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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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MJI
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Very good 1080p TV used

I have the bigger one - SD is good, but HD is brilliant

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In other news..

...Which? found a C90 audio cassette of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper was a superior listening experience to the latest JLS album on CD. Or something.

What a load of balls.

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Quota

"What a heroically in-depth and informative article, the end-result is simply breathtaking!"

...is how I wouldn't describe this piece. Maybe it's the weather, maybe it's the cold that is ravaging my corporeal being and robbing me of the gifts of taste and smell, but I'm not sated. It's not Friday afternoon either :o(

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Of course, that study is unsuprising

The DVD society's study saying that people find Blu-Ray better is unsuprising. I mean look at when Penn and Teller served people various types of "Fancy Gormet water" (in reality all coming from the same tap in the back room) or the millions of people that swear that drinking a little water will solve their illnesses. If people are told something is a certain way, they'll tend to believe it.

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Blu Ray quality is better

No it's not surprising the anybody says Blu Ray is better, because it is. You could put two images side by side, one from anamorphic SD and another in HD without knowing which was which and the difference would very obvious in most cases.

That said, just because something is in HD doesn't make it automatically good. There are lots of awful movies, and they're just as awful in HD too.

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two reasons:

A: People are morons. There's plenty of research that shows things like taste tests where people know what they're tasting give very different results to blind tests.

B: Upscaling can have very different results, on different source material.

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I've always said this

VHS is much better than DVD, but BluRay isn't as much of an improvement. This is why I still buy DVDs and don't have a BluRay player

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huh?

So out of 3 formats you have decided to stick with the one that you think is the worst?

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Agreed

I bought a special edition which had DVD and Blu-ray packaged together last year. I tried it on a friend's Blu-ray player and noticed there was very little difference between the DVD and Blu-ray. The BBlu-ray was only marginally better.

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Joke

Was it...

...Derek Jarman's Blue?

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Really?

How did you work that out? Did he have two identical set-ups for direct comparison between screens? Or did you (perhaps more likely) put the DVD in, with upscaling turned on, watch that for a bit to get an idea of what the picture was like and then press stop. An eject. And put the disc away. And then put the Blu Ray disc in. And then wait for it to load. And wait a bit more. And then press play, and get to the bit that you'd watched on the DVD. What you had there was you comparing what you see on the screen with the *memory* of what you saw on the screen a few minutes ago, but still decided it was better. Relevant to a point, but not exactly scientific.

Blu-Ray Disc video specification also allows video streams in 720p and SD. So actually, the Blu-Ray definition, the thing you buy, is the storage media, not the actual content. Legally they're progbably alright, cos that's what the agreed spec says, but morally they're a bunch of twats.

Someone mentioned above that *something* had to do upscaling to display an SD picture across the full screen of a 1080 TV set. It doesn't upscale to do that. Basically, it just fills in the gaps that would be left after it's stretched across and down to fit the screen. Assume each of the characters below is actually a scan-line. Not upscaling stretched it across the larger screen the blanks get filled in by replicating the previous pixel. Upscaling makes a guess as to what pixel would have been there had it been 1080.

SD picture on SD screen

1234567

ACEGIK

Gaps's plugged SD picture across HD screen (not upscaled)

11223344556677

11223344556677

AABBCCDDEEFF

AABBCCDDEEFF

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Anonymous Coward

There's more to it

There is a lot more to blu-ray than just the resolution and bitrate. The results will be different in America to the UK as well, due to the different tv systems.

In the UK, pal was 25 frames a second, in order to make 24 frames into 25, it just gets speeded up a tiny bit, this slightly affects the audio, but not enough to be noticeable.

US tv's are 29 frames a second, which means that there is a lot more processing, frame duplication etc, to get 24 frames to 29, this causes images panning to look odd.

If this was done on a proper 24fps system, with ntsc discs, the difference should be obvious, and not just because of the added detail. The lack of interlacing on the UK systems should also be noticeable!

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Let's see

Shoot a movie in HD with HD camera's and put it on blu-ray view it on a HD monitor and I would hazard a guess, even expect that one would get a high quality, better than DVD image.

Shoot a movie with SD or film cameras then process the result to HD and the image quality is dependent on the quality of the processing and will never equal a fully HD production path.

