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What causes video "smearing"?

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Old 10-24-2006, 08:55 PM
Doug Nelson's Avatar
Doug Nelson Doug Nelson is online now
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What causes video "smearing"?

I have a fast computer, fast videocard, both with lots of RAM, but I also get a lot of video residual effects and "smearing". For example, if one window is in front of another and I close or minimize the front one, sometimes its ghost image is left behind until I do something to cause the remaining window to refresh. Or sometimes I'll scroll in an app and get a barcode looking vertical smear for a couple of seconds.
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Old 10-24-2006, 09:15 PM
Jerryb Jerryb is offline
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Re: What causes video "smearing"?

to me a couple of things comes to mind....
1. your graphic card drivers might need to be updated
2. the graphic card hardware accelerator ... by default this is on maximum however many programs don't need nor desire that setting.. and you can end up with all sorts of issue with the graphic display... so suggest go into your display properties and adjust it down to 1/2 or to zero and see if that helps..
note: the max setting is generally for your cd games.... they use it the most.

Originally Posted by Doug Nelson
I have a fast computer, fast videocard, both with lots of RAM, but I also get a lot of video residual effects and "smearing". For example, if one window is in front of another and I close or minimize the front one, sometimes its ghost image is left behind until I do something to cause the remaining window to refresh. Or sometimes I'll scroll in an app and get a barcode looking vertical smear for a couple of seconds.
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Old 10-25-2006, 08:38 AM
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Racc Iria Racc Iria is offline
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Re: What causes video "smearing"?


Some of that is also at the mercy of the screen refresh/redraw procedure calls in the operating system. If some process is tying up the cpu (even for a second or two), the OS may be delayed in receiving a redraw request from applications. In that case it has nothing to do with the video card... a screen redraw simply hasn't been requested/processed.

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Old 10-25-2006, 10:20 AM
Cassidy Cassidy is offline
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Re: What causes video "smearing"?

This is a hard one, is it in playback or record that you get playback smearing, if it is during recording, then it is most likely a video option, else in playback is likely to be a resource/memory issue or an incorrect setting or drivers.

BTW if you are running a Windows OS, how many icons do you have loading at startup (shown beside clock on rhs of taskbar)? Often in playback if it is a memory issue, sound will suffer before video
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Old 10-25-2006, 12:45 PM
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Craig Walters Craig Walters is offline
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Re: What causes video "smearing"?

as you've seen so far, there are a lot of possible causes for this sort of thing. ram is often the biggest culprit. ram, just like your harddrive, can get fragmented. just because you close an application doesnt mean it gets flushed from ram right away. applications like photoshop where you're often working with large files, draw a LOT of ram. games do this also. as ram gets stuffed with different stuff, sometimes it gets flushed and sometimes not.

there are basically two solutions. one, you get a memory flushing application and do it manually. and two, you reboot the machine. that will work for normal ram but i think only the normal ram gets flushed with manual flusing; not sure if the video ram does or not.

another solution is add more ram. i used to like to have at least 512 megs of ram in a windows machine. then i raised this to 1 gig. i'm now running 2 gigs. it does help. if you're running windows 98, there was a basic paging fault that caused a bottleneck to speed. you still had use of all your ram, but the access times didnt speed up page a certain point. xp, win2k and all the NT types dont have this bottleneck.

another solution is to upgrade to a pci-e type machine. the entire network of busses, kart and all that internal bit passing stuff was re-worked in pci-e and the benefits are quite obvious. it's like the difference in having one lane of traffic as opposed to two.

as someone else mentioned, trim your background programs. programs that stay resident in your system tray eat resources on a constant basis. and, more often than not, even if you 'exit' or 'close' them, they are still resident and running in the background. you need to stop them from loading at startup in many cases to keep them from eating resources.

trimming 'services' is another way to trim the fat from windows. there are a LOT of services that by default run in windows xp. a lot of these are not needed, especially on 'auto' mode. many do quite nicely set at 'manual' where they only start up when needed. and quite a few arent needed by anyone and can be turned off completely. see the blackviper archive listed in the library for help on that.

drivers. drivers are the main reason for horizontal and vertical patterns showing up on a monitor. this is usually video card drivers and not monitor drivers but dont neglect monitor drivers either. however, if you're only getting your streaks and patterns showing up once in a while, i'd say it's a ram/resource thing. if you're getting the streaks and patterns ONLY when using certain apps, then it's most likely drivers. games are actually a good way to find out if your vid drivers are the best for your system configuration.

