WTF? iTMS movies look horrible on Apple in-store Sonys

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited January 2014
OK, so I go on down to the local Apple store to check out the Atv. Yep, up and running on a couple of Sony Bravia LCD monitors, 32" I think.



Cool. Check out the interface, check out photos (looks great!), oh, good, here's the movies.



Now, I've read a few things about iTMS video quality, that the current 640x480 res doesn't look that great, but I figured "I've seen SD vid scaled up for a fixed resolution screen and look just fine, this is probably the gear head crowd getting anal".



So I fire one up. And another. And another. And they all look freaking horrible. Not "close enough to DVD so most people won't notice." Not "just fine unless you're a videophile." Terrible. Sub-VHS terrible. The look so bad I wonder if I'm not accidently looking at stuff that has been encoded at the old iPod res.



Jaggies, jaggies, jaggies. Every diagonal edge seriously blocky. Back off enough and it just looks blurry and low resolution. In fact, what I saw looked somewhat worse than looking at an earlier iTMS 320x240 TV show on a 15" laptop screen. But bigger.



So what's the culprit? The scaling in the Atv? Scaling in the Sony? Dueling scalers, and improperly set-up monitors? The demo movies were clips, possibly badly re-encoded?



Honestly, I can't imagine Steve being shown this set-up (as we know he was) and him saying, "Yeah, that looks great. Let's have this be our point of sale inducement for a massively-important-to-the-future-of-our-company new product."



Anybody have any insight into this? Like I say, I've seen SD scaled that looked pretty good, and certainly far, far better than what I was seeing today.



It just seems so un-Apple like, to have something prominently displayed at their stores that you can just glance at and go straight to "ewww, that don't look so good".
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 81
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,660member
    Ah rats, wrong forum. Can a mod move this?
  • Reply 2 of 81
    eckingecking Posts: 1,588member
    Did you talk to anyone in store about it? Ask the staff why it looks so terrible for all you know they may know the reason, after all they setup and loaded the machines.
  • Reply 3 of 81
    bdj21yabdj21ya Posts: 297member
    I would have to strongly agree. The movies look horrible on the Sony TV's. Here's the interesting thing. I've downloaded several iTS TV Shows and played them through my S-video out port to my 720p Samsung plasma, and they look a whole heck of a lot better than the movies from the Apple TV on the Sony Bravias at the Apple Store. What gives?
  • Reply 4 of 81
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,660member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by bdj21ya View Post


    I would have to strongly agree. The movies look horrible on the Sony TV's. Here's the interesting thing. I've downloaded several iTS TV Shows and played them through my S-video out port to my 720p Samsung plasma, and they look a whole heck of a lot better than the movies from the Apple TV on the Sony Bravias at the Apple Store. What gives?



    Thanks, that's the kind of feed-back I'm looking for. That would suggest there is something unpleasant happening with the Sony's scaling, but I was under the impression that the Atv has presets for common resolutions, so I assumed it was doing scaling on-board.



    Like I say, I've seen SD look pretty good on fixed pixel displays, but I've also seen it look really really bad. Pretty much depends on how the particular display deals with the lower res signal.



    What I can't understand is why Apple would choose whatever combination of whatever they're doing in-store to get really really bad. I mean it's pretty much the worst lapse in judgement, product pitch wise, that I've ever seen from Apple, and I can't help but think it's going to hurt Atv's uptake, right out of the gate. It's hard to imagine someone walking up to that display, checking out the movies, and not saying "Oh. Gee, that doesn't look that great. Too bad." and walking on.



    It would be like introducing the iPod, and then loading the display models with music that managed to sound harsh and distorted.
  • Reply 5 of 81
    pt123pt123 Posts: 696member
    I absolutely agree, picture is horrible. Picture is definitely almost VHS or analog TV channel on those Sony TV's. I viewed Incredibles and Battlestar Galactica. I thought the Apple store guy was gonna come over and tell me not to do that (whatever "that" I did to the picture). I just can't believe they show that at the Apple store.



    I don't think it's the TV because the photos look good.
  • Reply 6 of 81
    tenobelltenobell Posts: 7,014member
    Geez, this is no surprise coming from people who have already been vocal detractors of ATV.



    I stopped by the store to check it out today also. And its not that bad.



