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  #1  
Old 06-05-2011, 12:11 AM
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mightyt mightyt is offline
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Angry After 7 years with SageTV, It may just be over

OK, so it's not like I am brand new to Sage, having used it since version 2 back in 2004, but I am at the point where I am just plain tired of getting a poor quality TV picture and recordings. I know my PC is powerful enough (Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 2.4GHz with 4gb RAM), and even upgraded to SageTV v.7, but I have dealt with a "marginal picture" since probably v.4. With this upgrade, I also I replaced a failing Nvidia Quadra FX 3500 card with a new ATI AIW HD with 512mb.

Screen resolustion on my flat panel with Windows 7 desktop is just fine. The new Sage UI is also fine. Online Video is also fine. But go to Live TV or Record anything from a tuner and it is terrible.

I have tried changing up the video settings over and over, as well as customizing through standard settings with "Configure Video Playback" using as much as Advanced, but still terrible.

I have three tuner cards with a total of 6 cable ports. All three cards are Hauppauge. Two are HVR 1600's and one PVR-250. I even bought a $50 signal booster from Radio Shack when I jumped from 4 to 6 cable ports back in the day.

The only time I remember getting good picture quality was long ago when I had an old fanless Nvidia card and used PureVideo.

Anyway, If there is no magic bullet or I am just plain missing something no one can help with, after many commited years, I am ready to pull the plug on Sage. Hopefully someone here can help before I take that poison pill.

Thanks, if you even think of trying to help me ... I am so tired ...

Oh ... and also, what is this green border around video/TV playback?? Very annoying!
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  #2  
Old 06-05-2011, 06:16 AM
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ericscottf ericscottf is offline
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Someone with more sage troubleshooting experience might be better at answering this than me, but my first guesses would be some troubleshooting:

Your problem really doesn't sound like sage, though i'm at a loss to say what it does sound like. I'll ask a few questions you may already have answers to:

1) can you view tv through some diagnostics or program written by your tuner manuf? My guess is the quality will be exactly the same when circumventing sage.
2) what's the picture look like on TV, as played w/o the tuner at all? Perhaps you have signal issues?
3) what happens when you view other non-sage video?
3) I'm not sure if it's allowed or a bad idea or what, but if you want, perhaps i could post a minute or so of some legally redistributable show, like PBS or news or some such, as encoded by one of my tuners and recorded by sage for you to play thru your system
4) can you post a screencap of this lousy quality, possibly with this border you mention?

fwiw, playing sage video on my pc or tv (thru an hd200) looks great. Sage recorded HD content looks better than SD on my tv, despite my TV being an SD tv!
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  #3  
Old 06-05-2011, 07:42 AM
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What video card do you have? Sounds like all of your recordings are SD. Are any of the SD recordings from HD shows? I am not familiar with the 1600 but are you able to record QAM HD as HD? I know that the PVR250 records everthing as SD and the 1600 will record everything as SD unless it is QAM and will be degraded PQ wise from the original HD show.

Can you provide a few details regarding your definition of terrible?

All of your video playback is on an HTPC, correct?

You do realize that your experience is unique, if it weren't Sage would no longer exist.

I have used PVR150s and 250 with Sage and with BTV and with Win7 MC and the recording PQ taking into account the recordings were SD from mostly HD sources was quite watchable but as expected was at 640x480 and not nearly as good as the original HD show. Playing SD recordings at full screen would also cause additional PQ loss.

Also, what video/audio cableing are you using to go from PC to TV?

What cableing are you using from the STBs to your video capture cards?

The key piece of information is whether the recording itself is poor quality or whether the decoding is causing the poor quality? Either way I doubt very much that Sage has anything to do with your issue and getting rid of Sage will solve nothing.
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  #4  
Old 06-05-2011, 07:42 AM
rrhorer rrhorer is offline
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There are a number of possibile causes for your poor video, starting with the codecs and video card configuration. To me, it sounds like the latter. Make sure you are using EVR; and I suggest the built-in Win7 codecs. Also, check your video card configuration. It should allow applications to control anti-aliasing, etc. In CCC, there is a specific setting that allows this (I don't remember the specifics). Good luck and know that it is fixable; so don't give up.
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  #5  
Old 06-05-2011, 07:53 AM
damonbrodie damonbrodie is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mightyt View Post
OK, so it's not like I am brand new to Sage, having used it since version 2 back in 2004, but I am at the point where I am just plain tired of getting a poor quality TV picture and recordings. I know my PC is powerful enough (Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 2.4GHz with 4gb RAM), and even upgraded to SageTV v.7, but I have dealt with a "marginal picture" since probably v.4. With this upgrade, I also I replaced a failing Nvidia Quadra FX 3500 card with a new ATI AIW HD with 512mb.

