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back to article Blu-ray barely better than DVD

Blu-ray discs are supposed to represent "the maximum high-definition experience" yet there is little difference in quality to that of a DVD, apparently. A study by consumer advocate Which? found less than a third of Blu-ray films demonstrate an exceptional difference compared to the equivalent DVD, and with a large gulf between …

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Bronze badge

Well, duh...

If you have an older movie, shot with older media on a tight budget, chances are your blu-ray is not gonna be much better than a DVD, esp. if the publisher doesn't spend much on remastering.

Gotta love those who buy Casablanca in Blu-Ray for example. Lawrence of Arabia on the other hand was shot in 70mm, so it could be great in bluray. Kubrick probably also had the cash to spend on media and his movies are in the $20 range.

A good objective test of worthwhile Blu-Ray vs. DVD is a freeze on a screenshot with written text (a letter or a page in a book). Typically, you can easily read the Blu-Ray but DVD is blurry at best.

My favorite in terms of image quality is Apocalypto. Maybe not the best overall, but the first one that REALLY wowed me.

Last but not least the price premium has been dropping steeply. I wait and get most of my BluRays for less than 20$ CAD, often for $10. Mind you I am also picking up DVDs for $6 as well (hello music industry - when you gonna lower your prices???).

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all valid points....

but my wife cant see HD... she has no idea if something is hi def or not! I suspect that this has more to do with people than with technology if you ask me.

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Also

If you've spent a shed load of dosh on a load of HD kit you really _want_ there to be an improvement - so you'll probably imagine it's better, even when it's not.

ttfn

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@SuperTim

I am someone else who can't see HD. Well, that's a small lie, what I can't see is the difference between a random HD system and a SD system that has been set-up properly. If you spend the time (and it doesn't take long) to ensure resolutions match (If using LCD/Plasma, I am still on CRT), setting contrast etc correctly for the room and using a good connection (not RF...) then you'll be surprised at what SD can deliver.

A lot of the "wow" factor about HD is just people seeing XYZ on a decent screen. I have *never* seen a side-by-side comparison of the same content on the same screen being run SD/HD. Only if that is done can one judge the difference.

If going down the HD route (AIUI) it only takes one component to not be 100% complaint with the HD DRM wankery and you only get SD anyway. I wouldn't know, as I say I am still using an old CRT telly and I will keep using it until it dies...which I think will happen soon judging be a few glitches I am seeing.

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B&W films benefit hugely

I agree there are a lot of crappy 35mm prints which are transferred to blu ray and have marginal benefits. However black & white films tend to fair a lot better than colour movies. Typically the film is less washed out on Blu Ray and the grain (and thus detail) is far more evident. There have been some spectular transfers to HD.

Sites like DVDBeaver frequently do SD / HD comparisons so its easy enough to tell before you buy what you're likely to get, e.g. for Casablanca

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/dvdcompare/casablanca.htm

I'd say Casablanca would score 8/10 for the HD. It's HD is far sharper than the SD, but it looks like it's been DNRd a bit.

Some early transfers went overboard in three ways - upscaling where the movie wasn't HD at all, DNR which involves smoothing out the grain which is a lossy process and makes faces look waxy, and edge enhancement which superficially makes edges look sharper by increasing the contrast at the edges. Some of the most frequently cited examples of good films that got awful transfers would be Spartacus on HD DVD, Gladiator, Patton, The Longest Day and The Gangs of New York.

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Film Quality

A standard 35mm film print should hold much more detail than you'd get from a 576i digital transfer. The original doesn't have to be 70mm to see an improvement.

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@thebigyin

I agree, a properly set up SD system can deliver lovely images (and its not just about the resolution), but if you have a good bluray player and a television that can handle the expanded colour range, it does deliver excellent pictures and can offer other things such as interactivity and shedloads of SD content. Upscaling DVD players can deliver a great picture too, but if your eyesight is good, you can tell the difference. My debate is that there are lots of people who simply cannot see well enough to tell if it is HD.

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Bronze badge

@DrXym - txs for the correction

To be honest, I just picked Casablanca out of a hat because it has been re-released in BD and I just _assumed_ that it would be too old to be worthwhile (I have it in DVD anyway). I also wasn't aware that black and white were actually better material for BD conversion.

Basically, I am cautious about spending extra money on BD for older movies, but I don't mind splurging a bit on some of my favorite movies if there is no great price differential.

Is there a huge difference? By no means. Much less than VHS => DVD. But if you have a reasonable 1080p TV (mine's a 3 yr old 32" Aquos) there is some improvement, especially if you stop to pay attention to the image quality. As someone pointed out though, a good movie will distract you from its exact definition and that's the way it should be.

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Toy Story 3

That one had better imagery on Blu-Ray.

