General Question

Kingkamandi's avatar

Do regular DVDs look better when played on an HD TV with a regular DVD player?

Asked by Kingkamandi (149points) January 20th, 2008

And do regular DVDs look any better when played on a Blu-Ray player?

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11 Answers

glial's avatar

Providing it has upscaling and you are using an HDMI cable.

sndfreQ's avatar

yes and re: glial’s point there are very good algorithms out there that ‘guess’ at interpolating pixels but essentially when you are playing DVD media you’re starting with fewer pixels and fewer frames (still images) per second. The initial perception is that there is a DVD playing on the bigger screen of an HD aspect ratio but until you actually run an A/B comparison and see the same film on Blu-Ray or HD-DVD, you won’t know what you’re missing. It’s almost analagous to those very early analog-to-digital transfers found on classical music CD’s in the late 80s-yeah the recording is transferred to digital, but all the inherent noise, distortion etc. Is not clarified; not until the mid 90s did we really start to find re-mastered recordings that had mitigated the analog hiss and survive the analog to digital transfer process. If you ever have an opportunity to listen to a super audio cd disc, you’ll hear the closest thing digital recordings have come to approximating their true analog master counterparts.

Spargett's avatar

If you watch it without a DVD upconverter, it’ll look aweful since the HDTV’s resolution far exceeds what the DVD can output.

Its like zooming in on a .jpg (digital photo) two or three times larger than its size. We all know how terribly pixelated that looks.

The DVD upconverter is an absolute must for playing standard definition movies on HDTV’s.

And to answer your question, you’ll enjoy your cinematic experience much more with the upgrade.

bpeoples's avatar

@Spargett—I’m really not sure that’s true.

I would argue that at 480p (the native resolution of a progressive-scan DVD) the DVD is just not going to look any worse pixelated to 1080p than simply upscaled to 1080p—unless these upscalers are better than I suspect. It’s not going to look as good as HD content, and it’s certainly not going to look as sharp as HD content, but I don’t think it’s going to look any worse than a regular 480p display.

The biggest thing is that even if the play doesn’t have an upscaler, it can almost interlace the video (and give you 960i resolution, which the scaler in your tv should be able to make 1080i). But regardless, he’s some images I simulated up from a 3000×2000 pixel photo:

Native 1080p image
Upscaled 480p image to 1080p
Pixelated 360p to 1080p
And the 480p image

The reason the pixelated image is 360 and not 480 is because it’s early and I couldn’t quite work out how to do 1/4 pixels in that style. Anyway—the information loss is obvious, but at tv watching distances (10’) you’re not going to notice the pixelation—you will likely see it as the same blurriness you see in the upscaled version.

So—to answer the question, I don’t think the DVD will look much different on an HD-DVD player or an HD-DVD vs. a 480p television, HOWEVER if you have the same movie on an HD-DVD or BluRay, the DVD version will look really crappy to you.

glial's avatar

Ok, let me clear a couple of things up for those guessing at it.

I have an Toshiba HD DVD A30 connected via HDMI to a 42 Toshiba HD TV.

Originally I was using a component connection (before my HDMI cable was delivered) the video wouldn’t upscale with component so it was at 480p. I didn’t look bad, but it was pillar boxed. Repeat, it looked as good as it ever did.

Adding in the HDMI cable, allowed the upscaler to go to 1080i and yes it looks great!

Comparing an HD DVD (yes, I know we lost the war to blu ray) movie to a Standard Def DVD, I must say that the upscaler is pretty amazing. Not as razor sharp as HD DVD, but very very good. Perhaps, a little softer than HD DVD, but still great.

Again, without upscaling, you Standard Def DVD won’t look bad, certainly not aweful because it will pillarbox; but it will look much better (Near-HD) with an upscaler.

sndfreQ's avatar

@glial-Thanks for the clarification-it’s insightful for me, since I have not upgraded beyond SD yet at home.

It does seem that upscaling technology is going to be pivotal in convincing the mass market that upgrading to BluRay is necessary, as combo players will definitely be a key strategy for marketing BluRay.

As I think about it, this is a similar situation happening in audio with downloadable media (lo res .mp3) versus DVD-Audio/SACD and the like-it’s so interesting that those two formats never took off because most people are ‘satisfied’ with .mp3 quality audio.

Convincing users to make that switch from component to HDMI is a big part of the equation, but as folks start seeing the difference for themselves (as you have), I think eventually HDMI and all-digital will become mainstream…It’s a slow and ugly death for analog-component is definitely a part of that!

I do think that since upscaling tech is not standardized, it will matter from player to player which algorithm/codec/chip etc. has superior upscaling, and I have read good things about the Toshiba A30.

One could compare this same tech to some of the high-end audio stuff out there that ‘enhances’ .mp3 audio files-Bose, et. al have this now for .mp3 players, and for iTunes you can buy plug-ins such as iWow that also ‘rectify’ audio that is low bit-rate.

glial's avatar

Yes, the A30 is great, but HD DVD is all but dead since Warner went exclusively Blu Ray a couple of weeks ago.

The Playstation 3 (Blu Ray) does have a great upscaler for SD DVD also.

HDMI is really convenient, however, many stores charge a premium for the cables themselves. Don’t be fooled, visit and you can find quality cables such as 6ft. HDMI for around $11 shipped, while retailers are charging $50—$100 for the same cable.

There is no “better” HDMI cable for a short distance. Digital is either on or off, it won’t degrade over distance. Don’t be conned into buying a $100 “Monster Cable” at the store because it is “better”.

sndfreQ's avatar

good call glial, thanks again

bpeoples's avatar

@glial: excellent!

glial's avatar

Your welcome!

Kingkamandi's avatar

Thanks for all of the info. I think I’m going to buy a PS3 (for the Blu-Ray) and an HDTV now.

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