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 …


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  1. Jean-Luc

    Well, duh...

    If you have an older movie, shot with older media on a tight budget, chances are your blu-ray is not gonna be much better than a DVD, esp. if the publisher doesn't spend much on remastering.

    Gotta love those who buy Casablanca in Blu-Ray for example. Lawrence of Arabia on the other hand was shot in 70mm, so it could be great in bluray. Kubrick probably also had the cash to spend on media and his movies are in the $20 range.

    A good objective test of worthwhile Blu-Ray vs. DVD is a freeze on a screenshot with written text (a letter or a page in a book). Typically, you can easily read the Blu-Ray but DVD is blurry at best.

    My favorite in terms of image quality is Apocalypto. Maybe not the best overall, but the first one that REALLY wowed me.

    Last but not least the price premium has been dropping steeply. I wait and get most of my BluRays for less than 20$ CAD, often for $10. Mind you I am also picking up DVDs for $6 as well (hello music industry - when you gonna lower your prices???).

    1. SuperTim

      all valid points....

      but my wife cant see HD... she has no idea if something is hi def or not! I suspect that this has more to do with people than with technology if you ask me.

      1. Paul_Murphy


        If you've spent a shed load of dosh on a load of HD kit you really _want_ there to be an improvement - so you'll probably imagine it's better, even when it's not.


      2. The BigYin


        I am someone else who can't see HD. Well, that's a small lie, what I can't see is the difference between a random HD system and a SD system that has been set-up properly. If you spend the time (and it doesn't take long) to ensure resolutions match (If using LCD/Plasma, I am still on CRT), setting contrast etc correctly for the room and using a good connection (not RF...) then you'll be surprised at what SD can deliver.

        A lot of the "wow" factor about HD is just people seeing XYZ on a decent screen. I have *never* seen a side-by-side comparison of the same content on the same screen being run SD/HD. Only if that is done can one judge the difference.

        If going down the HD route (AIUI) it only takes one component to not be 100% complaint with the HD DRM wankery and you only get SD anyway. I wouldn't know, as I say I am still using an old CRT telly and I will keep using it until it dies...which I think will happen soon judging be a few glitches I am seeing.

        1. SuperTim


          I agree, a properly set up SD system can deliver lovely images (and its not just about the resolution), but if you have a good bluray player and a television that can handle the expanded colour range, it does deliver excellent pictures and can offer other things such as interactivity and shedloads of SD content. Upscaling DVD players can deliver a great picture too, but if your eyesight is good, you can tell the difference. My debate is that there are lots of people who simply cannot see well enough to tell if it is HD.

    2. DrXym

      B&W films benefit hugely

      I agree there are a lot of crappy 35mm prints which are transferred to blu ray and have marginal benefits. However black & white films tend to fair a lot better than colour movies. Typically the film is less washed out on Blu Ray and the grain (and thus detail) is far more evident. There have been some spectular transfers to HD.

      Sites like DVDBeaver frequently do SD / HD comparisons so its easy enough to tell before you buy what you're likely to get, e.g. for Casablanca

      I'd say Casablanca would score 8/10 for the HD. It's HD is far sharper than the SD, but it looks like it's been DNRd a bit.

      Some early transfers went overboard in three ways - upscaling where the movie wasn't HD at all, DNR which involves smoothing out the grain which is a lossy process and makes faces look waxy, and edge enhancement which superficially makes edges look sharper by increasing the contrast at the edges. Some of the most frequently cited examples of good films that got awful transfers would be Spartacus on HD DVD, Gladiator, Patton, The Longest Day and The Gangs of New York.

      1. Jean-Luc

        @DrXym - txs for the correction

        To be honest, I just picked Casablanca out of a hat because it has been re-released in BD and I just _assumed_ that it would be too old to be worthwhile (I have it in DVD anyway). I also wasn't aware that black and white were actually better material for BD conversion.

        Basically, I am cautious about spending extra money on BD for older movies, but I don't mind splurging a bit on some of my favorite movies if there is no great price differential.

        Is there a huge difference? By no means. Much less than VHS => DVD. But if you have a reasonable 1080p TV (mine's a 3 yr old 32" Aquos) there is some improvement, especially if you stop to pay attention to the image quality. As someone pointed out though, a good movie will distract you from its exact definition and that's the way it should be.

    3. James Henstridge

      Film Quality

      A standard 35mm film print should hold much more detail than you'd get from a 576i digital transfer. The original doesn't have to be 70mm to see an improvement.

  2. Daniel B.

    Toy Story 3

    That one had better imagery on Blu-Ray.

    The thing I actually like about BDs is that there is now only 1 region for the American continent, instead of splitting it into Region 1 and Region 4. Also, the pop-up menus and the ability to bookmark scenes, very useful when I want to resume a movie from where it started. It isn't just the picture quality, it's all the extra perks included with BDs.

    1. Goat Jam


      "The thing I actually like about BDs is that there is now only 1 region for the American continent, instead of splitting it into Region 1 and Region 4"

      Wow, what a ringing endorsement. You "like" BD because the artificial barriers to trade that allow prices to be inflated according to your purchase location are slightly less confusing.

      Yes, that sure is a lot to like. Thank god one of the few not insane laws we have down here in Australia makes it mandatory for manufacturers to provide region code unlocking on request making that whole anti-competitive load of consumer raping crap irrelevant in this country.

    2. Restricted Access

      RE: Toy Story 3

      "Also, the pop-up menus and the ability to bookmark scenes, very useful when I want to resume a movie from where it started. It isn't just the picture quality, it's all the extra perks included with BDs."

      I think you're confusing BD features with media player features. It's the device you're using to play your BDs that allows you to resume where you finished and is something that also exists on some DVD players too.

      1. DrXym

        @Restricted Access

        Sometimes bookmarks are provided by the disc, some times by the player.

        Most Blu Ray discs these days use an embedded version of Java called BD-J to power their menus and features. The player is just running the program which in some cases has the ability to save bookmarks of where you left off. The sophistication of the menus & features varies by studio, but most seem to offer features like bookmarking. When the app saves the bookmark it stores a marker in storage in the player and next time the app runs it checks for this marker and offers the user the choice to resume.

        Older Blu Ray discs may use something called HDMV which is basically an extended version of the DVD menu system. In these cases, the media player *may* offer you to resume from your last player. The PS3 does this for example.

        So it depends.

        1. Havin_it

          Bookmarks "on the disc"?

          Run that by me again? Hardly makes the bookmarks "on the disc" does it? I mean, if me and the lads are watching Robocop at mine, and my mam kicks us out because she doesn't like the violence and that, can we go over to Steve's and play the disc from where we left it on his player?

          Video 1, BDDVDVD 0

          1. DrXym

            The bookmarks are saved on storage

            Every BD player offers some local storage space. That's where they get saved. As for "chapters", yes you get those too.

        2. Anonymous Coward

          RE: @Restricted Access

          "Sometimes bookmarks are provided by the disc, some times by the player."