The thing I actually like about BDs is that there is now only 1 region for the American continent, instead of splitting it into Region 1 and Region 4. Also, the pop-up menus and the ability to bookmark scenes, very useful when I want to resume a movie from where it started. It isn't just the picture quality, it's all the extra perks included with BDs.

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WTF?

Sigh

"The thing I actually like about BDs is that there is now only 1 region for the American continent, instead of splitting it into Region 1 and Region 4"

Wow, what a ringing endorsement. You "like" BD because the artificial barriers to trade that allow prices to be inflated according to your purchase location are slightly less confusing.

Yes, that sure is a lot to like. Thank god one of the few not insane laws we have down here in Australia makes it mandatory for manufacturers to provide region code unlocking on request making that whole anti-competitive load of consumer raping crap irrelevant in this country.

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FAIL

RE: Toy Story 3

"Also, the pop-up menus and the ability to bookmark scenes, very useful when I want to resume a movie from where it started. It isn't just the picture quality, it's all the extra perks included with BDs."

I think you're confusing BD features with media player features. It's the device you're using to play your BDs that allows you to resume where you finished and is something that also exists on some DVD players too.

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@Restricted Access

Sometimes bookmarks are provided by the disc, some times by the player.

Most Blu Ray discs these days use an embedded version of Java called BD-J to power their menus and features. The player is just running the program which in some cases has the ability to save bookmarks of where you left off. The sophistication of the menus & features varies by studio, but most seem to offer features like bookmarking. When the app saves the bookmark it stores a marker in storage in the player and next time the app runs it checks for this marker and offers the user the choice to resume.

Older Blu Ray discs may use something called HDMV which is basically an extended version of the DVD menu system. In these cases, the media player *may* offer you to resume from your last player. The PS3 does this for example.

So it depends.

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Bronze badge
FAIL

Bookmarks "on the disc"?

Run that by me again? Hardly makes the bookmarks "on the disc" does it? I mean, if me and the lads are watching Robocop at mine, and my mam kicks us out because she doesn't like the violence and that, can we go over to Steve's and play the disc from where we left it on his player?

Video 1, BDDVDVD 0

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Joke

RE: @Restricted Access

"Sometimes bookmarks are provided by the disc, some times by the player."

DVDs come with bookmarks, they tend to be called chapters though.

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Silver badge

The bookmarks are saved on storage

Every BD player offers some local storage space. That's where they get saved. As for "chapters", yes you get those too.

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Boffin

No surprise

there - after all a lot of blu-rays are just copies of the DVD media stream, with software upscaling done by the manufacturer.

It's the new films which are captured at the higher resolution of blu-ray, or old films that have been remastered & cleaned up, that show the benefits of HD.

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There aren't *a lot* at all

The vast majority of Blu Ray discs do offer genuine HD content.

There is *some* upscaled content but mostly it is well identified as such or the reason is implied. e.g. it originated from a TV series.

TV shows especially can still benefit. If you want to see this in practice, just flick between ITV HD and ITV some times. Often they're both showing the same SD content but the quality is vastly better in HD. That's a due to a lot of things, but even the choice of codec and bitrate can improve the quality of the picture.

Some very old TV shows also benefit hugely from HD. Look at The Prisoner & Star Trek series as prime examples. The Prisoner was shot on 35mm film original and transferred to video tape for broadcast. The quality of the Blu Ray version is obscenely good because it's sourced from the master.

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film2/DVDReviews47/the_prisoner_blu-ray.htm

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Silver badge

ITV / ITV HD is a very bad comparison

The standard ITV channel on Freesat is compressed to buggery and is a much lower resolution than most other channels - compare it to the PAL analogue stream and you can see the difference quite clearly.

The ITV HD channel has a more reasonable bandwidth.

As to why it's like that... My guess is the plethora of plus-one channels, but feel free to draw your own conclusions.

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WTF?

itv? wtf?

who cares about the difference in picture quality between itv and itv hd? the content is utter shite. so the picture resolution makes no fucking difference. the shows are still shite even if they are in dolby digital at 1080. all new traffic cop's been framed i'm a celebrity britain's got talent with antanddec? just fuck off!

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@Jim

I'm using ITV as an example. For ITV replace BBC. For BBC replace any other channel which simulcasts in SD and HD. Same source dramatically different results.

Point is that given a higher bitrate, codec and decent upscaling HD can improve SD content. But most content is HD to begin and SD is primarily for legacy stuff off the TV, camcorder footage and the like.

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FAIL

Title

"...but the trade organisation instead simply quoted research suggesting that most consumers think Blu-ray did offer greater picture quality than DVD."

Because relying on confirmation bias and a soupcon of buyer's remorse is obviously more reliable.

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FAIL

Meh

A bold claim based on 17 discs. Well done.

