Joe Kane Productions Digital Video Essentials: HD Basics Setup Disc Conclusion

As I said earlier, Joe Kane's test discs have become a staple in the toolkit of most installers and reviewers as well as enthusiasts who want the best possible picture from their displays. HD Basics builds on this legacy to provide the most user-friendly set of test materials to date.

The HD DVD version is clearly superior, not only for its My Favorites function, but also for its speedier menu response, predictable display of text, 5.1 and 6.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtracks, and reliable performance with the 720p demo material. For those who already have an HD DVD player or can still get one, I recommend this version of HD Basics over Blu-ray.

On the other hand, the Blu-ray version can be very effective for evaluating current and future players as well as displays, so don't count it out. Also, player firmware updates can often reduce problems with the Blu-ray version—though they can also be a step backward. For example, Kane has identified one player that handled 720p correctly before a firmware update, but not after.

The problems with the Blu-ray version are not the fault of Kane's production but of the format itself. The Blu-ray spec identifies many features—such as bookmarking and Dolby TrueHD—as optional, making it difficult to author a robust disc for all players. The only thing that is not optional is copy protection, which costs producers thousands of dollars each time they author a disc, even so-called "check discs" to make sure everything operates as expected on the wide variety of Blu-ray players. Now that Blu-ray has won the format war, I encourage all parties involved to remove the word "optional" from player specifications and add the same word to copy protection. This is exactly how HD DVD structured things, and it's clearly the right way to go.

In terms of content, HD Basics is wonderful. I'll be using it regularly in my video reviews from now on, and I encourage you to pick it up if you want your display to look its best.

Simplified menus make navigation easier than previous titles
HD DVD version has My Favorites bookmarking feature; very useful
Gray-window patterns are back
Narration over demo sequences is very illuminating

Skipping backward is difficult
Blu-ray version has no bookmarking
Blu-ray version's menu animation is much slower than HD DVD's due to player inconsistencies, not disc
Blu-ray version's menu text displays unpredictably due to player inconsistencies, not disc