The HD war is over

It’s amazing how fast a product can die. After the news broke on the news outlets a few days ago that HD-DVD is dead because of Warner’s decision to move exclusively to Blu-ray (although Blu-Ray was winning slowly but surely), within 10 days the 62-38 percentage of sales went at 85-15. Overwhelmingly in favor of Blu-Ray.

Now, there are those who say that Apple’s new HD renting system will also kill Blu-Ray and Netflix, but it’s not the time yet, and it won’t be for another 10 years. AppleTV’s 4mbps 720p files can’t compete with Blu-ray’s 18-40 mbps 1080p quality (plus the extras on the discs, and the feeling of physical ownership is a driving force to buy/rent real discs). The iTunes/AppleTV deal has its niche, and it’s mostly for those who can’t be bothered a lot with movies and don’t care about quality.

We discussed with JBQ last night over dinner at a local restaurant that a 480p DVD disc encoded in VBR 9mbps mpeg2, has BETTER quality than AppleTV’s 720p HD at 4mbps h.264. H.264 is twice better than mpeg2 in compression, true, but 720p is also more than twice bigger than 480p. From our point of view, it makes more sense from the quality point of view to serve a true 480p anamorphic file at 3 mbps h.264, than the current 720p deal. But unfortunately, 480p is not considered HD (it’s EDTV), and this wouldn’t fly with the consumers. So basically, it’s a marketing problem, not a technical one. Apple decided (no surprise there) to go with a decision that flies high with the clueless consumers rather than delivering the best possible quality. Another problem is bandwidth: at 5GB per movie rent, Comcast won’t be too happy… Bandwidth ain’t free.

8 Comments »

Billy wrote on January 21st, 2008 at 10:55 AM PST:

>Now, there are those who say that Apple’s new HD renting system will also kill Blu-Ray and Netflix

Not to mention that Apple doesn’t let you buy HD movies, only rent them. People seem to forget about this one.

>rom our point of view, it makes more sense from the quality point of view to serve a true 480p anamorphic file at 3 mbps h.264, than the current 720p deal.

From a guy-who-likes-high-res perspective, I personally don’t agree. As much as I dislike motion artifacts, I prefer them to low-res still frames (especially now that I have a pretty accurate TV). Obviously, I haven’t seen Apple’s stuff yet but Comcast, for example, compresses their HD feeds horribly and I still prefer them to (upscaled) DVD.


JBQ wrote on January 21st, 2008 at 1:55 PM PST:

Matter of personal preference, I guess. I prefer the even quality of DVDs to the very uneven quality of Comcast’s HD (which does great when there’s not too much motion and falls apart in a macroblock soup as soon as things move too much). I might be biased by the fact that our TV doesn’t do 720p, so that the “good” aspects of HD don’t show well while the “bad” ones do. We’re working on getting a new TV.

Like I said, matter of personal preference, there’s no right or wrong.


Jim wrote on January 21st, 2008 at 3:15 PM PST:

I have nothing to base this on but intuition, but unless folks see a clear advantage in blu ray over sd dvd, I think nothing will change, then in the mean time technology won’t stand still. My feeling is that DVD and CD disc are obsolete no matter what the format and any technology will have to be no more expensive than the existing dvd. Even with myself for all the digital audio and video editing feel like a retard when getting a text msg. Remember that no one learned to program VCRs and so I think for us to embrace new technology it has to be as affordable as existing tech, it has to be easy to use and have a clear advantage for us to upgrade.
When my kids were learning about computers (oldest one is 31yrs) Apple2 computers ruled, parents bought their kids apple2 because that was at school, by the time they graduated from high school, not an apple computer of anykind was in sight except for a very old apple2.
The point I am making is that despite apple getting the jump into the schools and when folks were buying their first computers had an advantage that the kids wanted apple (just like they want McDonalds for fast food) Today it is hard to find an apple in the schools.
So it is with blu ray and me,
I am not at all this so called “war” is even relevent anymore and I doubt I will ever release any more music on cd as well anymore, time marches on, I am still a spectator to see the outcome.


Billy wrote on January 21st, 2008 at 4:56 PM PST:

>very uneven quality of Comcast’s HD (which does great when there’s not too much motion and falls apart in a macroblock soup as soon as things move too much)

Yup!

>Like I said, matter of personal preference, there’s no right or wrong.

Totally agree, and it’s really content-dependent, too. That’s why I’m not a fan of statements like marketing to “clueless consumers” being the only reason to choose one or the other. 🙂

While I’m personally a big fan of Blu-ray and high-bitrate, high-resolution content, I wouldn’t be surprised to see if these compressed 720p downloads from Apple, Microsoft (Xbox 360), etc., prove to be “good enough” for many people, especially given how many people can’t seem to really tell the difference between DVD and higher-definition content, anyway. It will be interesting to watch.


William Eggington wrote on January 21st, 2008 at 11:49 PM PST:

The free “over the air” HD signal we get on our HD TV through series 3 Tivo is amazing. I’d say pretty close to artifact free. Way better than the demos I see at Circuit City advertising cable and dish. And all we use are little rabbit ears behind the TV! I’d highly recommend skipping cable for the “main” network shows that you want to look good. like Life, CSI, Prison Break etc. We have to keep our Dish for Sci-Fi and all the “home” shows my wife loves to watch but for all the kick ass shows on the networks.. . free “over the air” is the best way to go.


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Eugenia wrote on January 21st, 2008 at 11:52 PM PST:

William, this is not exactly true. The reason why the demos at the stores suck is because they use splitters, not because the original signal is not better than over-the-air. Also, Comcast has a bit better quality than satellite just because they don’t have to deal with environmental conditions and degradation of their signal.


William Eggington wrote on January 22nd, 2008 at 9:15 AM PST:

I was going to mention that. . . that the signals are often split. BUT! then I changed my mind. The sales people on the floor are usually very quick to point the splitting quality loss and usually have one or two TVs with a direct signal that you can manipulate yourself. One guy even hooked up the blueray player they had on display to the TV we were considering so we could see it at its best. I was most impressed.

As far as quality goes, the way I understood it is that cable companies often have to re-compress the “free” over the air ATSC signal into their own system to fit more channels into the same pipe. But I did a little digging and. . . its all relative to the specific equipment in your area, how far away you are from the towers of your TV stations as to which one is better.

My wife and I just geek out all the time over how amazing the free signal is. So I’m a little biased. 🙂


Billy wrote on January 22nd, 2008 at 10:53 AM PST:

>The reason why the demos at the stores suck is because they use splitters, not because the original signal is not better than over-the-air.

Sure, but over the air gives much higher bitrates than Comcast, et al can. Last year they broadcast the Masters at just under 25 Mbps MPEG-2, which is pretty awesome. The downside (depending on where you live, of course) is availability and reliability. I had ATSC as my exclusive TV source for a few years and even with a great antenna struggled to get Fox due to it being broadcast out of Oakland rather than SF, and that was enough to make it hard to get in my area.


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