Friday, May 25, 2012

High Definition Stalemate

For those who have not yet settled on which high definition disc to invest in, this article will help bring several issues to light. First of all, the potential video and audio quality remain alike between both formats, HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. The difference lies in the laser that reads the disc; where the former uses the identical red laser used to read DVDs, the latter employs a blue laser that reads only Blu-Ray. Both lasers can decode an identical amount of information, called the bitrate. A bitrate can be labeled as the amount of "bits" decoded per second. Generally, the higher the bitrate the higher the quality of video/audio. So a bitrate of, say, 30mbs (megabytes per second) should be preferable to a meager 10mbs. The average hi-def picture, with its superior clarity and contrast, can maintain a bitrate between 15mbs-35mbs; compare this with an ordinary DVD, which averages 2mbs-7mbs.

With its ability to store and transmit at a higher bitrate, hi-def media easily trumps the quality of DVD. This higher bitrate allows for less compression, and thus can retain most of the clarity from the original master print of a movie; whereas a DVD will look blown-up and fuzzy. But the differences between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray begin with how they can be played. HD-DVD players have the advantage of backward compatibility, as it can playback DVDs. Blu-Ray players cannot, due to their unique laser, which completely isolates it from older generation technology. But the advantages of Blu-Ray lay in its inherent differences.

Blu-Ray players come equipped with Java software, which some believe to allow more interactivity with the user. This gives it the ability to have fancier menus and in-depth bonus options, such as picture-in-picture display. At the moment, bugs and slow performance have hindered some confidence in its support of Java, where Bill Gates complained that it was not user friendly enough to be used in PCs. Counter this with HD-DVD, which uses Microsoft's own HDi Interactive Format. It allows anyone to author simple content, where Java requires a more intimate knowledge of scripting.

If all the information so far sounds redundant, it is. The only thing that can make or break a hi-def entertainment center does not stem from the format at all. In fact, it all depends on what you choose to display it on. Be weary of interlaced televisions. Rather than playing back video at 1080p (progressive), the user gets short-changed with 1080i (interlaced). Progressive scan means that the picture gets scanned upon each frame; this results in a properly displayed picture, like a solid photograph, with no aberrations. Interlacing occurs when no progressive scan exists in the television, and so the picture gets displayed as a series of individual lines rather than as a single, uniform "photograph." In short, the fine edges in a progressively scanned movie may otherwise appear to be jagged, or even fuzzy, on an interlaced display.

The only reason to get invested in the so-called format war would be to avoid a costly personal investment if "your" format ever loses. Blu-Ray may be considered to be the superior technology, as its unique blue laser, while radically different and incapable of DVD playback, allows for exciting future developments. HD-DVD, largely compatible and user-friendly, is considered by some to be a static technology. Lately, however, Toshiba released its plan to market the format as cheaper, practical alternative to Blu-Ray. And, in the event that you still cannot make up your mind, there exists a combo Blu-Ray/HD-DVD/DVD computer drive that sells for less than $300.


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