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HD versus Up-scaled DVD: Video **and** Audio Issues

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by Mark Sidebotham, Jan 13, 2007.

  1. Mark Sidebotham

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    Hello folks,

    I've heard it said that there is very little difference between the quality of an upscaled DVD on a good player (such as the Denon 1930) and that delivered by a HD disc (whether it be a HD-DVD or a Blu-ray).

    I struggle to see how this can be so since I always wander where the upscaler 'gets' the extra detail from, but I've never seen a direct comparison.

    I would appreciate your views on this.

    Thanks,

    Mark.
     
  2. King Jeff

    King Jeff Stunt Coordinator

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    That's not true, I compared King Kong side by side on the Xbox 360 addon and the normal dvd on a Sony upconverter, and there is a huge difference, not only in detail and resolution but in color intensity and black levels.
     
  3. JeremyErwin

    JeremyErwin Producer

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  4. Mark Sidebotham

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    Thanks fellas,

    It's as I thought; It's just that I've had a hard time convincing others otherwise so your input has been useful.

    I too have the 360 add-on and I'm well pleased with the picture quality.

    PS does anyone have any links to similar comparisons between the SD and HD versions of "King Kong"? Thanks.
     
  5. Luis Cruz

    Luis Cruz Stunt Coordinator

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    The problem is that the difference between a good upconverted dvd and HD is not as big of a difference as VHS to DVD was, unless you have a huge 100+ inch screen. Like, for me I can tell the difference but I know a few people who feel the difference doesn't warrant the price of HD-DVD or Blu-ray.
     
  6. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    For months, I resisted going to high def DVDs thinking the difference could not be that noticeable especially since my upconversion players did such excellent jobs with discs.

    But when I put in the Blu-ray of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and synched up the standard DVD on my Sony upconversion player (I used the "Masquerade" number as it was the lushest section of the picture), I was astonished at the difference in sharpness, depth of focus, and color. What had looked so sharp on SD-DVD now looked a little dim and surprisingly lifeless.

    Not every Blu-ray that I've watched has "wowed" me. I thought TALLADEGA NIGHTS was fairly lackluster, for example, but for the most part, most discs have been revelations, some to a HUGE degree like THE SEARCHERS.
     
  7. RAF

    RAF Lead Actor

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    I generally agree with the "findings" of this discussion with one important caveat. If you rely on upscaling by using the upscaling properties of just about any relatively affordable DVD player then yes, you can absolutely see a marked difference between native HD sources and upconverted ones (although, as pointed out, it's not as big a difference as going from VHS to DVD was). However, if you use an external video scaler with the latest algorithms (which usually costs between $2000-$4000 depending on features, etc.) then the difference between native HD sources and upconverted ones (via the VP) is much smaller (although you can see it if you look closely at test patterns.) This is not really any "video voodoo" but the utilization of processes that takes the available pixel information and interpolates it to form additional information which translates into better resolution. Does it work? Most of the time, as long as the source SD material is relatively good to begin with. Naturally, there are some video situations that can't be interpolated accurately, so a good HD source has a much better chance of providing an accurate picture than a "processed" one.

    And, as you've probably figured out by now, this processing comes at a price. One can't reasonably expect a $500-$1000 upconverting DVD player to match the electronics capabilities of a $2000 processor. The main reason for taking the external processing route is to breathe new life into any large SD DVD collection instead of replacing all titles. I fully intend to purchase mostly HD titles (either format depending on other factors) from now on but I'm very pleased with how good my SD discs look on my 1080p display "assisted" by my DVDO VP-50.

    Finally, just because it might be possible in some cases to get your SD discs looking almost as good as HD counterparts (if you are willing to pay the freight) there is another compelling reason to opt for HD titles from this point forward in most cases. HD titles usually provide lossless audio codecs (like TrueHD etc.) which sound much better than anything that is currently available on most if not all SD discs. Lossless audio takes up a lot of real estate and only HD formats (both of them) have the capacity to provide the needed space for this superior sound.
     
