I’ve not been disappointed by the sound of the iTunes music I’ve bought – I don’t care what people say about the low bit-rate. To me (and my untrained ears), it is just fine. The same goes for Apple TV content. I was not disappointed by the previous quality of the TV shows and movies […]
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Blu-Ray’s Win Too Late?

Blu-Ray's win too late?I’ve not been disappointed by the sound of the iTunes music I’ve bought – I don’t care what people say about the low bit-rate. To me (and my untrained ears), it is just fine.

The same goes for Apple TV content. I was not disappointed by the previous quality of the TV shows and movies and I think the new HD rentals look great.

Again, using pure bit-rate numbers, the quality of downloaded Apple content is rubbish when compared to standard DVD, yet alone HD DVD (RIP, by the way) and Blu-ray.

From George Ou’s blog:

“Standard definition 480i DVD movies are typically 5 to 8 mbps (megabits per second) MPEG-2 whereas these so-called HD wannabes weigh in at a pathetic 1.5 to 4 mbps of 720p H.264. Apple’s new HD service is capable of 4 mbps which simply isn’t enough to be considered HD. XBOX360 downloads are 6.8 mbps 720p VC-1 so they’re semi-decent borderline HD. Marketing will push the nicer sounding “720p” aspect of the video but they don’t tell you it’s way too compressed to offer good video fidelity. Blu-ray has a maximum bit-rate of 40 mbps while HD DVD offers a maximum of 28 mbps. Over the air broadcasts can be up to 19.38 mbps.

Modern video compression codecs like H.264 or VC-1 can hide these compression artifact problems much better than MPEG-2 video compression but there’s only so much it can do. At best you might get away 50% more compression over older compression technology but 1.5 to 4 mbps H.264 will not be better than 8 mbps MPEG-2 under most video complexity requirements. The only time 4 mbps 720p will look better than 8 mbps 480i is when the video on the screen is almost entirely stationary or it’s a low-complexity video such as animation movies. Under most normal circumstances, the low bit-rate 720p so-called “HD” video will be inferior though many companies are betting that consumers won’t know any better.”

In pure numbers, George may well be right, but it is subjectivity that matters when it comes to whether someone will purchase downloaded content. If they like the quality and the price, they will spend their money.

Yes, if I could afford it, I’d get a Blu-ray disc, PS3 and 1080p TV but I cannot afford thousands of pounds for what I consider only a marginal improvement over what I am seeing with current upscaled DVDs and electronic downloads.

There was a great difference in the move from VHS to DVD but the high definition DVD industry has a problem: people like me are not adopting Blu-ray because we cannot see the worthwhile benefit of buying new equipment and replacing all our perfectly good DVDs.

So, are you happy with your DVD and downloaded video content or have you bought Blu-ray and love it?

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