Thursday, February 28, 2008
High Definition DVD's have gotten a lot of press lately- some of it positive and some of it not so positive. That's because they offer a great way to enjoy a movie theater experience in your own home with recently released movies.
Having said that, High Definition DVD's have some major problems these days. These problems aren't so much bugs in the high def DVD players or the discs themselves- though those have been exposed too. The real problem with using them to get HDTV in your home theater system is that there are currently two incompatible formats on the market and it's not yet completely clear which format will come out on top in the format war between the two.
The formats are HD-DVD which was created by Toshiba, and Blu-ray which was created by Sony. They have some technical differences- which would tend to make Blu-ray look like the better choice- but for the average user, the two formats are pretty much interchangeable. While Blu-ray has some technical advantages in terms of superior data storage capacity (which is great for computer applications) HD-DVD has the advantage of offering much cheaper players for its discs.
Right now HD-DVD players cost between three and five hundred dollars, while the minimum that you can get a Blu-ray player for is about five hundred dollars and many of them are up around eight or nine hundred. That said, there are a number of indications that Blu-ray may be the preferred format among consumers.
There is one option for enjoying movies in HDTV that many people don't think that much about. It's now possible to get devices that play standard DVD's and upconvert them to resolutions that are very similar to HDTV. Basically, normal DVD's produce pictures with resolutions of 480p which means that the picture is made up of 480 horizontal lines that are scanned onto the screen progressively. (Progressive scanning is generally considered superior to interlace scanning which is indicated by an "i" after the number.) HDTV pictures have resolutions of 720p, 1080i, or 1080p. 1080p isn't widely available on HDTV channels, but can be produced from Blu-ray discs and HD-DVD.
In general, it's possible to get a DVD player that will upconvert standard DVD's to resolutions of 720p or 1080i. This process takes place essentially by using special software that's built into the DVD players to fill in the missing details of the pictures that come from the standard definition DVD's. Extra pixels are added to the images with the result of richer colors and a sharper picture in general.
Now there are DVD players that can bump the resolution all the way up to 1080p. One of the major complaints about these players though it that they don't produce the full HDTV experience. Some consumer electronics enthusiasts say that the supposed 1080p picture produced by these players is only about half way between the quality of a normal DVD picture and that of a real 1080p picture. This is to be expected considering that adding pixels isn't the same thing as adding the pores on an actor's face or other details like that. However, considering the fact that this type of DVD player costs substantially less than a high def DVD player- and isn't in imminent danger of becoming obsolete- it may be a good choice for many consumers.