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Blu-Ray vs. DVD

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blu-ray-logoHDTV is the best thing to happen to television since TV. It’s amazing what the new wide aspect ratio does for telling a story and for making movies with fewer or smaller black bars on top and bottom. And the detail! Cool stuff. Of course, if you’re getting a new HDTV, you’ll want a Blu-Ray player to match. However, I am very impressed at how well standard definition DVDs play on HDTV through a upscaling DVD player through an HDMI (High Definiton Multimedia Interface) port on the TV. When you buy your new HDTV, you must at least get a new DVD player that has an HDMI port if you’re not ready to get a new Blu-Ray player. You won’t have to pay more than $75 for one. They can easily be had for $49 and your DVDs will have never looked better. The difference between an upscaling DVD player through HDMI and one the one you have hooked up to your standard def television is night and day on an HDTV. Don’t believe that comparison you may see at Fry’s Electronics where they show DVD vs. Blu-Ray side by side. That’s a pitiful lie.

But, Blu-Ray is a worthy replacement for DVD technology. It will take full advantage of all those pixels you paid for with that super cool new TV you just bought. The prices of players are coming down. They can be had on sale for around $200 now or maybe even less. However, one of the pitfalls of early BD players is that they can be really slow to operate. One friend who has an early Sony player can wait a full minute for the eject button to work. And even after he inserts the disc, it’ll take a minute for it to load and start showing those idiotic don’t-copy-me messages. (Don’t step on the grass while you’re at it!)

The Samsung BD-P1500 is very quick to eject and load and of course, the picture is phenomenal. Bladerunner on BD will make your jaw drop. The amount of detail that the filmmakers put into that production is beautiful to behold and it’s been hidden by DVD and VHS all these years. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, you can actually read the instructions on how to use a zero-g toilet that Heywood Floyd is puzzling over on his way to the moon or the various warning signs on the pods. It’s amazing and beautiful. In The Fifth Element, there are whole restaurants full of people that suddenly appear out of the DVD induced haze.

But that doesn’t mean that you need to go replace all those DVDs you’ve accumulated. BD players offer the same upscaling features as their older siblings. Sometimes, the added detail doesn’t matter. If you are watching a romantic comedy, the extra detail in the fabric of someone’s clothes will not transport you any further into the story than the upscaled DVD. What you don’t want is to see a pixel-ly picture and the upscaling takes care of that. Good movies to replace are those where the filmmakers have created a new world for you to enter that is normally not your own. Of course, sci-fi movies come to mind. The more detail you can see, the more you’re drawn into that world. But don’t forget period pieces from Jane Austen movies to Excalibur, Braveheart and even westerns like Appaloosa. The Lord of the Rings trilogy will be coming to Blu-Ray in 2009. But as of this writing, there is no word of Star Wars, but George is definitely working his magic on that. He mentioned Blu-Ray way back in 1998 while we were waiting on his DVDs.

One caveat concerning DVD is old television content. If you’re watching a pre-HD TV show on DVD, some of the interlacing that the old standard definition format produced will become visible. There’s nothing that can be done about it and a format change to BD will not help unless the producers of the disc enhance the picture as they transfer it. One example of this care is the original series of “Star Trek” where they’ve gone in and modernized the special effects somewhat. But your old “Farscape” DVDs may actually look a little worse. It’s not terrible. It’s just that high definition reveals the sins of bad film stock and old video formats “better” than standard definition did.

If you’re just a casual movie watcher, you’re not going to be left behind any time soon. DVD will be around for a long time and will play for decades to come as long as physical media isn’t overcome by movie downloads in the future. But if you’re passionate about movies, this is a pretty good time to jump to Blu-Ray. High definition downloads of BD quality is still years away and people’s desire to own what they love rather than rent the download should keep that medium alive for a very long time.

12/29/08: I watched In the Land of Women yesterday afternoon on DVD through my BD player and found that it is an exception to the rule. There was a lot of artifacting and distracting pixelation on this title on my player.

I also need to add the caveat about quality DVD upscaling will only occur on anamorphic DVDs (DVDs enhanced for 16:9 aspect ratio TVs). Only some early DVD titles are non-anamorphic.

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Written by walueg

December 14, 2008 at 7:29 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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