstly, thank-you for taking the time to compose this extended response.

    I watched the Points of View episode in question and, while I haven't noticed any catostrophic picture degredation, I was somewhat mistified when talk of view preferences and 'smooth pictures' relating to in-camera depth-of-field control became intermingled with a discussion regarding encoding quality.

    Are you able to provide any further specifics regarding the encoding technologies previously deployed and those now in use?

    Also, are the new encoders (with their reduced bit rate) to be used for terrestrial HD broadcasting and was this a consideration for the bit rate reduction? Otherwise, this seems like a missed opportunity to move to a more efficient encoder, while maintaining the previous bit rate in order to improve picture quality.

  • Comment number 3.

    Danielle,

    Thanks for your response to the Blog community. I have a few comments for you.

    I think you are correct to point out that Bit rate and information processing are the key to this issue. You are correct that a reduction in bit rate when in combination with improved data compression CAN provide an equivalent image.

    You are also correct that some people just don’t notice, and some who think SD is just fine.

    However those of us who have invested large sums of money in HD equipment are probably not in that group. We expect flawless images from a premium service and in general are happy to pay a premium for it.

    What we see, and can demonstrate to you, is a visible reduction in quality with the new system. Any encoding process can only go so far. A HD image has a given number of pixels in it, if the image is fast moving and/or “busy” then the encoders can only do so much. It is a simple fact that if you reduce the bit rate too far you will degrade the image quality. You just can’t get a quart into a pint pot. So the encoding technology will have to make compromises. As you point out modern codecs are so much better than they used to be and modern equipment has the power to take advantage of this technology.

    The problem is here is that by capping the bitrate at 9.7 mbs you WILL have situations where the encoders cause a reduction in quality. To be able to give a consistent quality, then the bit rate has to be adaptive. For instance a cartoon needs nowhere the bit rate that running water needs to give a stunning result.

    Now this brings me to your comments on picture noise, which is where this whole issue revolves. You state:

    “As far as we can tell, these are as a result of the "better" pictures now being transmitted to TV sets by the new encoders. Because the new technology conveys the picture information captured by cameras more comprehensively, for the first time we are seeing information that has been picked up but which was effectively "softened" by the system previously in place.”

    I have to say that I’m really struggling to understand this statement. Are you saying that programs like “Planet Earth” weren’t shot in 1080P ? And as a result the encoders had a lower resolution original to work with and therefore the encoders we able to deal with it ?

    IMHO This statement beggars belief …. Aren’t you just proving our point ? If there is more information to be sent reducing bit rates is just going to cause problems ?

    Please note that I can only applaud the quality of programming that the BBC puts out on the HD channel. You should feel proud that you are part of this. However please take what we, the viewers, say about this issue.

    I don’t care what bit rate you use or what encoders you use … I just want the best possible image. And today, we don’t get this.

    Andy Hampshire

  • Comment number 4.

    PS - If there is anything we can do to assist you to improve the service then please ask. There are many people on this list who are knowledgeable and technically competent in these technologies, if some of our time would help then I'm sure it would be freely and gladly given.

    Andy

  • Comment number 5.

    Might I just say that the whole debate over bitrate is becoming a terrible bore. I'm sure that most people are more concerend about broadcast hours and content than the single issue of bitrate. When the channel first started some programmes looked better than others, and I think the same is true now. Having these forums hijacked by a few fanatical people posting and reposting their opinions again and again does noone any good. To go forward, HD needs to be efficient and affordable, and that surely means the bitrate has to be as low as possible without adversley affecting quality.

  • Comment number 6.

    "I have no doubt that for those who believe the bitrate cut has killed picture quality, none of the changes to the encoders that we will make to address the problems which we know are there will make any difference, unless they go hand in hand with an announcement that we've upped the bitrate."

    For my part, it was obvious that the picture quality had degraded before I had heard of any encoder or bit rate change.
    I'm glad to hear that work is being done to improve the picture noise issue though.

  • Comment number 7.

    So basically what you're saying is that all these people are just *imagining* the picture quality has deteriorated; that any change is in our heads because our expectations are too high?

    Have I understood this correctly?



  • Comment number 8.

    Danielle states:

    "The bitrate is the number of bits of information sent every second. This debate is to an extent about the impact that more bits per second has on quality."

    OK so far...

    "Those who believe that picture quality has deteriorated because of the drop in bitrate are of the view that picture quality is determined to a significant extent by the "speed" at which bits are transmitted. My view, and the view of the BBC HD team that works with me, is that picture quality is less to do with "speed" and more to do with the way the information is processed."

    This paragraph is, I believe, unfortunately worded. As written it implies that a drop in bitrate reduces only the speed of transmission, i.e. it links bitrate to speed. It does not mention the admittedly obvious, that bitrate is therefore also linked to the volume (quantity) of bits transmitted in a given period. So, reducing the bitrate reduces the amount of data that can be transmitted in a frame.

    I'm not going to really going to argue on whether or not PQ has declined, there are others here doing that eloquently. I'm also no MPEG expert, however, a decoder cannot reproduce picture data that has not been transmitted. All it can do is estimate.

  • Comment number 9.

    Sorry just one more point:

    "On an HD TV, without an HD connection or receiver, some people will believe that they are watching HD pictures and believe they look substantially better than SD."

    Whilst that statement indicates that some people aren't able to see differences or see differences when there isn't any .... it's not actually that inaccurate. Modern quality HD TV's can have some sophisticated technology built in that CAN improve a SD pictures. Most people would be amazed to see how good a DVD can be with the latest up-scaling technology. Come and visit me sometime for a demonstration of DVD's that look as good as some of your BBC HD transmissions.

  • Comment number 10.

    @ R Taylor (#5):

    I respectfully disagree. The public pay something in the region of £4 billion p/a to fund the BBC and that gives us the right to expect the quality of transmission to be among the best in the world, as has generally been the case with the BBC for many decades now.

    A corporation which has built up a well-deserved reputation for technical excellence is now alienating its viewers with poor HD picture quality, whereas rivals such as Sky are broadcasting stunning pictures.

    The BBC carries (in my opinion) some of the best programming around, and this weekend alone will have Stricly, Dr Who and Top Gear all in HD. It will be galling to watch them knowing that the picture quality isn't as good as it potentially could be.

    I accept that for the majority of viewers the quality of a broadcast is a distant second to the content, but equally there are those who have invested hundreds or thousands of pounds in AV equipment (many on the strength of BBC HD in-store demos!) who are now disappointed.

    To say that for HD to succeed the bitrate has to be as low as economically possible is just not right. The public need to be able to perceive a marked improvement if they're going to be pursuaded to part with their hard-earned money. Freeview HD is just round the corner, making HD for everybody a realistic proposition, but it just won't happen if the major broadcasters don't throw their weight behind it - and that includes providing the best possible viewing experience.

  • Comment number 11.

    Well, I don't quite know what to say. I normally don't get worked up over such things, but I feel a bit insulted by this blog post.

    I was hoping to keep away from personal comments about Nadine, (I know that there are one or two posters that have taken things to personal level with her), but I think that this statement has effectively lumped us all together as 'imagining things'.

    If a customer came to me with a complaint, the last thing I'd do is tell them that they were making it up -even if they were! If several hundred customers did this, I be working furiously to put things right.

    Apart from what I suspect is an attempt to 'spin' the new encoders' efficiency into new realms, I notice that you didn't address the issue that the channel is not transmitted at full pixel resolution in the UK.

    Personally, I work with digital images day in and day out and I can spot compression artefacts and bad resampling (upscaling) a mile off. I suppose if I were only imagining it, my customers would not need me to do any work and Id be able to put my feet up.

    There, I've broken my rule and brought personality into it.

    I will be complaining to the BBC trust specifically about your statement that openly suggests that we are open to the placebo effect and are all imagining it. I suggest that others do the same.

  • Comment number 12.

    meh, so now we are all imagining things.


    Well I suppose I should have guessed the responce.

    Why dont you just admit its all about budget costs and lowering the bitrate for Freeview HD, asleast we would all know exactly where we stand.

  • Comment number 13.

    Thank You for your blog update Danielle, can I make a strong recommendation that the bitrate doesn't remain fixed, even if the rate is increased upto 12mb/sec it will help with with the more demanding scenes in programmes. The capacity currently on the transponder seem wasted.

  • Comment number 14.

    Still no apology then for the dreadful sound quality on SCD last week.

  • Comment number 15.

    you imagined it Midzone1

  • Comment number 16.

    May I just say thank you to Danielle for providing such a candid response. I think this is all we have been asking for since the bitrate reduction, but it is a shame it has taken a FOI request and a complaint to the BBC Trust to obtain such enlightenment.

    I have certainly been looking forward to Andy Q's response. However, I do take issue with the post that R Talyor made (#5).

    It may well be "a bore", but this is an important issue. Whilst costs are going to be an issue, I do not object to the BBC finding other ways to ensure that the level of quality remains the same; technology moves on at a pace and things improve for less in the motions of time.

    Like I have said in a previous post, if the BBC can show that they can reduce the bitrate and keep the picture quality the same as it was, or as near to when it was reduce from 19mbs to 16mbs (the latter is the EBU standard) then fine. We would all have no problems and there would be no complaints from those that have taken the trouble to raise the issue.

    The facts are though that the EBU set a broadcasting standard of HD that has not been adhered to by an EBU member.

