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Do DVDs 'upscaled' on Blu Ray players actually look worse?!

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Initial post: 28 Oct 2010 10:38:49 BDT
The Truth says:
Following on from the thread asking 'are blu-ray movies worth the extra money', I got to thinking...
I think a much more interesting question is - does DVD upscaling on these machines actually make the image worse than if it was just played on a DVD.
I'm happy with my Blu-Ray image, but when I watch my old DVDs I think they look terrible. For instance, at the moment I revisiting the 'Lost' box sets, and they just look terrible. Almost like there's some sort of fuzzy interference, as if I can actually see the missing hi-def data being 'filled in' in real time with my own eyes! Also, I find car headlights look all blocky, and pixelated in other things... but maybe that's just because I've got used to Blu Ray. What do you think?

Posted on 1 Nov 2010 10:49:41 GMT
Christopher says:
It depends on your settings try turning DNR off and edge enhancement and lower the sharpness. Some DVD's look great some look utter crap. They should have run this as a slogan 'buy a HD television and make your entire DVD collection look like VHS'. Bad news about Lost I just bought the complete DVD set from HMV for £69 as a Christmas present for my sister, I hope we have a better experience than you did. It does seem to be hit and miss though Doctor Who Series One looks great as does Supernatural, Curb Your Enthusiasm and 30 Rock. I really don't want to 'double dip' my collection. I haven't been brave enough to try Star Wars yet but Indiana Jones looked pretty rough.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Nov 2010 12:09:45 GMT
The Truth says:
That's a pretty good deal - the complete boxset for £69... no matter how poor the quality that's still pretty good.
What's even more weird though, is some of it's OK - like close ups of faces etc. look almost hi-def, but then wave on the beach and background foliage look all blocky. It's like the back ground is full of digital blockage but the front end is crisp and clear.

Might just be my player though. I'm sure your sister will love her crimbo pressy.

Posted on 3 Nov 2010 20:17:03 GMT
Last edited by the author on 3 Nov 2010 20:24:07 GMT
Look worse? Not at all...don't know how anyone could come to this conclusion either. Maybe it is settings/player dependant, but my PS3 does a great job at upscaling SD...from games, to Freeview TV (Play TV) to DVD's. The effect gets less and less the bigger your screen is, but they still look better. Try plugging in a standard DVD player (none upscaling) via SCART, S-Video or a DVD on your big HD screen, then play the same DVD on a decent HDMI upscaling DVD player or a Blu-Ray player on the same'll wonder how this question ever even sprung to mind.

Of course they'll never rival BD's, but a decent scaler will do an impressive job of guessing the extra lines of resolution and displaying the image accordingly. So much so that I strictly limit my BD purchases to new titles and only my absolute favourite older movies and TV...for the rest I simply upscale my old DVD's.

In the case of upscaling DVD players, some people used to say that sometimes the scaler in these is less capable than the scaler in your TV, so they advised setting the player's resolution to 576i/p...this way the player's scaler is by-passed and your TV scales it to its native resolution (768p/1080p depending on your set). So try setting the BD player to 576p...perhaps your TV will handle the scaling better (particularly if you have a mid-high end TV and only a low-mid end BD player, as the scaler will definitely be more capable in your TV)

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Nov 2010 22:25:20 GMT
Christopher says:
I have to disagree, a lot of things do look worse, it's the upscaling that's the problem and it will get worse and worse the bigger your telly is and the higher it's resolution. You do get used to it though but some things like Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark just looked awful (I will try and watch it again). I agree playing around with the settings does help. If HD Tv's had the ability to have variable resolutions (like some pc monitors)then you could have a true 1:1 display of pixels which gives you such a great picture on our 720p and 1080p TV's when watching blu-rays or HDTV. I've spoken to a few tech people about this and one of them went as far as saying "the only reason hd was invented was because sd looks so bad on high resolution screens", I don't agree with this but it's a fun discussion point.

You've giving us some good advice and I'd advise everyone to fiddle with their settings and try different input methods (HDMI, component etc) before binning our beloved DVD collection and double dipping with blu-ray.

