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DIRECTV nomad PC version 1.01.40 and iOS version 1.0: Issues/Discussion


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#426 OFFLINE   KenW

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 10:03 AM

Cool! Is it a HD TV? Like the picure?


The picture is acceptable (not great) when I'm across the room. I'm one of the folks that would use a high quality option if it was available for nomad. I watch some programs when I'm on the plane or at the airport, but most of the time I'm in a hotel room.

The best option for me would be support for high quality and Apple TV. I really like the remote that Apple TV provides. It's really slick for skipping commercials, much better than the slider. Apple TV from my iPad is not working with nomad today, so I'm forced to the Component cables.

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#427 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 10:07 AM

The Nomad is the transcoder. Stuart's comments refer to using the PC to get the transcoding going, since that's the slow part.


Absolutely right. What I do is, I set a bunch of programs to transcode from the PC. The nomad does all the work... I just let it sit there overnight and when the hard stuff is done I transfer it to my iPad.

As far as the quality, it's... not bad. Yes you will see some artifacts if you try to throw it to a large display. But it's not really meant for that. It's pretty good from an HD source viewed on the PC or iPad. On SD sources, well garbage in garbage out, really.

The goal is to have the files fit down to about 1GB/hour. Let's be honest, Blu-ray is about 20 times that, give or take. So you're not going to get that level of quality. But on the other hand how many people want to fill up a mobile device with 25GB rips?
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#428 OFFLINE   taylorhively

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 02:05 PM

I've been using the Nomad for about a week and a half. I'd say over all this is an admirable attempt at making recorded content portable. It works, that's for sure.
I would prefer the ability to manually select shows to "prepare" without requesting a "download.
But I'm sort of getting over that now that I see how it works. On the iPhone you select "download" and episode. It goes in to "preparing" then you shut down the app. Return later when it's ready and the iPhone app asks you want to download now or later (at least it's not automatic.) So I am getting used to how to work it.

Complaints:
1) The PC Windows app and iPhone app are far too inconsistent. I was quite confused at first trying to use both until I figured out to just not use the PC app (until a later date should I need to.)
2) I would like the ability to delete shows off the nomad. Even the 30 second press reset doesn't delete content.
3) The iPhone app needs to use background download mode. It's a feature built in to iOS. I use several other apps that take advantage of this. You start your queue of download items, close the app, and it continues to download them (apps even notify me when the downloads are done.) It's kind of ridiculous that I have to leave the app open to get my downloads.
Pretty much I open the app, start the downloads, plug it in, and go to bed (or go do something that takes 1/2 hour or more.)
4) The device register/unregister process should be better. They should let you register a device and delete the app without having to wait 30 days. Or at least allow us more than 5 devices. Between my wife and I we have two iPhones and two iPads. That doesn't leave room for kids to use it (thankfully mine is only 1 year old right now.)
5) Start up time on the iPhone app is a joke. It should start up instantly to the downloaded tab and do it's syncing in the background making those tabs available when they're ready, not hold you hostage while it figures it out.

The video quality is very good and totally acceptable for it's intent which is watching on portable devices. This isn't intended for large screen viewing on the go.

Over all, with a little getting used to it, I think this very much serves it's purpose and I'm thrilled that I can take almost any show with me. I hope to see improvements over time. I understand this is very much a 1.0 product.
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#429 OFFLINE   Hoffer

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 04:27 PM

I installed the PC and played around with it for 5 minutes and haven't touched it since. My only PC is a desktop and I'm not taking that thing anywhere. DirecTV2PC offers much better video quality.

I agree with the complaints about the iPhone app. It should be able to download stuff in the background. I don't find it hugely annoying. I usually have it downloading stuff while I'm getting ready for work. The startup time for the app is definitely something they need to work on.

#430 OFFLINE   markrogo

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 01:17 AM

The goal is to have the files fit down to about 1GB/hour. Let's be honest, Blu-ray is about 20 times that, give or take. So you're not going to get that level of quality. But on the other hand how many people want to fill up a mobile device with 25GB rips?