    In this case, the opposite has happened. The BBC expected that no-one would notice (or complain) and we would all be none the wiser. The reduction in bitrate has seriously comprimised the BBC HD channel. Eurosport has been broadcasting in 19mbs as well as 5.1 sound and embarrassed the BBC HD channel when it was transmitting the same pictures at 9mbs and without 5.1 sound when it showed the world championship athletics recently.

    We finally get an admission from Danielle that Championship football coverage is suffering to the degree we all thought. It is clear that other programmes have suffered (even those bought from other networks like Defying Gravity) and I wont even mention the sound problems that keep cropping up.

    Prior to this, we did not have the decency of an acceptance of such problems from those in charge. If all these picture problems were "all in the mind" or eyes in this instance, than you might as well cart me off in a white suit.

    Therefore, why should those who have invested money in HD systems put up with a channel that is publically owned and not adhering to the EBU standard? It is a shame that those who are only just investing in HD equipment were not privy to the original standards that should have been kept when the BBC HD channel was first introduced.

    This has been a complete embarrasment, been extremely poorly handled by those in charge and a shambles. An example of customer care and listening to "stakeholders", of which the viewing public and licence fee payer is one, this is not.

  • Comment number 17.

    Freeview HD will have 40.2Mb/s of capacity, as only 3 channels are set to launch that will give BBC HD 13.4Mb/s. As the EBU are telling its members not to fix bit-rates the channel that is in direct contradiction with the decision taken via satellite.

    BBC HD on Freeview will have 38% more capacity.

    On satellite there is 33Mb/s of capacity, currently with BBC HD fixed and 2 MPEG-2 channels roughly only half of this capacity is being used.

    There is enough capacity being wasted to unfix BBC HD and launch a red button HD stream for when events clash.




    It's good to see more BBC shows are moving to HD.
    Will the BBC finish showing Planet Earth in HD? It stopped abruptly after deserts.

    Will QI make the transition to BBC HD? As well as other studio based shows that are now being filmed in HD? Flight of the Conchords is also made in HD.

    What can sports viewers expect as well? Will The Winter Olympics be showed and will the BBC cover more Sports like Formula One?

    As the number of outside broadcast companies has rapidly increased with HD capabilities can viewers expect more coverage of the 6 nations and events like The Grand National and Autumn Internationals and BDO Darts?

    And can the BBC work with other broadcasters to bring 6 nations games in HD and bring coverage of French and Australian Open Tennis and other events in HD when those events are staged in HD.



  • Comment number 18.

    @5 "To go forward, HD needs to be efficient and affordable, and that surely means the bitrate has to be as low as possible without adversley affecting quality".
    Thats exactly the point quality is being effected!!
    These "fanatics" may be boring you R Taylor but if it results in better PQ at the end of the day for you and I whats the problem??
    More content is always welcome of course, but at the end of the day PQ is paramount. "BBC High Definition" Clue is in the name Mr Taylor
    I say thank you "Fanatics" Keep the pressure on

  • Comment number 19.

    This is a kind of "Catch 22" that we have.

    Everyone complains that Danielle doesn't respond to the blog, and then when she eventually does, everyone becomes more incensed both at what she says, and at what she doesn't say.

    It seems patently clear that the one-sided dialogue that we have is going nowhere. Danielle (or rather the policy makers above her) are not going to answer the questions being asked about the real reasons for the slashing of the bit-rate. Neither are they going to change anything back to an acceptable level.

    The "explanations" are clearly nonsense, and as has been pointed out already, if Danielle really believes that the bit-rate has no effect on the quality, then slash it by 90% rather than 40%; we shouldn't be able to see any difference.

    I applaud the efforts of the "fanatics", and I sincerely hope that Paul's fantastic efforts are rewarded, but it looks like the only hope of success would be bad publicity and pressure from outwith the BBC.

    Murdoch must be loving this.....

  • Comment number 20.

    Great to see the effort being brought into bringing more new content coming to BBC HD. Thanks for your informative blogs, but I'm guessing you wished the blog technology had never been invented!

    I did notice that the picture quality had deteriorated on BBC HD before I heard about any change in bitrates, it just lost that "sparkle" it used to have. Disappointing to see it had been more than halved! Oh well, it was nice whilst it lasted...back to SKYHD and my 40MBit Blu-rays!

  • Comment number 21.

    I've been following the posts and responses here for a while, and up to now, have kept my silence; having seen that a new post from Danielle was coming, I was hoping that there would be a change in policy. However, this latest post by Danielle has spurred me on to add my opinion; although I'm grateful that Danielle is engaging with us, I'm extremely disappointed in the response, as someone who has seen the deterioration in picture quality before and after the change in August _without_ being told of any change in bitrate and encoder change. With no disrespect to others who've been gathering valuable technical evidence through screen grabs, etc., I'm just a normal viewer who has noticed the extremely disappointing drop in picture quality with my own eyes: the channel's pictures are now softer, more blurred when images change quickly, and have _undoubtedly_ lost that "wow" factor that I first saw when I first viewed BBC HD early last year.

    I have some experience of physics experiments. To find how different parameters affect the result, you change one thing at a time, otherwise it's difficult to unpick the effects of different paratemers. As far as I can tell, this is not what was done in August: the encoder and bit rate change occurred at almost the same time. If the point of this whole exercise has been to reduce the bitrate within acceptable limits due to the availability of new, more powerful encoders (for whatever reason), why not set the new encoder to work at the pre-August bitrate, then only if working well, _then_ reduce the bitrate step-by-step by modest amounts, until a deterioration in quality demonstrates that it has been reduced too far?

    It's clear that improvements in encoders can realistically allow near-equal amounts of picture information to be carried with decreasing bitrates, but _only up to a point_. A 40% decrease is clearly too much, as many have demonstrated.

    _Please_ swallow your pride, admit that the bitrate cut has been too large for the new encoder to be able to cope with while keeping high quality images at all times, and ramp the bitrate back up. With the new encoder, presumably it would not have to be back up to the pre-August level (though the higher the better, of course. No, really.).

    I, like many others, have invested heavily in HD equipment; in my case sticking with Freesat HD in the belief that BBC HD would provide excellent pictures without needing to subscribe to other channels. I'm a believer in the BBC, and believe that we get excellent value for the licence fee. However, my experience with BBC HD over the past couple of months has been extremely disappointing. We all know that the BBC is capable of great programming and quality. Please ensure that BBC HD keeps its present audience and draws more in by concentrating on ensuring that the quality of the broadcast pictures are as high as they were earlier this year. If that doesn't happen, I and many others I'm sure are tempted to look elsewhere to get the most out of our expensive viewing equipment.

  • Comment number 22.

    Danielle,
    Thanks for your post. I hope that everyone here appreciates your efforts to drive BBC HD forward. I do believe you have achieved a lot in the short time you have been head of the channel. I believe that you sincerely want the best for the channel, and as an engineer I understand that compromises have to be made. What you may notice is that a lot of people here who are in to HD are technically minded and so want technical, factually correct answers to our concerns. Lets hope that Andy Quested can step up and deliver what I think we all need.

    I also agree that some of the picture problems we can all see may not be to do with the encoder. For example, I think for a short while Friday night with JR had an out of focus camera. This may cause some people to think that the encoder is to blame, when in fact it isn't.

    So lets see some hard evidence proving that the encoders deliver better quality at this lower bitrate. This might help to convince everyone, including me.

  • Comment number 23.

    It seems that someone has tried to explain to Danielle the effect of in video compression and has slightly got the wrong end of the stick. Noise will reduce the picture quality in all MPEG4 encoders particulary at lower bitrates. This most noticably manifest itself as a fuzzy picture. The reason is a little complex but I will try to explain. Codecs cannot tell the difference between unwanted noise and detail in the picture and so process them in the same way. MPEG4 codecs use the Discrete Cosine Transformation to transform the picture from the time domain to the frequency domain. Now only the techies amongst you will understand that but please continue. The codec then compresses the video by throwing away bits of information that describe the detail in the picture to reduce the bitrate. If there is alot of noise in the picure there will be more detail in the picture and so more bits of information will have to be thrown away to get down to the required bitrate. This will make the picture more fuzzy. Most codecs have a built in noise filter to reduce this problem but they also have the effect of making the picture more fuzzy.

    Danielle says "As far as we can tell, these are as a result of the "better" pictures now being transmitted to TV sets by the new encoders." This is not true. Modern cameras should produce less noise. The increase in susceptability to noise is because lower bitrates are being used. This effect is well known by television engineers.

    Danielle says "But, with the exceptions I've outlined, in our view the new encoders are as we hoped delivering the same or better picture quality across the majority of programmes, the majority of the time."

    Well this is not the view of most of the viewers.

  • Comment number 24.