Screen resolustion on my flat panel with Windows 7 desktop is just fine. The new Sage UI is also fine. Online Video is also fine. But go to Live TV or Record anything from a tuner and it is terrible.

I have tried changing up the video settings over and over, as well as customizing through standard settings with "Configure Video Playback" using as much as Advanced, but still terrible.

I have three tuner cards with a total of 6 cable ports. All three cards are Hauppauge. Two are HVR 1600's and one PVR-250. I even bought a $50 signal booster from Radio Shack when I jumped from 4 to 6 cable ports back in the day.

The only time I remember getting good picture quality was long ago when I had an old fanless Nvidia card and used PureVideo.

Anyway, If there is no magic bullet or I am just plain missing something no one can help with, after many commited years, I am ready to pull the plug on Sage. Hopefully someone here can help before I take that poison pill.

Thanks, if you even think of trying to help me ... I am so tired ...

Oh ... and also, what is this green border around video/TV playback?? Very annoying!
Sounds to me like another case of watching SD content on an HDTV and being displeased with the results. What TV were you using back in version 2, 3 and 4? Have you considered moving to an HD setup like the Colossus?

I'm a relatively new Sage user, but a long time BTV user and when I switched to an HDTV, my existing SD pvr solution was unwatchable to me.

Sounds like your setup is just great - it is the source content that is your problem.

Unfortunately the world of HD has issues with Hauppauge. The HDPVR was a flawed product out of the gate. Some people have success, others (like me) had no end of pain with it. I'm using the Colossus card now and with Sage I finally have a very nice PVR solution again. The Hauppauge Colossus drivers are buggy and can result in infrequent BSODs. I've worked around that with a daily reboot of the Sage server, though I've been trying to get Hauppauge to acknowledge the issue and get new drivers.

Good luck on your quest for better picture quality!
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  #6  
Old 06-05-2011, 08:19 AM
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Skirge01 Skirge01 is offline
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Others have alluded to this, but I'll ask more directly:

1. What changed? When did you start noticing the PQ issues? New TV? Different provider? Change of inputs? Cable change? Channel lineup change? Different codecs?
2. Are you using a high definition TV?
3. Is your source material high-def or standard-def?

I can pretty much guarantee you that SageTV itself is not the cause of the PQ issues.
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  #7  
Old 06-05-2011, 09:34 AM
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mightyt mightyt is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ericscottf View Post
Someone with more sage troubleshooting experience might be better at answering this than me, but my first guesses would be some troubleshooting:

Your problem really doesn't sound like sage, though i'm at a loss to say what it does sound like. I'll ask a few questions you may already have answers to:

1) can you view tv through some diagnostics or program written by your tuner manuf? My guess is the quality will be exactly the same when circumventing sage.
2) what's the picture look like on TV, as played w/o the tuner at all? Perhaps you have signal issues?
3) what happens when you view other non-sage video?
3) I'm not sure if it's allowed or a bad idea or what, but if you want, perhaps i could post a minute or so of some legally redistributable show, like PBS or news or some such, as encoded by one of my tuners and recorded by sage for you to play thru your system
4) can you post a screencap of this lousy quality, possibly with this border you mention?

fwiw, playing sage video on my pc or tv (thru an hd200) looks great. Sage recorded HD content looks better than SD on my tv, despite my TV being an SD tv!
Thanks ericscottf! I'll try and answer your questions ...

1 - I have not viewed TV through the Hauppauge Theater software. I quit installing software that I would not likely use on my Sage server. But, I suppose I could try that.

2 - The TV quality through my cable box is fine. My cable splitter sends one signal through the box to the TV and the other cables to the Hauppauge TV Tuner cards in the server and out through the ATI Video card via HDMI.

3 - Non Sage video works great. MPEG's and Ripped DVD's.

4 - Sure can ... Will try and do it today.

For me, well I don't have HD through Sage since I don't want to pay for another box, so it's direct connected extended basic Time Warner cable channels for me to record.

I know others get good quality, but can never lock down how they get it and I can't??? Hence, my frustration.

Again, I appreciate the suggestions!
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  #8  
Old 06-05-2011, 09:52 AM
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mightyt mightyt is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bits View Post
What video card do you have? Sounds like all of your recordings are SD. Are any of the SD recordings from HD shows? I am not familiar with the 1600 but are you able to record QAM HD as HD? I know that the PVR250 records everthing as SD and the 1600 will record everything as SD unless it is QAM and will be degraded PQ wise from the original HD show.

