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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Quality Versus Quantity

Series 1 and Series 2 stand-alone (SA) TiVos have four recording quality settings (Best Quality, High Quality, Medium Quality, and Basic Quality). As we discussed in Chapter 2, "Getting the Most Out of Your TiVo," DirecTiVo units don't compress their incoming signals, so programming always arrives as Best Quality and this cannot be changed.


Just to be contrary, the Pioneer DVD/TiVo combo units use different names for their recording quality levels: Extreme/Fine Quality (a.k.a. Best), High/Short Play Quality (a.k.a. High), Medium/Long Play Quality (a.k.a. Medium), and Basic/Extended Play Quality (a.k.a. Basic).

On SA TiVos with the Premium service, you can set a default recording quality (under the Preferences menu). Your TiVo arrives defaulted to the Best Quality setting, which you'll likely want to change, as this level will quickly eat up hard drive space. (With the TiVo Basic service [on Pioneer and Toshiba DVD/TiVo combos, for instance], you can only set one quality level globally, and then all recordings are compressed to that level.) The amount of equivalent space usage between the four compression levels is as follows:

1 hour @ Best Quality = 1.5 hours @ High Quality = 2 hours @ Medium Quality = 3 hours at Basic Quality.

Unless you have tons of storage space on your stand-alone TiVo, it's best to keep it set to Basic or Medium Quality, and then you can change it up for specific programs. For most of what you watch, the two lower quality settings will likely be fine. It's really a matter of personal taste (and how good the signal is coming into your house). The only programming where you might want to go for less compression (that is, higher quality) is if there's likely to be fast-paced movement onscreen or numerous digital effects. It is in these situations where you get what is called "artifacting," where the low level of data compression can't adequately render the details of the scene and you see a pixilated, sort of painted-image effect for a few seconds.

In an image with a lot of quick movement, artifacting can get very distracting. If you see this sort of problem in a recorded program, note what type of program it is, and then up the recording quality the next time you set up to record a similar type of show. As you use TiVo, you'll come up with your own rule of thumb for what type of programming gets what level of recording quality. See Table 3.1 for ours.

Table 3.1 Recommended Recording Qualities per Program Type

Recording Quality

Program Type


Action Movies, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, and other special F/X-heavy fare, Concerts


Big Sporting Events (Super Bowl, World Series), Animated Films


Cartoons, Dramas, Reality Shows


News, Talk Shows, "Talking Heads" in general; anything where there's little camera movement. Do-it-Yourself Shows

Your recording quality choices will have a lot to do with your hard drive size(s). If you have precious little disk space, you'll probably rarely use the Best quality setting and just settle for sometimes-grainy images. The more space you have, the pickier you'll get. Hopefully, by the time you've finished this book, you'll be confident and knowledgeable enough to upgrade your TiVo with a giant honkin' hard drive (or two) and then you'll feel free to pick the optimal quality for a given show.

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