          DVDs come with bookmarks, they tend to be called chapters though.

  3. Nick Hoath

    No surprise

    there - after all a lot of blu-rays are just copies of the DVD media stream, with software upscaling done by the manufacturer.

    It's the new films which are captured at the higher resolution of blu-ray, or old films that have been remastered & cleaned up, that show the benefits of HD.

    1. DrXym

      There aren't *a lot* at all

      The vast majority of Blu Ray discs do offer genuine HD content.

      There is *some* upscaled content but mostly it is well identified as such or the reason is implied. e.g. it originated from a TV series.

      TV shows especially can still benefit. If you want to see this in practice, just flick between ITV HD and ITV some times. Often they're both showing the same SD content but the quality is vastly better in HD. That's a due to a lot of things, but even the choice of codec and bitrate can improve the quality of the picture.

      Some very old TV shows also benefit hugely from HD. Look at The Prisoner & Star Trek series as prime examples. The Prisoner was shot on 35mm film original and transferred to video tape for broadcast. The quality of the Blu Ray version is obscenely good because it's sourced from the master.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        ITV / ITV HD is a very bad comparison

        The standard ITV channel on Freesat is compressed to buggery and is a much lower resolution than most other channels - compare it to the PAL analogue stream and you can see the difference quite clearly.

        The ITV HD channel has a more reasonable bandwidth.

        As to why it's like that... My guess is the plethora of plus-one channels, but feel free to draw your own conclusions.

        1. Jim Morrow

          itv? wtf?

          who cares about the difference in picture quality between itv and itv hd? the content is utter shite. so the picture resolution makes no fucking difference. the shows are still shite even if they are in dolby digital at 1080. all new traffic cop's been framed i'm a celebrity britain's got talent with antanddec? just fuck off!

          1. DrXym


            I'm using ITV as an example. For ITV replace BBC. For BBC replace any other channel which simulcasts in SD and HD. Same source dramatically different results.

            Point is that given a higher bitrate, codec and decent upscaling HD can improve SD content. But most content is HD to begin and SD is primarily for legacy stuff off the TV, camcorder footage and the like.

  4. nichomach


    "...but the trade organisation instead simply quoted research suggesting that most consumers think Blu-ray did offer greater picture quality than DVD."

    Because relying on confirmation bias and a soupcon of buyer's remorse is obviously more reliable.

  5. spaceyjase


    A bold claim based on 17 discs. Well done.

    1. Anton Ivanov

      Not necessarily

      While it does not make a proper statistical sample if we assume that the movies were selected at _RANDOM_ it should give some initial conclusions.

      However, looking at the list it is quite clear that the movies were _NOT_ selected at random. Hit titles were added to a random list or the list contains an excessive amount of hit BR titles for some other reason. In other words - the mean user or critic rating across the sample deviates significantly from the mean user or critic rating across the industry.

      So from a purely statistical viewpoint this research is heavily skewed in _FAVOUR_ of blue ray. A proper statistical sample is likely to show something much much worse.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Go and compare bladerunner.

    Then book an appointment at the opticians if you can't tell the difference.

    1. Greg J Preece


      Blade Runner is amazing on Blu-Ray. That said, Mr Scott did spend an awfully large amount of time and money remastering it properly, so I doubt that would ever happen for the vast majority of older discs.

      I somehow ended up with Escape From New York on BD - I swear that one's actually *worse* than the DVD.

  7. Charles 9

    Lost in the encoding?

    The fact that BluRay has the POTENTIAL to show clear differences make me think the lack of quality is less a matter of the disc and more of the process by which the BluRay video footage was encoded. Perhaps film grain (which is more noticeable at higher resolutions) is affecting our judgment? Perhaps they used a crummy source for the video. Perhaps they used the wrong encoding optimizations.

  8. Chris Gray 1

    common sense

    Common sense suggests that the difference will be little, if any, if you are viewing a small TV from a long way away. If you have a large TV, and sit close to it, the difference between 1080p and 720p (or even 720i on non-progressive-scan TV's) will be much more noticeable. Also, movies with lots of moving things (explosions, etc.) will mask any differences, so you will see less improvement with Bluray.

    I moved up to a 46" LCD and Bluray early this year, and what I do with a new Bluray disk is watch it from about 6 feet away. The quality is noticeable. The experience is more theatre-like.

    My main complaint about Bluray is the longer load times, and very occasional audio dropouts (the audio is probably my player's fault).

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    the main improvement in quality was switching from analog to digital, clean digital pictures can be scaled up pretty well and increasing the resolution doesn't have as much of an impact as you'd expect, the main difference being a little extra detail in the trees in the background (anything with straight edges like buildings etc which are what you'd normally notice will still look the same on most TVs)

    1. Not That Andrew


      If the detail doesn't exist in the original DVD image, it won't be in the upscaled image, no matter how you upscale it. You can't create data and detail out of thin air. Or do you believe CSI is a documentary series?

      1. AceRimmer

        Rubbish Rubbish (AKA Fail Squared)

        Upscaling a moving picture does add more detail.

    2. Richard 12 Silver badge


      Compare ITV analog to ITV Fressat digital*

      Watch an advert that has small-print along the bottom - any kind of makeup, particularly mascara will do.

      On analogue, you can read the text. On digital, it's got halos around it from the compression artifacts.

      *ITV Freesat is probably the worst offender.

  10. Toastan Buttar
    Thumb Up

    Five minutes in...

    Five minutes into a good movie, the overall picture quality becomes largely irrelevant. Unless it's a mangled old VHS tape, of course.

    1. Paul_Murphy

      I agree with him.

      Just as you can lose yourself in a good book a film is not the technology - it's the story being told.

      Just as in games - the frivolous use of technology does not hide a poor story.

      And, while I'm on the subject, designing a game for console-players does not make it a good game (looking at you Mass Effect 1 and 2, and at least the first Halo - I didn't bother with the others).


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      So you'd be fine going to the theater and watching a projection of a VHS, with 300 pixels of color bandwidth and half the color gamut of film?

      Come on.

      I don't know what these guys were smoking, but I have yet to see a bluray that wasn't --vastly-- better quality. Even down-sampled to DVD resolution they'd still be better due to the better compression, higher bitrate, and hugely better color reproduction.

      Sure, if they watched on a ten year old 852x480 plasma with 10bit color, they won't see much difference... But with any good display device?!

      Even if you argue that most people don't have displays to take advantage, that's not what the study was about. So... Again, WTF?

      (For what it's worth, I use a CRT projector on an 84" screen, calibrated to 6500k with 22 point parametric gamma on each channel. It's not quite reference, but it's not too bad.)

      1. Kubla Cant

        @David W.

        It used to be said of hi-fi enthusiasts that they would put up with any music just to listen to the reproduction, while music enthusiasts would put up with bad reproduction to listen to the music. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

        I can't help thinking that a preoccupation with visual effect has contributed to the decline in narrative content in films.