    I've been following this debate across half a dozen different (now closed) threads in (almost) silence for months now. Having spent 20+ years in the media/marketing sector before taking up my current paid hobby (and no, I am not working to rule!), a few observations:-
    Let us assume -
    1. The BBC is unable to replicate earlier levels of full HD picture and sound quality because of technical and financial limitations
    and
    2. Concerned viewers have noticed the difference between the perceived quality of the BBC offering and what is offered on the Sky platform here and various satellite and/or cable providers overseas
    3. So, you have a clash between customer (i.e., viewer) expectation and product (i.e., transmission) reality.
    4. If the BBC was really savvy, they would now endeavour to manage viewer expectations. And the best way of doing this would be to relaunch BBC HD as a cross-platform (i.e., digital terrestrial and satellite using the currently reduced bitrate, encoding etc etc) 'Enhanced Digital' or 'Digital Plus' service which would no longer claim 'full HD'status.
    5. This should be done before Freeview HD gets under way so that the existing debate is not multiplied a thousandfold as Freeview users start complaining regarding PQ compared with perceived 'full HD'. The spin (sorry, marketing message) should be that at no extra charge BBC digital viewers will be offered a selection of programming with enhanced video and audio and that the level of enhancement provided will ensure that the degree of image sharpness to which they are accustomed on smaller-screen TVs will generally be replicated on 40inch-plus displays.
    6. Nothing more, nothing less.
    7. Sure, it would be a halfway house but it would be fair on the viewer, and it would be fair on the electrical retail and maunfacturing sectors, as the latter would still have a reason for shifting large-screen sets; Freesat would also still benefit as the sales pitch would still be that you are getting enhanced picture quality and almost 100 channels. All that happens is that the albatross of perceived 'full HD' would be removed from the BBCs neck. And if Danielle would like to make a contribution towards my next TV licence as a reward for making her life a whole lot easier...

    I do not attempt here to be an apologist for the widely perceived reduction in BBC HD picture quality. However, at a time when they are being squeezed to hell by the current (and even more by the next) Government, maybe full HD provided for hours on end at no additional charge by a public service broadcaster is just one step too far? I do travel quite frequently to mainland Europe to keep in touch with acquaintances from previous working lives and it is worth noting that no public service licence-fee funded broadcaster in France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria or Italy is attempting to run a full-out HD channel; programming is sporadic at best and most of the pacesetting is being done by pay-tv providers such as Canal Plus in France and Sky and SAT-1 in Germany who have beefy subscription budgets and advertising revenues to support relevant investment.

  • Comment number 25.

    Danielle, thank you for attempting to explain to me why, since Aug, I've been under the misapprehension that my BBC HD picture has worsened. Thanks too, though, to @Andy Hampshire for so eloquently expressing his views about what you've said, I concur with him entirely.

    I guess that you and I will have to continue to differ in opinion, you convinced that I'm amongst a small group of people whose perception of picture quality on your channel is driven by a preconception about bit-rate. I on the other hand, influenced by daily email messages, consider myself to be amongst a huge number of your audience who really are seeing a worse picture on repeated programmes, and a disappointing picture for many others.

    I'm also still certain that, whilst there may not be a deliberate cover-up, we are not getting the whole truth. I'm just speculating here, but I think that what you perhaps ought to be saying to us is that the accountants at the BBC have told you to cut transmission costs to the minimum that you can get away with. That to do that you have had to reduce the bit-rate and accept that a large proportion of your audience will be disappointed by a reduced picture quality.

    If that's the case, then to them, you should have been completely honest and up-front 3-months ago and said sorry that the BBC can no longer deliver on the promises of the Trial, and advise them that if they want a picture that they consider worthy of the term "high definition" then henceforth they will just have to go to SKY or VIRGIN and pay for it. If you'd done that then I think many would have just moved on, and avoided people like @R Taylor becoming bored by the whole issue.

    wrt content then, thanks for TG. I'm really looking forward to that (and hoping it'll be in 5.1), can't wait for Mad Men and hope that you'll be able to deliver the Superbowl, next year's Autumn Internationals and even Test Match cricket in HD (lite - if that's the way it has to be) very soon.

    Nick, is it me, or has a spell-checker just appeared in this comments box (or is it because I'm using my Apple)? If it's a new feature then thanks!

  • Comment number 26.

    "My view, and the view of the BBC HD team that works with me, is that picture quality is less to do with "speed" and more to do with the way the information is processed."

    Oh dear...sounds like no-one is prepared to point out that the Emperor has no clothes on! Did you choose the members of the team?

    This is *lossy* compression, right? Information is being thrown away by the codec in the hope that it is redundant data and our eyes don't notice it. At some point in lowering the "rate" you *will* see compression artifacts (depending on the complexity of the sequences of frames being processed). These artifacts have been demonstrated with the new bitrate in screen grabs posted here from the same source material. You cannot just reduce the data rate by a significant amount and expect (or believe?) you are getting the same quality out. Especially when your customers (that's us) are complaining vociferously about it.

    What tests were carried out by your team to show the new encoders at the reduced bitrate were giving the same (better!?) picture quality? Could you publish the results of the tests, please? What processing improvements were made? Do we need another FOI request?

    You should also realize that you're alienating the very people who would help others understand the benefits of getting HD and thus push the viewing figures up. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend anyone "upgrading" to HD based on the BBC output as we are being offered a compromised solution.

  • Comment number 27.

    Danielle said: "We all need to accept that a great deal of our perception of HD picture quality is driven by our pre-conceptions."

    Well yes I agree. Our pre-conceptions are determined by the picture quality we saw when BBC HD was running at 19Mb/s. Our pre-conceptions are also determined by the quality other HD broadcasters are outputing. Our pre-conceptions are also determined by watching Blu-ray videos. The point is BBC HD is way below our pre-conceptions.

    One point here is the way the EBU determin a minimum bit rate. They determin the rate to give a picture quality the same as a 3Mb/s SD MPEG2 picture. I believe this to far too lower standard and the EBU minimum rates are far too low.

    Danielle also said "On an HD TV, without an HD connection or receiver, some people will believe that they are watching HD pictures and believe they look substantially better than SD.". Correct this is due to the fact that HD televisions will upscale the SD picture. Upscalled pictures always look better than raw SD. Upscaling works by interpolating to a higher definition. This is nothing to do with viewers being stupid.



  • Comment number 28.

    From what I understand:

    - Your team acknowledge there are still a couple of picture quality issues that you're looking into.

    - Your team consider upping the bitrate as a hack rather than a permanent fix (good, sounds like you want to do things right)

    While you're getting to the bottom of the issues, a higher bitrate would help the encoders produce a better quality image (in most cases - and I suspect in these circumstances too).

    I think the concern of most critics on these blogs (and mine) is the longer the poor picture quality remains on BBC HD, the more likely it is that people might begin to accept that HD just looks like that, they might even begin to think the picture quality is acceptable.

    I've seen this happen with Freeview, the introduction of DOGs etc, and i'm concerned that as this is the one channel this is actually supposed to be good quality, and already it feels like unnecessary compromises are being made.

  • Comment number 29.

    Screenshots.
    Virgin Media MPEG-2 ~17Mbit/s:
    http://img137.imageshack.us/img137/8500/3de04d773e406b456493bf4.png
    DVB-S H.264 ~9Mbit/s:
    http://img4.imageshack.us/img4/2028/d771057d77e4cd96ca8f189.png
    I do have a technical explanation as to why I think this is happening based on things like encoder decision metrics. However without knowing how the encoder chain is built (i.e does this massive grain filter happen before it hits the encoder) I can't say any of this for sure. Having said that some things look very good like Life and other things (grainy things) don't look as good as on Virgin Media.

  • Comment number 30.

    After carefully reading Danielle's latest Blog, and then seen the instantaneous response to it I'm reminded that, in their own words (almost), the BBC Trust say they are there to get the best out of the BBC for licence fee payers, to set the course for the BBC and to represent the public who "own and pay for" it.

    By following the BBC complaints procedure, during the last year, I've now earned the right to appeal to them. At the risk of boring @R Taylor (please forgive me), my appeal concerns Danielle's response, to my Picture Quality Complaint, which she posted in her, now closed, blog at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2009/09/picture_quality_on_hd_a_respon.html and which generated 900 comments before it was shut.

    I've posted this appeal elsewhere, but since Nick has now closed the Blogs where I wrote it I'm sure he'll permit me to write it again here.

    I'm limited to how much I can write but the way the appeals procedure is worded there is some wriggle-room ("In exceptional circumstances longer appeals will be entertained") which I intend to use to incorporate the views of as many members of the public, who wish to be represented, as I can.

    So, to that end, if you wish to contribute to my effort, and particularly after Danielle has laid her cards on the table here, then please email me with a Word document (ot Notepad file), including carefully composed comment to support the argument against the aforementioned PQ response Blog (as elaborated upon by Danielle in this one).

    There are so many good points being aired here that I feel that they need to made visibile to the Trust. If all these comments are condensed by Blog commenters into just one, carefully crafted, considered and politely worded document each, then I think that there is a far better chance of them hitting home with Sir Michael and his Trust members than they are now spread over numerous Blogs.

    If you want to partake and send me a contribution then please ensure that it doesn't exceed 1,000 words, is concluded with your real name (and optional email address), saved in 97-03 compatible Word (or Notepad) file and sent to my own email address, which appears in this BBC document: http://www.zen97962.zen.co.uk/downloads/RFI20091332_-_final_response.pdf before Sun 22 Nov.

    By the way Nick, re: my spell-checker it was just the "Apple" effect, none here back on the laptop.

  • Comment number 31.

    I think there are several arguements crossing over here. Bitrate is a bit of a red herring. It is possible for new compression techniques to deliver better quality pictures with a lower bitrate. I think what's more important is how that bitrate is utilised both in creating content and delivering the final image.

    Virgin Media has been mentioned here, they are in fact re-encoding the already encoded video from the BBC for transmission. This can't help and is beyond the control of the BBC. This may explain why some people cite Sky as having better quality picture. This won't change until Virgin Media decide to upgrade their HD boxes.

