AVS Special Member
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: W Simsbury, CT, USA
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I recently switched back to the TiVo platform (from Windows Media Center / XBox 360) and started looking into VUDU. I have been ripping my own movies and using Plex Media Server and XBMC for quite a while now, but after one of my hard drives failed several months ago I started to wonder if there was any way that switching to a Cloud source could work for me. The combo of high costs and lack of a universal standard (UltraViolet won't work on my Apple TV and iTunes movies won't work anywhere *but* on Apple products) made the options unappealing to me, but after looking into TiVo/VUDU a bit more, and discovering their at-home disc-to-digital feature, I became intrigued.
One thing led to another and over this past weekend I found myself using the D2D app to convert 30 movies (and adding a few more via codes I had available). The TiVo flavor of VUDU was especially interesting to me since it supports the holy grails of 24p and a possible one-device/input solution for all of my needs.
Of course, when things look too good to be true, you know how that usually turns out. A few issues I've discovered along the way:
- D2D doesn't work for Disney/Marvel movies, some MGM movies, etc.
- D2D doesn't always work for some movies that their D2D web page indicates *should* work.
- Way too many movies listed as being stereo only.
- No indication of aspect ratio on their website and a thread in the VUDU forums suggests that there are, indeed, several movies that severely sway from the original aspect ratio (OAR).
The issues above wouldn't be so awful if there was a clear message from VUDU that these issues are indeed unacceptable issues that they are looking to correct, but the vibe I'm getting from reading their forums is that the company doesn't seem to care.
I discovered the issues above after I spent my first $25 on my first 10 D2D conversions, and those issues didn't stop me from spending another $50 for another 20 conversions, but I'm taking a short break to mull over whether I'm making the right decision to head down this path.
After converting my first batch of movies, I did a couple of brief tests to look at the picture quality. I'm more of a videophile than an audiophile, so I can live with 5.1 audio, but really want very good PQ, OAR, and 24p. I should note that my living room has an Epson 8350 front projector and a very large 2.35:1 screen. It way daytime, so I tested them on my bedroom LCD. As I expected, PQ wasn't up to Blu-ray standards, but it seemed decent, and I was still holding out hope that the convenience factor would make it all worthwhile.
Last night I finally watched my first full movie. It was the "The Mask of Zorro" (1998). This was an older movie, so I wasn't expecting perfect PQ, and was mostly satisfied with the PQ, but I did encounter the following:
- There were a few scenes where things seemed soft and out of focus, but I'm going to try to compare those same scenes against my DVD (standard def only) because I'm thinking/hoping that it was actually a filming issue.
- At two points (one very early on and another closer to the mid point) the audio dropped out *very* briefly. My wife and daughter didn't comment on it, so it wasn't enough to be bothersome to anyone but me.
- The moment I started up the movie it looked like the black/gray levels weren't right. This was a 2.35:1 movie, so it completely filled my screen, with the black bars and transport controls displaying on the black drop cloth I have. The black bars looked gray.
This last one bothered me from the beginning of playback and I kept thinking about it throughout the movie. Again, my wife and daughter were unfazed by it. I was hoping that it might be due to the transfer being old, so when the movie was over I fired up the first Lord of the Rings movie and it appeared to be an issue there as well.
There's still a chance that it was just my imagination or I somehow had my projector settings out of whack, so tonight I'm going to try to compare the Blu-ray version of a recent 2.35:1 movie with the VUDU version. If I see grayer bars on the VUDU version, there's still another possibility before I panic: Perhaps the problem is not with the VUDU movie itself, but with the TiVo Mini and/or TiVo Mini VUDU implementation. I can then compare the TiVo Mini VUDU playback against my TiVo Roamio VUDU playback and VUDU on some other players I may have available (e.g., my Blu-ray player).
I did some Googling on the subject of VUDU and black levels, but didn't come up with much.
I'd much rather watch a great movie in B&W at 240 lines of resolution than a lousy movie in 1080p with lossless audio.