It reveals the power of marketing and the misleading nature of advertising when... "most consumers think Blu-ray did offer greater picture quality than DVD"

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WTF?

uhhh...

Film is scanned at -at least- 2k. Do you really think the films you see in the theater are only resolving 720x480?!

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Older Footage

I definitely notice the difference between DVD and Blu-Ray. Essentially what "which?" have failed to mention is that the films that didn't show a marked improvement are much older films and have not been (originally) recorded at a quality that will work with Blu-ray.

For Example, it is simply not possible to get a High Definition version of a Charlie Chaplin film due to the nature of the original recording equipment.

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Wut?

The original recording equipment was 16mm or 35mm film. You can scan that to any precision you like. Most people judge 35mm to have equivalent to 2048 or 4096 vertical lines of resolution. So scanning to 1080 lines over 480 obviously has potential to show a better picture. It just depends on the movie (soft focus or not), type & quality of the film stock and the effort put in to transferring it

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Anonymous Coward

Reference?

That would be a significant omission were it true. Pics or it didn't happen.

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TV footage

Older footage on 16mm film can produce a good HD master, not amazing but better then DVD.

Where you are out of luck in stuff shot on video. Or that was shot on film and edited on Video (unless you still have the film and want to do all the work to recreate the video effects).

28 Days Later for example is not that old (2002) but it was shot on an SD digital video camera. So it's no surprise that the BD looks like crap.

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MJI
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28 Days later

Was shot on DV or MiniDV not sure which (just size of tape) but this is a very good standard definition quality home video format for cameras

However if they had used HDV....

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Anonymous Coward

I have two main suspects:

shitty transfers, and shitty encodes

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Flame

Quite clearly..

People are fucking retarded.

DVD resolution is usually 576p(720x576) or 480p(720x480) with a significant amount of lossy compression.

Blu-Ray resolution on the other hand is either 720p (1280x720) or 1080p (1920x1080) with much improved and less lossy compression.

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Agreed

Clearly they are. You are so right.

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No,

Movie studios are just cheapskates. In too many cases, instead of going back to the original material and remastering it for HD, they are just transcoding the DVD version to Bluray.

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Exactly

Blu Ray has 6 times the pixels and nearly 6 times the storage capacity combined with a codec which is twice as efficient. It also offers square pixel aspect ratio, a better colour model, 24fps and more advanced audio options. It is very obviously going to produce a better quality picture and sound. Whether that matters really depends on what you're trying to watch. A bad movie in HD is still a bad movie.

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Casino Royale

Funny thing is that the Quantum of Solace DVD is degraded on purpose to push the HD version.

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And some DVDs look better then other DVDs

And some VHS tapes look better then others.

Blu-ray is not magic, if you don't have good quality masters then the final product is not going to be much good. Since they don't have to tell you on the box some companies will just up-sample their DVD master and stick it on a BR disc. Some are even worse then the DVD because they use DNR and line smoothing filters to try and make them look nice but just kill fine detail in the process.

It's not a fault of Blu-Ray, it's just that like everything else, some of the stuff people put on them is crap to start with. Garbage in garbage out and all that.

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MJI
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VHS was horrid

I have a very rare pre recorded SuperBeta tape - I had to supply the recorder though!

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It's not just about quality though

BluRay is about capacity and access speed.

Most people assume that means transferring a large of amount of data in a short time meaning more information on screen aka 'high definition'.

But it doesn't have to.

BluRay discs can run at slower speed and transfer a large amount of data over a longer time. That allows them to hold more 'stuff'.

So:2 hours of very high def or five or six hours of standard def.

But frankly in my experience it doesn't matter for most viewers. A lot of them sit too far from their screen. Others have dodgy eyesight. Most of them just don't really care.

It's like music. Look how popular MP3 is. Most people can't tell the difference between MP3 and a CD. Even fewer care.

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Joke

Access Speed

"BluRay is about capacity and access speed."

Is that including the 5 minutes it takes for the last generation of players to actually turn themselves on?

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RE: It's not just about quality though

"BluRay discs can run at slower speed and transfer a large amount of data over a longer time. That allows them to hold more 'stuff'."

Oh, so BluRay discs (BD) just spin slower and have more transfer endurance than DVDs? I was under the misconception BDs had a higher storage density due to using smaller, more compact 'pits' on the disc which required the use a laser with a shorter (and ultimately 'blue') wavelength in order to be read.