    I think the bigger issue is how the content is created in the first place. I don't think programme makers have got to grips with and really explored the possibilities of HD. Particularly in the use of post production techniques of altering the image to give it a filmic look and so on. I, like others, have experienced HD content from the US and have found it generally better. I believe this mostly to be due to the aesthetic decisions made when shooting.

    I have, on more than occasion found myself watching BBCHD and wondering if I'm on the right channel and having to switch between SD and HD to check and found no discernible difference. In my opinion if these are the results of programme makers decisions then it makes BBCHD redundant.

  • Comment number 32.

    Too ill to compose a full reply - recovering from flu (and no not 'man flu') but on logging online to check days of email I read this response.

    I'm deliberately writing my reply before I read other peoples post - because I'm basically stunned at it.

    I'm deliberately trying not to be personal but to whom does Danielle think shes talking to.

    'response' is hardly the right the word for this post.

    'There also appear to be some issues around picture "noise" - basically more fuzziness in what should be solid areas of pictures - which we have been seeing a bit more of since the encoder change. As far as we can tell, these are as a result of the "better" pictures now being transmitted to TV sets by the new encoders.'

    So the lower bit-rate using the newer codecs give us 'better' better pictures that just look poorer??? What?

    These programme will surely be mostly made at 1080p - so this statement:-

    'Because the new technology conveys the picture information captured by cameras more comprehensively, for the first time we are seeing information that has been picked up but which was effectively "softened" by the system previously in place'

    doesn't make sence - there will be more information in the original production image than can be displayed at 1080i at most bitrates - so to say these codecs are so good they are showing up faults in the original material doesn't make sense.

    Neither does the remark that the older codecs were 'softening' the image.

    It's the new codec that can't cope with - and lets be correct here - not a 40% reduction BUT a 50% reduction (16 down to under 10)

    Maybe a 25% reduction would have allowed the quality to remain but certainly this cut shows you far too often.

    'But, with the exceptions I've outlined, in our view the new encoders are as we hoped delivering the same or better picture quality across the majority of programmes, the majority of the time.'

    So basicially 'Go jump in a lake'

    The only improvement ( and by that I mean getting back someway towards the earlier quality) that I've seen is on the J Ross show which I believe is due to changing the purple blended backdrop behind J Ross to a less demanding blue - plus an improvement on the studio lighting - both factors the help reduce the demands on the codec.

    I may write more when I've read other peoples posts - but I'm very disappointed in this blog from Danielle Nagler.




  • Comment number 33.

    @kubr1ck

    "Virgin Media has been mentioned here, they are in fact re-encoding the already encoded video from the BBC for transmission. "

    That's not true. They take their own HD-SDI feed. It would be highly impossible for the MPEG-2 encoder to suddenly improve the picture quality as shown in my screenshots above.

  • Comment number 34.

    This really does begger belief! Just tuned into Smokey Robinson at the Electric Proms and the picture is diabolical. If you and your HD team think this is acceptable then you need new glasses.

    If everything you say is correct then please, please, please explain to me why out of 35 HD channels on Sky, BBC HD looks so bloody awful! And I don't have a single problem with any of the other channels?

  • Comment number 35.

    Unbelievable. I am lost for words. I have never read such rubbish.

    This complaint is based on what we see, not some academic discussion on bitrate that Andy Quested revels in. The overwhelming number of viewers everywhere I look online say the same thing - The channel does not look like HD

    I watched Natural World tonight. For HD, the picture was terrible, just plain terrible. It looked like good SD at best.

    You have ruined the channel, I hardly watch it at all now and I have wasted money on expensive HD equipment.

    Thanks a lot, and I look forward to the 25% cuts in BBC management.

  • Comment number 36.

    @35. I totally agree with you.

    Bring back Seetha Kumar, all is forgiven.

  • Comment number 37.

    I think it's obvious that we need to wait for Andy Quested to post before we get anything approaching a coherent answer.

  • Comment number 38.

    @37

    We've been waiting for Andy's new blog since at least 17th August:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2008/11/bbc_hd_picture_quality_and_dol.html#P84446078

  • Comment number 39.

    @CompactDistance
    I think you may be disappointed by Andy Quested's response. He has openly stated the picture quality has improved overall since the new encoders and bragged about reducing the bitrate further to 4-6mbps. Another 30% reduction is on the way.

  • Comment number 40.

    I wonder what the viewers think? Take a look at this poll
    At the time of writing 83% of over 200 people (that's a pretty good sample folks) think BBC HD picture quality has deteriorated.

    http://www.vmhd.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 41.

    Oh well Danielle yet another post which displays you are out of your depth in technical matters. I feel you have been given some information from a technical person but have not fully understood the technicalities. It would be better to get a technical person to do the post.

    The first thing is the use of the word speed. If you think back to you Science lessons at school "speed" is a measurement of how far an object moves in a unit time. It has absolutly nothing to do with bitrate. You correctly define bitrate as "the number of bits of information sent every second". You state that "picture quality is less to do with "bitrate" and more to do with the way the information is processed". Not strictly true. Picture quality is determined by bitrate and the way the information is processed.

    Picture quality is often measured by calculating the Picture to Signal Noise Ratio (PSNR). PSNR is measured in decibels the more the number of decibels the better to picture quality. Andy will be able to show you a of PSNR against bitrate for the new encoder. The PSNR increases with an increase of bitrate. As Andy has already said even at 100Mb/s the picture is not perfect.

    As you say the picture quality is also determined by the way the information is processed. The picture quality produced by the new codecs has improved and do produce a better quality at a lower bitrate. This is improvement is certainly not as great as you have been lead to believe. There is a mathematical limit to the improvement that can be achieved in a MPEG4 codec determined by the specification. Codecs now have a performence close to that limit.

    When the BBC reduced the bitrate from 19 to 16Mb/s many people complained about the drop in quality. When you then dropped the bitrate to 9.7Mb/s there was an outcry about the drop in quality. You stated that the BBC tested the new codecs before deployment but clearly that was not sufficient to find the bugs which you admit to.

    You have long argued that there has not been a drop in picture quality. Many photographs have clearly demonstrated that there has been a drop in quality on a wide variety of progams.

    Picture quality is best measured as a comparison between 2 anchors. The upper anchor is normally an uncompressed video and the lower anchor is normally an SD picture. The question is what is the minimum picture quality acceptable to viewers. Clearly Danielle's acceptable level of picture quality is much lower than that of most viewers.

    Unless the BBC changes the picture quality to meet viewers expectations the BBC is heading for disaster. The take up of HD has exceeded everyone's expectations and will become the normal way to watch TV. Unless the BBC meet these expectations the BBC will see a decline in viewing figures.

    Some of us have been warning for along time about Ofcoms plan for Freeview HD. It is quite clear that it is not possible deliver 4 or 5 HD channels of sufficient quality on DTT. The BBC is pushing ahead spending large sums of our money to produce a service which is not fit for purpose. The Freeview HD specification does not support 1080p50 which is likely to become the standard for broadcast HD. I would strongly recommend that people do not buy Freeview HD equipment.

  • Comment number 42.

    Thanks for the blog Danielle. Exactly what I and no doubt many others expected lol.

    I have a question which would be good if you could answer. Do you really genuinely believe we will ignore the situation if you continue to give us fob offs and ignore the situation???

    You keep insisting bandwith has no affect on picture quality. Ok then, prove it and reduce the bandwith to 1mbps.

    We have eyes Danielle and no matter how much you try to convince us all everything is fine and dandy and the quality is just as good, its not.

    Its a major issue that needs resolving and sadly since you do not seem interested in sorting it out, can you not step aside and lets someone else take over that is.

    Many many viewers are just sick and tired of BBC HD. A shame you cannott see this.

  • Comment number 43.

    just to ask as well, can we have a reason why we have to have a fixed rate of 9.7mbps via satelite and not have it stat muxed???

  • Comment number 44.

    @ 40, "I wonder what the viewers think? Take a look at this poll
    At the time of writing 83% of over 200 people (that's a pretty good sample folks) think BBC HD picture quality has deteriorated.

    http://www.vmhd.blogspot.com/"

    But as Danielle says, there has been no quality reduction. We must all be seeing things, isnt that right Danielle??

    Danielle will say theres no problem no matter how many people tell her there is. The only way to save BBC HD is to replace Danielle with someone who knows about HD television and has a passion for quality and honesty.

    Lets hope the next blog is the goodbye blog....

  • Comment number 45.

    What annoys me is the relationship Danielle spouts she has on her blog - she has non!

    She refuses to answers any questions - she makes no response to the evidence shown of picture quality reduction and just skirts behind the fact that the audience is not happy.

    Absolute disgrace!

    If you do care Ms Nagler how about a little customer service and answer the many questions being asked on here the main one being:

    The EBU set a broadcasting standard of HD that has not been adhered to by an EBU member namely the BBC - can you explain why not?

    Danielle can spout all she likes about the new shows coming and the Christmas Highlights but the old phrase QUALITY not QUANTITY should be adhered to.

    The shambles that is BBC HD will not go away and the continuing support from other media and viewers will continue to increase. Sticking ones fingers in ones ears and not listening to the problem won't mean it will go away.

    As I've said before as the Head of the Channel you must take responsibility for the situation and stop hiding behind your key 'spin' phrases.

    How about a 1:1 debate on the subject with us? We lay down the challenge!

  • Comment number 46.

    wednesday83 and Midzone1 - please moderate your tone.

  • Comment number 47.