    Yes when you stand 12 inches away from the screen you can see jaggies. Of course you can because its SD scaled on an HD screen.



    But when you stand 10 to 15 feet away you cannot see the jaggies. But no its still not as sharp as HD. I could watch a show and not be distracted by quality issues.



    As another test of compression quality I looked at a couple of high contrast shows like BattleStar Galactica and Heros. The blacks were relatively strong with no blockiness, ghosting, or compression artifacts.



    There is a Gnarls Barkley music video where amorphous shapes change like Rorschach Tests. Generally this would be difficult for compression because nothing stays the same for very long but I saw no compression artifacts or anomalies.



    I agree it is SD and not HD but its fine for what it is.
  • Reply 7 of 81
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,660member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by TenoBell View Post


    Geez, this is no surprise coming from people who have already been vocal detractors of ATV.



    I stopped by the store to check it out today also. And its not that bad.



    Yes when you stand 12 inches away from the screen you can see jaggies. Of course you can because its SD scaled on an HD screen.



    But when you stand 10 to 15 feet away you cannot see the jaggies. But no its still not as sharp as HD. I could watch a show and not be distracted by quality issues.



    As another test of compression quality I looked at a couple of high contrast shows like BattleStar Galactica and Heros. The blacks were relatively strong with no blockiness, ghosting, or compression artifacts.



    There is a Gnarls Barkley music video where amorphous shapes change like Rorschach Tests. Generally this would be difficult for compression because nothing stays the same for very long but I saw no compression artifacts or anomalies.



    I agree it is SD and not HD but its fine for what it is.



    Well, I'm certainly not a vocal detractor of Atv. I want it be to good. I suspect that in many ways it is.



    But what is not good is the combination of the iTMS movie download res, whatever scaling is going on, and the Bravia LCDs in the Apple store. I haven't seen any other set-up, so that's all I can speak to.



    I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but honestly, I don't see how you can declare what's going on with the Apple Store set-up as being good enough. Yeah, it's not HD, it's also sub-SD and to my eyes somewhat more objectionable than VHS, since VHS has the advantage of analogue vagueness that sort of blends together.



    I think this is going to be a problem. I think a lot of people (like me) who might have come into the store thinking "cool, I'll check this out" are going to say "wow, that's really not good enough". Like I've been saying, it's actually kind of startling. This is Apple, after all, kings of sweating the details.



    I mean, think about the whole widget: Apple wants us to download movies as an alternative to renting or buying a DVD. That was already a tough proposition given the relative cost, lack of special features and "near DVD" resolution, but who on earth is going to spend $300 for the privilege of watching downloads that cost more than a DVD rental (yes, you sort of own them, but the DRM makes even that less compelling) and, more importantly, look much, much worse? Especially people who have nice big component input flat-screens and who are used to looking at upscaled progressive scan DVDs and digital cable, at the very least? I shudder to think of what this looks like on a bigger display.



    Yes, I know: I can rip DVDs or find other means of getting higher res sources into iTunes/Atv friendly format. It also does music. Apple will probably eventually offer higher res downloads. And some people will certainly buy it.



    But for right now, for the average, "lets watch a movie on the couch" DVD renting consumer, which Atv is presumably aimed at, I think Apple has made a huge mistake rolling this out before they could get the movie res into some kind of acceptable shape. Better scaling, more pixels, different LCD in the stores, something.



    I'm kind of going on about this because it seems so utterly un-Apple like, it's actually bewildering to me. Like I said in my first post, I'm trying to imagine Steve looking at what I saw and saying "yes, let's do that". I would have thought he would have said "that looks like fucking shit, fix it before we go to market".
  • Reply 8 of 81
    irelandireland Posts: 17,491member
    This is just not good enough.
  • Reply 9 of 81
    spindriftspindrift Posts: 674member
    A friend of mine has the same Sony Bravia TV as used in the Apple stores. He has similar problem when watching UK Freeview and the picture quality is nothing short of crap. DVDs and Sky HD however look amazing. It must be something to do with the Bravia engine.
  • Reply 10 of 81
    pt123pt123 Posts: 696member
    CNET has an Appletv out and it supports what the OP said - "disappointing video quality". Some of the description of the itunes content on Appletv include, "bad analog cable quality", "videos were quite soft, lacking the sort of fine detail". The review pretty much agrees with my assessment of Battlestar Galactica - the dark corridors and exterior space battles found in "Resurrection Ship, Part 2" were muddy to the point of distraction.
  • Reply 11 of 81
    tenobelltenobell Posts: 7,014member
    Trust me I've top qualtiy.



