Stuttering TV

For the past few years I’ve been noticing that when I’m watching TV every once in a while the picture will ‘stutter’ or pixelate or just stop dead for a moment then go on as normal. I don’t think the problem is with my TV set as I’ve seen it happen on several TVs.

Usually it’s no big deal but one of these ‘stutters’ happened at a critical moment in the Cubs game the other night and I nearly jumped out of my skin.

So what is the cause of these stutters and why has it only started happening in the last few years?

I’ve noticed this since I got satellite service. I always assumed it was space aliens.

In any video stream where the image is digitized, such effects are possible. This includes satellite, digital cable and modern video disks. All use compression to overcome capacity limits in the medium. Compression breaks up the image into a lot of little squares. When something disrupts the signal, not all the squares get thru unaltered. Boxes result.

Also, digital images will spare you the ‘snow’ of bad reception by simply not updating the image until it receives new and valid digitized picture information. This can cause the picture to freeze for a moment until video is restored.


Even nondigital broadcast TV and cable can exhibit these effects, if the station you are watching gets some of its feed from a digital source. At my old place, I’d see this once in a while on my local UPN channel.

Well it certainly looks like when a video game can’t refresh the screen fast enough. So why has this just started recently and it happens so often (I’m guessing I see it happen about once per hour)? Since I’m on cable why would there be a problem with capacity where none used to exist? Could it have to do with them adding cable modem services through the same lines I wonder?