    Danielle does not do "conversation" she just makes statements which defy the laws of information theory and then dives for cover to avoid the flack. Sometimes I think she does this for fun. When she gets a bit board she dreams up a blog and sits back and enjoys all the attention she is getting. After all her blogs get more posts than any other at the BBC we should vote her "Bloger of the Year". She would love that and probably sign her emails as "Bloger of the Year".

    I have been wondering why we have not seen more programs go HD. I think that the root of the problem is money. BBC HD is considerably underfunded. When Danielle goes to poducers to discus going HD I suspect the first thing to come to mind is the cost. Television producers main concern is survival, they just don't want their program cut. So their main concern is viewing figures and of course HD means they have to spend more money with no increase in viewing figures. They would rather spend the money on improving their programs instead of waisting it on HD. So the BBC needs to fund HD seperatly to encourage producers to go HD. I seem to remember the buget for BBC HD is about £25 million which seem extrordinarily low.

    So why didn't the BBC buy more transponder space when it was available. Again they just didn't want to spend the money. They might have been influenced by codec manufacturers fantastic claims for bit rate reduction. Thomson Grass Valley still claim 4Mb/s for their h264 encoder. The point here is that it was SKY that dragged the BBC into HD. I sometimes wonder if we would have had an HD service today if it was not for Sky HD. When colour television was started it was lead by the BBC and the licence fee was increased to finance it. With HD the government were unable to increase the licence fee becasue it was lead by Sky and Sky would have demanded a cut. Sky also properly financed HD with the £10 per month charge. BBC HD has never been properly funded and is the root cause of the problem.

    We now come to Freeview HD. The big puzzle here is that it was clear to everyone that the Ofcom plan to squeeze 5 HD channels onto one multiplex was unworkable. So why did the BBC go along with the plan and not raise any objections. Well again they just didn't want the expence. Terestrial television with hundreds of transmitters many located in remote areas is very expensive. The BBC did the same with DAB they "forgot" to apply for an extra multiplex when it became available and so had to reduce their bitrate. So UK Dab has now become the lowest quality radio service in the world and nobody wants it. So the BBC must now try and persuade the public that low bitrate HD is wonderful just as they claimed that DAB radio was CD quality. Well they have failed. The great British public have already been exposed to high quality HD in Blu-ary and Sky and will expect nothing less from the BBC. As midzon1 says it is quality not quantity that people want from HD.

    So what will the BBC do. Well from the past evidence of DAB radio they will just muddle on spending millions of pound of our money and eventually Freeview HD as we see it now will die a slow death. My guess is that most people will switch to satellite and the BBC will have to increase it's bitrate on satellite to regain credability.

  • Comment number 48.

    To be blunt, I question the sense in continuing to broadcast BBC 'HD' in it's current state. The picture quality is so soft, so devoid of any HD detail that it looks near identical to BBC 1,2 etc. If it wasn't for the obnoxious giant BBC 'HD' dog in the corner I wouldn't even know I was watching BBC HD 99% of the time.

    It's really too bad as BBC HD used to look pretty nice. Now though, it's the worst looking HD channel around by far.

    And please just be honest and admit you are softening the picture before encoding to try and help along the DVD level bit-rate you are using.

  • Comment number 49.

    I am an avid supporter of HD TV. So much so that over the last couple of years my viewing habits have changed dramatically. I now find it difficult to watch SD TV no matter what the content. Would I have watched Monochrome TV when Colour TV became available it's the same thing. I remember the first BBC HD Transmissions such as Last of the Summer Wine they were absolutley stunning in their clarity and sharpness.Recently I have begun to notice a variance in picture quality on BBC HD and whilst watching Babylon one night I actually swapped channels in disgust the picture was fuzzy and indistinct not even as good as SD. The situation has not improved (alhough some wild life programs are not to bad),it was only by accident that I came across this blog last night. What can I say I feel badly let down, disapointed and very upset.I can hardly believe what I am reading it's a nightmare for DISCERNING HD viewers. What the BBC are doing to HD is almost akin to broadingcasting Very high Quality Audio(HI-FI) in MP3 format, "lets take out 70% of the content no one will ever notice!9.7MB's puts the BBC at the bottom of the bit rate league what is going on, the BBC are THE WORLD WIDE standard bearer for quality output, the technical leaders! why are they crippling HD TV like this. I never thought I would hear myself say this but thank goodness we have SKY at least commercial pursuasions will keep quality flowing from this direction, unfortunatly the BBC do not have this "commercial" impetus. What really annoys is that I feel the wool is being pulled over my eyes(and my TV!)and at the same time they are trying to defend the bit rate reduction by saying it has no effect on quality, this insults every one's intelligence. I am sorry for the verocity of my comments but it reflects the strength of my feelings on this subject and I am sure those of every one else who have the slightest of discernment when it comes to quality HD. After all without ultimate quality we do not have HD or are we doomed to varying shades of grey 1/4, 1/2/, 3/4 HD??.If it is economics that is driving the BBC HD quality down then it would be better that we do not have a BBC HD channel at all, if the standard bearer is putting out rubbish then what is to stop the rest followig suit! whenever they feel like it. I would rather pay for quality than not have any at all.

    Mike

  • Comment number 50.

    Danielle,

    You say: "it would be an act of extreme stupidity for the BBC deliberately to create an HD service which set no higher standards, and delivered no better picture quality, than its SD channels."

    The picture is better than SD, no doubt about it, but it isn't good quality HD either. The only way to silence the doubters is to increase the bitrate. And if you can't, tell us honestly why you can't.


  • Comment number 51.

    Have we side stepped DOGs again too, you know that well known "very useful" navigation tool.

    If it is a navigation tool why does iPlayer now have a DOG? You can't navigate iPlayer.

    I'm also waiting for the make and model number, as previously requested from either Ms Nagler or her staff, of any equipment that can render the HD broadcast on normal viewers TV sets, that does not put up channel and programme details as soon as you start navigation (which of course makes the DOG pointless for that purpose)

  • Comment number 52.

    Dear Ms Nagler,

    I find your comments insulting; BBC HD picture quality has significantly decreased over tha last year! Although some output is acceptable, many programmes suffer from obvious compression artefacts and excessive motion blurring. Assuming there are no problems with the BBC's playout and transmission equipment, the problems can only be due to the transmitted bit-rate.

    Sincerely,
    A cheated viewer

  • Comment number 53.

    Dear Danielle,

    I am about to send you the most marvellous script for a New Year's Day play that you will ever see!
    It makes War and Peace look like a soap opera, and Shakespeare the ramblings of an adolescent youth. Yes, it really is that good.
    The only problem is the speed at which I can get it to you, its rather long and I am only allowed to fax a maximum of 16 pages a day. Unless I can think of way around it the whole project is dead in the water.

    (Later)
    Hurrah - modern technology to the rescue, you can now get the very latest Xerox encoder device that apparently prints on both sides of the paper, thus reducing the size of the script needed to be faxed by half!

    Hang on to your hat Danielle, international fame is on your way!

    (Still later)
    Quelle horreur. My fax vendor has announced I can no longer send 16 pages a day, but only a paltry 9.7.At that rate I will no longer be able to get it to you in time for transmission.

    Very down at the moment, all our dreams in ashes.

    (Even Later)
    At last, a solution of sorts. Speaking to my Xerox encoder man he tell me that he can inspect each individual page and with too much writing on, he will randomly throw away. This will allow me to get the script to you in the requisite time.

    Obviously there is a downside: some of the best jokes might have gone, and we may never know if Doris and Fred do find true happiness. The ending could also be a problem: at the point where everyone is called into library, and Lord Randolph's real killer announced; this might become somewhat obscured. I would suggest a simple on screen caption to be our best way out. I think we have face up to the fact that it is going to be very ordinary.

    Sorry Danielle, even though the majority of the viewers will never notice, you and I will have known the dream....


  • Comment number 54.

    Blog? Blog? I thought that blogs were meant to involve two way communication?

    These blogs seems to consist of imperial tablets of stone launched from the top of the ivory tower - sorry mountain top monastery - which the great unwashed then comment on at great length.

    Unfortunately the original poster never again responds so the communication seems to be rather uni-directional. Hey ho.

  • Comment number 55.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 56.

    Another warning from me wednesday83 to keep your tone civil. People may disagree with decisions made but personal insults don't help.

  • Comment number 57.

    manInTheShack - "Unfortunately the original poster never again responds so the communication seems to be rather uni-directional. Hey ho."

    Untrue. Danielle has responded by writing the blog post you're commenting on..

  • Comment number 58.

    #57, Nick once upon a time Andy Quested used to have a dialogue with commenters within each Blog. It was very refreshing, and I'm pretty sure that it went down very well with all the BBC HD audience members who've found their way here.

    For example, I've often posted in these Blogs that I would like to see the Autumn Internationals in HD, as have many. Now I appreciate that Danielle did once make a very brief statement about that in a Blog, something to do with making decisions on sport on a case by case basis, but it would be nice if, from time to time, Danielle engaged in two-way debate within her Blogs.

    So, instead of having to find out from @Andrew Knight (I think) that I'd have to suffer the Eng v Arg game in highlights only, SD format, I could get it from the horse's mouth. We know she's busy because she told us, but so am I and I still find time to try and engage with her here. Even if it means I have to do it with one eye on the match.

    I know she has implied (to me) that she doesn't intend to engage in public discussion on the Blog on the PQ issue. However, she could try to engage with us regarding content, i.e. perhaps she might like to respond about Superbowl, F1, 5.1 sound, etc. or dare I even mention DOGs.