assuming you're running windows xp, there are actually quite a few tweaks you can do to fine tune your system for better resource handling. right click on your desktop and pick 'settings' from the menu. hit the 'advanced' button and that shld take you to a popup window with various controls and settings for tweaking your display and how your video card interacts with the rest of your system. depending on if you have an ATI or nVidia card, you may have software that runs concurrent with this and adds extra tweaking features.

you can also right click on the 'my computer' icon and pick 'properties'. this will take you to another popup window with some additional broad tweaking items, one of which deals with priorities on your system such as giving priority to programs or background services. you'll also find a button for changing how much virtual memory you're using. you might be able to increase your virtual memory and handle some of your problems with that, but just remember that that is a poor substitute for real ram.

clean out your caches and temp files. the more windows has to check thru in caches and temp files to find things, the longer it takes to refresh.

defrag your drive(s).

do a registry clean up. the more stuff you add to your computer, the larger the registry gets. the larger the registry gets, the slower things refresh and boot up. this is similar to caches and temp files in this regard.

increase your video card ram. it means buying a new vid card, but sometimes it's worth it.

one of the hardest things for windows to deal with, for intel to deal with and for all the other software and hardware vendors to deal with, is ram and the flushing of same. when do you return ram for general use when it's been allocated to something. it's a trick. and, it's the biggest reason for the symtoms you're talking about. i have several programs that when ram gets short, they'll either not start correctly or crash soon after starting. they get slow and processes that would normally take seconds start to take minutes. ram gets fragmented. resources dont get returned and things start to bog down. i have one program, a game actually, that will quit loading various objects in the game. i know they shld be there, but they arent. there just isnt enough ram to load them. windows xp is far more robust than win98 ever was and it seems to have learned to turn things off rather than crash, like win98 did so frequently. but, it's still a problem.

you might also check your bios settings. agp cards, if that's what you have, had some odd things in bios. frankly, i dont recall them all, but i do recall turning some junk off in bios that helped. and i also remember something in there about page file memory allocations... i think.

and, since you didnt mention what type of card you have, just in case you have a pci vid card, there are specific settings for those as well, that are quite different from agp and pci-e cards. again, it's been a while, but i know there was one in desktop\settings\advanced that made a major difference in how the card was addressed and handled.

lol. the more i write, the more i remember.... you might also want to check what version of directx you're using and run the tests in dxdiag and even upgrade directx if need be.

also, and this can actually be a biggie... the latest and greatest drivers for your card may NOT actually be the best for YOUR system. i know that goes against the grain of everything you hear, but it's true. YOUR system was built at a time when directx was maybe a different version. the software was a different version, the game was made 5 years ago, and all this stuff was designed to work with drivers that existed back then, but maybe not now. so, sometimes you have to go retro on vid card drivers to find the ones right for your system.

ok, so i've written a book here. that's enough for now just one last thing; get ahold of 3dmark or something like Everest. both are excellent complete analyses of your system type programs. Everest used to be free. it's not now but it's a good informational type program. windows is very lax on giving and organizing what every pc owner shld be able to see at a glance about their system.

ok, so i lied. there is more... get a heat monitor, the software kind that you install and it will show you some, most or all of your internal heat monitors. heat can actually screw up your software because it will screw with ram. and get a memory checker also. and, if you know how, do a watts power consumption analysis of your system. if you have a LOT of drives, cd roms, dvd players/burners and so on ad infinitum, you may be suffering from low power to some devices. this can affect your display also.

in short, however, i'd say more ram and check your drivers. frankly, i'm surprised i remember half of this stuff
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Old 10-25-2006, 04:38 PM
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Doug Nelson Doug Nelson is online now
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Re: What causes video "smearing"?

New driver, check (3 days old)
RAM - 2gb
RAM defragger - running
Reg and hd defragging - weekly
Vidcard - ATI Radeon x800 PCI-X
Services - trimmed a few months ago, but probably need looking at again

I've inspected the task monitor when this is happening, and haven't noticed any unusual CPU or pagefile usage (with 2gb of ram my pagefile doesn't see much action).