Posted on 4 Nov 2010 22:42:28 GMT
Last edited by the author on 22 Feb 2012 03:25:35 GMT
Look worse than what though? Blu-Ray? Of course they do...but if you're saying they look worse than the same DVD being played on a non-upscaling player plugged into the same HDTV...something is very wrong with your (and the OP's) set-up.

The Indiana DVD box set was a well known bad print, totally stuffed to the gills with extras and, therefore, a low bit-rate on the main movies. Offering a particularly poor example DVD is not an effective argument against upscaling. Try one of the Star Wars DVD's...or any number of other good examples.

Yes the industry was guilty of overselling with lines such as "rivals Blu-Ray"...we all know that was tosh, but that is not what I'm arguing for. But while it doesn't rival true HD, upscaling DVD and other SD sources on the right equipment is a stunning improvement. My PS3 does a stand-up job, but my Oppo does it even better...I'm talking marked, vast, noticeable improvements...not placebo. We've done side-by side comparisons and the full would have to be blind not to see it in these cases.

Posted on 5 Nov 2010 13:06:33 GMT
Christopher says:
Looking back at the original post it seems I've slighty mis-understood the original argument. I was talking along the lines that DVD's look better on a SDTV than HDTV which is after all what they're designed for. Your point about upscaling is completely valid but it will as you point out show deficiency's in the DVD transfer. I will try Star Wars I haven't had the nerve yet after Indiana Jones (my disc is a bare bones version with an extras on the fourth disc if you have the newer version I'd imagine the picture is even worse due to the lower bit-rate). But I will endeavour.

All the best.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Nov 2010 13:18:43 GMT
You'd be surprised...upscaled on decent equipment, SD can look better on HDTV's than SD on SDTV. Much of ITVHD's broadcast output is professionally upscaled SD content (much to the consternation of HD telly fans comparing it to their true HD content or BBCHD, but it's still impressive over both SD on SDTV and non upscaled SD on HDTV). I think you've just encountered some poor examples that have left a bad taste, which is fair enough. Some DVD's are very poor transfers - and, as they say, you can't polish a turd. :)


Posted on 7 Nov 2010 01:33:24 GMT
C. Gould says:
To be fair the Indy DVDs were actually pretty good at the time they were released (you're talking seven years ago). I don't recall them being well-known duds at all. They got fairly even praise from most websites. They were feature-only discs with the extras on a fourth disc, like the Star Wars set. Lowry didn't do as much work on them, but I don't think they were in as bad shape anyway. I have Temple of Doom in HD though and it does look much better than the DVD. Also got all six Star Wars films in 1080p and they are improved, if still flawed because they're based on the 2004 versions (which as we all know had 'issues').

I can always spot upscaled material and up until I got rid of my last SD TV I always used to watch DVDs on that as it gave a superior image. Now I have to use one of the HDTVs, which do a reasonable job of interpolation. I use an Oppo DVD player for DVDs downstairs, but TBH I rarely watch DVD now as I am an HD whore. There's less of a difference with broadcast material, largely because a lot of HD channels actually show more SD content than true HD material, and partly because the low bitrates and old HD masters can't compete with new BDs.

Posted on 9 Nov 2010 08:48:54 GMT
Last edited by the author on 9 Nov 2010 08:58:52 GMT
I'm yet to get a blu ray player but just wanted to say that my dvd's look fantastic played on a cheap toshiba dvd player conected via composit into my full hdtv (samsung 32) is the tv doing the work?, I know some dvd's are produced to a higher quality than others, for example I was extremly impressed with watching Hellboy 2 recently, it pretty muched looked like HD from a dvd, I should ad though badly produced dvd's get shown up on this display

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Nov 2010 09:38:01 GMT
Last edited by the author on 9 Nov 2010 19:33:55 GMT
Well technically yes, But it's not under the right circumstances for the best picture. See, anything fed to a HDTV is being upscaled to its native resolution by the TV yes...otherwise you'd be watching a small 576x720 (PAL DVD resolution) sized box in the middle of the screen....but as you're feeding it only composite, it doesn't have a lot to work with. Feeding a HDTV a DVD signal from either COMPONENT or HDMI, and setting the player to output in normal 576i (or p) will really show you how good your TV can scale, as it is receiving a much better signal. The difference will be night and day to you. It won't cost you much for a new DVD player with me, the outlay will be worth it.