The other goal is not to have the transcodes take forever. I have files that are 400MB / hour that are artifact free and look decent on the big screen (not to mention the iPad). It's pretty clear that Nomad uses a purpose-built hardware encoder that does some kind of single-pass encode that's quick and dirty. I tend to agree with Stuart that for its intended purpose, it's doing about what's right.

It does seem realistic, though, if the Nomad hardware permits it, to have a not-easily-found (for ease of use purposes for the "masses") high-quality mode. That might take twice as long but would yield a higher-quality encode -- and might not even be a larger file (or might be somewhat less bigger than you'd think). This is a possible enhancement down the road if there is enough demand for better quality encodes.

#431 OFFLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 10:16 AM

It does seem realistic, though, if the Nomad hardware permits it, to have a not-easily-found (for ease of use purposes for the "masses") high-quality mode. That might take twice as long but would yield a higher-quality encode -- and might not even be a larger file (or might be somewhat less bigger than you'd think). This is a possible enhancement down the road if there is enough demand for better quality encodes.


I'm sure the demand will be there, but not sure if licensing agreements with the content providers won't get in the way.
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#432 OFFLINE   Fraaaak

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 05:45 PM

I'm sure the demand will be there, but not sure if licensing agreements with the content providers won't get in the way.


I would like a higher quality choice, because the artifacts are noticeable on 15" macbook pro.

Are the resulting videos watermarked with the dtv account?

#433 OFFLINE   KenW

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 10:01 PM

Not visibly in the picture, but I understand they are wrapped with DRM.

Setup

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#434 OFFLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 10:38 PM

I would like a higher quality choice, because the artifacts are noticeable on 15" macbook pro.


I shrink my window to the size of an iPad when on MBP or Air. Don't like the q on any larger screen.
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#435 OFFLINE   markrogo

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 01:02 AM

I'm sure the demand will be there, but not sure if licensing agreements with the content providers won't get in the way.


Again, no. As irrational as the licensing agreements are, I cannot believe they specifically require encoding the streams badly. Yes, they may limit the resolution but I promise you the problems people are experiencing are not a function of resolution primarily. The resolution is more or less DVD resolution and DVDs can be blown up to many feet without significant artifacting.

The artifacting is an encode-quality issue and I cannot accept that DirecTV is under contract to encode the streams on Nomad "only well enough such that at least some people find the quality unacceptable on 15" laptops" or any equivalent terminology to define the same result.

#436 OFFLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 01:48 AM

Whoa! You make assumptions that are unwarranted. Never implied that quality would be purposely degraded, but rather that full HD may be off limits.

That leaves the question of what is a reasonable size? Answer: iPad dimensions, currently. Anything larger will start to fall off in quality, though the degree to which it becomes objectionable will vary by person as well as hardware.
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#437 OFFLINE   markrogo

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 12:20 AM

Whoa! You make assumptions that are unwarranted. Never implied that quality would be purposely degraded, but rather that full HD may be off limits.

That leaves the question of what is a reasonable size? Answer: iPad dimensions, currently. Anything larger will start to fall off in quality, though the degree to which it becomes objectionable will vary by person as well as hardware.


You ought to read what I wrote. The quality issues with Nomad are almost certainly not a function of resolution. Encode quality and resolution have nearly nothing to do with one another. And for what it's worth, I very much doubt that there is a contractual limit on resolution anyway. The reason to cap resolution is file size. The reason encode quality isn't what it could be in spite of sufficient file size is doubtless a combination of expediency, software and hardware. I believe it's fixable even if I'm not sure they ever will. And this still has nothing to do with resolution.

#438 OFFLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 12:54 AM

Resolution is excellent on an iPad. Bigger suffers. Other hardware suffers.
It may be that your definition of resolution is different from mine.

I know that you believe you understood what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
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#439 OFFLINE   poppo

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 09:01 AM

The nomad seems to be pretty 'chatty' with the Internet. We have been having a lot of outages here, and very shortly after things go down, I get the amber LED on the unit. It's not that it's not detecting the LAN or DVRs, but that it can't do whatever communications it's doing on the Internet. I just don't see why it needs to be constantly accessing the Internet so often.

