Competing HD formats

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by Mike Mundt, Oct 13, 2003.

  1. Mike Mundt

    Mike Mundt Stunt Coordinator

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    This may have been a topic in the past, but ive never seen so here it goes.

    Technically I know that Blu-ray (blue laser) and HD-DVD are not competing formats, because one is used for recording HD-TV and the other is for pre-recorded bought movies. But my concern is the fact that HD-DVD is going to use more compression (mpeg-4) rather then utilizing the disc space of blu-ray technology and leaving the video compression as mpeg-2 while increasing video resolution and hopefully audio. I've seen new mpeg-4 compression like Windows Media 9 series, and though I am impressed with what they can do, I still believe that mpeg-4 in no way compares to mpeg-2 compression. My question is, is there any hope that DVD-forum will just do away with HD-DVD before it even comes out and produce a Blu-ray format of store bought movies? I'm really sick of companies trying to utilize compression instead of using the disc expansion technology that has come out in the last few years. I dont know if its because they're worried about having extras on discs, but id rather pay for a 2-disc with extras, than one disc with inferior quality.
     
  2. Don Munsil

    Don Munsil Stunt Coordinator

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    MPEG-2 is an inferior codec to WM9 or H.264 or most of the other next-gen video codecs in every possible way. At the same bitrate, any of the newer codecs look much closer to the original source than MPEG-2. Heck, they look closer to the original source at half the bitrate.

    The only reason to stick with MPEG-2 for a new format is that there's already a lot of equipment and software available for MPEG-2, so less infrastructure upgrade would be required to edit, encode, produce, etc. Also, broadcast HDTV is pretty much locked into MPEG-2 for the forseeable future, so MPEG-2 versions of HD content will need to be made no matter what.

    As for the questions, there is no HD-DVD spec, so your initial assumption is untrue from the get-go. Sony has announced that they plan to stick with MPEG-2 for Blu-ray, but none of the other contenders have produced an actual spec or plan, and no one has actually called their product HD-DVD. Artisan has released a couple of DVDs with WM9 HD files on them as an experiment, but no one is claiming that WM9 files on a DVD is the new HD-DVD format. Toshiba is working on AOD (Advanced Optical Disc), but again they aren't calling it HD-DVD. Warner and a few others were trying to put together an HD format on red laser, but that hasn't really gone anywhere to the best of my knowledge, and again they weren't going to call it HD-DVD. It would just be an interim format to sell some HD content now in an inexpensive form factor.

    Personally, I'd like to move to a new compression standard, because MPEG-2 is getting a little long in the tooth. Modern codecs are much better.

    Don
     
  3. Thomas Newton

    Thomas Newton Screenwriter

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    Regardless of what compression algorithm they use, the more storage space on the disc, the better.

    I would hope that they would not choose a physical layer format with inferior storage capacity, with the idea of "making up for it" by compressing the picture and the sound more, limiting non-interlaced resolution, etc.
     
  4. Don_Berg

    Don_Berg Supporting Actor

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    Yes those of us who want a new higher density blue-laser media and not the current DVD red-laser to be used for future HD-DVDs is not the codec choice. We want the highest quality HD as possible, and using lower density with a newer codec won't be as high quality as a higher density media with the current MPG2 codec. Obviously higher density plus newer codec could achieve even higher quality - so that would be fine too. But the only proposals I've heard are low density (red-laser) plus new codec OR high density (blue-laser) with old codec, so given only those two choices I'd take the latter.
     
  5. Don Munsil

    Don Munsil Stunt Coordinator

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    Actually, lower density with a newer codec can look better than MPEG-2 at a higher density. I've seen the proof - the same content compressed with MPEG-2 professionally with high-end encoders at 28 Mbps compared with WM9 compressed with a desktop PC at 9 Mbps, and the WM9 looked significantly better. I've heard that WM9 can match MPEG-2 at around 6-7 Mbps, but I haven't seen it.

    That's not to say I'm against higher density media. I say bring 'em all on. My feeling is that using red-laser media right now with a higher density codec gives us excellent HD at a good price NOW. Whereas waiting for Blu-Ray gets us very expensive HD in a few years (and potentially less quality, if they insist on sticking with MPEG-2).

    I don't care about the various formats and standards, really. I want high-quality HD, at a reasonable price, as soon as possible. From where I sit, red-laser with WM9 or something similar seems like it has the best chance of achieving that. I understand the argument that says once red-laser gets entrenched no one will be able to sell Blu-ray, and I find that argument not particularly compelling. If we can get excellent HD now, why shouldn't we get it now? Why should we have to wait two or more years and spend extra money for no benefit?

