DVD vs Blu-Ray picture quality

I never quite believed I’d see much of the difference between DVD and Blu-Ray on an 80cm (32 inch) TV. But with brand-name Blu-Ray players now below $100, and releases such as the complete set of Star Wars movies out on Blu-Ray, this past Christmas seemed like the right time to jump in and try it.

One of the presents I got was the Blu-Ray of Tron: Legacy, which also included the original Tron movie. Since I already had the DVD of the former, I’m able to compare the DVD against the Blu-Ray versions.

The scene from Flynn’s arcade had a lot more detail on the Blu-Ray, but you can’t really see it in a photo, so I won’t post it here. Jeremy and I looked carefully at this scene and were able to identify the names on some of the machines, for instance, which is impossible using the DVD.

More stark is the difference in this shot from the lightcycles scene, first on DVD:
Tron: Lightcycles on DVD
(See it bigger)

…and on Blu-Ray:
Tron: Lightcycles on Blu-Ray
(See it bigger)

There’s a lot more contrast in this scene on the Blu-Ray version. I think it’s not just a format question, it’s also that they’ve taken a lot more care in remastering the video. But the resolution being better also undoubtedly helps, and this is particularly noticeable (on the TV, perhaps not in the photos) with the grid lines.

Things to keep in mind:

  • The DVD was from before the sequel movie was made, and it’s entirely possible that not a great deal of care was taken in the mastering. In comparison it appears they took a lot of care on the Blu-Ray version. It’s entirely possible that the current edition DVD is better.
  • These comparisons were snapped off my TV with a camera, with the blinds drawn to reduce light. The snapshots were not taken under ideal conditions. (I don’t currently have any Blu-Ray drives in a computer, so I’m unable to grab a Blu-Ray image directly.) As noted above, it’s difficult to convey the difference seen on the TV in a photo.
  • I’ve used the freeze frame, which may impact the picture.

There’s no denying the higher quality of Blu-Ray, even on an 80cm screen.

Question is, which movies or TV would I consider worthy of upgrade, and at what cost? I can’t see myself shelling how lots of money for discs of movies I already own. But for future purchases, I’d certainly lean towards the newer format if the price is not prohibitive.

(I did find The Life Of Brian on Blu-Ray, with lots of extras, for $8 yesterday at K-Mart.)

Pondering 5.1 surround-sound systems

I was looking at what DVD/Blu-Ray 5.1 systems I can get on my credit card points (because this is not something I want to or can afford to spend Real Money on).

Some options include (eg the highest-specced ones I have enough points for):

Samsung HTD5300 5.1CH 3D Blu-Ray Home Theatre System — which gives the impression of looking ugly and perhaps being under-powered, with piddly little speakers, though it does claim to be 1000W. Has an iPod dock. FM-only tuner; I like to listen to AM, but that’s not fatal, as I can use another radio or listen online.

LG HB806TGW 5.1ch 3D Blu-Ray Home Theatre System — 850W. Aesthetically pleasing. Only has FM tuning. Seems to be able to playback off USB. No mention of an iPod dock.

Panasonic Home Theatre System SC-BTT370GNK — Aesthetically pleasing. Appears to only have FM. Includes iPod dock.

I’m pondering three questions:

1. (Most importantly) which might give the best sound? They seem to retail in the $400-700 range, so I know they’re not going to be as high fidelity as $1000+ systems, but that would be out of my budget. Of course it’s become impossible to search the web for reviews of consumer electronics, because Google tells you about eleventy billion web sites which claim to have reviews, but in fact merely announce when you visit that you can “Be the first to review this product!”

All things being equal, I’d probably lean towards the Panasonic.

2. CEC appears to be a technology that allows devices to control one another via HDMI cables. If my Samsung TV has AnyNet(which is their version of CEC), would a Panasonic Blu-Ray receiver with VieraLink (which is their version) or an LG with SimpLink be able to control it?

3. Hmm, I wonder if the two with iPod docks are compatible with my (relatively ancient) fourth-generation iPod, which I got in 2005 and is still going strong? (Panasonic lets you download manuals, but that part of their web site appears not to be working.)

Anybody got any advice for me?