Do you work in an electronics retail store by any chance?

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A good sales job.

I remember when CDs came out. People were sold on the "superior" sound.

The reality was, the sound was in fact inferior with high and low notes cut out.

Moral: Tell a lie convincingly enough and many will buy it.

What was actually good about it was that they were usually more likely to last

longer as a physical medium like tape and vinyl were more subject to damage

while being played. That and the fact they took up less space.

Of course with people and ipods playing even lower quality sound and deafening

their customers to the point where they can't tell the difference any more .....

Blu-ray has the CAPACITY to serve up better quality, but unless the source material

is properly translated you will get little to no benefit.

Reminds me of the Disney commercials for the animation they release.

They always push the "newly remastered" aspect as if whatever was out there already

must, of course, have faded and become damaged.

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Anonymous Coward

I'm trying to work out if this post is written as a poem

or is merely suffering from Hyperactive Return Key Syndrome

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Happy

Oh dear

"The reality was, the sound was in fact inferior with high and low notes cut out."

I smell an audiophile.

Egads, as if people could hear the difference with their inferior quality interconnects and unconditioned power sources anyway.

If you are in fact a dog, and can hear frequencies that the red book standard "cuts out," then I apologise unreservedly.

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Ripoff Studios

The problem is with the studios who create the HD mix for Bluray, I'm surprised to see no-one has looked to see if many of the titles missing the HD sparkle are old films recently re-released.

Many older titles are obviously just up-mixed DVD copies that offer very little extra detail, only new films seem to have the real sharpness of HD video and obviously like Zulu and Gandhi some films are properly remastered from the original but many are not.

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Don't replace 5+ year old DVD's

I would have though that older movies were the ones that showed least quality increase as I bet studios just copy the DVD onto a Bllu-Ray. It is posible for old movies to be re-mastered from the orignal film, but they never bother. Good for Which to point this out.

The lesson here is if you have a 5+ year old movie on DVD, don't bother gerting it again unless review sites have assured you that they have done a re-mastering, so it is worth it. Of course most big budget new movies will have been fiilmed to take advantage of Blu-ray so should look great.

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Boffin

With your eyes? How primitive

1) Decode streams

2) run FFT on output

3) make visualisation of output

4) presence of higher frequencies means better quality

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Soooo...

...In your estimation, a 1-on-1-off alternating white/black pixel field would be the maximum quality attainable? :)

But, yes, noise aside this is reasonable.

Of course, they said that they had the same tv for both... But what settings? Smoothing +32, maybe? :P

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Unhappy

Re: With your eyes? How primitive

Or...

4) presence of higher frequencies just means presence of higher frequency noise

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Black Helicopters

But in a few years time...

You'll be able to buy new versions of your Blue Ray movies, labelled "newly remastered for Blue Ray" at better quality. I'd like to say you heard it here first, but I bet someone else has said it before...

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Are you people on drugs or what?

All those still babbling that Blu-Ray HD 1080p streams look the same or worse than 480/576i/p MPEG2 streams are highly likely drunk or full of drugs or both and so unable to see the higher details. Or their eyes are affected by some serious disease and need to consult a doctor before they got completely blind.

And no upscaling a DVD up to 1080p will not be the same as an even poorly encoded native 1080p stream at low bitrate. The upscaled stream will keep looking worse and with more artifacts on average and lower perceived quality.

Unless you people perceive noise as a feature and then you got a real issue either at brain or eyes level, there is no way telling that upscaled or not DVD would look the same as a 1080p HD BluRay.

If it was for people like you we would still be at VGA 320x240 256 colour mode and CRT displays because on tiny displays there is no reason to go at higher native resolutions...

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FAIL

Another one

Confusing capability with reality

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on what planet?

...in your world what we should see is much more important than what we actually see. A bad encoding is a bad encoding, whatever stats you throw at me. An upscaled SD remains upscaled SD whatever HD format you code it into. And a shitty quality master print stays shitty in SD or HD. The quality isn't there in the majority of HD material because the owners couldn't be arsed doing the job well, they know so few will even notice, they don't need to.