    Don
     
  6. David Judah

    David Judah Screenwriter

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    Another concern, Don, is that if 6-7 Mbps is used for the video along with all of the other stuff we enjoy now, there won't be room for higher quality audio like PPCM with MLP. We would be stuck with the same lossy formats that we have now.

    Also, I wouldn't discount the concern some have about companies looking at red laser with WM9 as a permanent solution instead of an interim one. It would be all too convenient for them to take the easy way out.

    IMO, they should do it right from the get-go, even if we have to wait a little longer.

    DJ
     
  7. Don Munsil

    Don Munsil Stunt Coordinator

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    Well, I personally have no problem with Dolby Digital. It's well regarded in the industry, and it's the most commonly used digital format in movie theaters. I certainly don't think MLP is a good choice for a general HD format at this stage. Lossless audio compression is, IMO, complete overkill. Certainly it's guaranteed to be identical to the master tape, but if we can get something that is extremely close to the master tape in less than 1/20 the bandwidth, why wouldn't that be a reasonable tradeoff?

    I very much doubt that the average consumer (which is of course the target of any mass-market HD format) can tell the difference between DD and MLP. Sure, make MLP an optional format. And when Blu-ray becomes a viable format, they can put MLP on audiophile-grade movies and concerts.

    But realistically, there's exactly no chance the studios are going to use MLP as the HD-DVD audio standard. It will almost certainly be an optional format, as will DTS, but it will never be a required format. It's just waaaaaaay too much bandwidth to dedicate to audio, even on Blu-Ray.

    Again, I want HD NOW, as long as it's high quality. Certainly I don't want cruddy HD, but I don't think DD or WM9 are cruddy at all. So if we can fit an excellent quality movie on a red-laser DVD, bring it on!

    JMO, of course. Obviously others will have different priorities and I certainly respect that.

    Don
     
  8. David Judah

    David Judah Screenwriter

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    Ah, you video guys.[​IMG]

    I understand what you are saying and it's true for the mass-market, but most of us here hold a higher standard than Joe Six-Pack in just about every respect where this hobby is concerned. Granted, we are the minority, but lets hope for quality's sake our voices, like in the petition started by Chris A on the expectations for HD-DVD, are heard. After all, we know from the past that some compromises will be made, so if the bar is set higher, then at least, it won't be distilled down to a level that is unpalatable to the enthusiasts.

    As far as Dolby Digital is concerned or DTS for that matter, I haven't compared the encoded tracks to the masters, but I've talked to many people who have, and most are in agreement that we could do much better when space saving isn't the primary concern
    (like would be the case for Blu-Ray).

    It'll be interesting to see how it all unfolds.

    DJ
     
  9. John Kotches

    John Kotches Cinematographer

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    Don,

    Respectfully, I disagree with you on an HD-DVD audio content.

    Using H.264 or WM9 plus MLP would fit well within the estimated spindle speed of 30Mbits/second.

    Since the material is already in PCM form, changing over from DD (or DTS) to MLP isn't that big a stretch. It would be interesting to see typical data rates for a movie soundtrack encoded with MLP. I'll see if any of my contacts have ever played with this....

    Regards,
     
  10. Don Munsil

    Don Munsil Stunt Coordinator

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    John,

    Respectfully, I think you are foolish. :wink:

    But seriously, you're of course correct that it would fit, but I just can't see the studios devoting that much bandwidth to uncompressed audio. Heck, I very much doubt anyone could tell the difference between MLP and, say, 1 Mbps Dolby Digital, and I would bet you big bucks Dolby could whip something like that up in a hurry, if they don't have it waiting in the wings already. Heck, 384 kbps is almost transparent -- does anyone doubt that it could be effectively transparent in almost 3X the bandwidth? Obviously none of us have ever heard it at that kind of bandwidth, but based on my understanding of the format, it seems quite plausible. It's an extremely efficient encoding scheme.

    So even if you could make a single MLP soundtrack fit, when you start thinking about multiple languages, commentaries, branching video, extra features, etc., it's just too much bandwidth and disc space to devote to a soundtrack.

    I think we as movie fans would get much more traction trying to get very high bitrate lossy soundtracks instead of any kind of lossless soundtrack. I would certainly support a higher bandwidth allowance for Dolby Digital, or another lossy format.

    Again, this is JMHO, though I think I understand enough about the standard-setting process for DVD to think that MLP doesn't have any chance of being a standard format. Optional, absolutely. Required, not a chance.