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Nov 2010 09:48:05 GMT
Last edited by the author on 9 Nov 2010 10:07:16 GMT
Yeah C. Gould, at least one of the many Indy DVD releases had films and extras on the same discs (and lots of them, as well as loads of languages and subs) and low bitrates because of it, and seemingly little in the way of restoration, to me at least. This release was derided by many in customer reviews for this and didn't scale well at all. There have been more releases that have the films on a separate disc to the extras. There have been many different DVD releases for Indy, you must have copped one of the better ones obviously.

The only stuff I play through our last remaining SDTV is 700MB DivX files and well known poor DVD releases (and non-anamorphic DVD's) it doesn't show up the inadequacies, and a HDTV will make them look like someone smeared yesterday's breakfast on the screen. Good DVD's, high bitrate DivX and mkv files, and obviously all my HD content get played on one of my HDTV's via one of my several different players (including an Oppo) as they look infinitely better for it.

Our different experiences may be down to owning different sized TV's. A lot of the arguments for SD being better on SDTV I've heard, I've normally concluded they had an average size SDTV (so it would look better). Many of our newer HDTV's go much bigger than the CRT days...40" and over. As we have already concluded in this debate, screen size is huge mitigating factor in all of this. I have small rooms in my house...none of my TV's are over 37", so my upscaling experiences (and many others in forums I've read over the years) have been positive.

Posted on 9 Nov 2010 15:03:24 GMT
Christopher says:
On the Indiana Jones front the original film Raiders of the Lost Ark had an average birate of 8.28 mb/s when it was released originally versus 7.8 mb/s for the re-release so there isn't much of a difference but bear in mind that the DVD of Crystal Skull has a 7.17 mb/s average, which is a lot lower than both Raiders releases (this info is from and pertains to the US versions). Remember HD titles often have bitrates as high 40 mb/s which is five times a well mastered DVD's average.

It seems to me at least HD is for the young (or young at heart) a lot of older people either can't tell the difference or aren't interested in comparisons compared to guys and girls like us who can spot DNR and edge enhancment from twenty paces.

Posted on 9 Nov 2010 15:49:40 GMT
The set I have is five discs...the first three films are just one disc each, with extras and movies on the same disc....only the fourth film has two discs. It is in a gold coloured cardboard box and is one of the more recent sets. Not measured the bitrate, but I remember thinking it was poor and seeing several others say the same of the set in customer reviews.

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Nov 2010 18:37:05 GMT
What twaddle! I have two systems with bluray players running though the 42" Sony at 1080p and through a projector onto a 72" screen. The players are very good quality and upscale DVD's immaculately.If you cannot see an improvement by upscaling then I would suggest you have a weak link in your system. This could be an inferior or incompatible player, leads or screen. The technology wins.

Posted on 9 Nov 2010 19:27:24 GMT
I have to largely agree A. S. Pawsey, although I imagine the 72" won't show quite the same improvements as the 42", as the difference gets less with the increase in screen size, but upscaling when done correctly shows huge improvements...even when compared to SD on SDTV's...which, for crying out aloud, have visible pixels.

The only time I have bemoaned anything on a HDTV was before I had devices with HDMI or component, and was connecting DVD players or VHS machines via SCART or composite. I suppose that is why the effects of upconversion smacked me in the face when I discovered it for real. Also, many people don't apply much thought to it....some will send a 1080i signal to their 1080i capable 1366x768 set thinking that they will see 1080i, but they don't, and what transpires is two lots of conversion....the upconversion to 1080i, and then the de-interlacing and downcoversion to 768p. After two lots of scaling, they won't see great results. The least amount of processing the better...and it is all about trial and error as to finding which is the most capable scaler...the device you're playing from or the TV set itself. Quite often sending 576i/p to your set and letting the TV's scaler do one lot of processing UP to the set's native resolution gives best results...yet sometimes allowing the player to do the processing, leaving the least amount of secondary processing possible to the TV will give the better result. The differences can be vast. It's about letting *your* eyes be the judge and finding the best method for *your* set-up. And when you do find that perfect system for *you*, like you and I have done, you're left in no doubts at all as to the benefit of upconversion technology.

