Thursday, February 09, 2006
Two of the product areas of most interest to us as connectivity manufacturers for Home Theater and computers were High Definition Disk players (Blueray and HD-DVD) and the anticipated proliferation of new model Displays with 1080p resolution. To be honest, the number of 1080p displays was slightly disappointing. Those that were there were not disappointing at all. Surprisingly, many consumers are already holding off on purchasing new HDTV's and DVD players in the hope of jumping onto the HD-DVD, Blueray or 1080p display bandwagons. There are some interesting problems with this stratagy.
HD-DVD and Blueray
Let's start with the HD-DVD vs Blueray vs new DVD player choice. HD-DVD versus Blueray is a format war. It looks like a really, really nasty long lasting affair. Call them idiots if you want but this is a very big deal. Whichever format wins is going to be "the" HD medium for quite some time. Of course, if this goes on too long, they run the risk of being replaced by a third candidate.
Anyone jumping on one bandwagon may as well buy both if they want the maximum possible catalog of movies. This, of course, is going to be rather expensive and a nightmare in user friendliness. Imagine you buy both format players. When the wife, kids or husband can't figure out which movie to put in what player to get it to work, well, you are going to hear about it. Sure they may put big, noticeable labeling on the players and disks but it's not a sure thing - check out an SACD disk, you have to look really close to tell it from a regular CD, don't you? What about in your darkened HomeTheater? Time for a flashlight or raising the lights every time you want to change disks. Most people are simply not going to buy both. They will buy neither. Interestingly, a high quality upscaling DVD player right now is going to be a good choice for a lot of people. Why? There are are now some inexpensive upscaling DVD/universal players with extremely good video quality and very good sound quality. The very good universal DVD players have excellent multiformat audio and DVD video playback quality for the current Disk types. It is really not likely the initial HD-DVD or Blueray players are going to match the better current DVD players for the ultimate in standard DVD playback and even audio playback. If you have a lot of DVD's or rent them, you are still probably going to need a good DVD player for best results. Also, with a new expensive HD/Blueray player you will probably not want to wear it out with lowly DVD playback anyway, since the early models are likely to fail more quickly than later models. Hate to say it...but most likely true.
Upscaling DVD Players and Scalers (480i/480p/720p/1080i) 480i/480p - Why some don't see a difference
Alright, for the first thing, we need to stop thinking we are comparing apples to oranges when we are actually comparing granny smith with red delicious.
Consumers comparing 480i to 480p DVD players over component video to a HDTV is a good example.
It is easy to tell the difference when comparing a DVD player playing a good 480i DVD through a standard definition, 480i Tube TV and a good DVD played at 480p through a HDTV which can properly display a good 480p. When comparing a DVD player at 480i and then 480p through your new HDTV you may have a very hard time seeing this difference. Many consumers will try this and conclude that this whole interlaced and progressive thing is some kind of scam, or just blindly convince themselves they are, indeed seeing some huge difference. There may be a big difference or may not, but it depends on the HDTV's and DVD players processing. That 480i is not 480i when you see it. It is processed into a/the resolution that the display can handle - 480p, 720p or 1080i, but it sure isn't 480i.
Upscaling to 720p or 1080i
First of all, you cannot really add any resolution to a signal that is not there to begin with. Converting a lower resolution video to fill a higher resolution display involves a lot of adding information to the signal. If you have an HD display and play a DVD on it, it has to somehow get from 480i to 720p/1080i or whatever the resoluion of your display actually is. The DVD player/scaler can do some or all of this, or the Displays internal electronics can do this. Some do a better job of this than others - sometimes by a broad margin. In any case, taking a best case DVD resolution and deinterlacing and scaling it with the best processing available will never result in a compareable image to a true High Definition image quality. Not even close. What a great scaler/processor or upscaling DVD player can do is replace the displays need to process the video as much as possible, and generally do this with much better results.
New 1080p Displays? They were awesome at CES 2006.
Most 1080p displays so far will not accept 1080p input. Some will accept 1080p input - the high end models, but most early models will accept only 720p or 1080i. Not that there is a whole lot of 1080p content out there to watch anyway.... It will have to wait for HD-DVD or BlueRay players to come out with 1080p outputs to even have a decent 1080p source. So, anyway, when you do have HD at 720p/1080i going into your 1080p display, what method is being used by the displays processing to get to 1080p? That is the million dollar question. Using the simplest "bob" deinterlacing method as many 1080p displays initially will, is it really going to look that much better? With the best content available limited to 720p or 1080i how much better is a 1080p deinterlaced (from 1080i) or scaled (from 720p) version likely to look? Many of these scalers and TV's are likely to go from 1080i to 540p and then scale up to 1080p. How does that make you feel about 1080p? Not quite worth all of the hoopla yet?