    Don
     
  11. John Kotches

    John Kotches Cinematographer

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    Don,

    We'll continue to disagree [​IMG]

    24/48K @ 6 channels is ~7Mb/second for the uncompressed data rate. Allocating 4Mb/second for a fixed data rate output MLP track will work just fine.

    Your approach is for "good enough" audio. Why start with a compromise?

    Regards,
     
  12. John Kotches

    John Kotches Cinematographer

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    Don,

    An addendum...

    I don't want "transparent" to the master tape, I want the master tape.

    Regards,
     
  13. Don Munsil

    Don Munsil Stunt Coordinator

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    Well, I took a quick poll of those who know more than I, and I take it all back. There is a reasonable chance that MLP will become a standard format on HD-DVD. Dolby Digital will almost certainly be one as well, as will DTS and straight PCM. All the standard formats will be supported by every player, and content creators will be free to choose any of the formats.

    The decisions have not been made, but it looks like I may end up the foolish one. [​IMG]

    Don
     
  14. John Kotches

    John Kotches Cinematographer

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    Don,

    What do I know about the topic [​IMG]

    Besides the last time I looked, since the 1920's when those blasted "talkies" first started showing up it's been a combination of audio and video [​IMG]

    If one thinks about it carefully, one would realize that the same master tapes that are created for the theatrical release could be utilized for both the home DVD (standard definition) and HD-DVD. The only difference is the encoding used (DD or MLP).

    Methinks you should come over to the dark side and realize there's more to a movie than just the picture. We might even make you listen to some music while we're at [​IMG]

    Regards,
     
  15. Don Munsil

    Don Munsil Stunt Coordinator

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    Audio, bah. [​IMG]

    Without the audio, video is still good. I can make up my own dialog, hum a tune, make sound effects with household objects. But if you leave the audio on and cut off the picture, I'm blind! Aaaaaa! What's that noise? Is that crunching leaves or someone's head being crushed by a madman? Aaaaaaaaa!

    You see - video is much more important than audio. [​IMG]

    Don
     
  16. John Kotches

    John Kotches Cinematographer

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    Without audio, how do we tell just how bad those overdubs are on imported kung fu flicks? [​IMG]

    Regards,
     
  17. Mike Mundt

    Mike Mundt Stunt Coordinator

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    Don,

    There is definitely a difference that most people could here in DD or DTS vs. MLP or DSD. The problem is not that you can't here it, its that you have to have speakers that can really show the difference of the different formats. Ex: If I sat 10 regular people in front of a setup with Wilson Audio speakers and a Mark Lev stereo preamp and amp. Your trying to tell me that if they were A/Bed most people wouldn't here the difference? I'm currently in college to become a recording engineer and I can tell you first hand, alot of studios dont like having to mix-down the bit-rates and sampling rates, because it degrades their whole mix. Something similar to MLP and DSD are extremely important for our movies, and althought with a $1000 setup of surround speakers the average person may not be able to tell the difference. Someone who spends $2000, $3000, will most likely here the difference.
     
  18. Don Munsil

    Don Munsil Stunt Coordinator

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    Mike,

    I'm not really sure that argument would have much effect on the studios. There aren't that many people with $3000 speaker systems.

    I agree that there is an audible difference between DD at current bitrates and the master recording (which MLP is just a lossless compressed version of). Whether it's noticeable or important enough to devote tons of extra bandwidth to is arguable.

    It's also quite possible (I would say almost inarguable) that DD or other modern lossy codec at higher bitrates could match MLP or the master tape. So why MLP? It just seems like a waste of bits to me. But hey, I'm not making the decisions, so it's all just woolgathering for me. [​IMG]

    Don
     
  19. John Kotches

    John Kotches Cinematographer

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    Don,

    You do reach a point where the difference between MLP and lossless codecs becomes zero in terms of transparency. In my experience, neither DD nor DTS have reached that level yet, but I also don't have the equipment required to directly compare DD/DTS with PCM. If I had the equipment it would be a fun comparison.

    I notice Roger Dressler hasn't had opportunity to talk about this at all either. He usually has some interesting information to add to these discussions, IMO.

    Regards,
     
  20. John-Miles

    John-Miles Screenwriter

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    Well this is my opinion for what its worth. currently i have a system with a 1300 dollar amp, 1500 dollar dvd player and 1000 dollar set of speakers, i can hear a difference, but not a big one, and honestly only when i know what im looking for.

    so i dont see a real NEED for MLP for HD-DVD, HOWEVER that being said i think the manufacturers owe it to us to for once think ahead and give something to the people who do have the expensive set ups. (i know i plan to ahve one after my next upgrade, new speakers and power amp here i come [​IMG]
     

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