Video Quality Problem

I've been using my HDHR with Windows Media Center on Windows 7 for quite a while now. I recently discovered Channels and I'm currently giving it a try. I really like the interface and the fact that I can consolidate all my TV watching on my Apple TV instead of switching between it and my Windows 7 box depending on what I want to watch. Right away I've noticed a difference in video quality however.

I've noticed all channels seem to have video quality degradation when viewed through Channels on my Apple TV vs through Windows Media Center. I've setup a test environment where I will record content in Windows Media Center and then watch content in Channels on my Apple TV. When viewing small text on channels that broadcast in 1080i the text flickers and flashes through Channels in ATV. When I switch back to WMC and watch the same content, the text is rock solid and clear, no flicker. Another example of this is when I watch football, the "scoreboard" at the bottom of the screen will flicker pretty badly, but WMC will be solid and very sharp. Again, this issue seems most prevalent with 1080i signals.

Using the same test environment with 720p signals I've noticed pretty much no flickering, but things like logos and the football "scoreboard" seem more soft and definitely not as sharp as content viewed on WMC. The first picture is from WMC while the second is from Channels on ATV.

You can see there is more noise around "Saints" on the picture from Channels on ATV.

I guess I'm just wondering what is causing this video degradation. Is is Channels or Apple TV? It's obviously not my HDHR or the signal quality because I'm viewing the same signal/channel on WMC and the quality is really good. Is the video stream from the HDHR being changed at all when being processed by Channels? Is it due to the hardware differences of WMC running on my computer vs Apple TV? I would like to make Channels work for me, so I'm definitely open to suggestions, but I don't think I want to sacrifice video quality to do so. Thanks much!

Were those screenshots from 1080i or 720p source?

There is some loss of quality with 1080i signals due to deinterlacing. The CPU power on the Apple TV is limited so we have to use a less than ideal deinterlacing algorithm

The pictures are from a 720p source. Do you have any recommendations on ways I can improve the quality on either progressive or interlaced sources? It sounds like I may be up against a hardware limitation with the Apple TV.

Does the Apple TV have the quality settings that ensure you are sending a direct stream copy of the media from the server to the Apple TV (including 5.1 channel audio)?

I assume you have the quality set to “original” so that no transcoding is happening. Also, assuming your are talking about a non-4K Apple TV?

Yes, the home streaming quality setting in Channels is set "Original". I have a 4K Apple TV.

I came from WMC also and noticed the same quality issue. For me, it is noticeable, but I’m ok with it. For everyone else in my family, they have no idea. Let’s hope that the next Apple TV has better hardware to manage this.

I have an Nvidia Shield and the picture quality is amazing sharp. It is hardwired, not on wifi.
It is just as good, if not identical to the raw data stream i can watch via the HDHR app directly (which is the same data stream WMC would show)

I have not used WMC in several years as it was killed off and I could no longer get it to work or load guide data, (had a few hacks/tricks to keep using it on 8.1 and for s short time on 10..)

Win 7 is no longer supported or getting updates per Microsoft, (it is a 11yr old OS now) btw.

Now, i had been using Emby DVR for several years, and its "Emby Theater" on my PC and a custom MPV.conf to really make the video stream look good, add some upscaling, some sharpen, use better render codec etc, but since i dropped my CATV, now all that Emby see is my OTA tuner and local channels. I have moved to Channels and my Shield for TV and DVR needs, since it supports TVE.

Ya, one of the reasons I looked into Channels was because Windows 7 is no longer supported and I'm not sure how long they'll have guide data. I'm also hardwired and not on wifi btw.

@Joshua_Moore, are you seeing similar issues that I'm seeing? For example flickering/flashing small sized text with 1080i sources?

The noise causing softness on the 720p sources is probably not a deal breaker for me, but the issues with deinterlacing 1080i are very noticeable.

I don’t have any issues with flashing, just a slightly softer picture then WMC. What video settings are you using on the Apple TV? Try 4K SDR 60Hz, YCbCr, 4:2:0, Match Content Off.