    Incidently, I'd have been far more interested in this match if it had been in HD, 5.1 and Live, obviously! Danielle, don't let $ky get away with this any more, especially in the light of any crown-jewels decisions! Do you care to comment?

  • Comment number 59.

    Danielle,

    Collision, Doc Martin, Marple, Lewis just some of the programmes on ITV HD that have been transferred to HD from 16mm film.

    Do you consider the HD quality of these shows any worse than some of BBC HD's HD/35mm productions?

    I wonder why two of Britain's largest broadcasters can have such a different policy. The amount of extra programming you could have if your policy was changed!! New Tricks, Spooks and Merlin to name just three of BBC's most popular dramas.


  • Comment number 60.

    Sorry Nick but Danielle gets away with insulting BBC HD viewers. My post was not an insult and I find it very funny you remove my posts yet Danielle can say what ever she likes and gets away with it.

    I know you dont like people having a go at Danielle but theres a reason for it and if Danielle thinks by getting you to remove posts that are negeative towards her it will make us go away, it wont.

    If I kept insulting my customers at work Id be sacked, yet Danielle seems to answe to no one.

  • Comment number 61.

    Oh and Nick if you believe Danielle has responded then please read her blog.

  • Comment number 62.

    On the positive side I thought the footy tonight - Brazil vs England - looked absolutely stunning: crystal clear, vibrant colour, hardly any artifacts except for a couple of one-second breakups - indeed, just as it should be, well done
    ...
    ...
    sorry, that was ITV HD of course

  • Comment number 63.

    #62, @nur0 so true, and then I turned over to see Eng v Arg on BBC 3. Chalk and Cheese spring to mind. Ho hum, with Danielle battening down the hatches for the long run, to ride out the storm until it blows over, I think perhaps that Derek500 may have been right all along. Maybe I'll just have to sell my soul to the Murdochs, get $ky HD (HD+ version so I can fast forward all the adverts), together with all the extra packages necessary to see movies and rugby. Oh, and sell the family silver to pay for it all. Actually, no, god forbid.

    Danielle, you know what we're all saying makes perfect sense. The channel will fail if it doesn't deliver "High Definition", it's obvious. Listen to us, come up with an alternative plan that would return BBC HD to become a leading player in the forthcoming TV revolution, then make your bosses, accountants, whomever listen to you and bring that plan to fruition. As I've said to you before, that would show real leadership and undoubtedly gain you promotion. What will presiding over the steady demise of a once promising channel gain you, I wonder?

  • Comment number 64.

    Thanks for your response ms Nagler.

    Perhaps you could explain how me comparing the picture quality of BBC HD before the 'bit rate cuts', with it as it is today is anything to do with "pre-conception".

    It is a simple fact. BBC HD PQ used to be good, now it is not. The bit rates were high, now they are not.

    I can't understand how my "pre-conception" of HD has anything to do with that. My "pre-conceptions" of HD were formed before I watch HD, not after I started watching it...

    As for changing the subject to programme content and hence suggesting HD is more about quantity than quality then what can I say?

    Why bother making and transmitting Top Gear or Dr Who in HD if it is going to be barely an improvement on SD?

    I shall record and compare both the SD and HD versions and compare them with interest...

    All I can say is I look forward to the day when I can 'vote with my feet', and if, as I currently do, find the BBC HD picture quality insufficient, I can simply chose to stop paying for it. I would prefer to buy my favourite them on Blu-Ray than be forced to pay to watch them on the BBC notquiteHDbutslightlybetternthanSD channel.

  • Comment number 65.

    What I don't understand in all this is why the BBC cannot simply restore the bit rates for HD.

    Apart from alienating some viewers and leading to confrontations like this, what purpose does continuing to run BBC HD at a lower bit rate actually serve?

    Surely the arguements can stopped by simply restoring them to their previous levels, or at least on a par with other broadcasters?

    Then everyone would be happy. Higher bit rates + better encoders equals even better PQ than before.

    Am I missing some simple point here that prevents such a simple and obvious solution?

    Or is this going to be like politics, where having made a policy decision the politicians are going to defend it to the death no matter what just to save face?

  • Comment number 66.

    Re post by CITIZENLOZ. I did this excercise with strictly come dancing last night. Could anyone explain (hopefully the BBC) why I found the following.
    Without exageration the BBC1 SD verson looked like a very old 405 line transmssion (on my 50" Samsung Plasma) if it had not been in colour I would have thought this was the case. The BBC HD version looked worse than SD transmssions I have seen on other chnnels (and BBC Channels) in the past. I am not techinical I am simply using my eyes I have to keep swapping to my recording of my Mylene Class Test clip (recorded from Sky) to reassure myself that my equipment is not faulty!!
    I also checked out the same program on my Sony 24" CRT TV in the back room. Normally HD content (displayed in SD on this set) can look stunning as the extra original recorded quality is carried through. On this set it looked not bad but defintley not silky smooth and vibrant as a normal HD progam would look on this set.
    Anyway I just wish the BBC would clarify things and be honest about the situation the worst thing is not knowing what,s happening and if things will ever improve. I do not suppose anything will happen until they admit their is something wrong. If enough people post to this blog this may happen.

    A frustrated and unhappy BBC HD Viewer

    Mike

  • Comment number 67.

    Danielle, Andy,

    A number of knowledgable people have put forward arguments as to why the current PQ is not as good as it used to but so far there has been no technical response. I was dissapointed by but not surprised by Danielle's latest comments. How can you say that PQ has not dropped dramatically since the new encoders were introduced when so many people here and elsewhere consider BBC HD to be no better than SD+.

    I have voted with my feet and took delivery of a Sky machine last weekend and been pleasantly surprised by the quality of some of the documentary channels, much better than BBC HD.

    One of my interests is photography and I strive for the "perfect" print. I can tell the difference between a good and indifferent picture, it is not my imagination that BBC HD PQ was infinitely better prior to the use of the new encoders, the difference is clear, so please do not insult us by telling us otherwise.

    I stopped paying the licence fee when you refused to remove the DOG on some programmes but not others. How does that help channel surfers? If and when the PQ improves I will start paying again, in the meantime my money is going to Sky.

    Rogerdw

  • Comment number 68.

    I work for a manufacturer of TVs, Projectors, Camcorders, etc. and one of the very handy uses of the HD Preview loop during the day is to test projectors as the material is repeated regularly which makes comparisons very easy. On a 120 inch screen, which is what we use in our test room, the "imaginary" changes are very noticeable. So much so, that I now use mostly material recorded before the bitrate reduction or proper HD from the Sky HD channels for testing purposes.

  • Comment number 69.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 70.

    In this blog Danielle asserts "The charge made by a number of you is that the substantial drop in bitrate for BBC HD since the channel was launched - and in particular the reduction in bitrate in August when new encoders were introduced - has had a "catastrophic" effect on the picture quality offered by the channel".

    Can someone help me find where any of the 'number of you' Danielle refers to, used the word 'catastrophic'?

  • Comment number 71.

    I have a feeling that this observation might echo several made in response to other HD blog posts over the past few weeks... I watched a repeat of Live at the Apollo last night on BBC HD, and presumably under the well-controlled lighting conditions when the speaker was almost stationary, the picture was good: sharp, fairly high contrast. It's true that if you stepped up close to the screen, you could see shimmering artefacts, but generally, they were fairly subtle. This is clearly not as good as I remember BBC HD being at first, but without doubt on switching to a DOGless BBC HD, I would instantly have recognized it as an HD channel on the basis of the picture quality alone.

    _However_, when a comedian's arm was waved, he took a step to the right, jumped around, then picture became a mess... it's as if the the movement was shown by a sequence of long exposure, blurry images. Once the comedian was near-stationary again, the picture improved to its good state. When Live at the Apollo was shown the first time round, well before the bitrate change the same equipment showed an excellent picture, with such disconcerting weird movement artefacts not being at all apparent.

    To me, static images of non-changing subjects seem very good, but if anything moves, be it Lee Mack's left hand, or more unfortunately, any moving animal in wildlife programmes, and presumably the constantly shimmering light level in low contrast underwater scenes in the Natural World a couple of days ago, the encoder fails in its job at this bitrate. The encoder clearly can't handle movement well, which seems to include simple movement in an otherwise static scene, camera pans, moderately fast zooms in and out, and of course any action sequence (unfortunately, almost all programmes apart from maybe the Antiques Roadshow contain some such scenes): it approximates the frames it's given as best it can, but to the human eye, it just looks wrong and artificial.

    This was on a modest size 32" set, sitting around 3m from the screen. If I can make such observations just sitting in my living room with such a modest set-up and so far from the screen, there's something very wrong.

    Is this channel supposed to be a showcase for the best picture quality that the BBC produces? If so, it's failing the producers, performers, and all the technical staff that work hard on achieving excellence in these programmes, and of course it's failing the viewers. Many will be having their first HD experience around now, with BBC HD on Freesat, and they'll wonder on seeing this channel what all the fuss is about and will regard SD as being good enough if this is all HD is. The pictures are poor or mediocre during at least parts, and sometimes most, of the vast majority of programmes, and the BBC have previously demonstrated on the channel that they can produce infinitely better output with the same source material.