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Boffin

Not necessarily

While it does not make a proper statistical sample if we assume that the movies were selected at _RANDOM_ it should give some initial conclusions.

However, looking at the list it is quite clear that the movies were _NOT_ selected at random. Hit titles were added to a random list or the list contains an excessive amount of hit BR titles for some other reason. In other words - the mean user or critic rating across the sample deviates significantly from the mean user or critic rating across the industry.

So from a purely statistical viewpoint this research is heavily skewed in _FAVOUR_ of blue ray. A proper statistical sample is likely to show something much much worse.

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Anonymous Coward

Go and compare bladerunner.

Then book an appointment at the opticians if you can't tell the difference.

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Silver badge

Abso-fragging-lutely

Blade Runner is amazing on Blu-Ray. That said, Mr Scott did spend an awfully large amount of time and money remastering it properly, so I doubt that would ever happen for the vast majority of older discs.

I somehow ended up with Escape From New York on BD - I swear that one's actually *worse* than the DVD.

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Silver badge

Lost in the encoding?

The fact that BluRay has the POTENTIAL to show clear differences make me think the lack of quality is less a matter of the disc and more of the process by which the BluRay video footage was encoded. Perhaps film grain (which is more noticeable at higher resolutions) is affecting our judgment? Perhaps they used a crummy source for the video. Perhaps they used the wrong encoding optimizations.

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Happy

common sense

Common sense suggests that the difference will be little, if any, if you are viewing a small TV from a long way away. If you have a large TV, and sit close to it, the difference between 1080p and 720p (or even 720i on non-progressive-scan TV's) will be much more noticeable. Also, movies with lots of moving things (explosions, etc.) will mask any differences, so you will see less improvement with Bluray.

I moved up to a 46" LCD and Bluray early this year, and what I do with a new Bluray disk is watch it from about 6 feet away. The quality is noticeable. The experience is more theatre-like.

My main complaint about Bluray is the longer load times, and very occasional audio dropouts (the audio is probably my player's fault).

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Anonymous Coward

possibly

the main improvement in quality was switching from analog to digital, clean digital pictures can be scaled up pretty well and increasing the resolution doesn't have as much of an impact as you'd expect, the main difference being a little extra detail in the trees in the background (anything with straight edges like buildings etc which are what you'd normally notice will still look the same on most TVs)

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FAIL

Rubbish

If the detail doesn't exist in the original DVD image, it won't be in the upscaled image, no matter how you upscale it. You can't create data and detail out of thin air. Or do you believe CSI is a documentary series?

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Bronze badge
Stop

Rubbish Rubbish (AKA Fail Squared)

Upscaling a moving picture does add more detail.

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Tosh.

Compare ITV analog to ITV Fressat digital*

Watch an advert that has small-print along the bottom - any kind of makeup, particularly mascara will do.

On analogue, you can read the text. On digital, it's got halos around it from the compression artifacts.

*ITV Freesat is probably the worst offender.

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Thumb Up

Five minutes in...

Five minutes into a good movie, the overall picture quality becomes largely irrelevant. Unless it's a mangled old VHS tape, of course.

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I agree with him.

Just as you can lose yourself in a good book a film is not the technology - it's the story being told.

Just as in games - the frivolous use of technology does not hide a poor story.

And, while I'm on the subject, designing a game for console-players does not make it a good game (looking at you Mass Effect 1 and 2, and at least the first Halo - I didn't bother with the others).

ttfn

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Silver badge

wtf?!

So you'd be fine going to the theater and watching a projection of a VHS, with 300 pixels of color bandwidth and half the color gamut of film?

Come on.

I don't know what these guys were smoking, but I have yet to see a bluray that wasn't --vastly-- better quality. Even down-sampled to DVD resolution they'd still be better due to the better compression, higher bitrate, and hugely better color reproduction.

Sure, if they watched on a ten year old 852x480 plasma with 10bit color, they won't see much difference... But with any good display device?!

Even if you argue that most people don't have displays to take advantage, that's not what the study was about. So... Again, WTF?

(For what it's worth, I use a CRT projector on an 84" screen, calibrated to 6500k with 22 point parametric gamma on each channel. It's not quite reference, but it's not too bad.)

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Unhappy

My thoughts exactly..

and that's why I thought the sample size was so small -- 17 good movies sounds about right. Then I saw that Avatar and Grease were on the list, so there went that idea.

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@Toastan Buttar

Yup, for much the same reason that a lot of people would swear blind the blood running down the drain in Psycho was actually red, your brain does a lot more of the viewing than your eyes do.

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@David W.

It used to be said of hi-fi enthusiasts that they would put up with any music just to listen to the reproduction, while music enthusiasts would put up with bad reproduction to listen to the music. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

I can't help thinking that a preoccupation with visual effect has contributed to the decline in narrative content in films.

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Boffin

Seems logical...

