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Not All HD Discs Are Created Equal Print E-mail
Thursday, 03 August 2006
As early adopters like me slug through the viscously painful world of making HD disc players like Blu-ray and HD DVD work we are learning quickly that not all discs are created or should I say selected equally. While some titles truly shine like the God-awful film XXX on Blu-ray or The Last Samurai on HD DVD many other choice selections leave consumers longing for better picture quality. The Fifth Element is an absolute classic video demo on DVD. Practically every home theater dealer in the country has a copy to play the Opera scene for potential clients. On Blu-ray the quality of the transfer is barely better than that of DVD leaving many early adopters to the format wondering why they spent the money on the new disc. HD DVD’s selection for early discs are equally as puzzling. Goodfellas for a Pizan like myself is hard to resist however the HD disc looks flat, dull and lifeless despite the supposed extra kick HD DVD was supposed to give the film. Apollo 13 is another classic demo which looks more vibrant than Goodfellas but the HD DVD format’s resolution highlights the graininess of the way the film was shot.

Don’t lose hope over the bad first batch of movies. While there is basically no excuse for the years of planning of a launch of either format with such mediocre titles in terms of video quality, I can tell you I have seen the promised land and things look good. At the press launch for Blu-ray at the Sony Pictures lot, the studio was able to demonstrate on a Cine Alta 4k projector the recently released Adam Sandler movie Click. The film was not only being beamed onto a 40 foot screen with the world’s finest video projector but more importantly the film was made using all-digital cameras made by Panavision and Sony. These new digital cameras record in the digital domain yet try to keep the soul of film in mind in terms of the way they work. The result makes movies look like native HD broadcasts like you would expect from say Discovery HD Theater, HDNET or ESPN’s Sunday Night Football. In fact the potential for movies shot in the digital domain is even better than that of broadcast. Literally the compression is so much less the HD discs can look far better than anything that comes over the satellite or digital cable.

In the future, studios should be looking for titles to release that are newer, brighter (more daytime scenes) and have fewer artifacts from film that don’t transfer very well over to HD disc formats. Pick a few 100 titles like this and we could have some momentum for one of these formats. Oh and make HDMI work and don’t put HDCP copy protection “down-rezzing” on the discs. I guess there are a lot of hurdles left to overcome.

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