Why do sports look so bad using a Roku / Tablo?

I’d like to chime in a bit on what I think is going on with the TabloTV and framerate.  The 1080i channels are broadcasting 30 frames/second, but interlaced at 60 fields per second (each frame has 2 interlaced fields).  TabloTV is probably taking the fields and combining them into a progressive scan frame.  The motion effect you get from this is going from a “soap opera” effect to a “movie film” effect since you are virtually going from 60 fields per second down to 30 frames per second, combining the interlaced fields into one frame.  Some people are sensitive to this and others are not.  TabloTV would have to keep the frames at 1080i (60 fields interlaced) or go to 720p (60 fields progressive) in order to eliminate this effect, especially on fast moving programming, such as sports.


For 720p channels, the frame rate is still 60 fields per second, but these fields are progressive, so they are 60 full 1280x720 frames per second.  Again, TabloTV reduces this to 30, so in fast motion, you will notice that “movie film” effect.  I don’t know if TabloTV has any plans to change the frame rate for better matching the ATSC standards since the devices (Roku and Amazon Fire TV) may not support 1080i/60i or 720p/60p.

My background on this has to do with manipulating frame rates when working on videos from my 1080p/60 camcorder.  Since 1080p/60 was a new technology when I bought it, I had to reduce the frame rate to 1080p/30, 1080i/60i or 720p/60 to better match blu-ray standards.  When reducing the frame rate to 1080p/30, the effect is exactly what you see on the TabloTV…it looks like you are watching a movie filmed at 24 frames per second.  If I reduced the resolution to 720p and left it at 60 frames per second, it was smooth, like a soap opera.  The last option was interlacing the video and leaving it at 1080i so I could get the 60 fields per second (2 fields per frame)…this worked, but I always hated interlacing valuable progressive quality recordings!
Tablo: 4-tuner
Recording Quality: 1080p
Network: Everything hard-wired
Hard Drive: WD My Passport Ultra 1TB External USB 3.0: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EAS8M0S/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o04_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1
Main Device: Roku 3

I've owned a Tablo now for a month and I love it.  However, I am one of the people who notices the difference between how sports look when my antenna is hooked up directly to my TV and when I am viewing the same event through the Tablo app.  It's not that it looks terrible, it's just not what I'm used to with DirecTV and normal OTA viewing.  I find myself switching away from the Tablo app now when watching live TV because of the quality difference (vs my direct OTA feed), but I would prefer to stay within the app b/c of its ability to pause and rewind.  The quality of video Tablo produces for non-live television shows (e.g. NCIS, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Flash) is outstanding.  Hopefully Tablo can find a way to make it just as outstanding for live television events like sports.

If there's something about my setup that I could change to produce a better image for live sports, then please let me know and I'll give it a shot.  I should note that I've tried all of the different recording quality options and none of them removed the film effect.

Otherwise, if reducing the frame rate is the issue, then count me in as a supporter of Tablo addressing this as soon as possible.  This seems like something most sports fans, plus those who watch live television shows, would benefit from.

There really isn’t anything they can do.  The Tablo itself is dependent on devices like browsers, tablets, and streaming TV boxes to view content.  Many of these only support 30 fps.  


As someone who watches a lot of sports via SlingTv and WatchESPN, those streaming services have the exact same limitations as the Tablo (plus they have lower bitrates as well).  My only solution is to watch sports direct OTA to my TV if possible, while recording NFL games via the Tablo.   I just have grown use to the picture quality.

Yeah, the cinematic effect that Tablo has on sports can certainly be annoying, but there's comfort in knowing that if you live close enough for your antenna to pull in a channel for your Tablo you can get it for your TV as well.

However, I have to disagree with you @snowcat on the 60 FPS thing. My $200 Chromebook, Surface 2, Nexus Player, Fire TV (EDIT: Fire TV Stick too) and new version Roku 3 all do 1080p @ 60 FPS. I'm not up on the specs for my Nexus 5 or Nexus 7 but sports from the Tablo look amazing at those sizes.

There is certainly a lot that could/could have been done about picture quality for the Tablo. The TiVo/TiVo Mini doesn't suffer from this issue at all, even when you are connecting your Mini to the TiVo over Ethernet or wireless.

There aren't enough sports on OTA TV to make this an issue for me personally, but if the sports that do air on broadcast TV are critical for you, Tablo may not be your best bet for an OTA DVR.

@arrowrand, I think you have some misinformation.  Rokus and FireTv only support up to 30FPS.  


FireTv: https://developer.amazon.com/public/solutions/devices/fire-tv/docs/media-specifications

Roku: http://sdkdocs.roku.com/display/sdkdoc/Encoding+Guide#EncodingGuide-24ResolutionandBitrates


Of course the Tivo doesn’t have this issue because it is it’s own native player, just like cable/satellite DVRs.  The Tablo is about having a huge variety of platforms to watch TV, and the limitation is going to be no 60FPS video.   The Tivo is about not being tied down to a cable/satellite provider device, and it is limited by cost and portability.

@arrowrand, I think you have some misinformation.  Rokus and FireTv only support up to 30FPS.  