If you've already paid to have the film scanned and MPEG'd for DVD bitrates, there's no point in doing it again for Blu-ray now is there? I mean, it's expensive, all that post-prod time, and since Blu-ray is *obviously* better the customer's going to be happy whatever you put on there.

Remember, you're selling to an audience that was happy with VHS quality, and that largely is still happy with upscaled SD for the broadcast channels.

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Most movies are not scanned in SD

Most digital masters are scanned in at least 2048 lines and in most cases the studios still have the original negatives to remaster if necessary. There have been a handful of high profile releases where the master wasn't up to snuff and people went apeshit over it.

For example Gladiator's master master was HD but it was made in 2000 or so and was suffering from some horrible post processing which didn't show up in SD but did in HD. By contrast Braveheart (which was released simultaneously on the same label by the same studio) had a superb master.

Most movies on Blu Ray are quite obviously sourced from HD masters, or remastered, or even restored as you might expect. And in most cases the difference is very obvious. Even old movies benefit hugely from HD in most cases, although soft focus films aren't going to show much improvement.

However (and this is often forgotten), a shit movie is still a shit movie if its showing in SD or HD or 3D for that matter. I think the premium for HD is way too high, and at the end of the day 90% of movies are dross no matter what resolution they're showing in.

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Alert

greater picture quality than DVD

"consumers think Blu-ray did offer greater picture quality than DVD"

Isn't that because the aforementioned British Video Association helps push the notion that "Blu-ray offers greater picture quality than DVD"? (Plus companies wanting to sell new bluray players, HD TVs and more expensive DVDs but in blue cases?

So they tell people Blue ray is better, and then quote research that says people think Bluray is better. All that means is that marketing works (and maybe people are gullable)

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Anonymous Coward

another fine study

brought to you by the department of stating the bleedin' obvious!

All blu-ray does, is get the original source to you in a more accurate fashion. If the original source is pants quality, then you get to see that pants quality in all it's glory.

Some films were made on poor stock, they are grainy! Even if you process it digitally to clean it up, it will still always be grainy. Some are remastered for blu-ray, and clean up pretty well (see blade runner for a good example) some are just transferred as-is because it's a lot cheaper. Some are even dvd upscales.

DVD's were similar when first released, they were so much better than VHS, that companies didn't make any effort at all. I have a dvd which wobbles* from side to side throughout the whole film, has image ghosting and is really grainy, it's near unwatchable! Some AV websites actually review the specific transfer quality, rather than the film, but they aren't too common.

*telecine wobble for the interested

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more details needed

what was the testing methodology here?

Were the screens the same size? were the DVD's played on a standard def TV or were they upscaled on an HDTV?

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FAIL

RTFA

Which? wrote:

"Our expert viewing panel watched a selection of 17 films from a variety of studios, both made before and after the advent of the Blu-ray format. Each title was viewed simultaneously on DVD and Blu-ray disc on two identical Full-HD Sony TVs (Bravia KDL-40W4500) and played back on two identical Sony Blu-ray players (BDP-S550). Blu-ray players can play both high-definition and regular DVD discs.

When watching a DVD movie on a player connected to an HDTV via HDMI you have the option to adjust the settings and ‘up-scale’ the picture. For comparisons sake we left the 'up-scaling' option off, so the DVD was watched in its regular 576p resolution setting."

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FAIL

Read much?

"The organisation used two identical TVs to simultaneously show Blu-ray and DVD versions "

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FAIL

@Read much

So not a double blind then and therefore a useless comparison.

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Still up-scaling

"For comparisons sake we left the 'up-scaling' option off, so the DVD was watched in its regular 576p resolution setting."

*Something* has to upscale the picture from 576 to 1080 lines, unless you plan to watch a small area in the middle of the screen. They just chose to use the TV's upscaler rather than the Blu-Ray player's. Trying both might have given them different results.

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Boffin

@IanPotter

"So not a double blind then and therefore a useless comparison"

It may well have been double blind - no-one says the viewers knew which was the HD vs the SD image.

Although they probably did and were *looking* for a difference, in which case, you're right it's a bogus test.

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MJI
Silver badge

They chose a TV with good SD performance

The W4500 series TVs are very good with SD resolution but with HD sources they are way better

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MJI
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That TV has a good upscaler

I have the 46" and DVD still looks pretty good, but not as good as BluRay

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FAIL

not suprising

given how you can get decent upscaling DVD players and some poor blu-ray players. Also, if this was done on a 720p 'HD set then you'd see litle different. you really need to compare a basic

DVD player on 720p set versus a Blurray on a 1080p set. oh, you'll also need a good TV set anyway - just because the media format is better, if you're looking at it through a sheet of clingfilm (poor TV set) then it'll still look naff. ..and if the video source for masering to bluray is not HD then theres little that can be done.

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