"Downton Abbey" on PBS - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 239 Old 01-10-2011, 06:34 AM - Thread Starter
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A nice two-episode opener from this seven-episode series about pre-WWI masters/servants in Britain. (4 90-min PBS shows.) Here's a AVS-posted WSJ article and another NYT summary .

Some of the best PQ seen in HD dramas IMO--if your PBS station happens to deliver full bit rates without multicast destruction. Looks like, from IMDB.com company credits , the series was shot with Arri D-21 digital-cinema cameras, with excellent contrast that seemed film-like here. Amazingly, the directors/DOP, bless 'em, seem to have concluded viewers could withstand, simultaneously, both actors speaking in the foreground and a sharply focused background--so-called deep-focus cinematography (see wikipedia definition, examples). There's a query in the AVS Blu-ray Software section whether the UK Blu-ray release is also viewable on region A (US) disc machines. (A US Amazon search shows an early April 2011 US-region Blu-ray release.) And there's a 2nd, 8-part, series slated for production this year.-- John
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post #2 of 239 Old 01-10-2011, 08:45 AM
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Just beautiful. Via WNET over TW cable in NYC. Superb image quality and cinematography that sometimes takes your breath away.
Pre-WW1 England where there were more colors in the spectrum than just teal and orange. I wish more theatrical releases looked as good as this.
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post #3 of 239 Old 01-10-2011, 01:36 PM
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Beautiful cinematography and superior acting. What a delight!
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post #4 of 239 Old 01-10-2011, 02:29 PM
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Have got the UK Blu-ray (I'm in the UK) and loved it. It's quite close to soap in its pacing and storytelling (and some of the below-stairs cast have a decent background in UK soap - Coronation Street mainly)

Looked great in HD here.
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post #5 of 239 Old 01-10-2011, 06:08 PM
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I watched this online last fall and thoroughly enjoyed it. For those who don't want to wait, PBS is releasing the Season 1 DVD tomorrow (and it's only $16.99 at Amazon -- I happily placed my order to support PBS/ITV...and also got Archer S1 for $13.49!). The S1 Blu-ray is not released until April 5.
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post #6 of 239 Old 01-11-2011, 08:08 AM - Thread Starter
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There are some interesting pro/con reviews of the series at Amazon's UK Blu-ray site:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-revi...owViewpoints=1
As mentioned, the U.S. region-1 Blu-ray isn't on sale until April 5. There are 3 more PBS episodes slated, and PBS.org often makes on-line videos available for recent programs. -- John
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post #7 of 239 Old 01-11-2011, 03:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mason View Post

There are some interesting pro/con reviews of the series at Amazon's UK Blu-ray site:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-revi...owViewpoints=1
As mentioned, the U.S. region-1 Blu-ray isn't on sale until April 5. There are 3 more PBS episodes slated, and PBS.org often makes on-line videos available for recent programs. -- John

Yep - it rated amazingly well in the UK - but also divides people. For some it's a bit too 'modern' in approach - and a bit 'klunky' in places.

The BBC's 'Upstairs Downstairs' remake - which was originally an LWT ITV production - has been compared to it - though they are very different animals. I enjoyed both - but think the Beeb's was subtler (and Eileen Atkins was outstanding)
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post #8 of 239 Old 01-16-2011, 07:13 PM
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Indeed, a first-rate effort. My personal fave since Cranford I & II.

CW Hinkle
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post #9 of 239 Old 01-17-2011, 06:39 AM - Thread Starter
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Guess I should tone down my initial comment about the use of deep focus. This second PBS-delivered episode didn't seem to have really "sharply focused" scene backgrounds, just not badly defocused. Production used two directors but suspect the first episode wasn't too much different cinemagraphically. Couldn't help recalling, during the scene when the deceased Turkish man was lugged through the corridors by three women, the dark humor Downton writer Julian Fellowes also mixed into the feature-movie "Gosford Park." Then there was the grandmother's droll observation that an Englishman wouldn't consider dying in someone else's home. -- John
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post #10 of 239 Old 01-17-2011, 09:22 AM
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Looks like there will be even more Downton Abbey this year -- late last week, Digital Spy reported that in addition to a second season of 8 episodes (starting in September 2011 in the UK), Downton Abbey will also have a special Christmas episode!
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post #11 of 239 Old 01-17-2011, 02:25 PM
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Originally Posted by diditagain View Post
Looks like there will be even more Downton Abbey this year -- late last week, Digital Spy reported that in addition to a second season of 8 episodes (starting in September 2011 in the UK), Downton Abbey will also have a special Christmas episode!
Yep - with the stellar ratings it got in the UK (10+ million) ITV will want as much of it as they can get and as quickly as possible...
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post #12 of 239 Old 01-17-2011, 04:03 PM
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Originally Posted by diditagain View Post

Looks like there will be even more Downton Abbey this year -- late last week, Digital Spy reported that in addition to a second season of 8 episodes (starting in September 2011 in the UK), Downton Abbey will also have a special Christmas episode!