  8. JeremyErwin

    JeremyErwin Producer

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  9. Tim Glover

    Tim Glover Lead Actor

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    One thing I've noticed that while upconverted DVD can look really good....HD-DVD and I'm sure Blu-Ray is the same, tends to look cleaner and have more detail....less smeared look. I recently compared the SD-DVD & HD-DVD of Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire using an older 480i set. Player set to 480i. Even then you can see the added clarity.
     
  10. Larry Sutliff

    Larry Sutliff Cinematographer

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    My godson wanted to watch the STAR WARS films this weekend, so we watched EPISODE III and ANH, upconverted on the HD A1. While both movies looked very good, they were in no way comparable to true high definition. And these are two of the very best transfers available. This was on a modest 47" CRT rear projector.
     
  11. Alf S

    Alf S Banned
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    I know of a certain HT gentleman who believes his recenlty purchased nearly $4000 Cary upconverting DVD player ALMOST equals HD-DVD. [​IMG]
     
  12. David Ely

    David Ely Supporting Actor

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    The difference will really depend on your display.

    I previously had a Toshiba 46HX83. The difference was noticeable, but not huge.

    I recently upgraded to a Sony 50" SXRD and the difference is night and day.

    Bottom line is that I stopped buying DVD releases and switched to HD only (HD-DVD is prefered, but I'll buy BR as well).
     
  13. RAF

    RAF Lead Actor

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    And I would venture a guess (without having the actual specs of the Cary player in front of me) that a $4000 player probably contains a lot of the video processing features and components found in $2000-3000 video processors. Remember, there's a lot more to video processing than simply turning 480i into 1080p via upscaling and deinterlacing. There are techniques used by the various companies to improve the picture presented on SD material (noise reduction, removing jaggies, etc. etc.) that all help in creating the final processed picture. Just go to one of the well known VP sites (DVDO and Lumagen are two of them but not the only ones) and you can read about what each company does as part of its video processing line.

    Some of the more expensive upscaling DVD players are much closer to being a VP with a player in the box and this is a significant reason for their lofty price tags.

    Are they for everyone? Of course not - just like not everyone needs (nor can they afford) a Bentley etc. A Honda can get you from point A to point B too. (Not meant to endorse or denigrate any particular make of automobile)

    [​IMG]
     
  14. Dave H

    Dave H Producer

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    I've never used an external video processor - the closest I've come is using a Denon 3930CI which uses the HQV Realta chipset. I've also used the Denon 2930CI which uses the Reon chipset. While both are outstanding DVD players, the source material is always going to be 720X480 no matter what you do to it. Yes, it can look subjectively good - very good, in fact - but I don't believe what you do to it will ever match true 1920X1080 when comparing the same movies from the same master. I've compared the same movies in Blu-ray on my PS3 compared to the DVD on the Denon and the differences are quite significant - even on a 57" screen. I would image those with projectors using 100"+ screens see even more of a difference.
     
  15. RAF

    RAF Lead Actor

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    I agree with you. The old saying, "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear" applies here. No amount of processing (at least nothing I've ever come across) can make a 720x480 image look completely as good as a 1920 x 1080 image.

    That said, however, let me offer a couple of personal observations. For one thing, I own both an external video processor (DVDO iScan VP50) and the aforementioned Denon 2930ci SD DVD player. Yes, the Denon offers some internal video processing, as you noted, but I choose to turn it off and send 480i via HDMI directly to the VP50 for conversion to 1080p (something that the DVDO does exceptionally well with new circuitry and algorithms). In an actual A/B comparison I find that the processed picture from the VP50 is significantly better than simply using the Denon 2930's vp capabilities. Yes, the Denon does a nice job and improves the SD image quite a bit (over standard viewing) but the DVDO notches this up significantly. No, it's not exactly as good as good HD source material but it's good enough so that I am not considering trashing my current (many 1000's) of SDs and starting over. Naturally, all new purchases will be on HD (either format for now) where available. (I'm able to see all this on a 58" 1080p monitor with 1080p input for critical viewing.)

