maybe I should just clean my glasses
September 23, 2008 10:58 AM   Subscribe

37" widescreen LCDTV viewed from 12' away, do my eyes have the resolving power to justify getting a Blu-ray instead of upscaling DVD player?

I realize the best way to the answer this question is to go into Best-Buy and see their demos or something, but it's hard to find demos setup exactly the way I need to make an accurate, objective comparison. Everything seems to be setup to sell me the most expensive thing.

Hopefully someone with knowledge of the anatomy of the eye can provide advice based on "first-principles".
posted by randomstriker to Technology (25 answers total)
1080p or 720p?
posted by smackfu at 11:06 AM on September 23, 2008

Best answer: According to this chart it doesn't look like it's worth it.
posted by sanko at 11:08 AM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've never found the in-store setups to mean too much either, with the way they distribute the video source (especially in the pre-HDMI days) theres degradation galore, and it's just hard to make any quality judgements when you're looking at 42 slightly out-of-register iterations of the same thing.

I'd say whether to blu ray or not sort of depends more on what you want to watch rather than your 'eye resolve.' If you're like 90% recent blockbusters, and have netflix (cheap supply of new titles) it's probably worth it. If, like me, you watch alot of stuff that is just now making it to DVD- not so much. I don't see blu ray dominating the consumer market, but rather filling a niche like laser disc did.
posted by tremspeed at 11:15 AM on September 23, 2008

Data point: My roommate is an heroic av-phile. He installs crazy expensive home theatre systems for the rich and famous. Of the latest upscaling DVD players, he tells me he at his last home theatre convention he mistook them for Blu-Ray in a side-by-side comparison.
posted by mullingitover at 11:24 AM on September 23, 2008

Honestly, there's no reason to get a Bluray player unless you already wanted to get yourself a PS3.
Picture-quality-wise, I've found upscaled DVDs to look really sweet on my own 37" 1080p TV.

There are other factors to Bluray, like more-integrated special features, and the fact that many movies "just start playing" instead of forcing you into an opening menu, stuff like that.. if you care about that sort of thing, that's where Bluray's strengths are, in my opinion.
But that's beyond the question, maybe?
posted by jozxyqk at 11:41 AM on September 23, 2008

I've got a 42 inch plasma at 8 feet away with blu-ray and I don't think it's quite worth it. That being said, blu-ray players have dipped below $200 at their cheapest, which isn't much different from the good upscaling DVD players.

At 37 inches, 720p and 1080p shouldn't make a difference either.
posted by incessant at 11:41 AM on September 23, 2008

Response by poster: From the article associated with sanko's link:

What the chart shows is that, for a 50-inch screen, the benefits of 720p vs. 480p start to become apparent at viewing distances closer than 14.6 feet and become fully apparent at 9.8 feet. For the same screen size, the benefits of 1080p vs. 720p start to become apparent when closer than 9.8 feet and become full [sic] apparent at 6.5 feet.

Geez. Momma always said...sitting close that close to the TV will wreck your eyes.
posted by randomstriker at 11:43 AM on September 23, 2008

I wonder how much it matters if the DVDs aren't anamorphic widescreen... Like 480p isn't really 480p if 1/4 of the screen is black bars that you aren't displaying on a 16:9 screen so you really only see 360p.

Or is that not an issue anymore?
posted by smackfu at 11:55 AM on September 23, 2008

I think you will perceive a difference in image quality (sharpness and color specifically). Will that quality difference help you enjoy the movie more? That depends on you. For me, it doesn't make any difference. I enjoy movies for their story content, not so much their visual spectacle.

Let me ask you this: do you enjoy movies more if they are in 5.1 surround sound as oppose to stereo?
posted by nickerbocker at 12:04 PM on September 23, 2008

Easiest thing to do is to buy both an upscaling DVD player and a Blu-Ray player from somewhere with a friendly return policy (e.g. Costco). Take them both home, rent the Blu-Ray version of some DVD you own and see how they compare. Have some family/friends that don't know which is which look at them both. Then take whatever one you like less back.
posted by Nelsormensch at 12:27 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

The chart is a horrible over-simplification, and I think you're interpreting it wrong for this question. The question is about DVD vs. Blu-Ray. According to the chart, at 37" and 12' the OP is pushing the limits of 480p -- and a DVD is a highly-compressed format designed for traditional televisions. The OP's setup could easily expose the limits of DVD content. A good upscaling DVD player might be able to cover that up. Hard to say. Blu-Ray would obviously look fine. Devil's in the details of your particular setup, your eyes, the content itself, the quality of the compression, blah, blah, blah.
posted by madmethods at 12:29 PM on September 23, 2008

