The Guys at Gizmodo did a side by side of the various feeds from the State of the Union. It is an interesting read. They gave CBS the highest marks, but overall, I’d say their methodology was pretty unscientific.
I didn’t think to try this, because I was busy on some other things that night, but the right way to have done this would have been to grab the MPEG2 stream and compare, but even that would have not been a “Fair” comparison.
Fox broadcast the stream in SD, saving bandwidth for the programming they were broadcasting on their alternate ATSC channels. HD Net runs some noise reduction filters on all the time which does tend to oversharpen edges but helps overall when people are moving. Talking head is not the best way to judge video quality.
The differences in Color are intriguing. In most workflow’s the stream would be HD-SDI from an IDR, which would then feed an Encoder, and while you can set a noise filter in the encoder, it would be unusual to set anything that would change colors beyond possibly changing the gain.
It is entirely possible that the TV was mucking with the colors, or the edges when the content was changing from 720p to 1080i or 1080p on the TV. Charlie says he is using a Samsung Reference Monitor, but I think he means he is using a Samsung TV that he uses a lot, which would be VERY different from say my Sony HD Reference monitor at the office.