Next-Gen DVD: Are Those Additional Pixels Worth Your Money?

Next generation DVD formats promise a huge jump in resolution, from the 720 x 480 of standard DVD to the 1920 x 1080 of HD-DVD and Blu-Ray.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

there is simply no difference between standard TV and DVD resolution: Both are 720x480 (NTSC) or 720x576 (PAL)

TV is interlaced, so the vertical resolution is halved. And on top of that, analog TV looks much much worse than a digital DVD.

I’m going a bit Euro-centric here, but… Could it be that a lot of people across the ocean (from my POV) are so hyped-up about HD because of NTSC?

I’ve never actually seen a true NTSC video, but NTSC retransmitted in PAL (for example, some NBA games, etc) looks AWFUL. The colours are all wrong and there’s a very noticeable lack of detail, as if someone applied a strong blur over the image. Okay, it’s 480 vs. 576 (20% extra), but it looks much, much worse than that. A friend of mine went to USA as a kid, came back, and couldn’t believe how good TV programme looked here (that was before HD became more mainstream there).

To be honest, I don’t think I’d notice much of a difference between 576p at 100 Hz, which is what my DVD+TV give me, and HD content. My TV (28") also has some digital filters, which appear to sharpen the image and enhance detail, so I get something like 720p. Even analog TV looks marvelous. If it were candy, I’d eat it.

At bigger screen sizes, things would probably change, but - who the hell needs a big screen?

I don’t know that David Pogue’s street experiment really applies. He’s comparing 5+ megapixels, but the move from DVD to HD is .3 to 2 megapixels, which I think would be a much more obvious transition (and it is, looking at your first link–it’s clearly visible that the HD image is sharper). At television resolutions, Pogue’s experiment wouldn’t have been as entertaining.

That being said, you bring up a good point: when the consumer electronics industry tries to sell us some future HD resolution at 5 megapixels, we should probably pass. I’ll hold out until they make a holodeck or something. :slight_smile:

I think that while having a decent picture is important, a quality sound system is what really engrosses you into a movie… much more so than a quality picture.

The group that’s really going to benefit from high def is the hollywood makeup and airbrush artists. =P

Next-Gen DVD: Are Those Additional Pixels Worth Your Money?

Absolutely. I bought the Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive today, and watched the King Kong movie that came with it on my 37" 1080i TV. The image quality is jaw-dropping. After that I watched a regular DVD for comparison, and couldn’t believe my eyes.

If you already own a Xbox 360 and HDTV, those 200 Euros are well spent.

Have you considered Depth of Field?

With the higher resolutions, a much greater Depth of Field can be produced between objects on the screen.

This alone is worth the extra resolution.

“Depth-of-field” refers to the distance objects appear in focus behind and forward of the primary object in focus. Most film cinematographers make full use of the depth-of-field capability; making sure objects in the background are highly defocused so that the viewer is directed only to the object of interest. This background defocusing adds to the overall film “soft” or “smooth” look.

Because you have higher resolution, you can make certain objects look even sharper (less blurred).

Our family currently watch our DVD’s on a BenQ MP620p projector. We take advantage of progressive scan from the DVD player and because we’re in Europe it’s a href=""576p/a. We have a good quality component video cable.

The quality is fantastic. The image size is way bigger than any LCD or Plasma I could afford. We have a small 20" LCD for general viewing (who needs a big screen for the news?) and then turn on the projector for good films, sports and PS2 games. No need for HD in this house!

Total cost of projector + DVD player + cable? About 600 (GBP). Bargain!

I think there’s a real lack of awareness of how good current DVD’s can look via progressive scan and component cables.

(I totally agree with The Geek above - sound is crucial too - we don’t have surround - just an excellent stereo amp, stereo speakers and sub. Makes all the difference.)

My girlfriend’s dad just bought a 50" plasma TV, and I’ve been hooking it up to my laptop to watch 720p HD resolution BBC Planet Earth videos. The TV presents itself as a 1360x768 LCD plug play monitor.

The quality difference between standard videos and the HD videos I have is astounding, managing to cause all jaws to drop in a room full of non-techie people. The further jump to 1080p would probably not seem much different, however.

Yeah, it’s worth it, but only if you have a big enough screen - although watching on my little 15" 1280x800 laptop display, the quality is still very rewarding.

Take a look at this:

Digital projection systems in cinema theaters are currently using a maximum horizontal resolution of 4096 pixels. And we are talking about huge screens here. Screens that are so large that even the most expensive tv you can buy is tiny in comparison. Ever heard anyone complaining about the huge pixels they saw at the cinema?

It’s another Madison Avenue attempt to fuel consumption in response to the dictates of Wall Street. All part of people trying to accelerate the heat-death of the universe for short term profit with little or no benefit to the consumer.