Let's face it though, the sort of idiots Which? uses typically couldn't spot quality if it poked them in the eyes. Like a depressing proportion of the general public they actually prefer the material overfiltered into softness, an astonishing number actually prefer upscaled SD over real HD versions. Most of the time I can see no difference at all, they both look identically bad.

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Think of it this way.

GIGO - Garbage In, Garbage Out

If the original BluRay transfer was shoddy or the original film is very grainy (I think of the Godfather trilogy at this point), then those imperfections are MORE likely to show up on a BluRay because the higher resolution allows those imperfections to show (whereas on a DVD they tend to get covered up due to interpolation and necessary smoothing).

BTW, some of the worst BluRays are really nothing more than DVD upscales. So it'll show virtually no difference vs. an upscaling DVD player (which is doing essentially the same thing).

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Big Brother

Sony's blue for blue bloods....

Difference? One is illuminated by the blue rays of the new world order?

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Bod
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Quality vs Resolution

Thing is, everyone was banging on about the amazing quality of Blu Ray long before many discs were released, but the reality is the technical benefit of the format is just simply that it offers up to twice the resolution of NTSC/PAL, which is not the same thing as twice or indeed any better quality.

The problem is a lot of high def transfers on back catalogue titles are done poorly or use existing transfers that were done for DVD. They may have been originally transferred at a high def resolution, but the encodings were designed for DVD with excessive edge enhancement, contrast boosting and noise reduction (or total lack of where a dodgy old print may require some at least).

Gladiator is a good example, hence the re-issue of the disc following massive complaints of a shockingly bad HD transfer.

Aside from that though, HD has a large perceptual factor. We don't see higher resolutions very well, especially at distance or with a small display. The human eye and brain responds much better to differences in contrast. It's long been a trick of DVD manufacturers, film makers, even photographers or media editors, that boosting contrast and enhancing the edges in images makes an image "pop" and look much sharper and appear to be higher resolution than it actually is. The smaller the image the better too.

A lot of people with HD TVs also have too small a TV to really appreciate the difference. It is possible to *notice* a difference but appreciating it is harder. There is also a percentage of the population who really couldn't care anyway. They appreciate the film, not the definition of the picture. There are a lot of these people, which is why iPods are popular, and people are quite happy watching terrible pictures on awful screens on a plane, and won't bother watching the same film again because they've "seen it on the plane" despite the crap quality.

Myself I rarely buy Blu Ray anyway, but when I do I wait for something I really want and will appreciate (gone are the DVD days when I'd buy anything released and only watch the thing once), and having done much research to ensure it's a decent transfer. Otherwise I'm wasting my money on something that will be re-released or is available on an HD channel on TV or will be on an HD VoD stream some day (not far off now). Blu Ray to me is a stop gap and not the future. Discs have had their time.

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Slightly wrong

"the reality is the technical benefit of the format is just simply that it offers up to twice the resolution of NTSC/PAL, which is not the same thing as twice or indeed any better quality."

Actually it offers up to six times the resolution of NTSC and nearly 5 times the resolution of PAL.

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Bod
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Re: Slightly wrong

Good point. Let's say roughly twice the number of lines vertically then :D

Still, even if it was 10 times better resolution, it's still down to the quality of the transfer and encoding, and there are a lot of rubbish transfers out there.

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Paris Hilton

What's this got to do with BluRay?

Erm, it's the content that's at fault here. Not the storage medium.

Or perhaps it's too much like hard work for Which? to figure out what companies are pushing the good stuff and what companies are just jumping on the BluRay bandwagon to sell tat to suckers.

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JBH
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Never mind Blu-Ray...

Someone needs to have a look at the so-called 'HD' TV channels, which as far as I can tell consist of upscaled, recycled old tat.

BBC HD, and the Sky stuff usually looks lovely, but some of the other channels who call themselves HD look dreadful. I'm not exaggerating to say it's WORSE than DVD. And the artifacts - oh my! I might as well be watching stuff on YouTube! Quite often I'll even see them broadcast in 4:3 for god's sake!

Honestly, words cannot express how far removed from HD these channels look.

Quite frankly I expect better from a channel that uses the HD label, and some of these guys seem to be taking the piss. Living HD and Syfy, I'm look at you!

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Anonymous Coward

What about the audio?

Dolby Digital 5.1 is really terrible compared to the lossless CODECs that can be used on a BluRay.

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