Myths and Lies

There is a lot of misinformation, lies, and myths out there regarding the new HD on a disc formats. Both HD DVD and Blu-ray have their strengths and weaknesses. I’m getting enough emails on the topic that I figured I’d do a post full of truthiness about these new formats.

Myth: A DVD and a good scaler will make an image just as good as HD DVD or Blu-ray
Nope. No way, no how. No matter how good your scaler is, it can not make an image as sharp as HD. This is either marketing fluff gone bad, or a lack of understand of what scaling can do. DVD is roughly 720x480. To blow this up, much like you would do with an image on your computer, on an HDTV you need to create 1,728,000 pixels (345,600 for 480p v. 2,073,600 for 1080p). Create, as in make up. The better scalers can do a good job making DVD sharper, but it can’t compete with either next-gen format which is HD natively.

Myth: People with small TVs won’t be able to see a difference with HD DVD or Blu-ray.
This one is sort of true. If you have a 42-inch or smaller display, and are sitting 10-feet or more away from it, then yes, you’ll have a difficult time telling the difference between HD and SD. That said, if you see a difference between HD broadcasts and DVD, then you will definitely see a difference with HD DVD or Blu-ray, as these look even better than broadcast HD.

Myth: Movies look their best on DVD, making them HD won’t yield any better picture.
Very, very, wrong. A single 35mm frame of film has roughly 4000x3000 resolution. Because film grain is random, this translates to roughly the same as HD. Some films are a little sharper, some softer, depending on the quality of the film, lenses, restoration (if needed), artistic choices and so on. Some films are shot on even larger negatives (like 65mm) which have vastly more resolution than HD. Either way, there's more detail than what is available on DVD. DVD was great, as it was a big step up compared to what people were used to (VHS), but it is not as good as HD.

Myth: Every HD DVD and Blu-ray title will look amazing.
Yeah, right. Some look better than others due to how well they were originally shot, transferred, and encoded. Take The Fugitive which looks barely better than DVD, and then something like Firewall which is breathtaking (the image, not the movie).

Myth: You can only see the difference with HD DVD/Blu-ray if you use HDMI -or- The component output doesn’t work.
Not true. There is this little bugger of a thing called the ICT, or Image Constraint Token. It allows the studios on a per-title basis to reduce the resolution of the component outputs to 540p. No studio so far has been stupid enough to say they’ll use it, and most have said they won’t for the foreseeable future. That means that the component output is the same 1080i as the HDMI output (except for the obvious digital v. analog aspect).

If you can think of any others, let me know and I’ll add to this list. Also, I’ve gotten the first Blu-ray player, a Samsung. It’s…interesting. I’ll try to put up a first look review in this blog next week.

Aron Yoffe's picture

Some have said that one advantage of Blu-Ray is that, when they finally get their act together and release dual-layer disks, the larger storage capacity (vs. HD-DVD) will enable films to be transferred with less compression, resulting in better picture quality. What do you think?Here

Aron Yoffe's picture

The rest of my comment . . .And videophiles with home theaters (like my future self, who is now no longer a graduate student ?) begin to wonder if the studios will start to release movies in a 2160p consumer format. The last big increase in source resolution

Geoffrey Morrison's picture

I doubt the studios will be offering 2160p any time soon. This is mostly because with current displays it's not necessary. I doubt the studios will be offering 2160p any time soon. This is mostly because with current displays it's not necessary. Sure it would look great on a 120-inch screen, but on anything smaller it would be hard to tell the difference between it and 1080p. Maybe when OLED video walls become common place, we

JustEd's picture

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chuck larson's picture

I read in the business section that Ricoh has some type of optical device that can read both Blu-Ray and HD formats at the same time . The article was from the Daily Herald in DuPage County Illinois from June 2006 . Can you confirm this ?Regards ,