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Studio boss knocks Blu-ray for poor image quality, high price

It looks as though Sony just can't catch a break these days in the news. Last week we learned that Sony was delaying the European launch of its PlayStation 3 from November 17 to March of 2007 along with the announcement that an initial batch of 500,000 total units would be available for the November 11 Japanese launch and November 17 North American launch. The launch delay/shipment reduction is due to Sony's problems with manufacturing blue laser diodes used by the Blu-ray drive on the PS3.

Well today, we learn of even more bad news for the Sony camp. Craig Kornblau, president of Universal Studios Home Entertainment, came out swinging against the Blu-ray standard calling HD DVD the "hands down" winner in the next generation movie formats. "Look at the blogs, look at the reviews by the early adopters and even look at the mainstream media – HD DVD has maintained its first-to-market advantage and delivered on the promises of providing the best high definition image and sound quality at the best value for consumers today," said Kornblau.

Kornblau is likely referencing three head-to-head comparison reviews done on Blu-ray and HD DVD versions of 'Training Day,' 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang' and 'Rumor Has It....' In those comparison tests done by High-Def Digest in early August, HD DVD clearly came out ahead of Blu-ray in image quality. The Blu-ray titles featured increased noise/artifacting and darker overall color casting. Issue of cropping also popped up with the three Blu-ray titles tested.

However, a more recent test by High-Def Digest produced more promising results from the Blu-ray camp. 'Firewall,' 'Lethal Weapon,' 'Blazing Saddles' and 'Full Metal Jacket' were tested this time around. With the exception of 'Full Metal Jacket,' the titles this time around used VC-1 compression instead of MPEG-2 resulting in much improved image quality across the board:

But to summarize, with this batch there is no clear "winner." If last time Blu-ray took more than its fair share of slings and arrows over picture quality and the format's reliance (up until now) on MPEG-2, this time the more level playing field has helped close the gap between Blu-ray and HD DVD. If nothing else, our second Blu-ray versus HD DVD face-off strongly indicates that what some people had declared a format war won is still far from over.

So while Kornblau is right in pointing out HD DVD advantages in pricing and availability, the image quality debate is still alive and well.

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It's a shame they can't encode
By tozz on 9/17/2006 3:31:49 PM , Rating: 2
MPEG-2 is extremely good when done right, too bad most companies just can't get it right. Well Universal was never in the BR group from the start so it's not really a loss cosidering the amount of supporters they have right now, as long as it doesn't cause a ripple.

RE: It's a shame they can't encode
By feelingshorter on 9/17/2006 4:05:04 PM , Rating: 2
Those people are paid to do it right. Why cant it be done right? Well, i think HD-DVD made a smart move using compressed audio and mpeg4 compression. I'm not going to debate lossless audio but its as stupid as having WAV files on your computer. Can you tell the difference between a wav file and 320kb/s mp3? Blind mp3 tests already prove that most people cant. One of the biggest arguments against blue ray was that they used mpeg2 which can have lower quality than the compressed mpeg4. Another bad move by blue ray. Not only that, sony was stupid to not work with movie studios/software companies on security. Last I herd, HD-DVD has a better copy right standard. I'm not sure if all i said was correct but the battle of HD-DVD vs BR has been going on too long for me to remember. Now with new developments like VC-1 (what ever the hell that is), I just wont bother to keep up anymore. Sony does have major potential though, does have a higher storage capacity.

RE: It's a shame they can't encode
By tozz on 9/17/2006 4:19:11 PM , Rating: 2
Being paid to do something seldom leads to doing it right, just take a look at any company out there :) The benfit of using MPEG2 is that you don't have to compress it as much as with MPEG4, it will however take up more space. I don't really care yet anyway, it's waaaay too early.

RE: It's a shame they can't encode
By Phynaz on 9/18/2006 9:45:12 AM , Rating: 2
The benfit of using MPEG2 is that you don't have to compress it as much as with MPEG4

You have no idea what you're talking about.

MPEG2 CAN'T be compressed as much as MPEG4. Not having to compress as much is not a benfit.

RE: It's a shame they can't encode
By mindless1 on 9/18/2006 7:09:38 PM , Rating: 2
You have no idea what you're talking about and lack reading comprehension.

"Don't have to compress it as much" is true, the time and processing requirement for the conversion to MPEG2 is lower, the statement you arrogantly disagreed with is correct!

Not being as compressed, on the other hand, IS of benefit where any device does client decompression as it is faster on VLIW processors and there is not good market saturation of MPEG4/10 decoder hardware yet.

RE: It's a shame they can't encode
By mindless1 on 9/18/2006 7:11:44 PM , Rating: 2
So it is not just some tech-geek idea about which is the ultimate format to use if we ignore all significant factors, it is still a matter of considering ALL factors as they exist today, not that point in the future when MPEG2 has become obsolete.

By peternelson on 9/19/2006 1:11:29 PM , Rating: 2
As someone who has first hand assessed MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 encoded content from (identical) high quality sources, I have to say that regardless of standard, the ENCODING PROCESS is probably the most important factor. Mpeg-4 has the POTENTIAL to use up less bandwidth, but the quality depends on the encoding.

The standard does NOT specify HOW to encode, just what the stream needs to look like for the decoder. Therefore encoding implementations vary. Some have more efficient motion detection algorithms than others, etc.

If you have a rubbish encoder you will get more artifacts.

If you want a high quality one that may even give superior quality at a lower bitrate, then you need to spend more money. This is particularly the case with MPEG-4 because it is relatively new.

So if your studio or post-house won't invest a lot of money in (say) Snell and Wilcox encoders, you get a substandard encode.

They may also be lazy and save time and money by insufficient quality checking, hand-optimisation for certain portions etc.

Some disks may just be using old film scans rather than fresh high quality ones as their source.

Remember early DVDs looked rubbish and were lacking features. Compare that to current disks. Obviously the disk authoring services need to mature and invest in current technologies.

AFAIK security arrangements on HD-DVD and bluray are equivalent.

RE: It's a shame they can't encode
By JeffDM on 9/17/2006 4:32:12 PM , Rating: 2
Last I herd, HD-DVD has a better copy right standard.

I think you herd wrong, but that depends on whose perspective. It's not as simple as that.

Both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray both use AACS as a base security standard. There's a little more to it but I need to remember the details.

RE: It's a shame they can't encode
By Korvon on 9/18/2006 12:36:46 PM , Rating: 3
Herd : a group of cattle or sheep or other domestic mammals all of the same kind that are herded by humans

Heard : detected or perceived by the sense of hearing; "a conversation heard through the wall"

"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA

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