Rats!!! I was hoping this would be a short, closed end serial. They pulled me in ... I'm hooked on what looks to be a high class, period, primetime soap ... just the kind of thing I usually try to avoid (soaps that is.)
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post #13 of 239 Old 01-17-2011, 05:28 PM
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HDTVChallenged, I had a similar reaction. I first read about Downton Abbey shortly before the UK premiere and said to myself "Oh great, yet another period drama...I'll pass." Then, after the UK premiere received such high ratings and great reviews, I quickly went online, "found" the first episode, and was hooked! And as you've probably read above, I bought the US DVD last week when it was released, and I can't wait to watch Season 1 again.

I refuse to think of Downton Abbey as a primetime soap..."UK period drama" sounds so much better!

Just in case anyone wasn't aware, the US DVD contains Season 1 presented in its original unedited format (7 episodes - the season premiere and finale run about 63 minutes each and the five episodes in the middle about 47-48 minutes each). The PBS broadcast version has been "condensed" to 4 episodes that run about 86-87 minutes each, meaning roughly 30 minutes has been removed. Luckily, PBS had enough sense to put the full version on DVD (something they haven't done for some past UK shows, like the first two seasons of Lewis).
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post #14 of 239 Old 01-20-2011, 02:23 AM
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I usually don't watch these types of shows, but wow I love Downton Abbey!
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post #15 of 239 Old 01-20-2011, 10:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by diditagain View Post

Just in case anyone wasn't aware, the US DVD contains Season 1 presented in its original unedited format (7 episodes - the season premiere and finale run about 63 minutes each and the five episodes in the middle about 47-48 minutes each). The PBS broadcast version has been "condensed" to 4 episodes that run about 86-87 minutes each, meaning roughly 30 minutes has been removed. Luckily, PBS had enough sense to put the full version on DVD (something they haven't done for some past UK shows, like the first two seasons of Lewis).

Hopefully they'll do the same for the Blu-ray release. I would have purchased the UK release, in order to keep the original frame rate, but unfortunately it is listed as being region B crippled (Amazon.co.uk).

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post #16 of 239 Old 01-23-2011, 06:14 PM
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According to shop.pbs.org, the Blu-ray release (come April 5), will be the original U.K. release.

I would have preferred ordering a U.K. release, but it is region B and therefore won't play in my player

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post #17 of 239 Old 01-24-2011, 06:02 AM - Thread Starter
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While the story lines, acting, and cinematography still seems excellent, overall, the use of digital-cinema cameras (Arri D-21s) came through during this week's episode. The full-sun flower-show scenes, with most actors in light-colored clothing, showed the reduced contrast typical of digital capture versus film. The clothing seemed too washed out. While night scenes at the fair, perhaps benefiting from digital camera sensitivity, were excellent. Recall, as discussed here a while back, producers used a 2-perf film--apparently more economic--to capture the last "Emma" series, which delivered superb-contrast scenes and great PQ in the brightest sun. -- John
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post #18 of 239 Old 01-26-2011, 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by mrvideo View Post

According to shop.pbs.org, the Blu-ray release (come April 5), will be the original U.K. release.

I would have preferred ordering a U.K. release, but it is region B and therefore won't play in my player

Feel free to order the UK release from amazon.co.uk if you want. I just got mine yesterday and can confirm that it is region-free and the extras are in NTSC SD. Everything plays fine on my PS3. Oh yeah, and it comes out being a hair cheaper than Amazon's $30 pre-order price for the US release.
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post #19 of 239 Old 01-26-2011, 01:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Pugnax555 View Post

Feel free to order the UK release from amazon.co.uk if you want. I just got mine yesterday and can confirm that it is region-free and the extras are in NTSC SD. Everything plays fine on my PS3. Oh yeah, and it comes out being a hair cheaper than Amazon's $30 pre-order price for the US release.