Response by poster: Nelsormensch, I am looking for reasons put my mind at ease with not splurging for the "best" player. Given my habits, if I buy the Blu-Ray player even just to "test" it, I'll be very tempted to keep it! Plus, the "easiest" thing is just to AskMeFi :-)

Thanks all, I am just gonna stick with the upscaling DVD player.
posted by randomstriker at 12:33 PM on September 23, 2008

I can absolutely see the difference. But I'm a bit of a freak, and deal with home theater digital displays as part of my job. My fiance would never notice a difference. In fact, I think that many people won't see a difference unless it's pointed out.

However, great Blu-Ray is damn near the best justification for a PS3. After all, Criterion uses a PS3 as their reference Blu-Ray player.

If you aren't in the market for a gaming console - wait until after Christmas. Blu-Ray players will drop further in price. Once good players land in the $100-$150 range, it's a no brainer.

Remember, a lot depends on your TV. Is it 720p or 1080p? Is it a good unit with quality screen, or is it an extremely affordable Joe Six-Pack model with a low contrast and dull colors? Have you tweaked the settings for your environment or are you using the factory defaults?
posted by terpia at 12:49 PM on September 23, 2008

I just went up to Blu-Ray on my 1080p 32" monitor, and I can definitely see the difference. Mind you, DVDs look better than they have any right to, but Blu-Ray is noticeably better, at least to me. Watching Dark City (one of my all-time favorites) the detail really stood out.

However, the Blu-Ray catalog is still the suckage right now; there are only a few movies I care about enough to purchase, and even for rentals, new crappy movies tend to predominate the pool.

If I hadn't done the upgrade to make my wife happy, and were instead using common sense, I'd have held out for a cheaper player in the near future (2.0 version minimum, as it is I have a 1.1 version that will get a firmware upgrade later in the year to 2.0) or gotten a PS3 and enjoyed it while I waited for the Blu-Ray catalog to grow.
posted by davejay at 12:50 PM on September 23, 2008

I have a very similar setup and noticed a difference. Doesnt seem worth the price/hassle though.

I wouldnt advise buying a player until they market actually goes for them. Its assumed that "any day now" they will cost 150 dollars and everyone will move to bluray. Its also just as likely, if not moreso, that bluray will be this generation's laserdisc (rare, expensive) because DVD is such a good format.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:32 PM on September 23, 2008

Ours is a smidge bigger -- 42" -- but I can absolutely see the difference between SD and HD programs from the cable box, and between dvds and blurays pumped out of the PS3. The difference isn't something you have to look for; it slaps you in the face.

And it's not something that you end up staring at tiny details, either. That is, it's not that you won't care about HD unless you want to count the buttons on the jacket of the guy in the background. It's more like... imagine your tv was really filthy, with a gauzy film of scunge over the screen, and you blinked and suddenly it was clean again and POW! everything has textures and POW! everything looks natural.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:34 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

I bought a PS3 when I bought my HDTV. While people mention that it plays BluRay, nobody has mentioned that it upsamples DVDs as well. And it does it extremely well, in my opinion.

Just buy a PS3, and you've got everything covered.
posted by Netzapper at 1:38 PM on September 23, 2008

I have the exact same experience as ROU Xenophobe. With bluray, I can't detect any loss of resolution no matter how close I get. Seriously. Nose against the screen.
posted by grateful at 2:04 PM on September 23, 2008

Response by poster: Okay, the latest flurry of responses is starting to change my mind...which does not bode well for my wallet.

Again, emphasizing that I AM SITTING 12 FEET AWAY from my 37-inch screen, you think I will notice a big difference between upscaled DVD and Blu-Ray?
posted by randomstriker at 2:38 PM on September 23, 2008

You keep emphasizing that. I think, intending no snark, that you are looking for confirmation of a decision you've already made. Given that:

An upscaling dvd player costs $70 (for a Philips that does xvid too). A PS3, the BD player worth getting, costs $400.

DVDs will look fine on your tv. Whether you want an upscaling player depends on how good the scaler in your tv is -- it's entirely possible that you will receive no benefit at all from an upscaling player relative to a $30 player pumping out 480p over component or whatever's hooked up to it now. Yes, I think you'd see a difference from bluray. But it won't be a difference between good and bad, it will be a difference between quite nice and very nice indeed.