Can you provide a few details regarding your definition of terrible?

All of your video playback is on an HTPC, correct?

You do realize that your experience is unique, if it weren't Sage would no longer exist.

I have used PVR150s and 250 with Sage and with BTV and with Win7 MC and the recording PQ taking into account the recordings were SD from mostly HD sources was quite watchable but as expected was at 640x480 and not nearly as good as the original HD show. Playing SD recordings at full screen would also cause additional PQ loss.

Also, what video/audio cableing are you using to go from PC to TV?

What cableing are you using from the STBs to your video capture cards?

The key piece of information is whether the recording itself is poor quality or whether the decoding is causing the poor quality? Either way I doubt very much that Sage has anything to do with your issue and getting rid of Sage will solve nothing.
Thanks Bits!

The video card is a VisionTek ATI All-In-Wonder HD. As mentioned above direct cable connected, no HD box in between. Everything is HD. The 1600's each have one Digital tuner and I have tried Clear QAM, but most of the channels either never show up or after a long while do, but stutter badly.

I agree terrible can be different for everyone. For me terrible is watching a picture that is grainy, pixilated and almost blurry.

All video playback is on the HTPC. It's a server at the TV and HDMI connected, thus not sitting in another room.

I agree with the uniqueness and this is no slam on Sage, more my frustration at not being able to overcome the problem or get a clear "do this and your problem will go away". Maybe I am in dreamland, but at this point I just want it to go away and really enjoy my Sage like you and many others.

My TV is a 50" Panny Plasma ... I watch these same channels on other flat screens in the house without boxes and they seem fine, why would I have to play at less than full screen?

The ATI card has an HDMI out so it's HDMI to HDMI (Nvidia didn't have HDMI so I have to convert DVI to HDMI.

No STB's ... just cable from the wall split with a signal booster and plugged directly in to the TV Tuner cards.

As for the recording, I set the quality at DVD Standard. I believe that's 3.2gb.

I'd be just as happy if solving the problem wasn't Sage. But keeping it with this poor quality doesn't make sense. Somehow, I need to fix or destroy!

Killer to me is I think I have all good componants in my set up and there's no reason I can figure why this would not work.

Just need to know what I can do to make it work.
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  #9  
Old 06-05-2011, 10:00 AM
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mightyt mightyt is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rrhorer View Post
There are a number of possibile causes for your poor video, starting with the codecs and video card configuration. To me, it sounds like the latter. Make sure you are using EVR; and I suggest the built-in Win7 codecs. Also, check your video card configuration. It should allow applications to control anti-aliasing, etc. In CCC, there is a specific setting that allows this (I don't remember the specifics). Good luck and know that it is fixable; so don't give up.
Thanks rrhorer!

Yes ... I think codecs could be a problem, but which ones work and where to get them. You have to pay for many of them and I would hate a costly trial end error solution. I was able to get a free optional Codec Package downloaded from ATI when I downloaded Calalyst and Drivers.

If you have any codec or video card configuration suggestions, I am all ears ... but now wouldn't that mean I would get bad video playback from anywhere?? Maybe not? But I know it happens with Live and Recorded TV.

I will try using EVR, think I saw it and did, but will try again. How do I get to the Win7 codecs? Don't see them anywhere? I will try the video card settings you suggested too.

I don't want to give up, but if I can't get it working with this round of pleading and receiving help, it will just be a sad ending.

Thanks again!!
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  #10  
Old 06-05-2011, 10:29 AM
KeithAbbott KeithAbbott is offline
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Have you thought about purchasing an HD300 for $150 to see if that resolves your problems? No codec issues with that solution...

Even if that doesn't resolve your problems, you could re-sell it and recoup almost all of the cost, I'm sure.
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  #11  
Old 06-05-2011, 11:02 AM
reggie14 reggie14 is offline
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I have to say I'm not so convinced that the OP's experience is that unique. How many of us have switched to extenders due to similar issues? I know that was my primary motivation. Moving from a PC-based client to a MediaMVP (and later an HD100 & HD200) was the second biggest change to video quality I ever did (the first being moving to HD tuners).

I strongly suspect this is a codec issue. Some codecs are awful at playing back SD video, and a smaller number don't seem to be as good at broadcast HDTV. As others have said, I recommend trying the Windows 7 codecs. They seem pretty good when I've used them.

How you get Sage to use them is another matter... In my case I'm pretty sure it showed up in Sage as one of the mpeg2 decoders. Either way, I recommend trying to clean all the third-party codecs off your system. Uninstall whatever codec package you previously installed. Windows includes mpeg2, mpeg4, and VC-1 decoders out of the box, and that's probably 90% of what you need. The only codec pack I used on my current system was Antipack, by babgvant.