Posted on 12 Nov 2010 23:50:41 GMT
R. Foster says:
Personally, I find upscaling to be a bit of a mixed bag. My current Pioneer Blu-ray player is a great bit of kit...for Blu-ray playback, but upscaled DVD images look extremely soft. In view of this, I will only play DVDs on a Toshiba HD-XE1. HD DVD might have died a death but, as an upscaler, I've yet to see this player bettered by a Blu-ray player.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Nov 2010 15:04:09 GMT
Christopher says:
I think you're right my only problem with using component (although I imagine you use HDMI) against HDMI is that you can buy a very cheap HDMI cable and it will show no difference in the quality of picture and sound versus an expensive item. I have a Toshiba DVD player not HD like yours but I don't have component leads. Can any recommend a cheap component set of leads around £15? My local Maplin has them for that price but I'm not sure of their quality.

Also how do you find HD versus blu-ray? Do you still buy HDDVD's as there are some great bargins out there (HMV had some amazing deals on their site a few months back)? I haven't been overly impressed with disc navigation (rewinding and fastforwarding) it's incredibly choppy even at slow speeds on my Samsung player but it is a budget machine.

Posted on 13 Nov 2010 15:35:59 GMT
Last edited by the author on 13 Nov 2010 15:45:38 GMT
Yes, Christopher, Maplin is the place to go...but don't let them sell you the Monster Cable (expensive) one, they have another range....nice and thick, for around the price you say. Nikkai Interconnect I think the brand is.

I've got one of those very same Maplin component cables lying around unused in a draw somewhere that I used to use as my TV has only 2 HDMI inputs and I needed 3 (now have a 3-way HDMI switch). That is the only brand I ever use for everything other than HDMI (for the reasons you give about cheap HDMI being as good as expensive ones). I can testify to them being excellent quality - basically no different to the Monster brand other than in price and fancy looks. They're thick, dual or quad shielded, oxygen free copper, 18 or 22k gold plated and all that other malarkey that helps with analogue type cables. Picture was stunning when I used one, and easily as good as HDMI. The only issue with component is that you don't get automatic ratio switching as with HDMI and SCART...but most stuff is 16:9 these days anyway, so it is rare you have to change it...and on the rare occasions you do you simply use your TV's remote.

Never experienced HD-DVD myself...but it seemed to have a lot of fans and some still seem to think it should have won. No DRM for starters. I'm sure I heard someone else say that many HD-DVD players did a great job of scaling, Mr Foster. You're not the first I've heard say it. Although I'd be doubtful of it bettering the scalers in Oppo DVD or Blu-ray players, for example...but I could be wrong. :)

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Nov 2010 15:24:25 GMT
Christopher says:
Thanks B. Pritchard I'll try and pick a component cable up this week.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Nov 2010 23:29:52 GMT
R. Foster says:
Hi Christopher,

I think B. Pritchard has already covered the cable question for you.

With regards HD DVD Vs Blu-ray, in my opinion, HD DVD navigation is excellent and I actually prefer it to Blu-ray (as far as I'm concerned, the only benefit of Blu-ray (other than the fact it won the format war) is the fact that they have a protective coating on the discs that HD DVDs don't). The lack of region coding on HD DVD was a real bonus.

I actually held off getting into either format until the demise of HD DVD was confirmed. It may sound crazy that I then went with HD DVD, but with players being sold at rock bottom prices and discs available to buy for less than the cost of a rental (as little as £0.99 or $0.99 plus shipping for US imports) I had nothing to lose, even if I only watched each film once. I probably have close to 300 HD DVDs in my collection, but with, obviously, no new releases and the fact that I have most HD DVD titles that I consider are worth owning, I now stick to buying Blu-ray discs.

