View Full Version : Early adopters get screwed by the new HD DVD standards

02-28-2006, 02:30 PM
I'm surprised that this hasn't made a bigger splash than it has. If you have an HDTV don't expect to get the full effect from the newest HD DVD standards. You won't be able to watch them on your computers either (using current hardware).

"What does that mean to you? If you purchased an HDTV more than a couple of years ago, chances are you are using Component Video (the red, green, and blue plugs) to connect HD sources to your TV. Component Video is an analog transmission, which means that it can't work with the absurdly stringent AACS copy-protection Hollywood has insisted be integrated into the new formats. Thus, no HDMI input on your TV, no hi-def DVD for you. If you don't have a compatible TV, you'll either receive a massively downgraded sub-720p resolution version of the content, or what the studios are suggesting, a warning screen followed by nothing." ore

Another article here gives more details:

I think the movie industry is shooting itself in the foot with this one. The very people who were early adopters of HD equipment are the best buyers of DVDs and associated hardware.

03-18-2006, 08:18 AM
A few thoughts...

Historically, early adopters are the ones most likely to get shafted. Early adopters embraced LaserDisc about a decade ago, only to see them washed off the planet by DVD's (which wasn't entirely a bad thing). Early adopters liked Beta over VHS.

The one thing, however, that may bite them is the approaching magic point at which technology will outstrip the consumer's interest and/or ability to purchase replacement equipment and media. DVD enabled a fundamental culture change from VHS, but it took six or seven *years* to accomplish it - and you can still get VHS videos from most rental stores.

DVD was a successful transition because of the new form-factor, cheap players, and ubiquitous content. Transitioning that into manufacturing demand for a "better DVD" format is a much tougher sell, IMHO.

Hollywood's imposition of copy protection paranoia into everything is ruining the industry for those of us who have no interest in pirating movies.

That said, peculiar to HDTV and digital sources in particular, I think it was inevitable that some sort of standard would emerge for digital media connections. It seemed to me that DVI would be that connector, but apparently it being challenged by HDMI. The point there is that the assumption of component video connections as a standard source of input between digital sources and digital display devices was probably a bit on the risky side; it almost certainly was not going to endure in that arena as technologies emerged...


03-18-2006, 09:30 AM
Hollywood is silly. The problem here (according to them) is that current DVD's in their current format can be easily converted to an "analog out." What's really silly is that someone will release a backup system quite shortly and as soon as computers get HD-DVD drives, game over.

03-18-2006, 10:00 AM
Having once paid $110 for a pocket calculator which had fewer functions than the sort they hand out as party favors these days, I rush into no technology.

Besides, Beta was better.

03-18-2006, 12:22 PM
Besides, Beta was better.

Always heard that, but no one could ever tell me why.

I do remember a Consumer Reports double-blind test on that very question many years ago; wish I could remember the particulars (might actually have the issue here somewhere as a former subscriber), but they essentially gathered several people as an audience, and had them watch the same source video - one group watched VHS, the other, Beta. They then asked each group the same set of questions regarding picture quality, clarity, color, etc. I'm not even sure either group was told they were watching VHS or Beta.

Result? No statistical difference in perception of video quality in favor of either format.


03-18-2006, 04:19 PM
Beta, until the recent emergence of digital technologies has been the mainstay of the broadcast industry. It does have superior quality as far as video, copies generally lose less quality generation after generation, and signal strength is better.

To a large extent, many broadcast stations still rely completely on Beta. SVHS was out there for awhile (it's different (better) than VHS), but it hasn't been in the mainstream for quite some time. The difference between VHS and SVHS is the density of the tape itself allowing for a stronger "Y" signal (that being luminance or brightness, a picture signal is made up of the "C" and "Y" signals, chromanance and luminance). A VHS signal typically has a resolution of about 220 lines, SVHS is about 400 lines.

Here's an excerpt from a website with an essay on the differences of different formats:

Betacam is a high quality professional video format based apon the component video standard. Betacam is a portable, professional camera/recorder format developed by Sony. Betacam format is a defacto broadcast video format world-wide. Betacam format records all three signal components (Y,U,V) independently so that there is minimal signal loss during the record/playback process. It is able to do this by using a process known as Compressed Time Division Multiplex.The signal carrying the colour information, U and V, is time compressed and recorded on to one video track while the luminance, or Y, signal is recorded onto a second track. The use of two separate tracks eliminates the cross colour and cross luminance effects inherent in composite recording. Both tracks are recorded using high frequency FM (frequency modulated) carriers.Both oxide Betacam and Betacam SP produce image quality superior to S-VHS and Hi8 formats, primarily because of Betacam's separate recording tracks for luminance (Y) and chroma (Cr and Cb), rather than the color-under modulation method of S-VHS and Hi8. Betacam SP is a superior performance version of Betacam. Betacam SP uses metal particle tape and a wider bandwidth recording system(which gives better picture quality).The majority of broadcast electronic news gathering (ENG) operations currently use Betacam SP camcorders and VTRs. Virtually all broadcast stations require (or at least strongly prefer) Betacam SP source footage. Nowadays this demand for for Betacam SP footage has changed somewhat to prefer the new digital vidoe formats (DV, DVCAM etc..).

And the website's link:

Having dealt with all of those formats (having worked on my college's broadcast news station as a reporter/anchor), I can tell you that there are significant differences between VHS, SVHS, Beta, and the new digital formats. Someone who has worked with them will be able to tell you the difference, the average Joe should be able to tell you that one is better than the other.

I'd like to see how Consumer Reports set up their "Double Blind" test. My guess is that their video equipment didn't have inputs to take advantage of S-Video, component video, etc. from the formats competing with VHS. Take it from me though, they're different :)

Bobby H
03-18-2006, 05:00 PM
Many home theater fans have been very angry about the HDCP copy protection issue regarding HD-DVD and Blu-Ray formats from the moment that initiative was announced.