    I've seen a presentation by Sony of its 4K projector. The footage they showed was shot on 65mm film and was shown on a 40 foot screen.



    I've been to a demonstration from Industrial Light and Magic showing uncompressed 2K clips of Attack of The Clones that looked far better than what they showed in public theaters.



    I sit in telecine session of my own films being transfered to HD and watching a $40,000 1080P monitor. This is where HD looks amazing. The depth and detail is astonishing. All of that is gone by the time its broadcast or on DVD.



    Anything after that is just the best of the worst. I haven't seen anything broadcast, DVD, Blu-ray, or HD-DVD that I thought was all that impressive. Its pretty much all just good enough.
  • Reply 12 of 81
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,660member
    Congrats on your exposure to high quality material, but that makes no sense whatsoever. It's like saying that if you've been in a recording studio and heard the masters through state of the art equipment, you no longer find any meaningful difference between 16 bit CDs and AM radio.



    Reproduction quality, in any medium, generally falls across a continuum from best to worst. Having very good reproductions at the top doesn't make the distinctions amongst everything else just go away, or not matter, especially when you're talking about appealing to people who probably haven't been exposed to the best of the best.



    I work with all kinds of people and all kinds of media at all kinds of levels of fidelity, and I can assure you that, save for a few, they are very alert to fairly small differences in quality, even when they have no idea why or what is going on.
  • Reply 13 of 81
    almalm Posts: 111member
    I agree, what they show in Apple Store looks bad especially when you look at it from 3-4 feet distance which I'm sure everyone do. Seems like people forget that it's not monitor, it's a TV.



    On my Sharp 26" it looks much better. Especially when I sit on the couch 12 feet away. Ripped DVD looks way better than iTMS movie and my home-made HD video downsampled to 1280x720 looks just awesome.
  • Reply 14 of 81
    pt123pt123 Posts: 696member
    Some people bring their own DVD into the store as part of the process of purchasing a TV. I wonder if there is a way to view ripped content at the Apple store? I guess the consumer could buy Appletv and return it if it doesn't look good enough for the purchaser.
  • Reply 15 of 81
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,660member
    From other people's experiences, here and elsewhere, it seems like a big part of the problem is the Sony LCDs that are being used in the Apple store. That would certainly be consistent with my experience of the broad range of image quality amongst fixed pixel, HD displays dealing with a SD signal.



    I hope Apple is getting something major out of using Sony equipment as the face of Atv, like maybe Sony releasing their film catalogue on the iTMS, because it sure isn't showing off their baby in the best light.
  • Reply 16 of 81
    almalm Posts: 111member
    Many people saying that Mac Mini would be better. Not quite. My TV have weird matrix with 1366x763 resolution and it seems like impossible to set Mini to that size. I played with different utilities that allow to set custom video modes, nothing worked. And any other resolution looks like crap. Distorted, streched, squeezed and so on. Plus this freakin' overscan thing.



    With Apple TV I have no problem with that, everything looks smooth and clear. Even small text (movies info and annotations) is clear and sharp.
  • Reply 17 of 81
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,398member
    Face facts. Apple f'ed this one big time.



    I predict a short painful life for 1st gen AppleTV.
  • Reply 18 of 81
    almalm Posts: 111member
    never mind
  • Reply 19 of 81
    tomkarltomkarl Posts: 236member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post


    Face facts. Apple f'ed this one big time.



    I predict a short painful life for 1st gen AppleTV.



    The one in my tv room won't have a short life. We are enjoying it. Does exactly what it says it'd do. Watched an iTunes movie over the weekend and found the PQ good (I'm not a videophile). I'm willing to bet that as content is added to the iTunes store, increased resolution/quality will follow. Enjoying the streaming of music too. I think it's a good product that is simple to use which will contribute to adoption by non tech people.
  • Reply 20 of 81
    almalm Posts: 111member
    So far I found two things I would like to be fixed:



    1 - Music won't stop playing when you leave music section.



    2 - Support for normal AC3/DTS sound. Apple TV have optical output, just dump stream there and receiver will take care of it.
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