#440 OFFLINE   markrogo

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 05:28 PM

Resolution is excellent on an iPad. Bigger suffers. Other hardware suffers.
It may be that your definition of resolution is different from mine.

I know that you believe you understood what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.


Resolution has a very very specific meaning. It refers to the number of pixels in the image. The resolution of Nomad is actually quite similar to the resolution of DVD. (They are both very approximately 720 x 480.)

It's patently obvious from the complaints here and my limited experience seeing someone's Nomad recordings, that Nomad is nowhere near DVD quality. Now, again -- and I'm kind of done explaining this -- the image quality you see is not merely a function of the resolution of the image. You have a video file that's define by a number of key attributes. They are:

1) Encoding method used (e.g. MPEG-2, MPEG-4 -- which comes in a ton of variants, by the way such that almost everything you get these days is some kind of MPEG-4 encode)
2) Bitrate of the file (which determines how big the file is when multiplied by the number of minutes in the files)
3) Resolution of the file (the number of pixels, 720 x 480, 1280 x 720, 1920 x 1080, etc. etc.)

You'd think that looking at those three attributes would actually tell you how good the file is. It doesn't. Now, the question is why. And the answer is complex and beyond the scope of this discussion and to some extent my knowledge, but I'll summarize.

To encode a video file from one codec (e.g. MPEG-2) to another (e.g. MPEG-4) or to transcode it from one resolution (e.g. 1920 x 1080) to another (e.g. 720 x 480) requires significant amounts of processing power. So much so that in the case of transcoding, even a modern Core i7 doesn't do an amazing job at this without some help. However, there is often help in the form of purpose-built chips that can encode or transcode data in real time or even faster (in other words, they can take 1 minute of video and process it in 1 minute or even less). Someone made a design decision to have Nomad retail for $149 and also offer real-time transcoding of MPEG-4 satellite broadcasts that are up to the higher single-digit-megabit range (someone can confirm DirecTV's top bitrate here, I'm not sure what it really is).

But here's the thing, the image quality you see is a function of how good that encode is, regardless of the speed with which it is performed, the resolution of the resulting file and even the bitrate. And the reason for this is the better the processing that is done -- and the longer it's allowed to be done -- the better the result. Perhaps a good analogy would be the difference between Rembrandt and the guy who paints the exterior of the local Public Storage. One has skill the other lacks and one has time the other lacks. Imagine if you had Rembrandt on a chip. Even with the equivalent amount of time to the Public Storage painter, he'd make a lovelier painter. And with more time? Well, he might paint a masterpiece.

Encode quality is the system's "skill" and it's not measurable. It's a function both of the innate abilities of the processor involved in the device (in this case the chip that is Nomad's "brain"), plus what it knows (Nomad's software), plus how long it has to solve the problem (in this case, Nomad is instructed to encode no slower than 1:1 or real-time).

I actually am not rendering an opinion on whether the quality is good enough for iPod, iPad, or iMac (or their Windows or Android equivalent). That's incidental to what I'm trying to explain. Which is this: If there is to ever be a better result from Nomad -- in other words, a prettier to look at file, it does not need necessarily need to be any larger. Making it larger would allow for a higher bitrate or higher resolution -- or both. And either or both of those could improve the image quality. But an alternative would be to simply allow it to encode more slowly -- more diligently if you will -- after giving it more "skills" to use the time to get a better quality result. The files would then retain their portability, would not take up any more space on Nomad itself, but would look far better on larger-screen laptops, etc.

Nomad's file size is actually quite large. It's roughly twice the size per hour of the most comment torrent files, which tend to be based on OTA or cable TV broadcasts. Those torrents tend also to have resolution similar to Nomad's files. They can, however, often be blown up to a 50" screen without significant picture quality degradation. They are perhaps a bit soft and the lesser of them might suffer macroblocking under extreme conditions, but they are clearly superior to Nomad files despite having half as many bits. This is not in any way a knock on Nomad. Those files are made on high-end PCs, do not have to be completed in real time, etc. It just points out what is possible with even fewer bits than Nomad. I would suggest that those people wishing for higher quality Nomad files would be well served by arguing for quality rather than quantity.