Lately some movie studios have been voicing their concerns about it. I can't find the article that was posted a few days ago on the Tom's Hardware website. But the article said Fox and a couple other studios stated they want many of their Blu-Ray video releases to be able to work in HD across standard component video cables. They now believe Blu-Ray movie disc sales will not do well if the discs will only show HD-quality on newer HDTVs with HDMI connections. There is a lot more HDTV sets in the marketplace without HDMI or HDCP 5C compliant DVI connections.

There are other problems with the current crop of HDTV sets. I haven't jumped on board in getting a nice HDTV monitor because a number of issues that still exist.

Most HDTV monitors have native pixel displays well below the 1920 X 1080 level. Most run in the range of 1300 X 800 to 1280 X 720. Many run lower than that, such as 852 X 480 (an "EDTV" monitor). HDTVs with true, full resolution 1920 X 1080 displays (often called "1080P") only started appearing in the marketplace last year.

Even the new full resolution "1080P" monitors have limitations. Nearly all have no ability to receive a 1080p signal. They only accept interlaced 1080i signals at that resolution. The problem is HD-DVD and Blu-Ray can support 1080p video. Playstation 3 will also function in 1080p.

Some HDTV sets have been adding computer monitor connections. But the lack of 1080p support limits these monitors to showing computer desktops at low resolutions, not the full 1920 X 1080 level. I was looking at a really nice 60" Sony SXRD HDTV. But I was turned off to its limits of accepting a computer input at only 1280 X 1024 resolution.

Some are hopeful new HDTV models due around Summer will add full 1080p signal support for external devices like PS3 consoles and next gen HD movie disc players. Hopefully those models will add full 1920 X 1080 desktop support when doubling as a computer monitor. I'm going to keep my regular TV and satellite dish until those problems with HDTV are solved.

03-18-2006, 05:22 PM
I'd like to see how Consumer Reports set up their "Double Blind" test. My guess is that their video equipment didn't have inputs to take advantage of S-Video, component video, etc. from the formats competing with VHS.

Remember that this test was done a decade or more ago - perhaps a lot more. Don't know how they were hooked up. At the time they did these kinds of tests, however, CR was good about creating valid, proper tests. I just found the ol' format wars interesting, and the only thing close to a study on the real, visible difference indicated there really wasn't any, despite technical arguments to the contrary.

Oh, well, merely an historical amusement.... :)


03-18-2006, 05:35 PM
SD -- I've worked with those formats and the newer digital formats in a broadcasting setting (all but Beta, but at the time I was working there, the local broadcasting stations were [and still may be] using Beta]). Take it from me, the differences are significant.

03-18-2006, 05:37 PM
I'm going to keep my regular TV and satellite dish until those problems with HDTV are solved.

Then I suspect you might never get one :) . I see no market or technical strategy on the horizon to unify these close-but-no-cigar video standards, and as a result it would seem there were be a perpetual, incremental race to the next marginally better combination of aspect ratio and input format. If everyone waits until its settled, no one will get anything. And that's a risk the retailers had better be *very* worried about - just as you indicate, you'll just pass on *any* of it.

I think the basics of this problem came from the notion that HDTV was developed as a conventional television replacement, when in reality it became just another source for digital media along with DVD players, satellite tuners, computers, you name it. The devices were designed and constructed independently, but now the market is shaking out the reality that HDTV sets really aren't "TV sets" per se, but "display monitors" than happen to handle 1080i. Now, devices are coming out with more resolution, and it makes the existing HD sets seem shortsighted. The movie studios have complicated the situation with this copy if crippling the average home user's equipment is going to stop the professional movie pirates they're so worried about...


03-18-2006, 08:55 PM
The last time I was on television (and I truly hope it is the last time), I talked Betacams with the cameraman, because that's what he brought.

By the time the Format Wars were in full swing, Beta machines had two speeds (BII and BIII; the original BI speed, while really high-quality, used lots of tape) and VHS machines three (though JVC usually omitted the middle speed). With standard tapes (Beta L-750, VHS T-120), VHS could squeeze six hours of programming on one tape at the slowest speed, while Beta could manage only 4.5. However, if you recorded at the high speed for your library, Beta gave you three, VHS only two.

The other advantage was more subtle. The very first frame in a Beta recording is a colorburst; the playback machine reads this and calibrates accordingly. (Sony, I believe, shot itself in the foot at the introduction of Beta Hi-Fi stereo, claiming that it was beyond the physical capacity of VHS to match; it took some fiddling by JVC, but VHS sound caught up quickly enough.)

Bobby H
03-18-2006, 09:10 PM
Much of the movie industry refuses to admit the primary time when movie piracy happens is when the movie is first released into movie theaters. The biggest source of pirated movies are screener discs given to film critics and other industry insiders. Pirates have a variety of other methods to make DVDs. Some methods are professional and others (like smuggling camcorders into theaters) are pretty low tech.

Once the movie hits home video the demand for pirated DVDs drops down next to nothing. Even though it is feasible to copy DVDs (especially with new dual layer DVD burners) most people don't feel like going to the trouble of copying a disc or downloading several gigabytes of data off the Internet to make one.

Frankly, I think all the copy-protection and player authentication circuitry being built into new HD-DVD and Blu-Ray players ultimately has a more sinister purpose: sneaking the "pay per view" DVD back into reality. Customers hated the idea of DiVX. But these new players could force the issue back into the marketplace again. Some of the executives at movie studios love the idea of making people pay every time they watch a movie, even if that movie is already sitting on a shelf in the viewer's living room. This is why they want these players to require Internet connections. It's all to get more $$$ out of your wallet.