Digital TV, is this a joke?

I don’t have cable, and I still use rabbit ear antennae. I just hooked up the DTV converter box and the quality is absolute shit. Huge amounts of “artifacting” - i.e. freezing, stuttering, pixellization, etc. Like every 30 seconds on average there will be a gigantic disassembly of the image sometimes dropping the signal entirely for a few seconds.

Will the “official” switch to DTV help this at all? Or is it a problem with my setup? Or does digital television just plain suck?

It’s probably your rabbit ear antenna not being strong enough. Ideally you need an outdoor antenna, perhaps even a dedicated one for digital.

Rabbit ears should work in most situations, but it won’t work in all.

Someone posted in another thread about digital tv that the best antenna for dtv was the kind that looks like a bow tie.

In the UK many houses had to change their main external aerial to a “wide band” version to get digital TV.

Cost my dad about £30 I think, plus 20 mins in the loft making the switch.

Also, once the switch occurs, stations will boost their signals (since they’re not dual-broadcasting in analogue and digital). Don’t panic (yet).

We have the same problem. We’re thinking about getting an outside antena, but we’ll probably wait until after the official switch date to see how much difference that makes.

Same problem. I’m in L.A., about 10 miles from downtown and 5 from Hollywood, and even though CBS comes in clearly on analog, we can’t receive the digital channel. We have to move the antenna for each of the other stations, since it’s all or nothing, and even then they freeze and pixellate whenever the next-door neighbors walk around.

I think it’s a plot to con us into signing up for cable.

Rabbit ears are pretty weak, so you may just need a better antenna. Then again, the actual “rabbit ear” parts of your antenna may not be what you need. Most stations appear to be switching to UHF frequencies for the changeover, and UHF signals aren’t received by the long “ears” but the small loop or square in the center.

So, to make the best of your situation, you’ll have to do a tiny bit of research. Go to antennaweb and enter your address. They’ll tell you what local stations are broadcasting, what channel(s) they’ll be using, and whether they’re in UHF or VHF. Antennaweb will also tell you where the broadcasting towers are relative to your address so that you can point your antenna in that direction for the best signal. They give it as a “heading” in terms of “clockwise degrees off north”, so if you want a station that’s at 135 degrees, you’ll want to point your antenna due south-east. Finally, antennaweb will make a recommendation as to what type of antenna you might want to use to pull in as much signal as possible. Just click the “antenna type” link next to the stations you’re interested in.

I’m less than 10 miles from every tower, so I didn’t need a very big antenna; I installed a medium suburban-type model in my attic, pointed it generally toward the middle of all the towers, and I pull in all stations at 100%. But, you need to know your situation before you can figure out the best way to get a great signal.

Eh, I’m not really interested in spending any more money than I already have. I only got the converter box because I got the $40 government coupon - it still cost me another 10-15 bucks on top of that, but my girlfriend likes to watch TV sometimes when she comes over so I mainly got it for her sake. But I’ll be damned if I’m gonna go out and buy another antenna to get this PoS to work.

Antennaweb is definitely the site to go to to learn about the issues and how to optimize over-the-air digital reception. Even if you don’t want to spend more money at this point, it’s worth a visit. There may be additional tweaks you can do with what you have.

I didn’t want to get a new internal AND external antenna, either (my analog broadcast reception was already iffy). So, rather than get a box, etc. I got limited basic cable. It’s an option the cable companies don’t make obviously, but it should definitely be an option. All the broadcast channels in your area, plus the govt and public access channels, plus, for unknown reason, WGN for me. Cost? Less than $11/month. Yes, in the long run I’ll pay more than for the equipment, but the “reception” is solid. something that wasn’t guaranteed with new equip.

It might not be an overnight improvement. In some areas, the transmitter towers are filled up with antennas, and stations are using small “interim” antennas that were wedged in wherever there was a sliver of space. Post-switch, they will be able to remove the old analog VHF antennas and replace them with large digital UHF antennas.

IIRC, the replacements will take about a month for TV stations on San Francisco’s Sutro Tower. I’d imagine other metro areas will have similar schedules.