Another odd thing I noticed with certain TV’s is that the TV will change the picture based on what is connected to the HDMI port and what you have it named. An example would be I have a HTPC hooked up to HDMI 1 and it’s recognized as a PC by the TV. It only allows me to change certain picture settings within the tv’s menu. If I change the name of the input device to Cable Box, it opens up more options and drastically changes the picture. I noticed this with a Samsung TV I had my HTPC hooked up to and running WMC.

Try the changes above to the Apple TV video settings and see if it makes a difference. Try renaming the input and messing with the tv picture settings.

Hmm yeah something weird is going on here. I too am using Apple TV 4K with a Samsung 4K TV. The quality is at least as good as WMC, and I think even a bit better. I’m watching the NFC championship right now, and the score bar at the bottom looks razor sharp to my eyes.

@Joshua_Moore, thanks for the advice on what settings to try. I've tried playing with all the video settings on the Apple TV before, but tried your settings just to make sure and I'm still seeing the flickering text on 1080i sources. I've also made sure the settings on my TV for WMC and Apple TV are the same and they are.

@Macnbaish, are you able to compare WMC to Channels on Apple TV by switching back and forth? I too am watching the NFC championship game and I switched between WMC and Channels and the noise around the score bar is definitely there. It makes the team names look slightly soft and fuzzy. If you can compare around the team names to see if you see more noise around "PACKERS" that would a good comparison maybe.

The noise/softness that I'm seeing isn't a deal breaker I would say. The flickering text on 1080i sources is worse. That being said, if the noise shouldn't be there and isn't there for you, it would be worth it to me to try and figure out why.

Everybody, thanks for your help!

I’m afraid I no longer have WMC, dropped it when I switched to channels. If I get really close, I think I can see the same thing you are seeing. Attaching an image. But from normal viewing distance I can’t see it at all.

I haven’t had the flickering text issue with 1080i content I don’t think. I have had some minor hiccups on my non-4K Apple TV, which I suspect may be a horsepower issue.

I wonder if WMC just had some magic processing in it. Even if I watch directly from the HDHomerun App, it’s way worse than Channels DVR. I always use NHL Hockey as my test. Channels DVR plays very smooth but with an ever so slightly soft picture. If I use the HDHomerun viewer, the game is slightly choppy with the same soft picture - it’s hard to watch, like a video game that’s running low FPS.

All of my devices are wired too so the connection wouldn’t be an issue. I’m chalking this issue up to the Apple TV just not having the same horse power as a HTPC and the processing of WMC.

During the NFC Championship game tonight I did a little experimenting. I tried changing various video card settings on the WMC box I'm running (it's using the built in Intel HD Graphics of the Intel i3 processor) to see if there was a particular setting causing it to reduce the noise and make the picture sharper. Everything I tried had no effect on the video quality. Thinking that maybe WMC is doing some enhancements, I tried VLC on the same computer and it also looked like WMC and had less noise and a sharper result than Channels on the Apple TV.

From my testing I don't think it's explicitly WMC doing something, but it could be either the graphics hardware or software on my computer running WMC that is. The question is, is it WMC that is displaying the stream in it's original form from the HDHR or is Channels running on the Apple TV keeping the stream in the original form. If it's WMC, then it seems like either Channels or the Apple TV is the cause for the drop in video quality. However, if Channels on the Apple TV is displaying the original stream, then maybe the graphics drivers/hardware on the WMC computer is enhancing the stream.

I'll try to get some video clips of the flickering/flashing text on 1080i sources in the next day or two to give you guys some examples to see if what I'm seeing is on par with everyone else or worse.

Here is an example of the flickering/flashing content I'm seeing on 1080i sources. I was unable to post a version on WMC and one on Channels yet, due to one of my tuners being in use at the moment, but I'll try to get that comparison out to you guys as well. The top part of the local broadcast logo is flashing. What do you think? Anybody else seeing something like this?

Ok, here's more of an apples to apples comparison. The first video shows the flickering when viewed on Channels like the previous video I posted. The second video shows no flickering when viewed on WMC. Let me know what you guys think. If you have any ideas, that would be great.

Wow, no I’ve never seen anything like that on mine. That kind of flickering makes me think it’s some kind of refresh rate issue. Perhaps channels and WMC are using different frame rates, and the TV isn’t liking something. Have you tried changing to the 30fps deinterlacing setting to see if the flickering changes at all?