    As an interesting side note to all this my fellow administrator, Adam Gregorich, has attended many Denon training seminars. At one of these they did a demonstration of Denon upscaling of SD compared to HD content. I assume that this involved their top of the line (5000 series) equipment and I also realize that any manufacturer's "demo" is going to be skewed a bit in favor of their products. Nonetheless, Adam commented to me that the two images were very close (shown on a large screen) and that he actually preferred the SD upscaled image. The little bit of "fuzziness" inherent in most upscaling actually softened the picture a bit to make it more "film-like" to him - an effect that he preferred. Perhaps he'll chime in here to offer his own perspective and to field any additional questions about the demo.
     
  16. JeremyErwin

    JeremyErwin Producer

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    So where does it make a real difference? What types of images look distinctly less real when rendered in upscaled 480i?
     
  17. Adam Gregorich

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    Since RAF dragged me into this...[​IMG]

    I saw an an AB comparison of Serenity (Firefly movie) in standard def played through the Denon 3930, compared to the DVD-HD played from a Toshiba x1. The playback screen was a 55inch Fujitsu plasma. In this particular Demo, they both looked good. The upconverted DVD did look softer, but that also made it look a bit more "film-like" in my opinion. I won't claim it was a better picture, it was just a "different" picture. Keep in mind this was a $2500ish DVD player, and just one title on a 720P display. In a perfect world I would have both a HD player (waiting for a combi) and a high quality upconverting player. By "normal" standards I have a large DVD collection (1700+ which is small compared to RAF standards). I am not about to replace all of these with HD versions unless I win powerball, and want them to look as good as possible. In a 1080P setup, a well sourced, well mastered HD title will look better that the upconverted standard 99% of the time.
     
  18. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    I still have a feeling that SD-DVD upconverted to 720p on my 56" LCoS set is going to look pretty durned close to 1080i or even 1080p downconverted to 720p on the same set. So given today's prices, and a raging format war, I don't see any compelling reason to move to hi-def discs. I wouldn't/couldn't replace the many hundreds of titles and thousands of individual discs I already own on SD-DVD, so it isn't like I'm ever going to have a 100% HD collection in any event.

    Perhaps I'll reconsider in a few years when the war is over and I'm ready to upgrade my primary display. Or maybe 2008 or 09 will see HD-DVD player prices and TotalHD disc costs drop to the point where I can stick a toe in the hi-def water while still hedging my bets vis a vis Blu Ray.

    Until then I'll remain with my upconverting Sony player and my upconverting TV set, each of which do a remarkable job on SD material. (Even my few non-anamorphic discs look better than they ever did before, which is remarkable.)

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  19. Gregg Loewen

    Gregg Loewen Founder, Professional Video Alliance
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    hi guys

    i am finding the difference to be sometimes stagging between upconverted SD DVD and HD DVD. Especially if you watch the HD DVD product first then switch to the SD material.

    YMMV :)
     
  20. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    The differences are very dependent on the software and HT equipment being used. I did a lengthy comparison test between the latest SD DVD release of "Casablanca" versus the HD DVD of the same title and it's not really close in my opinion as to which presentation looked better with more detail. In that comparison test, I used a Oppo-970 to display the SD DVD at 480I through the HDMI output into my VP50 then upconverted and output the video signal at 1080p to my HP6580N display. For the HD DVD, I used HDMI connections with the XA-1 at 1080I output to the VP50 which then sent the converted 1080p signal to the same display.

    While the latest SD DVD version of "Casablanca" is a great looking presentation, it couldn't hold a candle to the HD DVD version of the same film.

    Again, all such comparisons are influenced a great deal by the software and hardware being used in these comparison tests. It really comes down to whether you are satisfied with an upconverted SD DVD presentation, knowing that a HD/BR presentation is superior, but with varying degrees of improvement due to a variety of reasons.
     

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