The quantity argument will cause files to fit less well on smartphones and tablets which are often memory constrained. Quality, however, could be achieved merely through patience -- assuming, again, the Nomad hardware has the capability to be "taught" to do better if allowed more time to study the problem at hand.

#441 OFFLINE   Fraaaak

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 05:58 PM

I think quality is the discussion here, regardless of whether posters (including me) occasionally use incorrect terminology - your point is taken.

#442 OFFLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 06:34 PM

Yes, and Markrogo, I appreciate your explanation, which I will read and try to digest a bit later.

For me, a layman, resolution means the total visual experience, heavily dependent on there being enough pixels. As a photographer, I'd rather have 2,000 good pixels than 4,000 mediocre ones. Lots of variables in how one gets to good pixels that are right for the intended viewing screen's size and pixel count, and hardware putting out the signal.
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#443 OFFLINE   markrogo

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 02:54 AM

"As a photographer, I'd rather have 2,000 good pixels than 4,000 mediocre ones"

Yes, and in video the getting of those 2,000 good ones is that much trickier than it is with stills -- where as you probably know, megapixels don't equal picture quality in any way and 2 different 8 megapixel images can range in quality from awful to amazing.

Anyway, if after you read my long post you have a question, ask.

#444 OFFLINE   poppo

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 09:11 AM

-- where as you probably know, megapixels don't equal picture quality in any way.....


That's not exactly true. The higher the pixels density, the more detail. To exaggerate a bit, here is an example. A picture (still or video) with a very low pixel count, may have one pixel that would be assigned to someone's eye. So the whole eye would have to be one color. A higher pixel density might have 10 pixels assigned to that eye, thus giving you the ability to see the white and the pupil as different colors. Thus more detail and higher picture quality.

However the display device is equally as important. An LCD has a fixed number of pixels. So for example lets say it is 1024x768. Ideally the original picture would have been taken in the same resolution for a 1 to 1 pixel match. If the original is less pixels, then more pixels have to be assigned on the display device for each one of the original. That means some distortion will be introduced. You see this with the nomad main program (not the video) on an iPad when you blow it up to fill the screen. On the flip side if the device has less pixels then the original, then you have to decide what to discard. Again using the eye as an example, if it started out with 10 pixels, and now you only have 1 to display it, detail will be lost.

In the case of the nomad, the primary ways to increase the quality is to either transcode to the resolution (pixel count size) of the target device (not perfect if using different devices), and increase the bit rate.

Anyone who transcodes videos for portable devices a lot, knows that you have to select the target screen size (resolution) and select the best bit rate (the higher the rate, the better the quality, but at the expence of file size).

Now I don't know if the nomad could be made smart enough to know what device picked a show to transcode. In a perfect world, it would know the screen size of the target device and transode it specifically for that device. This would result in videos optimized for the device it will play back on.

However even if it could, the resulting videos will never look very good if played back on a different device (i.e. a HDTV) that will require scaling it back up again.

#445 OFFLINE   Fraaaak

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 01:10 AM

I have the pc nomad program running in a virtual machine - tonight I expanded the virtual disk a bit and now am getting "Account Validation Required - There is a problem with your DirecTV account. Please insure that you have internet access and Try-again if this problem persists Restart the application or call Customer Service at 1-800-531-5000 and report the diagnostic code below. 2-0-2"

I figure this particular installation needs to be reactivated - everything clickable is disabled, even the "?" help button.

Short of uninstalling the entire application (and deleting a couple of other folders that the uninstall routine forgets to, according to posts on DirecTV technical forums), is there anyway to reactivate? It can talk to the Nomad (I mean it's on the same local network, and my iPhone app is running fine), so where is the list of activated clients, and how do you delete and re-authorize clients?

edit: I ended up doing a full uninstall and reinstall, and that seemed to work fine. My fear was the "if you deactivate a device, you must wait 30 days to reactivate..." caveat in the manual. Apparently they aren't enforcing that yet?

Edited by Fraaaak, 05 December 2011 - 02:32 AM.


