Saturday, November 21, 2009

Is blue worth the green? (നീലയ്ക്കു വേണ്ടി പച്ച മുടക്കണോ, മാഷേ?)

WARNING: Technically explicit material. If you are technically challenged or if such material offends you, please do not continue reading this post.

Let me talk about blue. 

I have heard comments from several people that blu-ray discs are not such a great improvement over DVD. They have tried both and thought DVD is pretty good and blu-ray is slightly better. If this is the case, is it worth buying discs which are two or three times in price; and an expensive player to play these discs?

True. The jump in quality may not be as much as we experienced when we switched from VHS to DVD.

Still blu-ray is technically a much superior format with more than two million pixels for each picture frame. This is roughly six times that of DVD. This results in higher resolution allowing to display finer details in the picture. The audio track alone on a blu-ray disc may take as much space as an entire DVD. (Audio on blu-ray will be the subject of another future post)

In order to enjoy this superior picture quality, you should make sure of the following.

1. Your eyesight is perfect or you are wearing glasses or contact lenses to give you perfect vision from your seat. (read the previous post)

2. You are sitting close enough to the screen. Ideally, you should not sit more than one and a half times the screen width. This approximately equals to 1.3 times the screen size. For example if your TV is only 32” size, you should not be more than 42” (three and a half feet) away from it. That is too close compared to what we are used to with our older TVs. Also it is uncomfortably close in a typical family room layout. Normally we sit 8 to 12 feet away from TV irrespective of the screen size. At that distance, your eyes cannot resolve finer details on a 32” TV displaying high definition video. If you are watching low quality standard definition video, sitting that far away is perfectly OK. But for blu-ray, pull your seat closer to the TV. Or get a bigger TV. Even better will be a projector and a screen. If you have a 73” TV, sitting at a distance of 8 feet is OK for watching blu-ray. In my theater the screen size is 11.5 feet and the front row is around 13 feet from the screen. This is perfect for HD. But for watching regular DVDs, I move the rear row which is 19 feet away from the screen. If you are watching blu-ray disc on a small TV (less than 40”) and if you are sitting far away (more than five feet) you may not be able to appreciate the difference between blu-ray and a good DVD.

3. Your player, receiver and TV (projector) should not degrade the video quality during de-interlacing, up-converting and video processing. If you have a 1080P TV try disabling all the video processing in the player, the receiver and the TV. Since most of the blu-ray discs are authored at 1080P resolution this will give you the cleanest picture. If up-conversion or de-interlacing is needed, find out which component in your video chain does the job the best and use it. Most of the mid/high-end units have excellent video processing circuits.

4. All blu-ray discs are not created equal. For some discs, video transfer was done so badly that the quality is similar to or inferior to DVD. Fortunately, most of the new releases have excellent video quality. Do not judge the format by watching a bad disc.

Blu-ray is the highest quality video source available to consumers today. It can beat HDTV broadcast, cable HD and satellite HD. If you take care of the above you can enjoy the glory of this format and appreciate the improvement over regular DVDs.


  1. Nice article. Lked your disclaimer.

    It may be appropriate to have a disclaimer for your entire profile! - "Technically explict material. If you are a techo-illeterate or if such material offends you, please do not continue"

    Good observation about bad video transfers... In my opinion your visual experience is ultimately limited by data quality irrespective of format. While it is critcal to move to a technology that supports rich video, it is equally important to have a recording methodology that captures data commensurate with the intented format. Even in the realm of standard DVDs, over-compressed DVD's like Surthilayam are classic examples of sacrificing quality for cheapness.

    പിന്നെ, കാശിച്ചിരി കൊടുത്താലും ഞാന്‍ നീലാണ്ടനേ കാണത്തൊള്ളൂ.

  2. I liked your disclaimer better than mine. With your permission, I have copied it to the post.

    You are right about the quality of the source. We come across a lot of material where technology is not the limit, but the source. Most of the material recorded on films are of good quality, exceeding that of 1080P high definition video. But, due to practices used in transfer some companies kill the video quality. Sruthilayam and Mose baer are the major culprits for Indian DVDs.

    പിന്നെ താങ്കള്‍ ഉദ്ദേശിച്ച "നീലാണ്ടനെ" കുറിച്ചല്ല, ഈ പോസ്റ്റ്.

  3. Good article. To me content is more important than anything that matters. I fell asleep playing a Blueray Disc and kept my attention and interest watching good movies in low quality single layer DVD. If the movie is good a compromise in quality will not be noticed. I feel that Hi-Def technology evolved to rectify a problem in the size of Japaneese homes. In Japan homes are small with short viewing distance so when they increse the size of the screen it becomes grainy. In America we have large living rooms and viewing distance is more so imperfections in video were not noticed. Audio quality is definitely better in blueray.

    Bottom line we have to fine tune your eyes and ears to accommodate this new Hi-Def technology. Our senses are conditioned by repeated stimuls and is always craving for higher level of satisfaction. It applies to taste, smell, vision, hearing and even sex.

  4. Royn, unfortunately, Hi-Def TV cannot yet satisfy the cravings listed in last para... Hopefully technology will mature to cater to these extended requirements and we will be happy campers. :)