Thanks for the update. Nice to know that Amazon UK screwed up the listing. The Blu-ray wasn't in the DVD Profiler database yet, so I couldn't check the region coding that way.

FYI, there is no such thing as NTSC SD. NTSC/PAL are analog video standards. Digital video, ether SD or HD, has no analog color encoding. The correct way to describe digital video is via the resolution and frame rate. In this case, it would be 480i29.97 (or just 480i as 480i25 doesn't exist natively).

Weird that the extras are in SD and in 480i vs 576i to boot.

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post #20 of 239 Old 01-27-2011, 06:07 AM - Thread Starter
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Hard to figure why amazon.com is offering a Blu-ray set for both ~$60 and the April pre-order for ~$30.

Makes me wonder if the Dickens' "Little Dorrit" is also mis-labeled region-wise. E-mail replies from the BBC shop and U.S. co-producer WGBH claim it's region B (Europe only). -- John
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post #21 of 239 Old 01-27-2011, 06:34 AM
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Originally Posted by mrvideo View Post

Thanks for the update. Nice to know that Amazon UK screwed up the listing. The Blu-ray wasn't in the DVD Profiler database yet, so I couldn't check the region coding that way.

FYI, there is no such thing as NTSC SD. NTSC/PAL are analog video standards. Digital video, ether SD or HD, has no analog color encoding. The correct way to describe digital video is via the resolution and frame rate. In this case, it would be 480i29.97 (or just 480i as 480i25 doesn't exist natively).

Weird that the extras are in SD and in 480i vs 576i to boot.

Yep - the Downton Blu-ray release is quite odd for a UK drama release.

The main features are 1080/23.976p with 2.0 Dolby True HD MA audio, and the extras are 480 line SD. (Stereo audio not surround - probably because ITV1HD is stereo only)

Many UK TV Blu-ray releases these days are 1080/50i (though most drama is shot 1080/25p) with extras 576 line SD.

When it comes to Downton - I guess this raises an interesting question. Is the Blu-ray a 25p to 24p slow-down? I suspect it probably is - as almost all UK TV drama is shot 25p (rather than 24p and then sped up) for delivery 50i. PBS often get 50i to 60i conversions of BBC drama - rather than 25p to 24p slow-downs + 3:2 pulldown to get to 60i. Not sure what will have happened with Downton though.

Downton was made for ITV by Carnival Films, which is now owned by NBC Universal, so they may have had a different approach?

(Carnival took a very interesting post route for a series they shot in the mid-90s called "Bugs". They posted it 15:9 rather than in 4:3 or 16:9. The material was shot Super 16 - which is nearer 15:9 than 16:9 native - and then edited this in the video domain in 15:9 anamorphic - a non-standard system. This then allowed two different masters to be produced - one for 4:3 and one for 16:9 - rather than converting a 16:9 version to 4:3)
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post #22 of 239 Old 01-27-2011, 07:01 AM
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mrvideo, apologies for the incorrect terminology. I was using it more as a shorthand for the systems most people are used to dealing with. But correct that the extras are 480i, and that it is very odd for a UK release. As sneals2000 mentioned, Carnival is now owned by Universal, and the discs start off with the standard Universal rolling globe intro. Also, I noticed that the copyright warning screen (Interpol maybe?) at the beginning had the fines listed in US dollar amounts. Several things about this release do come across as odd. OTOH, it looks and sounds great!

As for the 24p/25p slowdown/speedup issue, I guess one way to find out is to hunt down a rip from the original UK broadcast and compare things there. I might do that when I get home this evening. Of course this won't necessarily tell us which one is correct, but it'll be interesting to see the differences.
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post #23 of 239 Old 01-27-2011, 08:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mason View Post

Makes me wonder if the Dickens' "Little Dorrit" is also mis-labeled region-wise. E-mail replies from the BBC shop and U.S. co-producer WGBH claim it's region B (Europe only). -- John

So far, anything BBC BD released has been region free. Little Dorrit hasn't hit the DVD Profiler database yet, so no user verification yet as to the region coding.

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post #24 of 239 Old 01-27-2011, 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by mrvideo View Post

So far, anything BBC BD released has been region free. Little Dorrit hasn't hit the DVD Profiler database yet, so no user verification yet as to the region coding.