#446 OFFLINE   markrogo

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 02:03 AM

That's not exactly true. The higher the pixels density, the more detail. To exaggerate a bit, here is an example. A picture (still or video) with a very low pixel count, may have one pixel that would be assigned to someone's eye. So the whole eye would have to be one color. A higher pixel density might have 10 pixels assigned to that eye, thus giving you the ability to see the white and the pupil as different colors. Thus more detail and higher picture quality.

However the display device is equally as important. An LCD has a fixed number of pixels. So for example lets say it is 1024x768. Ideally the original picture would have been taken in the same resolution for a 1 to 1 pixel match. If the original is less pixels, then more pixels have to be assigned on the display device for each one of the original. That means some distortion will be introduced. You see this with the nomad main program (not the video) on an iPad when you blow it up to fill the screen. On the flip side if the device has less pixels then the original, then you have to decide what to discard. Again using the eye as an example, if it started out with 10 pixels, and now you only have 1 to display it, detail will be lost.

In the case of the nomad, the primary ways to increase the quality is to either transcode to the resolution (pixel count size) of the target device (not perfect if using different devices), and increase the bit rate.

Anyone who transcodes videos for portable devices a lot, knows that you have to select the target screen size (resolution) and select the best bit rate (the higher the rate, the better the quality, but at the expence of file size).

Now I don't know if the nomad could be made smart enough to know what device picked a show to transcode. In a perfect world, it would know the screen size of the target device and transode it specifically for that device. This would result in videos optimized for the device it will play back on.

However even if it could, the resulting videos will never look very good if played back on a different device (i.e. a HDTV) that will require scaling it back up again.


I agree with very little in your post.

It's simply not correct that the "higher the pixel density the more detail" unless you add the caveat "holding all else equal'. There are plenty of 14-megapixel cameras that capture less detail than better 8, 10 and 12-megapixel ones. Why? Sensor quality, lens quality, software quality, etc.

Yes, you need a certain amount of resolution to capture a certain amount of detail. No, it's nowhere near what marketing leads people to think it is.

Everything you say about video continues to ignore encode quality which is every bit as important as bitrate, resolution, etc. It's just not some spec-sheet item, so people can't measure it like their genitalia.

You can get better results from lower bitrates or better results from higher resolution or better results from all sorts of things. Yes, if you hold everything equal, more bits are better, more pixels are better, etc. But you rarely hold everything else equal. I promise you I could make videos from the same program source as Nomad with half as many bits, the same number of pixels, and dramatically better picture quality. It would, however, require my computer and much more time than Nomad takes. And that's the point.

#447 OFFLINE   trh

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 06:03 AM

My fear was the "if you deactivate a device, you must wait 30 days to reactivate..." caveat in the manual. Apparently they aren't enforcing that yet?

yes, they are enforcing this. But from your description, you didn't deactivate your device, you just reinstalled the software. The software/DirecTV knew this and didn't count your device twice.

#448 OFFLINE   Fraaaak

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 02:28 PM

yes, they are enforcing this. But from your description, you didn't deactivate your device, you just reinstalled the software. The software/DirecTV knew this and didn't count your device twice.


Hmm, I wonder why the program thought it couldn't run. I did make a couple of changes to the VM it's running in - expanded the allowable maximum size of the vm disk and changed the MAC address, perhaps that's what did it. But the DTV site still shows 3 authorized devices, which is correct.

#449 OFFLINE   KenW

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 02:54 PM

I've seen this in the past as well. My answer was also to reinstall.

Setup

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#450 OFFLINE   harsh

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 03:36 PM

Resolution has a very very specific meaning. It refers to the number of pixels in the image.

It should be noted that this is the computerly definition of resolution. In TV, resolution is a much more meaningful (and perhaps more subjective) metric. TV resolution is a measure of how fine the detail of the finished product is.

The pixel matrix is one element of TV resolution but it only tells part of the story. TV resolution takes into account the ravages of the transport method that computer resolution doesn't consider. There's also the concern of display speed (much like CRT persistence) that literally muddies the resultant picture.

Somewhere in the middle, we have digital video resolution which is impacted by the pixel matrix, scaling and lossy compression damage.
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