Posted on 18 Nov 2010 17:11:18 GMT
The Truth says:
WOW! seems I've opened a can of worms...

To answer questions about my set -up I have a 50'' LG Hi-Def TV and a new model of Panasonic player all hooked up with HDMI cables - you can find the exact models in my reviews if you're really interested. But I have to say I'm now certain: Some DVDs just look terrible played on my Blu Ray Player, but they were fine when played on a DVD player. Maybe I have the same problem as R.Foster... and maybe Panasonic players are just crap at upscaling.

have had a look at changing some settings, but not really sure what I'm doing.

Posted on 18 Nov 2010 19:01:09 GMT
Nice one on the bargain HD-DVD's, R. Foster, that was good thinking getting those. Pity I never thought of that. Although I am surprised to hear that no new titles are available on the format...they should have supported it with at least the major releases for, say, 10 years.... for the people who had already invested in players. I knew you couldn't get new titles here, but I thought you could from elsewhere...imports and such.

'The Truth', it might be worth noting that I know a guy who had a 40" LG panel....and SD and even upscaled SD stuff looked pretty rough on that screen compared to my Sony Bravia, yet Blu-ray and high-def sources looked fine on it. He no longer has it as it broke after 18 months and he got a different brand with the money from his insurance or extended warranty. So yeah, there could be several mitigating factors upscale should look, *at the very least*, an improvement over SD on SDTV's...when done well that is, and on well mastered DVD's with a good bitrate. I have seen upscale not done well several times and the image is very soft and people look very poorly mastered Blu-rays with wads of DNR applied....that kind of thing, only worse. Is that what it looks like?

The worst thing I ever saw was my non-upscaling DVD player playing DVD's through RGB SCART on my first when I bought a DVD player with HDMI, the difference was night and day...and that was a supermarket brand upscaling DVD player I bought as a stopgap 'til BDP's came down in price. Back then I had a CRT and DVD player in the bedroom still, so if I was watching a film upscaled on the HDTV downstairs, and was feeling tired, I'd go and watch the rest in bed on my SDTV. It was definitely a significant drop in quality. So yeah, I hope you eventually find the right settings or whatever to truly appreciate it.

Posted on 19 Nov 2010 13:47:38 GMT
The Truth says:
You're talking in jargon to me mate - LOL - I have no idea what CRT, DNR means or what 'bit rate' my DVDs are. All I know is they look crap.

With 'Lost' the sea looked pixelated and blocky - like digital boxes when they go wrong. and sometime everything just looked grainy and fuzzy - it wasn't so much the colours as the detail in the picture and the definition of overall picture and quality. Sometimes it just looks like an old analogue TV that's not quite been tuned in perfectly and is getting just a slight bit of poor reception. That's the only way I can describe the fuzziness. Then there's the blockiness I described too.

BBC HD - ITV HD etc. Blu Ray, all look stunning.

Posted on 19 Nov 2010 16:52:20 GMT
Last edited by the author on 19 Nov 2010 16:52:57 GMT
Christopher says:
I think you have to evaluate on a title by title basis hits hit and miss at the moment I'm watching 24 Season Eight DVD on my Samsung BD player and it looks pretty good, the only problem is on episodes with an extended play option there is a noticable pause when it branches in the extra scenes just like a layer change on my antique Sony DVD player, come on it's 2010! I haven't used any 'seamless branching' titles on blu-ray and I can't remember any pauses but I'd be cheesed off if blu-rays have a noticable layer change.

On the HDDVD front Warner Bros. did an exchange program for HDDVD onwners a while back and you only had to send them the sleeve art and you could keep the original so they really went out of the way to help HDDVD buyers as they were own of the biggest supporters of the now defunct format.
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Discussion in:  blu ray discussion forum
Participants:  10
Total posts:  36
Initial post:  28 Oct 2010
Latest post:  30 Jul 2013

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