I'm sure there are better people here that can give you advice on how to configure decoders. I was never very good at it.
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  #12  
Old 06-05-2011, 11:52 AM
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stanger89 stanger89 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by reggie14 View Post
I have to say I'm not so convinced that the OP's experience is that unique. How many of us have switched to extenders due to similar issues? I know that was my primary motivation. Moving from a PC-based client to a MediaMVP (and later an HD100 & HD200) was the second biggest change to video quality I ever did (the first being moving to HD tuners).
I don't know, I mean I love my extenders but my video quality with my HTPC was never anything close to "terrible". I agree the extenders are better (specifically the HD ones) but it's more in the stability/reliability/smoothness than anything else.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mightyt View Post
Thanks Bits!

The video card is a VisionTek ATI All-In-Wonder HD. As mentioned above direct cable connected, no HD box in between. Everything is HD. The 1600's each have one Digital tuner and I have tried Clear QAM, but most of the channels either never show up or after a long while do, but stutter badly.
Well first things first, that's a really old card, looks like they came out in 2008 and have X1900 GPU. That's no necessarily the cause but it may be a contributing factor. Things have improved with each generation. I hope you replaced it with card you already had and didn't buy the AIW new.

Quote:
I agree terrible can be different for everyone. For me terrible is watching a picture that is grainy, pixilated and almost blurry.
OK, I've got to ask, you're using hybrid (HVR1600) and SD (HD250) tuners, are you sure you're recording the HD channels and not the analog ones? Frankly, analog (SD) just isn't going to look good on an HDTV no matter what you do. That said, newer video cards will probably help due to the more advanced video processing and deinterlacing functionalty.

Quote:
I agree with the uniqueness and this is no slam on Sage, more my frustration at not being able to overcome the problem or get a clear "do this and your problem will go away". Maybe I am in dreamland, but at this point I just want it to go away and really enjoy my Sage like you and many others.
I completely understand, and as was already mentioned, that solution was the HD300 for a lot of us.

FWIW, a screenshot would help us understand what you're seeing. But off the top of my head:

  • First thing I'd do is make sure you're using the Microsoft audio/video decoders included with Windows 7. They're (essentially) what 7MC uses, support DXVA and should make use of what capabilities your Video card has.
  • I'd use EVR video renderer.
  • Calibrate, calibrate, calibrate, you've got to make sure your TV is adjusted correctly for the video feeding it. You can use something like the Digital Video Essentails, AVIA, or the (free) AVS709 calibration disc (you can download it from AVS Forum).
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  #13  
Old 06-05-2011, 12:07 PM
reggie14 reggie14 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stanger89 View Post
I don't know, I mean I love my extenders but my video quality with my HTPC was never anything close to "terrible". I agree the extenders are better (specifically the HD ones) but it's more in the stability/reliability/smoothness than anything else.
It might be have been due to a lack of skill on my part, but SD video looked pretty bad via TV-out from my Geforce4 Ti4200 video card. The video from my MediaMVP looked much, much better. Admittedly, when I tried it more recently with HD video and a ATI HD4670 video card via HDMI it looked much better. But, I do think a lot of software decoders struggle with handling video that is already pretty bad quality (i.e. analog SD TV).

HD video was different. Software decoders seem to do a much better job with it, but as you said, the HD extenders are better at consistently playing back the video smoothly.

Was it ever terrible? I don't know. I didn't think TV-out via the Geforce card was terrible until I tried a MediaMVP.
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  #14  
Old 06-05-2011, 12:23 PM
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stanger89 stanger89 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by reggie14 View Post
It might be have been due to a lack of skill on my part, but SD video looked pretty bad via TV-out from my Geforce4 Ti4200 video card. The video from my MediaMVP looked much, much better.
TV out on video cards sucks, very very badly, for a multitude of reasons. Nothing will look good over a TV-out. I'm not surprised the MVP looked much better.

It's when you get into HD displays, with proper "PC compatible" inputs that such differences essentially vanish.
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  #15  
Old 06-05-2011, 12:25 PM
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Fuzzy Fuzzy is offline
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Blurriness and graininess is most likely on the capture side, not the playback side. That AIW card should have absolutely no problem playing back SD MPEG2 from the hauppauge card. It is most likely the fact that the cable companies, since moving to digital, simply don't care about the analog broadcast anymore, and signal strengths/qualities have suffered. The tuner in the Cable STB is most likely MUCH better than the one on the capture card. Have you tried taking the S-Video from the STB and running it into the capture card, and see if the situation improves? If that is the case, than the capture cards tuner/signal strength is your culprit.
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  #16  
Old 06-05-2011, 11:30 PM
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mightyt mightyt is offline
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Wow! Thanks everyone for some really good feedback. I hadn't exepcted as much, no less very thoguthful comments. Based on that, I have a lot to think through. I will reply to your questions shortly and try and get a screen capture. One thing that I hear pretty clearly is that the HD300 would make a noticeable difference.

