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  #1  
06-04-2010, 12:05 AM
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Back in January, WWE's subscription video on demand service, WWE Classics On Demand, started to be filled with shows that looked...wrong, with odd motion blurring that looked almost film-like. Eventually, with some help, I was able to determine that the problematic titles (all originally produced on interlaced broadcast quality videotape) were deinterlaced somewhere in the production chain. People would email WWE but the problem never got fixed. Today, I called WWE on a lark and talked to the guy who's pretty much in charge of department. He was very nice, came off very sincere, and clearly wants the problem fixed. He filled in a lot of details, but they make the situation even weirder.

The whole department has been stumped for months. In January, they noticed it on their end and pulled some of the affected shows. They thought they fixed it, as everything looked fine on their end when quality checking the final encodes. Those files are sent to TVN, their distributor, who sends them to the cable companies, who store them on their servers for VOD playback. Both TVN and the cable companies have reported no problems on their end. It's only happening to the end users who subscribe to the service.

Everything they could think of in the production chain has been checked. The encoder profile (a strict standard that they need to adhere to for compatibility) was never changed. The idea that the video got deinterlaced has been brought up (and he said he'll bring it up again), but they don't know how it would happen, as the videos look as they should with proper interlacing during the quality checks. Since they're just moving around digital files, nothing in the distribution stage should be causing this, and it's not happening to other VOD content providers. It's only happening to WWE's programming, it's not happening to all of it (Though there have been some weeks where all of the shows had the picture quality issues, "normal" ones would pop in randomly), and it's only happening once it's decoded by cable boxes.

So, what the heck do the experts here think is happening? Even though this problem has stumped a billion dollar company known for top-notch production values, I know I should never underestimate you guys, and WWE seems to want any ideas that could help them fix it.
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  #2  
06-13-2010, 09:09 PM
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I thought about this some myself, and asked around.
Almost universally the prevailing thought is this: Somebody along the chain of custody is an idiot.

That's really all I can say. I know a number of very qualified people who are out of work right now. Yet on a regular basis, I see botched up so-called "professional" video being broadcast that looks worse than a newbie's first attempt at making a DVD or editing a movie. I almost want to vomit. There's no justice in the world, is there?

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Everything they could think of in the production chain has been checked.
This still doesn't instill any confidence in me.

I've even run into problems with my own assistants, where their idea of "check" and my idea of "check" is not even close to the same.

To understand what I mean, think of this analogy:
Imagine a student who spends 10 minutes "reading" War and Peace. We both know it's BS -- he skimmed (and poorly, I'd imagine, given the amount of content there). I have a suspicion the same kind of "checking" happened here.

It would take too long to write out all the possible scenarios. I also don't know all the software/hardware being used -- there's not enough details. And to be honest, I don't want to do their job for them (for free). Anybody working at that level within the field should know what they're doing.

It's a shame customers like yourself are having to pay good money for something that's been botched by their incompetence.

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  #3  
06-14-2010, 04:16 PM
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Thanks for the reply.

Here's what I don't get, though: WWE previews the encoded video on various SD and HD TVs. The same employees who noticed the problem at home didn't see them during the quality check. Since they're files encoded to a specific cable spec being sent around with no re-encoding or analog intervention (at least as far as WWE knows), does somebody in the mix have to be lying and re-processing the video somehow? I can't think of anything else.
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06-15-2010, 11:07 AM
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I wouldn't say "lying" as much as maybe not truly looking at every setting in every nook and cranny of the software or hardware in use, all along the chain.

I know from my own experiences in various professional video settings, including broadcasting settings, that sometimes people are not as careful as they think. Or in some cases, don't know as much as they think they do.

If the files are known to look correct after encoding by the WWE (or the service used by WWE to encode its content), then something further down the chain has to be doing it.

There's a chance that it's not being re-encoded, but is simply not being displayed properly on certain devices, or even certain chipsets. But it does sound a lot like re-encoding. Something in use may have a little tick box hidden away that says to re-encode the video if it fails to meet a certain spec by 100% compliance.

I've seen it before -- I've even been the person who screwed it up and had to redo it. Even the best of us make mistakes when working with video. (Although we don't do it often!) Video isn't easy.

My only real advice here is "Check again, you missed it."

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