FireTv: https://developer.amazon.com/public/solutions/devices/fire-tv/docs/media-specifications

Roku: http://sdkdocs.roku.com/display/sdkdoc/Encoding+Guide#EncodingGuide-24ResolutionandBitrates


Of course the Tivo doesn't have this issue because it is it's own native player, just like cable/satellite DVRs.  The Tablo is about having a huge variety of platforms to watch TV, and the limitation is going to be no 60FPS video.   The Tivo is about not being tied down to a cable/satellite provider device, and it is limited by cost and portability.

My source of information about the Fire TV and Stick comes directly from the product pages for both on Amazon. I’ll stick with how they advertise the product to customers as that’s the one that’s actionable.

I do see where the FireTv supports up to 60 FPS, but not the Roku3.   


However, I am positive the format the Tablo stores files can only be played back at 30 FPS on both platforms.  


Well whatever FPS the Roku 3 plays at, I have Sling TV and I was watching the Masters this past Thursday and Friday on ESPN and it looked amazing.  I would go so far as saying that it looked identical to the ESPN feed we used to have coming from DirecTV.  There was zero “film” effect.  So apparently ESPN, at least, is able to overcome the Roku 3 limitations with their stream.  I should note, however, that we also watched the NCAA tournament on Sling TV on TNT and TBS.  Those channels I would say more closely resemble the quality we get from the Tablo.  It’s probably not an apples-to-apples comparison, but I guess I’m just saying it appears to be possible to remove the “film” effect on the Roku 3 b/c of how good ESPN looks on Sling TV.  Here’s hoping the staff over at Tablo can figure it out.  Like I said, it’s not just sports that this happens with.  I’ve watched other television programs that are “live” shows, like American Idol, and the same “film” effect happens on those as well.  I don’t think it’s a show stopper at the moment, but I would have to think having the device with the best picture quality would be huge as this market continues to develop.

I would also like to point out that this isn’t a complaint, although it may sound like it, but rather an enhancement suggestion.  So perhaps I’ve put it in the wrong thread.  We love the device and the features it provides.  What a great idea for a product.

WatchESPN has a very noticeable film effect on both the Roku and FireTv.  One reason I did subscribe to SlingTv is that ESPN somehow does look nicer on it (when it doesn’t lock up) compared to the regular WatchESPN app.

I do see where the FireTv supports up to 60 FPS, but not the Roku3.   

However, I am positive the format the Tablo stores files can only be played back at 30 FPS on both platforms.  


I’ll have to concede the Roku 3 60fps point, I know that I read “somewhere” reputable that the new Roku 3 did 60fps but I can’t find it at this point. I must have misremembered something.

And I don’t argue that Tablo is storing files @ 30fps, my point is that it doesn’t HAVE to be like that. I can’t say that most streaming players support 60fps but the list that does support it is actually pretty impressive. Nexus Player (insert every Android TV Player name here), Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, Chrome/Chrome OS (limited by hardware), Firefox (hardware) and on and on and on. 

I don’t know what Roku is waiting for, I have 4 Chromecast dongles in the house that all do 1080p 720p @ 60fps just fine, I’m a little surprised that my super new Roku 3 doesn’t.

Chromecast does not support 1080p at 60fps.

Chromecast does not support 1080p at 60fps.

Yep, 1080p @ 60fps isn’t what I meant to say about Chromecast, I intended to say 720p @ 60fps - my fault.

Either way, 720p @ 60fps would still do Tablo a world good. Their PQ would approach what Fox puts out for sports.

It all comes down to compatibility. The Tablo’s recordings right now are compatible among all the platforms. There just isn’t a way to capture and process multiple versions of the same show.

My guess is that the ViXS 5190 SoC can’t do better than what Tablo currently has it doing with regards to fast transcoding of MPEG2 to h264.

With that said, I think ViXS has announced a new chip… so maybe not a problem in a “yet to be released” Tablo (?).


I’ve tried several combinations of output on the Tablo & Roku4 (HD 1080 - 10 Mbps, 720@60fps, HD 1080 - 8 Mbps, HD 720p - 5 Mbps (recommended) on the Tablo) (1080p & 720p on the Roku).

Yet, no matter what I try, when watching live sports like football or hockey OTA (not from recording), I still see ‘trails’/artifacts on the ball/puck during passing plays. It’s pretty distracting, actually. Switching to the TV’s direct feed from the antenna to the tuner for the same program does not have this issue, obviously.

Anyone have any other config ideas to try?

Everything you watch on your Tablo is actually from a recording on the hard drive. The only difference between watching live or recorded shows is that Tablo doesn’t permanently save the live TV show.
There is nothing more you can try, as the 1080p 10Mbps is the best recording quality Tablo will produce.

Good point on the flow via the HDD. Thanks @ChrisFix

Since both devices (Tablo & Roku) do some transcoding / upscaling, I wasn’t sure if there was a magical mix of settings that minimized artifacts. But I guess we’ll just have to wait for better encoding/compression codec quality in the future.

Related thread: 4 tuner Tablo cannot properly deinterlace 1080i video

After testing on multiple Rokus (Roku 3 & 4) and multiple TVs, I narrowed it down to a TV and that led me to a particular setting on my TV. I’m posting the fix that worked for me here in case the same works for anyone else:

  • Check your TV for any type of smooth motion setting and turn it OFF.

After turning off smooth motion on my TV, the picture now looks awesome, even for sports with a fast moving ball/puck. My Tablo setting is on the highest quality (HD 1080 - 10Mbps) and my hard wired Roku 3 & 4 both handle the video marvelously.

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