So, I have a bit of renewed hope, though am still somewhat cautious.

More to come ...
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  #17  
Old 06-06-2011, 05:45 AM
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graywolf graywolf is offline
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That was my experience a couple years ago when I started with SageTV.
Had so many issues with playback setting & codecs that WAF was dismal. Ended up trying an HD200 and haven't looked back. WAF was high, we're still with Sage.
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  #18  
Old 06-06-2011, 08:07 AM
Savage1701 Savage1701 is offline
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I think Fuzzy is right. I had Charter. As they moved to digital to force people to rent cable boxes, my analog cable, and even digitized (or not, who knows if they speak the truth) SD got progressively worse over the years. I can remember my SD cable being pristine back in the late 90's and early 2000's and it looked like garbage when I finally quit.

The SD channels over the cable box are/were a degree better (I'm with Dish now), but not a whole lot. And, again, you are back to being forced to rent a $10 a month box per channel you want to record. Yuck.

If you do want to try codecs, I had good luck with a $15 pack from Cyberlink. Main Concepts has some that are pricier, but you can trial them if you don't care about a watermark or 30-second audio limit, but that at least gives you an idea.
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  #19  
Old 06-06-2011, 08:08 AM
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panteragstk panteragstk is offline
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I'm agreeing with the others that are saying it is either a capture card issue or a viewing SD content on an HDTV issue. If everything else except recorded TV plays just fine it shouldn't be a decoder issue (keyword "shouldn't"). If the output from the STB into the TV looks good I'd want to know if you are viewing the SD version of the channel or not. If you are viewing the HD version on the STB and the SD version from your capture card in sage that would explain the quality difference.

Good luck.
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  #20  
Old 06-06-2011, 08:11 AM
bits bits is offline
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I to highly recommend Sage HD extenders, however before purchasing I suggest you determine if your recordings have PQ issues. If your recordings are garbage then they will look like garbage no matter what is playing them.

If you have cable and are using the coax cable from the wall then you are most likely recording SD and not HD. I suspect that you are recording poor video and therefore have poor video PQ recordings. I have cable and the only way I can get a descent recording when going directly from the wall to my capture device is to record QAM. If I record none QAM channels the recording quality is marginal to poor. With my cable company you can only get SD channels when connected directly to the wall.

One way to try and confirm the quality of your recordings is use something like VLC to play them back on your PC and not use your TV. Be sure to play them back in like manner you would play them on your TV (for example if you play them back full screen on your TV then play them full screen on your PC). It is not a one to one comparison but if the PQ is poor on your PC then it is very likely because the recording is poor. Like I said above there is no way to playback a poor recording that will make it look good.

To get good video to make good PQ recordings you may have to get a STB so that you can recieve HD and at the very least use 'S' video. SD recordings of HD video will yield considerably better PQ than SD recordings of SD video!

One test you could run would be to run the same coax that is currently going to your capture devices (as I understand your post these coax do not go to your STB) directly to your TV. This way you can view what is going to your capture cards. Keep in mind that your TV is probably doing some upconverting so the PQ may be marginally better looking than what your capture card is actually seeing.

You should also realize that SD video is 640x480 or 720x480 and when viewed full screen on a big screen TV will look considerably worse than if viewed in its native resolution with black bars top and bottom. You can see this affect by simply viewing video on your PC monitor at different window sizes, the smaller the viewing window the better the PQ looks as the window gets bigger the PQ degrades rapidly. This is precisely why big screen TVs are designed for HD video (1920x1080) more pixels to fill up a larger screen and provide enough video information to have good PQ.

Another test would be to hook 'S' video cable to your STB to one of your capture cards and record part of a show and if possible record part of the same show using your current configuration. Be sure choose something that is HD. Now compare the two recordings.
__________________
bits (Windows Media Center Convert)

PC: W7 32bit, Intel Q9550 2.83 Quad, 4GB DRAM
Cap Devices: Colosuss+UIRT+Cable STB; HDHR QAM+OTA, USB MediaSonic (6TB)
Network Players: HD200, (2) HD300s
Viewing: Samsung 55" 8000, Sony 50" and HP 37"
The more complicated it is the more likely it will break!

Last edited by bits; 06-06-2011 at 12:05 PM.
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