Media Center Live TV flicker fix.

By | August 27, 2013

I’ve only had my HDHomeRun Prime and CableCard for  a few weeks, so I’m way behind the curve in terms of delivering cable to my house in that manner.  I also ran into an issue a few weeks ago that I was reminded of this weekend as a Catalyst Control Suite and driver update reintroduced it to me –  an annoying stroble-like flicker while watching certain channels in Media Center’s Live TV.

Depending on the channel and what’s actually on, it could be a constant flicker, or as I noticed, during scenes where there is a lot of brightness in the background, with a darker image in the foreground.  Imagine someone being interviewed in front of a bright light source, like a window, or being outside in the sunlight.  That would really set off the flicker.

What Ifound in my Googling, is that this is related to a 29/59 bug with Media Center and Live TV.  I checked one of the channel sources causing me issues by entering the debug overlay (4 1 1 Info button sequence on your remote during Live TV playback) and went through the pages until I found the frame rate (image below was borrowed from Windows Experts as I couldn’t generate one over my RDP session).

29/59 frame rate checks out

29/59 frame rate checks out

I don’t really know why this would cause the flicker, however.  I could understand the report of jerkiness and judder, but not this light-to-dark/dark-to-light strobe-effect flickering.  So, I kept searching and came across something else – dynamic contrast.  Dynamic contrast was a breakthrough in LCD technologies that allows a supporting image to dynamically change its contrast ratio according to what’s on the screen.  For example, during a dark scene, the LCD backlight would be instructed to dim itself, yet proportionately amplify the transmission via the screen.  This would keep the picture from appearing overexposed by any bright areas on an otherwise dark scene.  The opposite pretty much occurs in brighter scenes, so they are not completely washed out by brightness.

Anyway, video cards have settings for dynamic contrast and I have an ATI Radeon HD5450 in my two primary HTPCs.  I simply launched the Catalyst Control Center, located the Video section, and selected Quality.  Right there it was – Enable dynamic contrast.  I unchecked it.

Turn dynamic contrast off!

Turn dynamic contrast off!

I applied those settings, went back into Media Center, and fired up a channel in LiveTV that was giving me trouble – no more flickering!  Just like that, instantly solved.

Now, for NVIDIA users, I’m not real sure if this is an issue or not, but I have seen where some users had it also.  I do have an HTPC in the spare bedroom that has an NVIDIA GeForce 210 in it, but I haven’t tried any Live TV with that system other than to initially get it set up.  I don’t know if it exhibits the flicker issue or not.  I did dig through the settings looking for the dynamic contrast option though.  I found it under Video > Adjust video color settings and I had to set the 2. How do you make color adjustments? to NVIDIA-controlled.  If you then go to the Advanced tab, you’ll have a Dynamic contrast enhancement checkbox.  If you leave the fore-mentioned setting to allow your video player control, it will be greyed out.  I assume you can just uncheck this and save to get a similar result.  Let me know if you have to do this and I’ll update this post.

Anyway, maybe it does, or does not have anything to do with the 29/59 bug, but at any rate, this fixed it for me.  It’s not new news, but it is to me and having one more place out there to find the answer can’t hurt!


5 thoughts on “Media Center Live TV flicker fix.

  1. Spence

    Thank you!

    This was driving me INSANE! I had poor Charter out here a couple times and once the tech sees my setup he’s like “Ahh… no. Can’t help you. See ya.”

    Trying to explain this to the support dept at Charter is almost impossible. It’s funny that the problem was this simple to fix all along.

    I appreciate you sharing this, it was a life saver! She can watch Lifetime HD now! Yah!

  2. mark

    Similar situation as Spence. New HTPC build, all channels looked great except the premiums. Flicker was so bad you could not watch it for long. Charter tech was a good sport and tried everything but was stumped. Found this fix and it worked like a charm!

  3. Brian

    I’ve dealt with this for years and always thought it was something with my cable card tuner somehow making the picture flicker on and off just like you describe here – or hdmi cables, etc.; subtle strobe-effect dependent on channel, contrast of scene, etc. Thanks so much for posting this!!! It looks like it was just that easy to fix, wow. I just turned the dynamic contrast off in radeon ccc a few mins ago and already see the difference with live tv in wmc.

  4. byronomo

    Thanks! This has also been driving me crazy for a long time and I never knew about this fix. It worked for me!

  5. Tom

    Thank you so much!! This was very irritating after having just bought the Radeon 5450 and seeing problems on some channels, exactly as you described. This card was for my 2008-era PC. At first I thought it was my DVI cable. I tried a HDMI cable and saw the same problem. That left me wondering if i would ever solve the problem.

    I bought the card because I was sick of nvidea drivers that kept giving me errors. Nvidea drivers and development have gone to crap over the past year or two. They kept coming out with updates, so I knew they didn’t know what the hell they were doing. Linus Torvalds is right!! (check out what he says about nvidia).

    The other reason I bought the card was I wanted a fanless card. I had two nvidea cards previously where the fans were crapping out. Cheap pieces of garbage, most likely from China. The fans would make noise and grinding sounds after only a few months. Cleaning and adjustments didn’t help.

    Now I am 100% happy with AMD card. The text on my monitor has never been more clear and now the video is perfect. Plus, I don’t have all those error messages and crashes caused by nvidea.


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