    This bitrate change doesn't make sense... Please Danielle, answer the many people who've posted here asking _why_ the cut in bitrate has been made when apparently there's free capacity available. If you've got better encoders, why not just employ them at the pre-August bitrate, thus _improving_ the picture quality? Is it due to a funding squeeze and by reducing the bitrate you pay less to Astra for carrying the channel? There must be factors such as these at play, because I can't for the life of me understand why such an unacceptable drop in picture quality of this premier showcase channel would be made.

    The plea for you to improve the picture quality again, of course, still stands, but I'm sure that many of us here would be much more sympathetic in our tone if you were more open about the reasons behind the unfortunate decisions regarding picture quality that have already been made.

  • Comment number 72.

    For myself, I "discovered" these BBC blogs, because in August, I wondered why the HD channel suddenly looked like a fair proportion of the programmes were no longer of decent quality. In fact, I wondered then, if the BBC had started broadcasting upscaled material, or changed something else fundamental. I *then* discovered, via the blogs, the new encoders, and the new bitrate. I had also at that time, had a few conversations with some friends, about how the HD channel often looked virtually the same as SD channels, and we all agreed. After discovering the "truth", said friends all now understand why what they see, and perceive to be poor quality, is down to the presumably, cost cutting measures. They all now tell me they basically don't watch the BBC HD much, and stick to SKY HD channels that deliver the quality they expect to see. None of these people are technical.

    Myself, I'm a audiophile/videophile and techie geek, if I'm honest (first consumer Dolby Pro-Logic decoder in 1990, LaserDisc in '94, early adopter of DVD etc.). I'm comparing the BBC HD quality vs BluRay, and other various quality "rips" of HD content (I rip a lot of my own BluRay content to H264 encoded .mkv files for playback via my digital streamer). Because of this, I also have experience myself of how "get a quart into a pint-pot", with still decent results. I've got a high quality sound system, and a decent panel, and am fussy about quality (I personally subscribe to quality over quantity!). I don't expect BluRay competing quality from broadcast TV, because that's not possible, but I *do* expect the BBC to lead the way, which at the moment, in my opinion, it is far from doing!

    I don't care about bitrate, I care about quality, and if industry beating, or at least comparable quality can be achieved at the current bitrate, then that's fine with me. Unfortunately, in my opinion, that's not happening right now. What puzzles me, as I have said on one of the many previous blogs, is I think Strictly is really decent quality (apart from a few nasty macroblocking moments last night when it got *really* busy in the pro-dancer fill-in section), some of Life and most of the Electric Proms has been good, Volcano was mostly great, yet the football the other weekend, Frankincense, Last Chance to See, and an assortment of others, were all terrible! In fact, the England v Brazil game last night on ITV HD looked pretty damn good, so again, I am puzzled why at a similar rate, the BBC can't do the same.

    Content wise, I'd personally like to see the Rugby, both Autumn Internationals, and the 6-Nations (again), MotoGP and F1 in HD, probably more than anything else. I like all the wildlife stuff currently on the channel (ignoring the PQ issues), and I think TopGear in HD was a no-brainer! Lots of good stuff happening, but also, a lot of poor stuff also, which is a real shame, as I want the BBC to be if not the leader, "competitive", with the "other"... ;)

    You never did confirm Danielle (or anyone else), that the "unsustainable" previous bitrate, was due to cost (we all just still, assume that to be the case). Any chance at least that could be cleared up?

    Matt.

  • Comment number 73.

    Danielle - will you do us all a favour and simply answer the questions being asked on this blog instead of ignoring them?

    The problems with the channel are bad enough but the fact your continually ignore questions is simply adding fuel to the fire. If you care about what your audience think you have a duty to respond.

  • Comment number 74.

    I dread to think what will happen if the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has it's say and stuff goes back to being on free to air. It will be a disaster for HD Sport viewers, especially the cricket.

  • Comment number 75.

  • Comment number 76.

    Re # 75 nice to see the picture quality has improved from the last game covered.

    Very Funny but you will get a slapped hand of Nick as he has had a sense of humour by-pass.

  • Comment number 77.

    Hi

    I read with interest all the comments to date.

    Since the encoder has changed, this might explain why I sometimes get alot sharper images by changing the decoder codec I use with Windows 7 MCE? A better match for both ends perhaps?

    Because I have gone down the HTPC route, I can change pretty-much any hardware or software I like in order to sort out the problems...
    ITV HD and Luxe HD are both fine and give good images (eg Collision and the fly-aways at the Eng-Brazil match yesterday). I dont have a Sky HD subscription to test these channels. Suggests problem lies with BBC?

    Can anyone (from BBC or others here) please suggest a list of preferred codecs and graphics cards that will allow best quality images and audio?
    Any settings as well would be good for configuring the codec settings...

    Sorry if I have posted this in the wrong place, but the advice from Win7 forums are pointing towards my ATI graphics card not handling "a recent change with BBC HD" ("the change" explained in detail on this forum!). My ATI card gives great results with Blu-Ray and ITV HD. Not entirely sure its the card???

    My other related query - are there a encoder/quality differences between the listed BBC HD channel and channel 6945(NAR)?
    Channel 6945 is giving much better images (alot less artifacts), and sound hasnt dropped yet. Only one of these channels seems to have AC3 audio.

    Many thanks for any advice...

  • Comment number 78.

    I do find it amazing though (to go a little of topic) how much stuff is actually made from lego!

    For example tonight we have

    Doctor Who
    http://www.lyrya.fr/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/doctor-who-lego-2.jpg
    Top Gear
    http://www.autotrader.co.uk/EDITORIAL/editorial_images/non_imported/top_gear_lego.jpg

    I am sure if I searched I could find some gardening stuff and what not :D

    Lego makes everything

  • Comment number 79.

    Knowing how busy she is at work, but hoping that Danielle might have spent some of her weekend free time to perhaps come on her own Blog and make a comment to answer the questions I posed last night at #58 or #63 (or even about the non-existent BBC4/HD Opera simulcast on the Autumn Schedule Blog #160), I was unsurprised but disappointed to find that she hadn't.

    What does surprise me though is that, in so few hours so many other people have also found time during their own weekend leisure break to try to engage in a dialogue with Danielle and attempt to help her to solve the problems of the channel which she runs, and presumably gets very well paid for running too.

    Ladies and Gents, I fear that we are not going to get that dialogue up and running, so I will be taking this matter on to the BBC Trust one week from today. Please, instead of wasting your efforts here trying to get blood out of a stone from Danielle do spend an hour or two condensing all your thoughts into a carefully crafted 1,000 word (or less) essay which I can send to the Trust to support the case for improving picture quality on the BBC HD channel. Send it to me, in the next week, to my email address which you will find here: http://www.zen97962.zen.co.uk/ in the 4th download document labelled by the BBC as "final response" (to my FOI).

    Danielle responded to my "Executive Complaint" about PQ with her Blog here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2009/09/picture_quality_on_hd_a_respon.html I didn't believe then that it was a satisfactory response and would have taken it straight on to the Trust. However, ill health intervened and I was giving an extension to my appeal. In the interim I've delayed appealing hoping that over time, and following the public outcry, the BBC would come up with a solution for themselves. We all know now that they haven't, so I can hold out no longer (even waiting for Andy's technical reply might force me to postpone this until next year - a risk I'm not prepared to take).

    For your information I will immediately post another comment with the exact wording of the complaint that prompted Danielle's response Blog. I look forward to all those essay's which I will include as Appendices in an Annex to my appeal letter to Sir Michael and the BBC Trust next week. I thank you all in advance.

  • Comment number 80.

    See #79,

    This Executive level complaint was sent to Danielle on 28th Aug. Next week I will take it to the Trust.

    Dear Danielle,

    I do appreciate that you've taken the trouble to reply to my earlier email, I know you must be very busy. You are right, indeed, I am passionate about HD TV because I think it is the future of television, and I'm sure that both you and Andy Quested do too from the sentiments that you've expressed in your Blogs. That is why I have been so disappointed with the channel, ever since I first got my HDTV set-up back in Nov 08, but most particularly with the direction that it has taken in the last few weeks following the introduction of the new (and seemingly untested, encoders) and the unexplained bandwidth reduction (or slash) of 40%.

    Firstly, all those months ago I was dismayed by the lack of original programming, the limited amount of sport and the seeming disregard for the additional value of Dolby Digital Surround Sound (i.e. hardly any of your home-grown programmes include it) but I also had an inkling that all was not quite right with the Picture Quality (PQ) either. I was sure that PQ could be a lot better, i.e. quality along the lines of the many demos I'd seen in TV showrooms when choosing my television.

    Seeking a way to complain, I first ventured into the BBC Complaints procedure, including a comment on the PQ, but the, apparently "standard answer", response letter that I received for my troubles was a big let down, missing my points completely. Then, thanks to Google (and no thanks to the BBC website) I stumbled on your Blog, and Andy Quested's technical one, where I found that people with access to other HD Services also felt that the BBC HD PQ was not up to scratch. For your information, I've added to the bottom of this email trail my original Nov 08 complaint, the BBC's response, and also my resultant Blog comment to Andy (in full); although the latter was never answered.

    Over the months since, I've been a regular commenter on your Blogs and, very occasionally, you've acknowledged my comments which was refreshing and led me to believe that my comments, and complaints, were being heard at a BBC Executive level and just might, one day, be acted upon. Since you've returned from leave recently, I'm sure that you've been made aware of the passions that have been stirred, right across the web in various fora, following the apparently suicidal move by the channel to cut bandwidth, mentioned earlier, and its obvious, considerable and detrimental effect on the channel's PQ.