I had that problem, until buying me one of these puppies:

Yeah, that costs more than my television is worth. Ah well, I barely watch it anyway - if the gf complains about the quality she’s free to buy me a different antenna or better yet, a new TV.

The drop out happens to us a lot in cloudy weather and during a storm we loose the Doppler radar and emergency weather reports. Emergency radio is not anywhere as good as the lost television coverage. We happen to live in the one area of Wisconsin that all television stations are a fringe transmission.


I found antennaweb is useless. The info they give you is not even remotely accurate, at least for my area.

You can’t get most of the stations, 'cause they are basing things on cirucular data which isn’t always the case. Most digital stations don’t broadcast their signals in circles but use directions.

First of all, digital TV is mostly UHF. So you need a UHF antenna. Rabbit ears are VHF antennas. The circle in the middle of an antenna or the “bow” that attches to the “rabbit ear” part is the UHF antenna. A “silver sensor” antenna is optimized for UHF.

Stations that are analog now broadcast on virtual channels. For instance in Chicago, WLS-TV Channel 7 broadcasts digitally on channel 52. So you need a UHF antenna to get it. After analog shuts down, WLS-TV will return to Channel 7, because Channels 52 -69 will be taken away from TV and given to other services like cell phones and wireless internet.

You don’t see this because a service called PSIP allows virtual channels. So if you tune to channel 52 it goes automatically to Channel 7. That way TV stations won’t have to rebrand

Digital stations aren’t always able to replicate their analog areas, because their channels are different and there is interference between analog and digital right now. This should get better after analog shuts down.

Unlike analog where two TV channels can’t be next to each other digital TV channels CAN be next to each other providing their transmitters are at the same antenna site. (For those who wonder, Channels 4 and 5 aren’t actually next to each other, there are other frequencies between them. And Channels 6 and 7 aren’t really next to each other, for example the FM radio band occupies a large portion between channel 6 and channel 7. And of course channels 13 and 14 aren’t next to each other, channel 13 being VHF and channel 14 being UHF).

In Chicago I went from16 analog TV stations to ZERO digital TV stations and had to get back cable to get TV. I am only 3 miles NW of Sears Tower where the transmitters are, so often buildings and such in high density areas like NYC and Chicago cause issues that don’t happen with analog.

Rabbit Ears (dot) Info has a lot of technical information about TV stations and is run by a kid who loves to talk about TV. So if you ask him a question he’ll give you the answer and a LOT more.

Also you might want to try AVS Forums, the site desgin is kind of busy but look around for the forums for OTA (Over the air) and your city to see if anyone else is having specific problems.

A man who doesn’t crave a home theatre is a rare one indeed.

I never said I didn’t crave a home theater. I mainly only use the TV to watch movies and play games, and would love to have a pimped out home theater for that purpose. But I’m broke and jobless, so it ain’t happening.

This issue relates specifically to broadcasted TV content, which I don’t care very much about since I can get the few shows I really like through Netflix or Hulu. I haven’t had cable since I moved out of my parents’ house ~6 years ago.

I can vouch for this. I got pissed off at Comcast a few months back and canceled my cable TV. Before I built the HD antenna described in that YouTube clip, I couldn’t get any over the air broadcasts. (I live in the SF Bay Area, but on the wrong side of the East Bay hills. No SF signals get into these canyons.) With my home made antenna (and store-bought converter box), I get all of the major broadcast channels out of Sacramento, plus some extra digital tier channels. There are definitely drop-outs and break-ups now and then, especially when the weather is windy, but for the most part I find it very watchable. Pretty impressive considering I’m probably at least 60-70 miles away from the transmitters.

In short, the right antenna makes a huge difference. And building the one in the video link is super easy, and it only cost me about $5-6. (I already had the board, hangers and transformer/connector; all I needed to buy were the screws and washers.) Give another antenna a try and see if it helps.

Some parts of that aren’t clear to me. Has anyone made a 2-D schematic of the antenna to show where the wire should be stripped?