I suspect this is a Windows thing, since I've had it on all my machines. I was just hoping there was a switch I hadn't thrown (or threw and shouldn't have) that would fix this. The only common denominators are Windows and the nut behind the wheel, and I can only fix one of those.
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Old 10-25-2006, 07:37 PM
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Craig Walters Craig Walters is offline
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Re: What causes video "smearing"?

list a few of your other system specs, doug.

directx version:
monitor refresh rate:
windows version:
service pack 1 or 2? :
what apps are you running that are doing this:
video card driver version:
bios type and version:
ever flashed your bios? :
system is set for priority on programs or background services?
are you running windows 'themes'?
things running in the system tray:
do you have windows security center running constantly? :
any audio delays, problems or hiccups? :
is the condition generally happening only when the computer has been up and running for a while, especially with heavy program use preceeding the condition? :
is device manager showing any yellow question marks or red exclamation marks next to a device? :
is the condition primarily showing with browser windows? :
do you have adobe's pre-loader running in the system tray? :
is java console running in the system tray? :
what type of monitor are you using, crt, lcd, or plasma? :
did the condition just show up recently and if so, did you install anything just prior to that, including hardware and software? :
any recent changes to the system at all? :
do you have another video card you could temporarily swap with the existing one? :
what motherboard do you have? manufacturer model and is it 32 bit or 64 bit? :
did the motherboard come with 'onboard graphics' ? :
i forget the name of it at the moment, but there was a technology that started shipping with motherboards a while back. it was a read-ahead, pre-fetch technology and would pre-load things it thought you were going to need based on what you were doing. do you have this and if so, is it turned on or off? :

i know there are some other questions i shld be asking, but i've been out of this for a while.

the last time i had bar code lines on my monitor it was a driver problem. the last time i had really bad refresh rates it was a ram problem or a heat problem. let's hope it's not the latter.
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Old 10-24-2015, 08:33 AM
Clint Jeffrey Clint Jeffrey is offline
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Video Smearing using a Roland Video Mixer

Hello everyone,
My first post!...A short while ago I purchased second hand a EDIROL Roland V-8 Video Mixer for home use, S/N ZX11214. My question is Video Smear, where possible all my video connections I'm using S-Video inputs and output. However the mixer is causing a colour shift to the right or smear which adds to the low resolution. If I directly connect the Video source to the monitor there is no smearing and the image looks generally sharp but go through the mixer and I clearly get a colour shift or smear.

Is there anything I can do to correct for this?....any circuit modifications that someone might know of...?


Clint Jeffrey
Melbourne, Australia
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Old 10-29-2015, 10:21 AM
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ray12 ray12 is offline
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Re: What causes video "smearing"?

A smear is caused by low frequencies being exaggerated in the video waveform. I would buy some gold contact cleaner sold at radio shack and spray all my video signal connections. Sometimes a video card is also not seated right in its connector with all those 56 pins. So, physically pull the card out, put on some of that gold contact cleaner and then when you push the video card back in...wiggle it back and forth 5-10 times to "wipe" the pins against eachother and to create a new fresh connection at the video card/computer connector. Smear is often caused by an outside shield / ground not making good contact and massaging / exercising all connectors in the stream is a good idea. Connectors oxidize or even build up microscopic corrosion just sitting there at times.

On another front, I am agast at the amount of RAM you have. Video is a very high bandwidth application for the OS and Video Program and the Video Card and the Monitor to handle. Your OS will take alot of that RAM up, and your video editor will need a lot too. You are playing with a very thin margin in your System RAM budget there! Ram is not too expensive...and uphgrading to 4 gigs for an older system can make a nice difference in your machine choking up or playing memory swapping tricks on you just to keep you alive. Get a program to see the amount of live free RAM available. In your case...even photoshop would starve that system pretty you are most likely using your hard disk to provide disk based memory for a lot of your tasks...this is very slow, chunky, and can cause your performance to stutter or crash. Make sure your pagefile and scratch disks are on another separated disk drive from your C: drive. You dont want to be running your programs and using the same physical drive for your scratch disks...and yes defrag often...get a 7200rpm or better yet 10,000rpm drive so it doesnt choke up on data transfers...These memory issues are not related to smear but to system integrity...smear is most often caused by a signal or power ground not making good contact.

Youre playing with some big horse programs when you do photoshop or video editing...those two really tax a give them some breathing room to stretch out some.

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