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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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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.

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates

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