For me, the decision was a no-brainer -- $400 for a BD player, and game machine, and media streamer, and I knew that I wanted hi-def from the first time I saw it. I think it's equally a no-brainer for you in the other way. It's not like you can't pick up a PS3 if you want to and put the dvd deck in the bedroom, or use it for region-2 dvds, or just give it to someone.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:23 PM on September 23, 2008

I think there's a bit of confusion within the comments here.
randomstriker isn't asking about watching raw 480p DVDs; he's talking about watching them through an upscaling player. Of course if the signal is going through directly as 480p, you'll see a difference. But it isn't.

DVD upscaling algorithms are pretty solid. You really won't be able to tell.
posted by jozxyqk at 3:26 AM on September 24, 2008

Sure you will. The difference between dvds scaled up to 1080p and bds on my ps3 is night and day. Or, in terms of my last comment, day and really bright sunshiney day.

I don't get your comment. Randomstriker is physically incapable of watching raw 480p. On a current lcd, there is no content that's not upscaled. Your only choice is whether the player upscaled or the tv upscales. And it's still the same information, just scaled up.

This reminds me of a suggestion I saw elsewhere:

If your TV will show you pictures from a flash drive, get any of the various comparison pictures -- here's one from one of the Johnny Depp pirate movies, but it's a png -- and look at it for yourself.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:22 AM on September 24, 2008

ROU - I have a 37" TV capable of 1080p. (Sharp Aquos LC-37GP1U)

I can't say I've watched the exact same DVD vs Bluray movie, but I've watched upscaled DVDs and they've looked awesome enough that I don't need it to be higher resolution.
Sure, there's not as much data, so it won't be as crisp; not arguing that. It's just that it probably isn't different enough to be worth it, if you just want to watch a movie and have it look nice on your TV.
Going on a still-frame PNG isn't exactly fair to the question, the way I understand it. When things are moving around, you really won't care about how many pimples you can see on Johnny Depp's face, as long as the picture isn't literally blurry. This may be delving into personal taste...

On the other point, I might be using improper terminology.
What I mean is that when an unaltered 480p signal comes in to my TV -- and it may be different for other TV models -- it doesn't seem to do any special "smoothing" on the TV side. You can see the jaggedness of it.
For example, I've seen the difference between a PS3 game running at 480p vs. the same game at 720p on the TV, and can definitely tell.
And Wii games definitely look "jaggy" to some extent too.

I don't mean to go off on a huge tangent, so MeMail me if you want to continue this discussion :)
posted by jozxyqk at 10:15 AM on September 24, 2008

Yep, that just means the scaler on your TV is of lesser quality than the scaler on your DVD player. Thats actually pretty common, but supposedly newer HDTVs have improved scalers, so a lot of people wont ever need to buy an upconverting DVD player. They can just use their old DVD player with the 480p component connector. That's how I view DVDs and they still look amazing.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:23 AM on September 24, 2008

I can't say I've watched the exact same DVD vs Bluray movie, but I've watched upscaled DVDs and they've looked awesome enough that I don't need it to be higher resolution.

I agree. Standard DVDs look good on lcds, and many people would not require anything more than that.

But blu-ray is still night and day better.

It's just that it probably isn't different enough to be worth it, if you just want to watch a movie and have it look nice on your TV.

That's a preferences thing.

Going on a still-frame PNG isn't exactly fair to the question, the way I understand it. When things are moving around, you really won't care about how many pimples you can see on Johnny Depp's face, as long as the picture isn't literally blurry.

It's not about counting pimples like a dork, or freeze-framing to say HEY LOOK I CAN SEE SPINACH IN HIS TEETH!

For me, the biggest thing is honestly that blurays or hidef in general is just easier to watch. Everything's sharp and in focus and not blurred out, except when it's supposed to be, so my eyes don't strain to focus on things that can't really be focused on. The second thing is that textures are back -- you go see a movie in the theater, and clothes have textures and walls have textures and bricks do and hair does, but you come home and watch the dvd and it's all washed away in the compression. Not with hidef. Or, put differently, watching something in hidef is just more transparent than watching something squeezed to 480p and back up.

And, frankly, I think that many people would look at that comparison and not think the boost was worth getting. For me it's a big, gross difference, not something subtle at all, but I posted that expecting that randomstriker probably wouldn't care about it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:09 PM on September 24, 2008

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