    3. Steven Knox

      My thoughts exactly..

      and that's why I thought the sample size was so small -- 17 good movies sounds about right. Then I saw that Avatar and Grease were on the list, so there went that idea.

    4. Annihilator
      Thumb Up

      @Toastan Buttar

      Yup, for much the same reason that a lot of people would swear blind the blood running down the drain in Psycho was actually red, your brain does a lot more of the viewing than your eyes do.

  11. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Seems logical...

    If you've already paid to have the film scanned and MPEG'd for DVD bitrates, there's no point in doing it again for Blu-ray now is there? I mean, it's expensive, all that post-prod time, and since Blu-ray is *obviously* better the customer's going to be happy whatever you put on there.

    Remember, you're selling to an audience that was happy with VHS quality, and that largely is still happy with upscaled SD for the broadcast channels.

    1. DrXym

      Most movies are not scanned in SD

      Most digital masters are scanned in at least 2048 lines and in most cases the studios still have the original negatives to remaster if necessary. There have been a handful of high profile releases where the master wasn't up to snuff and people went apeshit over it.

      For example Gladiator's master master was HD but it was made in 2000 or so and was suffering from some horrible post processing which didn't show up in SD but did in HD. By contrast Braveheart (which was released simultaneously on the same label by the same studio) had a superb master.

      Most movies on Blu Ray are quite obviously sourced from HD masters, or remastered, or even restored as you might expect. And in most cases the difference is very obvious. Even old movies benefit hugely from HD in most cases, although soft focus films aren't going to show much improvement.

      However (and this is often forgotten), a shit movie is still a shit movie if its showing in SD or HD or 3D for that matter. I think the premium for HD is way too high, and at the end of the day 90% of movies are dross no matter what resolution they're showing in.

  12. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    greater picture quality than DVD

    "consumers think Blu-ray did offer greater picture quality than DVD"

    Isn't that because the aforementioned British Video Association helps push the notion that "Blu-ray offers greater picture quality than DVD"? (Plus companies wanting to sell new bluray players, HD TVs and more expensive DVDs but in blue cases?

    So they tell people Blue ray is better, and then quote research that says people think Bluray is better. All that means is that marketing works (and maybe people are gullable)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    another fine study

    brought to you by the department of stating the bleedin' obvious!

    All blu-ray does, is get the original source to you in a more accurate fashion. If the original source is pants quality, then you get to see that pants quality in all it's glory.

    Some films were made on poor stock, they are grainy! Even if you process it digitally to clean it up, it will still always be grainy. Some are remastered for blu-ray, and clean up pretty well (see blade runner for a good example) some are just transferred as-is because it's a lot cheaper. Some are even dvd upscales.

    DVD's were similar when first released, they were so much better than VHS, that companies didn't make any effort at all. I have a dvd which wobbles* from side to side throughout the whole film, has image ghosting and is really grainy, it's near unwatchable! Some AV websites actually review the specific transfer quality, rather than the film, but they aren't too common.

    *telecine wobble for the interested

  14. Mighty Gaz

    more details needed

    what was the testing methodology here?

    Were the screens the same size? were the DVD's played on a standard def TV or were they upscaled on an HDTV?

    1. Restricted Access


      Which? wrote:

      "Our expert viewing panel watched a selection of 17 films from a variety of studios, both made before and after the advent of the Blu-ray format. Each title was viewed simultaneously on DVD and Blu-ray disc on two identical Full-HD Sony TVs (Bravia KDL-40W4500) and played back on two identical Sony Blu-ray players (BDP-S550). Blu-ray players can play both high-definition and regular DVD discs.

      When watching a DVD movie on a player connected to an HDTV via HDMI you have the option to adjust the settings and ‘up-scale’ the picture. For comparisons sake we left the 'up-scaling' option off, so the DVD was watched in its regular 576p resolution setting."

      1. Mike Dimmick

        Still up-scaling

        "For comparisons sake we left the 'up-scaling' option off, so the DVD was watched in its regular 576p resolution setting."

        *Something* has to upscale the picture from 576 to 1080 lines, unless you plan to watch a small area in the middle of the screen. They just chose to use the TV's upscaler rather than the Blu-Ray player's. Trying both might have given them different results.

        1. MJI Silver badge

          That TV has a good upscaler

          I have the 46" and DVD still looks pretty good, but not as good as BluRay

      2. MJI Silver badge

        They chose a TV with good SD performance

        The W4500 series TVs are very good with SD resolution but with HD sources they are way better

    2. Goat Jam

      Read much?

      "The organisation used two identical TVs to simultaneously show Blu-ray and DVD versions "

      1. IanPotter

        @Read much

        So not a double blind then and therefore a useless comparison.

        1. Annihilator


          "So not a double blind then and therefore a useless comparison"

          It may well have been double blind - no-one says the viewers knew which was the HD vs the SD image.

          Although they probably did and were *looking* for a difference, in which case, you're right it's a bogus test.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    not suprising

    given how you can get decent upscaling DVD players and some poor blu-ray players. Also, if this was done on a 720p 'HD set then you'd see litle different. you really need to compare a basic

    DVD player on 720p set versus a Blurray on a 1080p set. oh, you'll also need a good TV set anyway - just because the media format is better, if you're looking at it through a sheet of clingfilm (poor TV set) then it'll still look naff. ..and if the video source for masering to bluray is not HD then theres little that can be done.

    1. MJI Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Very good 1080p TV used

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

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    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.

  17. LeBeourfCurtaine


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

  18. Chad H.

    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.

    1. DrXym

      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.

  19. Fuzzysteve

    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.

  20. Andy Taylor
    Thumb Up

    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

    1. Youngdog


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

  21. Julian 3


    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.

    1. LeBeourfCurtaine

      Was it...

      ...Derek Jarman's Blue?

    2. Mike Hanna


      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



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





      1. Anonymous Coward
        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!

  22. adnim

    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"

    1. Anonymous Coward


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

  23. Miek

    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.

    1. DrXym


      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

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


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

    3. Tom 35

      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.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        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....

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have two main suspects:

    shitty transfers, and shitty encodes

  25. hikaricore

    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.

    1. blackworx


      Clearly they are. You are so right.

    2. Not That Andrew


      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.

    3. DrXym


      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.

  26. Shingo Tamai

    Casino Royale

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

  27. Tom 35

    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.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      VHS was horrid

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

  28. AndrueC Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    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.

    1. Mark 65

      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?

    2. Restricted Access

      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?

  29. Richard 15

    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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

    2. paulll

      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.

  30. David Simpson 1
    Thumb Down

    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.

  31. ph0b0s

    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.

  32. JimC
    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...

  33. LawLessLessLaw

    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

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      ...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

    2. TheManOnTheClaphamOmnibus

      Re: With your eyes? How primitive


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

  34. Joerg
    Thumb Down

    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...

    1. blackworx

      Another one

      Confusing capability with reality

    2. Paul Shirley

      on what planet? 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.

    3. Charles 9

      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).

  35. tempemeaty
    Big Brother

    Sony's blue for blue bloods....

