Tuesday, April 6, 2010

HD and Why I Love Blu-ray

HD is a term that is thrown around a lot these days.  It stands for high definition, but it really does not have a specific definition of its own.  When referring to television and screens, HD means anything that has more rows of pixels than the standard TV signal.  This means anything over  480 horizontal lines to make up the picture on the screen was HD.  While this sounds impressive, my phone has almost double the horizontal rows as the older TV signal.

HD started with two man formats; 720P and 1080i.  These have 720 and 1080 horizontal rows of pixels respectively.  The p stands for progressive scan while the i stands for interlaced.  In progressive scan, each row is redrawn for every frame of the video.  For interlaced signals, every other line is redrawn with each frame.  720p is clearer for fast moving videos like sports due to the progressive scan while 1080i is clearer for slower videos due to the higher resolution.  Both standards were used and most early HDTVs would support either signal.  This was a big step forward and people began to buy into the HD craze.

Today, just about every TV sold is 1080p.  This combines the high resolution of 1080i with the motion clarity of a progressive scan signal.  There is more that goes into the newer television's improved clarity, but when it gets down to it, the resolution is the same across the board.  But what about your signal?  If you have an HD TV and you haven't ordered HD service from your television provider, your picture probably looks worse than before because it is large and stretched out.  Even if you have HD service, most of the broadcasts are still in 720p and 1080i.  This means that the true clarity of your fancy new TV  is probably not seen.

But there is still 1080p HD right?  Services such as Dish Network Turbo HD and even YouTube offer 1080p service.  The truth is, they compress the video more so that the resolution is higher but the quality of the video itself is lower.  This allows them to send you video in 1080p, but in reality, it is not any better than 1080i or 720p.  In fact, many argue that technologies in newer TVs can convert 1080i signals to 1080p almost perfectly, so introducing compression to the video will only make things worse.

Now to why I like Blu-ray.  As you can probably guess, Blu-ray disks contain videos in 1080p with very low levels of compression.  There is nothing that will look better on your TV than a Blu-ray movie.  If you remember seeing an HDTV for the first time, seeing a Blue-ray video on a modern TV is like seeing it for the first time all over again.  Now that you can get a Blu-ray player for under $100 and new releases as low as $15, the time to switch to Blu-ray has never been better.  Keep in mind, Blu-ray players can still play your old DVDs, so there is no downside to switching over.  Netflix will also send all your movies as Blu-ray disks for just a dollar or two more a month.  If you enjoy watching movies and you haven't gotten Blu-ray yet, what are you waiting for?  Go.  Now.

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