[opendtv] Re: Why Europe should choose 720P for HDTV

  • From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 13 Dec 2004 09:51:33 -0500

At 11:52 AM -0600 12/12/04, Doug McDonald wrote:
>Uh, no on that last one. I am seeing blurring that occurs inside
>the camera. For example, a white line marker in football retains
>sharp edges with a horizontal pan, and everything else shows
>the same blurring. Also ... the blurred frames should be
>much easier to compress since the originals lack
>much detail at high horizontal frequencies.

Wrong on both counts.

IF the lines are sharp, but the objects moving over them are not, 
then it is NOT the camera. What is happening is that it is easier for 
the MPEG-2 algorithms to  match blocks where the lines are seen, than 
it is for the algorithm to deal with random motion. Nothing new here.

If you are saying that the lines and the objects that are moving both 
exhibit the same blurring, then you ARE describing the filtering in 
the camera.

As someone pointed out, the actual amount of blurring is a function 
of the exposure time for the frame. Higher shutter rates provide 
sharper edges on the moving objects, but may lead to discontinuities 
in motion if the frames are too sharp.

It is also a fallacy to believe that softer images are easier to 
compress with MPEG-2. This may seem a logical conclusion, since low 
pass filters are used to reduce stress on encoders, but this is just 
a band-aid for a larger underlying problem.

MPEG-2 encoders can only work as well as the block matching 
algorithms work. If you can get GOOD predictions (matches), you can 
make the encoder work MORE efficiently. If you can;t get good 
matches, then you start to see encoding artefacts.  Eliminating the 
blur on the edges of moving objects can HELPthe block matching 
algorithms in an MPEG-2 encoder because it is easier to track the 
motion precisely. Gary Demos did a number of experiments with this, 
working with the Polaroid 720P camera that was modified to shoot at 
72P. he also did similar tests with film source shot at various high 
frame rates with different shutter angles (i.e. more or less blur on 
the moving objects.

What Gary found was that at higher frame rates, with less blur, the 
MPEG-2 tools worked better, allowing for longer GOP sizes that 
improve encoding efficiency. This is logical, since we are dealing 
with an entropy coder. With MORE samples that are MORE accurate, the 
crude MPEG-2 block matching tools work better.

But there are limits to this. Most notably the channel bandpass, 
which places a fixed ceiling on the output bitrate of the encoder. As 
I have mentioned many times before, the 19.3 Mbps bandpass of the 
ATSC channel is marginal for difficult source material. And when you 
concatenate codecs the situation only gets worse.

And if you really want to stress out, consider what happens with 
1080@60i for sports. Now you are blurring more to allow for the use 
of interlace, and half of your images are missing, creating all kinds 
of gaps in the spectra which increase the entropy the encoder must 
deal with.  But you are still trying to push as many pixels through 
the encoder as you are with 720@60P. 720P will win this battle every 

I strongly suspect that Fox has tested their entire system from truck 
to display to determine the best way to use their 720P cameras. They 
may have run test to determine which shutter speed is best to deliver 
adequate sharpness in moving objects without stressing the encoders. 
But there may be more involved in this decision than meets the eye. 
The 720P source must also be downconverted for the NTSC channel. It 
could be that the NTSC pictures look better when there is more motion 
blur (i.e. a lower shutter speed).

At any rate, this post should point out that there are many variables 
that aaffect the quality of the delivered HDTV imagery.


>The killer argument is that the same blurring is seen
>on the analog show, which never had MPEG-2 done to it.
>Doug McDonald
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