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

  36. Bod

    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.

    1. DrXym

      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.

      1. Bod

        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.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  38. JBH

    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!

  39. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  40. Tim Walker

    Two words...

    ..."Planet Earth".

    Seriously: anyone who can watch a scene from that series on a 50" HD TV from the DVD, then from the Blu-ray, and not see that the BR version's picture quality wees from a considerable height over the DVD, really needs to book an eye test. I mean, I wear contact lenses, and I can tell the difference...

    Having said that, as others have commented, this all comes down to remastering - i.e. is the source material up to looking great in HD, and has the money/effort been expended to make the most of what Blu-ray is capable of.

    Ironically, though: our Sony BR player plays back DVDs looking a ton better than our old Philips upscaling DVD player can...

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A CLEAR difference ...


    I've recently been told by my optician that my eyes (except very close up) are way above average and I've got a 52" 1080p TV and Onkyo HD surround audio system with B&W speakers so my facilities are acceptable.

    I report, based on 2 years of weekly investigation and the purchase of hundreds of discs, that Blu-Ray is a MASSIVE improvement over DVD in most cases. The increase in resolution, colour integrity, black levels and (hardly mentioned in the previous comments) sound quality is staggering. The menu's work faster, there's no layer change pause, the discs are more durable.

    Someone mentioned 'Casablanca'. Well there's a definite quality increase from DVD with that film. I have both formats and the detail increase using my Blu-Ray copy is marked. It's 35mm film ... the inherent resolution is way more than 1080p unless the film has degraded and in this case it has not. Likewise 'Gone with the Wind', 'M', 'Forbidden Planet' etc etc. All older films but all looking great. 'Apocalypse Now' is considered to be one of the best examples of Blu-Ray quality and indeed it is (US import).

    Finally, here's the best evidence I can offer for the superiority of Blu-Ray over DVD. My female partner, who has no interest in technology and refuses to buy anything she doesn't actually need was highly sceptical of my purchase of a 1080p TV and Blu-Ray player. It was clearly me being 'fashionable'. Within a week of seeing what my system can do my partner had ordered her own 1080p set and Blu-Ray player and now has replaced many of her DVDs with Blu-Rays and buys all new film on the superior format. If Blu-Ray was not OBVIOUSLY better than DVD I can assure you this would not have happened.

  42. CheesyTheClown

    BluRay is a home user mastering format

    Yesterday, I had play a new BluRay (The Expendibles nordic edition) from my PC because I couldn't play it on my Samsung Blu-Ray player on my TV. The screen on my notebook is small and not as enjoyable as either on my Sony 46" or my projector. But, I had to watch on the laptop because the disc was riddled with BD-J coding errors.

    More and more studios are producing BluRay discs as inexpensively as possible using artists instead of programmers and having worked in that business before, I can assure you that quality control is absent. There is ONE chance to get it right. The glass "master" or stamping plates to stamp the disc is what costs all the money. You do it once. And that's it. Discs are not tested with encryption until after they have been stamped. And if there's an error then, it's often actually cheaper to refund people if their discs don't play and actually return them.

    BluRay does have a great purpose though. You can use AnyDVD or DVDFAB to rip the discs to your computer and then share them over the network with players built in or attached to TVs and computers. And the best part is, the quality is good enough to make great copies for iPhones and portable DVD players. It's the ideal mastering format for people who don't have the means to transfer 12 terabytes of master quality footage per film.

    Bluray itself.... well it's actually one of the worst standards ever made. Java was an incredibly stupid idea and I pray the industry will use something HTML5 based in the next generation.

  43. Alex Gollner

    Now if they hid the nature of the screens...

    and told testers that they were comparing LCDs with an amazing new technology, they should compare DVDs playing on a 32" 1080p flatscreen TV vs. a 32" CRT. Then compare the same two when watching broadcast TV.

    Although I have HD cameras, computer monitors, editing software (on which I've edited 4K Red footage), I'm not convinced by LCD and plasma screens. My 14 year old SD CRT looks better than the majority of TVs on sale today.

    The clue is that showrooms still don't demo their TVs using HD broadcasts, but Blu-rays. The don't even use commercial discs, but high-bandwidth demo discs of BBC HD footage of animal migrations. That's because broadcast TV use a lot less bandwidth than DVD per channel. Just wait until a TV show or film uses a slow fade to black - see MPEG megablocks fill the screen and flick off in random combinations.

    Given that the masters for SD broadcasts have high bit-rates, it makes more sense to have SD channels with higher bandwidths, so we get more of the bits stored in the masters. Once ghosting and refresh rates are sorted on LCD screens, we might as well go with 2048 by 1152 pixel displays - exactly double the effective PAL widescreen resolution.

    It's a matter of holding out until bandwidth is no longer an issue.

    Until then I'll only buy a Blu-ray player if it has a connection to my SD CRT TV and it costs £50.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      LCD has caught up with CRT

      Took a long time but my new Bravia LCD is better than the old Wega Trinitron it replaced

    2. iMark


      @Alex Gollner

      I agree with most of what your say.

      11 years ago I bought a Sony 100Hz 28' widescreen CRT. It looks better with regular TV than almost any other screen I have seen. I remember that my friends told me I was mad spending that amount of money on a TV but it still seems a very good buy. Regular TV (analogue cable in Amsterdam) looks good but DVD's look even better, thanks to a rather good 7 year old Pioneer DVD-player and a very expensive Scart lead (RGB).

      One of my main gripes with digital TV in NL is the fact that you have to buy or lease expensive energy wasting boxes to get the digital signal. The Dutch equivalent of Freeview is encoded. Unless the cable company switches off analogue I don't think we'll be upgrading anytime soon.

  44. Steven Jones

    Misleadingly titled

    The title of this piece is, very probably, deliberately misleading and provocative thereby maintaining El-Reg's tabloid headline style. Of course if it's not deliberately provocative, then it's merely sloppy journalism.

    What Which found was that much Blu-Ray *content* is barely better than DVD, not that Blu-Ray is barely better than DVD. It's an important point if people are being ripped-off paying premium prices for something that is no real improvement, but it's not the technology that's in question - it's the production and distribution companies who clearly aren't doing a proper re-mastering job.

  45. juice

    Fun with video encoding

    There's at least four factors to consider when it comes to comparing a DVD and a Blu-ray:

    1) TV size and viewing distance: the bigger the TV, the bigger the "dots" on the screen and the further away you can sit before you lose the detail. In simple terms, you can read a newspaper headline from across the room, but you'll have physically pick up the newspaper to read the actual article...

    2) The source material: in theory, physical film maxes out somewhere around the "4000p" mark, so we're a long way off still, even with 1080p. However, there's no guarantee that the blu-ray encoding was done at this level: it may have been taken from whatever source was used to generate the DVD, or the company may have used a quicker/cheaper scan

    3) The encoder. As with MP3s, not all encoders are created equal: some are optimised for speed (e.g. real-time encoding for your smart-phone's video mode), some are optimised for quality and some are just pants. And then you've got a myriad of settings to consider: you can perform multiple encoding passes, utilise b-frames, psychovisual tweakings, etc. However, these generally greatly increase the time needed to encode the film - and the person doing the encoding will probably have to go through the process several times until they've found the best settings

    4) The decoder: is it software based, or does it have hardware to help with decompression, upscaling, etc? What about the TV's built-in processing system?