While I think everybody can agree that the higher resolution video looks great, who really wants to re-buy the same movies on Blu-Ray or HD-DVD that they have already bought on DVD? My fiance and I have a collection of at least 200 DVDs that we’ve bought in the last 5 years, some of which replaced VHS copies we had previously bought. Replacing those with their HD counterparts would require a heavy financial investment on top of the cost of the player itself (assuming we only want to watch them in 1 room of our house).

Frankly, there is nothing in those HD images that could not be achieved with a sharpen filter on the DVD image. In fact, in places it looks like an over active filter algo has been run already to clean up the downsized HD images. Run the same filters on the DVD image and then lemme see me, ya know?

The higher res lets the compression artifacting get mostly hidden by downsizing the content onto lower resolution screens (who could affort a 42" inch tube with native HD resolutions?). After that, anything extra you see is probably due to resizing filters - shrinking images always makes them blurry, so they inevitably get sharpened. Sharpen the same DVD image, I’ll bet you’ll see similar detail.

Frankly I am in no rush to by HD DVD or bluray. I’ll wait till the format wars settle and the next gen format after them is out, thanks.

My local Best Buy has an LG upconvert DVD player which converts regular DVD playback to HD for $80. Much cheaper than re-purchasing your DVD collection in HD.

I think there is a visible difference between DVD and HD-DVD. Presently I get HD transmission at 1080i from my cable provider (Timer Warner). Viewing HD broadcasts on a 55" plasma the quality is visibly superior to viewing DVDs; they both look great, but the HD at 1080i is greater. I do think it takes a pretty big screen to see the difference; on a 42" screen it may not matter.

I do think that at 30fps the difference between 1080i and 1080p is negligible. There is enough “lag” in current TVs that the interlaced frames blend smoothly together, and either way the resolution is the same. The difference could potentially be noticed with a lot of motion - a basketball game, say - but in actual practice I don’t think it matters.


Take a look at this screen calculator:

There is no question that 1080i looks better than 480p from up close or when looking at raw stills, however, when you take a look a chart like this and apply it to realistic setups. (i.e.: most people have TVs that are under 35" and rooms that are designed for 8 to 10’ viewing distances)

Also, I have a high quality setup (100" 16:9 DLP front projection system with HD resolution) and honestly there is little to no difference in quality for a DVD upconverted to HD and a true HD source of the same content at a reasonable viewing distance (at least 8’). In other words, I can tell the difference but it is small enough that I don’t care enough to spend a significant amount of money on the difference and I am someone with an expensive home theater setup and that loves movies.


Increased resolution is nice, but I think the copyright protection might kill these media formats before they become standard.

I believe that the success of the DVD format was partly thanks to the fact that the CCS was so easily broken and thus allowed consumers to excercise their fair use rights above and beyond of what DVD designers envisioned.

If the copyright protection on BlueRay or HD-DVD disks will prove strong, and impractical to crack they will loose value to the consumers. Why would you buy your media in a hermetically sealed box that you can’t open without assistance of the manufacturer?

I predict that the BlueRay vs. HD-DVD war will be won by the format which is more easily cracked. But that’s just MHO.

I think the general consensus is that HD looks quite a bit better - enough that for sports shows and such the big TV and nicer cable are worth it.

But when looking at the next-gen formats… the players are incredibly expensive, the formats have more rights restrictions, I have to re-buy movies I already have in acceptable quality, and either one of the formats could be completely gone in two years.

I’d love to have the extra quality of HD-DVD’s or Blu-Ray, because it is somewhat noticeable. But they’re tacking a whole lot of negatives onto that one positive for me to even consider it.


The real issue, that you touched on in your article, is the confusion surroiunding the technology and copy protection. There is another big issue, and that is that the guys who are the editors of material who do the digital transfers to DVD, are all in the dark when it comes to HD transfers. One of the biggest problems is that film has tiny imperfecctions, frame to frame, that are picked up by HD, and this makes thinks like the blue sky on a fine day “crawl”, or speckle. So then there is the issue of noise reduction, and how much is too much. I have compared the recordings of WMV-HD and DVD that are packaged together, like “Step into liquid” and “Standing in the shadows of MoTown”, and the amazing thing is that there is more detail in the DVD playback (Faroundja-rendered) than in the HD version: there is so much noise reduction in the HD version that old people lose their wrinkles and little kids lose their freckles!

There is another issue that is a direct result of all these problems: there are only about 100 titles on each of the HD formats, while there are some 50,000 titles on DVD. With the confusion in format, the difficulty of editing, this picture ain’t going to change soon, because the film-to-HD transfer is not automated at all.

So movie buffs are going to be building their libraries from DVD for the foreseeable future, and demaning much better picture rendering. Do a search for holo3dgraph II, a spendy PC add-in card that does perfect DVD rendering, and you can see the transition expectations.

Hmm both those comparison shots are not showing the benefits of HD. The LOTR is taken from a cable TV broadcast, and thus has a lower bitrate than one would expect. The training day one isn’t using a HD source, it’s prolly just an up-rezed DVD image.