Blu-ray vs DVD

Last edited on Sat, 24 Jul 2010 17:27:47 -0400

090211.pngI'm very picky about the quality of video which is probably linked to my passion for movies. In theatres, I always try to sit at the absolute center, and on a few occasions, I have refused to watch movies and returned my tickets when I didn't find a center seat. I always watch digital projection when available. And I absolutely love films on IMAX, not because of its size, but because of its resolution that justifies such size.

The slightest defects however can ruin my movie watching experience; a scratch on the projector lens, or dirt on the film, or even a small random speck that just shows up for a split-second. But more than that, what frustrates me the most is people not appreciating good technology. Actually no. What frustrates me even more is people being completely oblivious towards good technology.

Few weeks ago, I bought a new laptop. I carefully chose it so that it would have a Blu-ray drive. Up until that point, I heard about Blu-ray and its enormous storage capacities and how it was the best "thing" for watching movies, but I didn't quite understand why people would bother putting a movie on a 50 GB disc when they already were fitting great quality movies on 4.7 GB discs - DVDs.

As luck would have it, my laptop also came with three Blu-ray movies: Casino Royale, Hitch, and Surf's Up. That was the first time I saw Blu-ray discs in their boxes which looked similar to those of DVDs. One notable difference was the distinctive blue tint that was almost opaque. (I have a feeling that few years from now, readers will be laughing at my amazement towards Blu-ray).

To give readers some background, Blu-ray was created to facilitate the distribution of high-definition (HD) video. When we talk about HD, we usually refer to two types: one with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels (called 720p) and another with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels (called 1080p). 720p is sometimes simply referred to as HD while 1080p is called Full HD. (In short, 1080p is better than 720p). Since my laptop has a 1920 x 1080 screen, it's capable of playing 1080p Full HD video. The result of such high resolution is that it provides a lot of room on the screen. For example, this website probably takes up about 70 - 100% of your screen's width, depending of what kind of LCD monitor you own. I'm assuming you own the average LCD (by 2008 standards). For me however, this website only takes up 40% of my screen's width. So that should give you an estimate of the detail at which I can watch movies or see pictures when I blow them up on my screen.

On the 27th January 2009, Surf's Up was officially the first Blu-ray disc that I had ever touched and watched. Ten minutes into the movie was enough to leave my mouth wide open. Absolutely no pixelation. The colours looked so vibrant that the movie looked something like a slideshow of colour-enhanced high-resolution bitmaps. I could not evaluate the sound quality since all I had were headphones.

I had to share my excitement with someone. So I called my 13-year-old cousin. She watched Surf's Up with me for a few minutes, and then asked me what the difference was. To her, the movie looked no different than that of a DVD. I tried convincing her for a good hour as to how Blu-ray was better but she just didn't get the point of having Blu-ray. I ignored her after that, and later that week, tried showing it to a friend of mine. He completely missed the  point too.

Hence I decided to make my point. Rather than throwing numbers at people and trying to prove things mathematically, I followed that old saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words". I picked the movie Wall-E, because of its vibrant colours, and I compared screen captures.

There are a few technical aspects to that. DVD movies have a lower native resolution than Blu-ray movies. And most people don't have screens big enough to fit a 1080p image. So using Lancoz filtering, I resized both the DVD and Blu-ray screenshots to a width of 1000 pixels. And here they are for you to compare. Also, if you own a 1080p screen or better, you can download the full-sized images here.