    All told, depending on how the above things are handled, it's entirely possible for a well-encoded DVD to look better than a mediocre Blu-ray...

    (for what it's worth, a friend has a HD projector which is projected onto a 6ft tall screen. He picked up a HD-DVD machine and a bunch of disks after Toshiba pulled out and we ran through a couple of sample films. The 1938 film Adventures of Robin Hood (with Errol Flynn) didn't look particularly impressive, but the 1966 film Grand Prix was simple stunning: the transfer had picked up levels of detail and colour that I honestly wouldn't have believed film at that time could deliver - I've spent too many years watching ye olde films on TV and VHS...)

  46. Scott Thomson

    Such primitive technology!

    I wonder if the people on this planet will ever discover the superior sound of vinyl?

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Size matters

    We need to know the size of TV used for the tests. On a 28" 16:9 set, DVD is perfectly adequate and the difference with Blu-Ray would be minimal. The need for HD is mainly driven by bigger and bigger screens. Some of the Blu-Ray demos they have playing in HMV on 40" and larger screens are quite impressive and would look pretty blurry on DVD..

    On the other hand, if the studios really are just recoding the DVD image for Blu-Ray and not remastering it from the original film, they deserve to be next up against the wall after the DAB crew.

    Paris, because I'd pay to see that on Blu-Ray.

  48. Stewart 3

    It has to be big

    Finger's crossed I've yet to find a bad BD. (Although I only have about 20 so far.) My in-laws have 40" HD televisions and, at normal viewing distances, I really don't see much difference between DVD and BD.

    I have a JVC HD video projector and an 84" screen. Watching it from 3 metres away is really like being in the cinema. I have both BDs and DVDs of several titles, Zulu, Italian Job, Sin City, Time Bandits, Big Blue, 2001, Where Eagles Dare, Ipcress File and so on. Without exception the BD is superior to the upscaled DVD; and the upscaling on my Philips player is extremely good. (The remastered Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes DVDs look very good when upscaled.)

    And, as someone said earlier, Blade Runner on BD has to be seen to be believed.

    Some people have criticised BDs for showing grain - sorry, but that's what I want to see - if it's in the film I want to see it on the screen. If the studios start to filter out the grain then we'll lose resolution.

    To whomever mentioned that you won't see high def Charlie Chaplin films... why ever not? They were filmed on 35mm nitrate stock, that's generally pretty fine grained and each frame is more than capable of holding more image information than can fit on a BD frame. 16mm film is a different story. I have a large collection of 16mm prints and some are about the same standard as BD but most prints are far inferior.

  49. Tom 7


    The human brain adapts.

    For about an hour after moving to Bleu ray or HD you will go WOW. For a week you will be pleased. And after that there will be no more pleasure from the experience. And you will become a crashing bore for going on about it to convince yourself you haven't pissed a couple of months salary up the wall.

    Find a 'low res' B&W movie and have a look at that.

    Then go ask for your money back or shut up.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Normalisation

      > And after that there will be no more pleasure from the experience. And you will become a crashing bore for going on about it to convince yourself you haven't pissed a couple of months salary up the wall.

      Really? Hmm - six months on from getting my first BluRay and i'm still hooked. However, as opposed to DVD, i'm just buying films that I WILL watch over and over again. Favs so far - Close Encounters, The Shining, Blade Runner, The Departed. Lovely crisp transfers and a nice improvement over the DVDs that they replaced. Well....I can tell the difference anyway.

      It certainly improved the picture on my TV once i'd got rid of the factory settings (not to go mad with calibration tools, just use the THX optimiser to get the brightness and contrast correct). Oh...and to turn off the stupid digital NR filters and other such stuff. up to date prescription from an opticians might benefit some people :)

  50. Anonymous Coward

    in other news...

    1920x1200 monitors are barely better than a 60(50)hz interlaced television from 1990!

    Go ahead, now - switch over. You'll never be able to tell them apart!

  51. Anonymous Coward

    It's not analog to digital.

    Anyone who thinks a 720x480 image can be scaled seamlessly (or even close to seamlessly) to a 1920x1080 picture has no clue. The problem with Blu-Rays is that a lot of studios cheap out on restoration of old titles. That's where the image quality problems lie, the catalog titles. Differences between new titles are usually pretty easily noticed.

    Look at The Terminator on BD, it looks awful. It's like they simply took the DVD media stream, upscaled it, and put it on a BD. Then look at Blade Runner or 2001. These titles have been lovingly restored from carefully selected material and the BD versions look (and sound) dramatically better than there DVD counterparts.

    That's another part of the equation people miss out on, Blu-Ray sounds vastly superior to DVD. It sounds better than an actual theater screening of a movie. DTS-MA and TrueHD are very nice. I watched a recent theatrical screening of Apocalypse Now and recently watched the BD and the BD sounds dramatically better. Apocalypse Now is also a good example of a catalog title that's been properly restored and looks great on the new medium.

    What's needed is the studios to do thorough remastering of material before they release it on BD instead of pumping it out to make a quick buck. I'm not holding my breath for it but thus far Warner Bros has done an amazing job with catalog titles.

    1. MJI Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Blade Runner

      Superb job done on it.

      Worth buying and I got a decent price for the rather poor DVD at a car boot sale

    2. Jim Morrow

      cinema sound

      >> Blu-Ray sounds vastly superior to DVD. It sounds better than an actual theater screening of a movie.

      This is not saying very much, The audio setup in most cinemas - especially the multiplexes - is a fucking disgrace. The sound is compressed, equalised and then the bass boosted to buggery at about 130dB so that cloth-eared yoof can say "wow!" whenever a spaceship blows up on one of those star trek/star wars/mega-blockbuster craparamas. The noise that comes out the speakers in these cinemas is unpleasant, very uncomfortable and sometimes painful. I've been forced to walk out and get my money back because the exeprience has been so bad.

  52. Andy Baird

    Depends on the source

    A friend and recently I did a small comparison (one TV, two movies) and noted something that I haven't seen discussed here: modern computer-animated films REALLY benefit from Blu-Ray. Movies shot on film stock, not so much.

    The movies we viewed were "House of Flying Daggers" and "Kung Fu Panda." When viewed from six feet away on a 40" screen, "House of Flying Daggers" showed very little difference between the DVD and Blu-Ray versions. My friend and I concluded that the grain of the film stock pretty much negated the enhanced resolution of the Blu-Ray disc.

    "Kung Fu Panda" was a different story: the Blu-Ray version was dramatically better. I believe that's because computer-generated movies *have no grain*, so Blu-Ray transfers take maximum advantage of the subtle background details that are lost in DVD transfers. But live-action films start out degraded by film grain, so high-res Blu-Ray versions tend to show more grain, rather than more meaningful image detail.