    Like many others I joined the calls for an explanation by commenting on Andy's PQ Blog, but despite a valiant attempt by Andy to counter the barrage of criticism he clearly wasn't able, or didn't wish, to elaborate any further on the reasons behind the BBC's bizarre move (other than with the cryptic comment that the previous bandwidth, itself lower than that of many of your competitors, was unsustainable). This lack of official comment, and the fact that you have been away and thus have not been in a position to explain, has caused some commenters to threaten to abandon the channel altogether and others, instigated by digitalscoobiedoo, to seek different ways of making their concerns heard. I myself have decided to join this latter group.

    To be honest, although I've said I appreciated your reply to my "passion" you haven't actually given any considered response to what is clearly a complaint about the current PQ on BBC HD, albeit addressed to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee (CMSCOM) at Parliament. I had made it clear in my earlier email to you that I was resorting to emailing CMSCOM because of the lack of a response to complaints directed at you on the Blogs. So, the point of this email is to redirect that complaint directly to you now at an Executive level of the BBC (I'm sure that as Head of BBC HD you are an Executive).

    I consequently wish to complain, formally, about the very poor PQ of BBC HD currently, which is in direct contradiction to the channel's mission statement, i.e., "The BBC HD channel's commitment to the highest possible quality means that ... we will choose the standard that delivers the best possible pictures." and the BBC Trust Service License for BBCHD which states: "BBC HD should deliver a very high quality technical service to viewers, by adhering to, or seeking to exceed, industry standards for picture resolution". If I am not satisfied with the outcome of this complaint then, within the next 20 days, I intend to pass it on to the BBC Trust.

    Yours sincerely,

    Paul G Eaton

  • Comment number 81.

    Well done Paul a perfect letter to Danielle which sums it all up really and I think we should wait for the official response. It's quite clear the BBC HD channel is failing in its original mission statement - particularly the point of industry standards - the BBC should be exceeding this however it's not even adhering to the recommendations.

    I do think the only way forward is through the formal complaint procedure as you have done - Danielle appears not to be interested in discussing the issue on here so the formal route is possibly the only way to make her sit up and listen.

    Good luck Paul.

  • Comment number 82.

    Nice one Paul. Good luck!

    I'm really looking forward to Dr Who and Top Gear tonight. Let's hope the pq is worthy of the content. Fingers crossed.

  • Comment number 83.

    xtonys @ 77. Hi, this is intended to be a response to Danielles blog posting, not a general Q&A. In brief therefore;
    6495 and BBC HD are names for the same channel on my system, i.e. 10847 Mhz.
    Your graphics card won't make a difference unless it is doing the decoding (unlikely)
    Changing the encoder won't help picture quality.

  • Comment number 84.

    #81, #82 Thanks both. I'm sure it's clear, but just to reemphasize for all the letter at #80 was sent to danielle on 28th Aug. Her response can already been seen here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2009/09/picture_quality_on_hd_a_respon.html

    My appeal to the Trust regarding that response will be sent next Sunday, it's long been prepared but for obvious reasons I won't air it here. I'm hoping that by next week it will also include lots of those 1,000 word essays on the subject from you all that I called for at #79.

    Re: the humour injection, Nick might not appreciate it but I certainly did. The soccer World Cup picture might have been a joke but actually, it's no joke that it is a clearer picture than I just had on BBC2 for the repeat showing of yesterday's rugby.

    We're told there's no conspiracy theory but I'd swear that they seem to be making SD even worse just so that our BBC HD (Lite) channel still compares favourably.

  • Comment number 85.

    Thanks a lot Paul
    I even feel better now just knowing someone is not prepared to let this go, lethargy is the road to know where and would play right into their hands
    Once again Many Thanks

    Mike

  • Comment number 86.

    Well done Paul, and I'm sure that all the posters and probably even more lurkers are solidly behind your efforts.

    Your forehead must be a mass of bruises from the brick wall battering it's been taking!

    It seems arrogant in the extreme that all the valid technical questions raised here have been completely ignored.

    What was that old motto? "It's your BBC". Obviously long abandoned.

  • Comment number 87.

    re @84 Paul says "We're told there's no conspiracy theory but I'd swear that they seem to be making SD even worse just so that our BBC HD (Lite) channel still compares favourably"

    I remember watching last series of waterloo road amoungst others and thinking what a bloody good picture it was on my Pioneer plasma. Seems the whole BBC output is going down the pan. I know from other inputs its not my TV.

    Andy Quested may well be preparing a detailed argument on the bitrate argument Danielle but most dont realy care all we want to know is why the picture quality is worse, whatever its cause.
    The fact that Andy, once upon a time, could write a blog about fixing a mates TV with a Scart issue over coffee and now writes nothing on the important PQ issue for weeks speaks volumes to me. Anyone else agree?
    Where are you Andy?

  • Comment number 88.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 89.

    en5ads @ 83 - many thanks for confirming my thoughts...

    Paul - good luck in formally raising this issue with the BBC.
    You have my support.

  • Comment number 90.

    The funniest thing about all this is that Danielle can see all these comments and read posts on other forums and in the press, yet still insists theres no issue over quality and chooeses to ingnore us.

    Shall we all go and see santa and ask for the same presents??? A return to quality BBC HD and a new controller of BBC HD. If only....

    Oh and its the new Series of top gear tonight, cannott wait for the upscale.

  • Comment number 91.

    Does anyone have a recording of the HD test card pre and post new encoders? The gratings would surely show the degradation of PQ.

    Rogerdw

  • Comment number 92.

    #92, just a quick point following on from my #84, since it was quoted I'd better just say I meant to say "no conspiracy", obviously there are plenty of conspiracy theories.

    To follow on, I've just walked in to the living room where the TV was on showing Countryfile but without a DOG (hooray). However, that confused me because I wasn't convinced it was HD and, with no onscreen logo I had to actually press "info" on the remote just to check it was channel 108.

    Actually it was, so Danielle would you remind me, and anyone else who's confused, what the rules are by which your person who manually has to remove the DOG decides when to drop it. I'm lost, because at the moment it seems to be a random feast.

    Talking of random feasts, whenever Countryfile is filmed in a forest (like the bit now with Julia Bradbury - and actually the rest of this piece too) the picture seems to get better suddenly. The vast majority of it though, looks SD to me. And on that point, flicking over to the SD simulcast, just like I said earlier, that picture looks truly awful. Are you absolutely sure that you haven't made the SD picture worse just so that your HD channel compares favourably?

  • Comment number 93.

    Oh and I forgot to say, aren't all those people who use DOGs to navigate their way around the channel selections going to get awfully confused by an ON / OFF DOG on BBC HD (not that I'm complaining - you can leave it off for me, I know how to use that info button on the remote!).

  • Comment number 94.

    "what the rules are by which your person who manually has to remove the DOG decides when to drop it."


    Head they use it,
    Tails they dont.



  • Comment number 95.

    Doctor Who is actually looking pretty good so far but why, oh why, is the audio messed up AGAIN!! Flagged as DD5.1 but only getting stereo.

    AndyQ, are you out there?

  • Comment number 96.

    #95 Haven't had to use 'plan b' for a while!! I take L&R audio from the TV to a spare input on my amp. At least I get pro-logic and all the speakers are used, with the dialogue from the centre.

  • Comment number 97.

    Derek, I could turn off the HDMI override on my V+ box which would result in the same thing. It's just not on though, is it? These issues really should have been sorted by now.

    Back to PQ, I must say Doctor Who had a great picture all the way through. Reminds me of the excellent first episode of Torchwood when it was first broadcast on BBCHD (the opening scene in the rain).

  • Comment number 98.

    Dr Who had a fantastic picture 99% of the time. There was the odd moment where the hd struggled. I could see grain and softness but overall it was very good. If the bitrate was increased I'm sure this wouldn't be a problem.

  • Comment number 99.

    Anyone know the resolution & bitrate (& whether fixed or not) of the ITV HD red button service? I looked for it on linowsat - both birds - but could not locate? Do they use the same encoders as BBC?

    The reason I ask is that having freesat only, this is the only service to compare with BBC HD (discounting Luxe). Although some of the ITV output is seemingly of less-than-stellar quality, some is truly excellent e.g. Brazil v England footy. I also thought the third Star Wars movie shown the other weekend was very good (some ropey CGI discounted).

    I can't for the life of me understand why BBC HD do not use FULL 1920*1080 16:9 res. At (is it?) 1440*1080 our full-HD sets are still having to upscale the horizontal axis!

    Why they have cut the bitrate if there remains plenty unused? If Danielle et al really believe that bitrate does not affect PQ then prove it by either:
    a) re-upping bitrate to previous 16Mbps
    or
    b) drop further (short-term test only!) to say 5Mbps
    In either case we should witness near-zero effect, if they are right.

    Furthermore, why should new encoder & bitrate be adjusted to maintain, at best, the status quo from pre-August PQ? Surely BBC HD should be aiming for flagship status - 'great, let's have a new improved encoder AND keep/improve the previous bitrate', that just might even IMPROVE on previous PQ...ahh, happy license-payers, less forum aggravation, job well done :-)
    & why does the bitrate have to be FIXED? I guess this is fine for Antiques Roadshow/Luxe HD, but what about everything else?

  • Comment number 100.

    Audio was poor at times on Doctor Who.

    BBC Flagship program my bottom!

 

Page 1 of 6

More from this blog...

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.