    Bottom line: at least from our little test, it appears that high-def TVs and Blu-Ray discs may be of more benefit to animation buffs than to lovers of live-action films.

    1. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Depends on the source

      This applies to most modern films which, despite the name, are increasingly being shot on HD video cameras, then edited and stored digitally, only making it to an analogue medium when prints are required for projection.

      Even material shot on film is quickly digitised and graded digitally, taking grain noise out early on.

      Ironically, this actually helps DVD. The DVD of Avatar, for example, looks bloody good upscaled from DVD. Maybe not as pin-sharp as Blu-ray, but eminently watchable from typical sofa-to-telly distances.

  53. BadgerSam
    Thumb Down

    Wot no audio comparison?

    Seems like quite a half-baked Which report as it only compares 'viewing results'.

    Having upgraded to blu-ray and a HD audio home cinema surround system fairly recently, I am still impressed at the improvement in sound quality compared to my old non-HD 5.1 system.

    Come on Which, write a proper report which also includes audio quality!

  54. BorkedAgain


    What Toastan Buttar said. If it's a good film then who the hell cares whether you can count the leaves of the tree in the background? If you're pausing the movie to see whether you can read the newspaper that Extra In Hat is reading in the background then the film can't be worth watching in the first place...

  55. Neoc

    Missing the point.

    The point to be taken away from this study is that BR companies are taking movies with DVD or VCR quality, putting them on BR with little or no cleaning-up, and still charging BR price.

    In other words, they're selling you a pig in a poke. What's the point of placing a 576p movie on a 1080p media and charging 1080p prices if it's *still* 576p, and not re-worked to 1080p?

  56. Efros

    reminds me of

    The whole DDD AAD debacle when CDs were the in thing, CD vs vinyl DVD vs BD, same shit different decade.

  57. Lance 3


    When BD and HD-DVD were competing, some of the content on BD was just a copy over from HD. The bit-rate was lower than what BD can support, but it allowed the studio to basically make discs for both formats with only doing a single encoding. BD supports MPEG-2 which is what DVD uses. BD also support MPEG-4 which allows for a lower bit-rate while providing a superior picture. So the encoding and the bit-rate dictates how good the picture is. So if the studio decides to use the DVD MPEG-2 content from a DVD for a BD disc, how can one expect the picture to be better? They should have included what the bit-rate was, then if the picture was still poor, then it was the original source that is the culprit.

  58. Matthew 17

    Blu Ray is crap

    Yes the picture quality is generally much better but the menu system is a joke.

    With a DVD player you switch it on and it comes up within a second, load the disc and it starts straight away, yes there are all the bullshit disclaimers and "You wouldn't download a car" ads, trailers and whatnot but you can usually get to your film in under a minute.

    BD is just silly, the machine takes an age to boot up, takes a further age to load up the disc where it then pisses about trying to download updated menus and patch the player, you have to sit though endless trailers and ads, plus additional commercials telling you how great BluRay is! It's often the best part of 10 minutes of pissing about before you actually get to watch the film. Despite the higher capacity they seem to come with much less in the way of extras.

    I don't know why it was ever acceptable to add so much crap at the beginning of a film, if you bought a CD you'd not be expected to listen to 10 minutes of copyright messages and previews of other albums you may be interested in! It's why I'm really coming round to the Apple TV, select a film, pay a small amount of money to buy/rent and you can be watching the film in about a minute, sure it's in 720 and not 1080 but for most films where the transfer isn't great you can't tell the difference.

    1. DrXym

      Exagerate much do you?

      What a load of horseshit. Blu Ray discs tend to play about the same speed as their DVD counterparts. Both feature the usual preamble, trailers or whatever which is usually studio specific. For example Disney is the worst for trailers on DVD and BD, whereas Warner movies often jump straight into playing the main feature. The Dark Knight for example plays automatically from inserting the disc.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        I think the problem is specific to discs and maybe even players. My collection is highly variable. The 'best' starting instantly like a dvd. One of the 'worst' had me staring at a loading bar for over 5mins and i have a fairly decent sony player.

    2. MJI Silver badge

      Fox DVDs were dreadful

      Took ages to get to the film, I had to rip them to watch them.

      BluRays - they seem to get playing quick enough

  59. cs94njw
    Thumb Up

    HD - it's out there

    Two things proved to me there exists a better picture with HD:

    1. Watching the BBC HD version of Top Gear stramed via my Blu Ray player, gave an excellent picture, and noticely clearer and bolder than the standard definition one.

    2. Watching Batman Begins, when there's close-ups of Commissioner/Captain/Seargent Gordon, you can see the individual hairs on his chin (you'd think they'd make him shave properly first!?).

  60. Joe Harrison

    Surely has not been the sales bonanza they hoped for

    It's fine for people in this thread who are willing to spend hours fine-tuning 25-bit gamma upscaling and all that. For the rest of us who "just want to watch a film"... surely HD and blu-ray must have been a failure in sales terms? I have a CRT telly and a 20-quid DVD player from Lidl and it's perfectly fine. Not disputing that it would be theoretically higher quality if I junked my old hardware and content and re-spent all over again on blu-ray and HD but as a non-enthusiast what would motivate me to do that?

  61. Mike Bell

    Nitrosyl Chloride

    NOCL - that's the chemical that Ripley uses to flush the beast out of its hiding place in Alien. It says so on the button.

    You can read it on the Blu-Ray transfer. On the DVD you cannot.

    As a fully paid up obsessive-compulsive with regard to this move, I had to wait 30 years to see that with my own eyes on my plasma TV.

  62. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Film grain

    In some cases all you are going to see is more film grain. But if that means the picture quality is closer to the original film then will help on very big screens.

    1080 HD is on only just over 2 megapixels and they do say that a digital image needs to be about 20 megapixels to capture the full resolution of a good film. Of course that figure varies depending on the quality of the film. So Blu-ray isn't there yet.

    Of course TVs can't show more than their native resolution anyway.

  63. blackcat Silver badge

    The scaling myth

    "When watching a DVD movie on a player connected to an HDTV via HDMI you have the option to adjust the settings and ‘up-scale’ the picture. For comparisons sake we left the 'up-scaling' option off, so the DVD was watched in its regular 576p resolution setting."

    I do love it when people think they've turned the upscaling off. TVs ALWAYS scale, if they didn't the 576 picture would have black bars all the way around it.

    Also by default all HD TVs overscan by 5%, so when watching a 1080 source on your 1080 screen you're not actually getting a 1:1 picture. If you turn this overscanning off then you get a MUCH better picture.

    1. Charles 9


      IIRC, overscan is mostly a holdover from the CRT days (because CRTs can't aim pixel-perfect). But with digital display technologies like LCDs, there is usually no overscan (easy to see with a TV that takes computer input from DVI or HDMI; it takes the picture corner-to-corner, so no overscan).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yeah, but...

        ...for some dumbsh*t reason a TON of HDTVs overscan by default. I have no idea why - you send them an HDMI connection and they freaking overscan! Looks freaking awful because the scaling murders high freqs.

        If they had overscanning on those TVs, it would have destroyed a lot of bluray's advantages...

        1. Charles 9

          I've yet to see one that overscans.

          Now, some will perform an accommodating zoom, but that usually isn't on by default, and it's usually only used on the analog inputs. DTV, HDMI, and digital component almost always use unzoomed modes, and there are two ways to notice the lack of overscan. One is to hook up a computer with DVI or HDMI output to the HDMI input of the TV. If the picture goes corner-to-corner upon setting to the right res, then there's no overscan. The other is to check out a DTV channel using either the internal TV tuner or an HDTV box hooked up to either HDMI or component (an HDTV box will almost always allow for digital component). Find a channel with a logo watermark (I know most US stations do this now; does Europe do it, too?) The watermark is positioned so that it's still visible right at the corner of the old CRT TVs; on HD screens with no overscan, they'll be further into the screen vertically.

  64. system11

    Sample size & equipment

    I'd suggest their test is lacking, and the results are wide open to interpretation. It's not worth going high def unless you have the following things: good eyesight and a good sized screen which is 1080p native.

    For example, they mention that Zulu is a marked improvement - this is an understatement. Zulu had a full restoration process and it shows - the BR is vastly superior to the DVD releases. Other films are just quick transfers from untouched masters - those are the ones that gain far less, unless they're 70mm films which look fantastic. In other cases the quality is variable between countries, for example the UK Flash Gordon is pretty awful compared to the US release.

    I've got 260 or so original Blu-Rays, all of which I've watched. The quality difference is obvious in the majority of cases, but it won't always blow you away. Even when the master isn't hugely detailed, you're still comparing a 1080P digitisation to a 576i one - so the poorly defined bits of the picture are still more accurately represented.

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HD film??? what?

    Did IQs suddenly drop round here, except a few folk who have a good understanding of this do people honestly think that they take a DVD and upscale it to HD on BD disks? really?

    ok as others have mentioned most films use 35mm film, much older films may have used 16mm, when a BD disk is made they will use the source, and thus they will have every bit of detail and resolution that the film is shot with. now these may have been re mastered or some kind of post processing applied that may have effected the film but the quality that is available is no less than what has always been avaialble, codec and compression excluded of course.

    Now think about it, you go to the cinema a few years ago before HD tvs, do you think you are watching a DVD resolution on that 50 foot screen? really?

    no its a copy of the original 35mm film, if a DVD and a BD quality look similar its either subjective comments based on the views opinion, the compression is too high or the original master was modified.

    there is no such thing as an HD camera unless your talking digital which has actually got less resolution than that of a 35mm film. so if you can see a difference then great, if not then dont buy BD i personally dont see much difference at normal viewing distances, if i sit up close then yes i do, but not on my sofa however what i do see a difference with isnt detail in resolution its vibrance, thats just my opinion but it looks cleaner, brighter and blacker than dvds

  66. vic 4

    If the movie is any good

    five minutes into it you shouldn't even notice the picture quality (unless is one one those knock offs someone recorded on their mobile in the cinema )

  67. EvilGav 1


    First things first, for all the people bleating about DVD being 576i or 480p, it isn't. Those are resolutions that roughly translate to what was/is viewable on an analogue PAL or NTSC TV (625 or 525 lines, minus the 50 odd for data transmission purposes). The DVD format is actually capable of transmitting an image close to 700 lines or closer to 720p.

    What this means is that some of the best mastered DVD's use as much of that capacity as possible, delivering an image beyond what was actually viewable on old CRT's. This further means that, if one of the films being sampled happens to be one of the better DVD's, then the comparative difference will be less and the perceived gain from BD will be less or negligable.

    Then we get to the other important factor in a lot of re-mastered films - how did the Director want the film to be viewed ?? Some people see grain and complain of a bad picture, but some directors deliberately used film stock that would give a certain amount of grain (Se7en I seem to remember had a deliberately higher level of grain), QED the DVD looked "softer" than the BD and showed less grain, but the BD is how the director wanted the film to actually look.

    Basically, there are a huge number of factors to take into accont as to whether the picture is "better", some of them purely subjective.

    Finally, as others have said, the picture is only part of the BD story, where is the test of DD or DTS vs TrueHD or DTS HD MA ? Because the difference between a lossy track and a loss-less track are incredible.

  68. Irne Barnard

    Scaling and other myths

    Blackcat's got it in one! As long as your output source is matched exactly to your input, you'll be able to get the best possible picture (given that it wasn't garbage to start off with). Saying they used the same TV does not mean that the TV actually showed the HD correctly, maybe it even had a true native resolution more suited to the DVD (an upscale of 2:1 would look better than an upscale of 1.25:1 - the pixels would still be evenly spaced at the former, but the later would need some fuzzing to make them fit onto the screen). Any form of up-scaling usually gives poor quality, even some down-scaling could negatively affect the quality (over and above the fact that you're watching something at a lower res).

    The "quality" of the story's a different matter and can't be improved using just higher resolution. If it's a bad story it stays that way - whether you've got more of it flooding into your eyes or less is not going to make it more interesting.

    As for the rest, every little aspect in the entire chain of events since the producers first thought of making the film ... up to (and including) you finally sitting down in your sofa after feeding the disc into the player, is going to affect the "technical" quality. Be that a decision to use cheaper / older technology films / cameras, a cheapskate way of remastering and encoding, trying to bunch too much onto one disc - thus over compressing it, the disc becoming dirty / damaged, the viewing equipment being made as cheaply as possible (compromising on its decoding / transmit / display qualities), the cables having bad connections / interferance, the TV doing something to the signal to make it fit onto its screen, and your own perceptions - all of these affect the quality you perceive.

    So saying 50% of BD's are about the same quality as their DVD counterparts, is not so unbelievable in the test's circumstances. Although I'd have liked to see a much more statistically significant sample than just 17 films! And their testing method is arguably not perfect either, were they sure they setup all the stuff to get an exactly perfect match for the equipment (both for DVD and BD)? It might be a better test to use something which is perfect for DVD's and then something else which is perfect for BD's - you're testing the quality between the digital info on the discs aren't you? Not the interchangeability of the equipment.

    Then someone else has also mentioned: Was this a blind-test? If not, it's extremely biased at it's inception.

    1. blackcat Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      I agree

      "Blackcat's got it in one! As long as your output source is matched exactly to your input, you'll be able to get the best possible picture (given that it wasn't garbage to start off with). "

      I picked up the BBCs Earth Bluray set as I'd been told it looked really good. First time I viewed it I thought 'hmm.. this doesn't look all that'. I can't remember what made me check for overscan but I found a setting on the TV (sony native 1920x1080 40V4000 BTW) to turn off the overscan and it was a world of difference.

      The guys I work with (i work in a video related industry) cannot understand why TVs come preset to overscan. Yes back in the days of PAL and NTSC you'd often get something with the wrong line count and you'd see the timecodes at the top but not with HD.

      Just to make things even worse, I recently upgraded to an ATI graphics card in my media PC and by default it UNDERSCANS by 5% when it detects a TV on the HDMI port to correct for the TV overscanning. I kid you not.

      I'm not at all shocked that some people don't think HD is much cop as out of the box what you're getting is not 'full' HD. Forget reporting 'up to' broadband adverts to the ASA as false, if a TV and BD player say they both support 1080 I expect it to display 1080 correctly and without scaling.

  69. groovyf


    Baraka is the best movie I've seen on Blu-Ray that really does showcase the quality it can produce.

  70. defiler

    BD in SD

    For what it's worth, I was one of those suckers who bought a plasma screen 9 years ago so you lot could have them cheap as chips now. A nice Panasonic display that does all of 480p. And I've started buying BluRays because they're getting to the price point now where I'm prepared to pay the premium over DVD to "future-proof" (hah!) my movies. At least for another 6 months.

    Anyway, point is that the BDs look better on my 480p screen than the DVDs. I haven't compared like-for-like, but the BDs look much clearer and fresher. The DVDs just look a little muddy by comparison. Of course that's got *nothing* to do with the resolution (it's an SD screen after all), and everything to do with the encoding and the fact that there's a shedload more space on the disc. 30GB for a movie instead of 5GB? I'd hope it looked better. And to my eyes, on my equipment, it does.

    Don't believe me? Don't care. This is what works for me, and once I have an HD screen to go with it I'll be a happy lad.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @bd in sd

      most dvds are 9gb dual lay disks, hense the wee skip you sometimes see, what you have said backs up my own opinion that its not the resolution you notice (sitting on the sofa) its teh vibrance and colour, the rish blacks you get. I am not a firm believer in this HD business, most of my dvds have similar levels of quality when viewed at a distance but what HD has brought is quite amazing colours,

      1. defiler


        Barely remember that little skip. XBMC and a big SMB share FTW! Hence 5GB for a DVD because that's what they generally work out around after a straight rip (and around 30 for the BDs I own).

  71. Laie Techie


    OK, just a few questions:

    1. Was the DVD played in a Blu-ray player? Most (all?) Blu-ray players have an algorithm to "upscale" or "up convert" SD (standard definition) content to "near HD quality". With each generation, these algorithms are getting better.

    2. What is the native resolution (480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p) and size of the TV, and viewing distance? If the screen is too small or you are sitting too far away, of course some of the details of Blu-ray will be lost. This is doubly true if the TV doesn't support native 1080p.

  72. lyris

    Consider the source

    Unfortunately, Which Magazine don't have the first clue about accurate or high quality imaging. Their TV reviews are a joke and hint that they leave their displays running in default "torch mode". I wouldn't be surprised if they compared the DVDs and BDs on screens that were set up to turn everything into mush.

    Frankly speaking, I would trust them to comment on film scan and encode quality about as much as I would trust Stevie Wonder to perform an ISF TV calibration.

  73. HobbleAlong

    Blu Ray is not about being better

    Blu Ray was never about being better, but about getting all the video watching sheep to buy another, more expensive, copy of something they already own. Also it was a weak attempt at better copy protection. Anything already released on DVD is simply copied to Blu Ray. No attempt is made at providing better quality for the increased price. Anyone who thinks the movie companies have their best interests in mind should be led gently to bed and fed warm milk and cookies. The smartest move (probably too late now) is to not buy anything Blu Ray.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      ...I can see that you're VERY smart and very nonconformist - you probably don't even conform with the nonconformists so everyone knows how nonconformist and SMART you are.

      But you haven't got a clue about video.

      I've watched plenty of blurays of things already released on DVD. They weren't just copied. I can tell, because I'm not blind as a freaking bat.

      I get it - you're jaded and edgy and ironic and hip and you don't let anyone tell you anything about anything, because it's CORPORATE LIES! And you're smart. And nonconformist.

      But you haven't got a clue about video - or CORPORATE LIES! Movie companies most definitely do not have your best interest at heart.

      But somehow, despite "no effort being made at providing better quality", you still find directors and cinematographers and actors and writers pushing themselves to make good stuff.

      If you're right, why are the movie companies spending hundreds of millions of dollars on movies so they look phenomenal, and then saving fifty grand by doing a DVD/Bluray release (which is 50% of gross or so) that's sh*t? Do you think that Spielberg and the Coen brothers and Pixar put all that effort into doing a great movie, and then don't bother to oversee the production quality of the Bluray releases?

      You're insane, and quite wrong. But at least you've made it clear that you're not LIKE all the SHEEP. You're different. And better. And nonconformist. Unlike the sheep, who comprise the vast majority of people, and with whom you dramatically disagree, and whom you despite - because you're not a sheep and you're SMART.

      You go.

  74. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I have to agree with the article. DVD is usually just as good as Blue Ray, but there are exceptions. We bought our blue ray player just for AVATAR. Since then we have purchased a couple of others, but for the most part we stick to DVDs as the potential of Blue Ray is often not lived up to. Buyer beware... rent first.

    1. Charles 9

      Or just wait for a sale.

      I do admit that I personally have a noticeable collection of BluRays now (as well as a PS3 and BluRay Player with which to watch them). However, I play it cagey and usually don't buy a movie on release day (unless it's the odd title I really want). Usually, I can find it later on either used or on sale (Now's a good time for bargain hunting--after-Black-Friday clearance sales can find you some BluRays cheap--at least in my experience).

  75. Anonymous Coward

    Colour vs Black and White

    One of the things that is actually important is how the brain processes information. Colour always takes precedence over "sharpness". this was perhaps a survival trait from our distant past.

    This was the principle behind many old film types for still cameras which over emphasised the primary colours.

    As a Pro Photographer I often took along a 35mm and 120 film processed image to show the average punter the real difference between formats i.e sharpness. In order for a real comparison rather than subjective, the image from these sources would have to be compared in both "black and white" as well as in "colour".

    It's the reason why one of the previous posters said that Black and white films seemed to fare better when comparing DVD/Blu-Ray.

    The onus is on the transfer/restorer to maximise both these parameters as well ofc using the right master :)


    Sturgeons Law

    Of course Sturgeons Law still applies. Most stuff is crap anyways. The fact that the new consumer product is the all singing all dancing crap of the world doesn't change that fact. Quality varies WILDLY with both formats. You can cherry pick the videos to get whatever result you want out of this sort of study.

    For BD to better, EVERY THING has to fall into line. The entire original production process and subsequent transfer to disk has to be done as if the studio cares about the end result. You also need a good player and comparisons are only valid if your DVD player is equally competent.

  77. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Response [from British Video Association] is Appropriate

    Which said their research suggested there wasn't much of a difference, and the BVA response to that was that it's research suggested that there was much of a difference. A subjective response to a subjective question [lol].

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