Yep - haven't heard of any regional encoding on any BBC/2entertain Blu-ray releases. Don't have Little Dorrit I'm afraid so can't comment specifically - though have considered buying it and will update if I do.

I think the bigger issue for US importers is that the BBC/2entertain have switched to 1080/50i in the UK for their releases (great for UK purchasers as we get beter picture quality than previously). Earlier BBC releases (apart from Planet Earth) were 1080/60i converts from 1080/50i masters.

My understanding is that 1080/50i content causes problems for some US domestic HD gear?
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post #25 of 239 Old 01-27-2011, 09:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sneals2000 View Post

The main features are 1080/23.976p with 2.0 Dolby True HD MA audio

That is really strange. Has anyone had any issues playing it? While no one should, but you never know.

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Many UK TV Blu-ray releases these days are 1080/50i (though most drama is shot 1080/25p) with extras 576 line SD.

1080p25 doesn't exist as a Blu-ray standard, which is really stupid, considering it is only 1 fps away from 24p, which is part of the BD standard. I've yet to find an explanation as to why 25p was not included.

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When it comes to Downton - I guess this raises an interesting question. Is the Blu-ray a 25p to 24p slow-down? I suspect it probably is - as almost all UK TV drama is shot 25p (rather than 24p and then sped up) for delivery 50i. PBS often get 50i to 60i conversions of BBC drama - rather than 25p to 24p slow-downs + 3:2 pulldown to get to 60i. Not sure what will have happened with Downton though.

Your assignment, if you are willing to accept it, is to track this down and report back

When PBS aired Circus, I noticed that it was 2:3 pulldown material. I was really disappointed when I got the Blu-ray release only to discover that the cheap idiots at PBS used the air masters to author the BD release, instead of getting 23.976 masters and authoring a progressive release, like they should have.

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post #26 of 239 Old 01-27-2011, 09:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Pugnax555 View Post

mrvideo, apologies for the incorrect terminology.

I'm just trying to nip the incorrect use of NTSC/PAL regarding disgital releases, one user at a time. You aren't the only one, it is like the common cold, it is everywhere.

I've even seen NTSC used on a sat feed of an HD program here in the states. There are people within the video production industry that get it wrong.

So, don't feel bad about doing so. I'm just trying to educate.

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post #27 of 239 Old 01-27-2011, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by sneals2000 View Post

I think the bigger issue for US importers is that the BBC have switched to 1080/50i releases (great for UK purchasers). Earlier BBC releases (apart from Planet Earth) were 1080/60i converts from 1080/50i masters.

Are you talking about BBC releases in the U.S., or the U.K?

Quote:


My understanding is that 1080/50i content causes problems for some US domestic HD gear?

I've personally not run into that problem. I have two different BD players and both will play 50i HD material on my 60 Hz HD/computer monitor. A poster in the DVD Profiler forum also mention the issue.

Correctly designed players, at least, and HD displays "should" handle all of the HD frame rates in the specification. HD is the first time that we've actually had anything close to international playback.

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post #28 of 239 Old 01-27-2011, 10:03 AM
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As another example of how people in the industry can't even get things right, I just noticed, while editing the HD syndication feed of Stargate Atlantis, that they list the 1080i version with a frame rate of 59.94. That is the FIELD rate. the FRAME rate is 29.97.

D'Oh!

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post #29 of 239 Old 01-27-2011, 02:05 PM
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Originally Posted by mrvideo View Post

Are you talking about BBC releases in the U.S., or the U.K?

Sorry - my fault. Should have been clearer. Was talking about BBC/2entertain releases in the UK (and hence the issue for US importers). Have no first hand knowledge of BBC US releases (are they still in association with Warner Home Video?) - as I'm a Brit in the UK.
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I've personally not run into that problem. I have two different BD players and both will play 50i HD material on my 60 Hz HD/computer monitor. A poster in the DVD Profiler forum also mention the issue.
Correctly designed players, at least, and HD displays "should" handle all of the HD frame rates in the specification. HD is the first time that we've actually had anything close to international playback.

I think the issue is usually in finding displays that will lock to 50Hz HD output - or less ideally BD players that will output 50Hz content at 59.94/60Hz. ISTR that when it comes to BD players - US PS3s aren't happy with 50Hz content on discs - even if region free? And some other players similarly. (Even if the main movie on a disc is 1080/23.976p or 1080/59.94i - if the intro copyright etc. stuff is 50Hz things aren't always playable?)

This isn't a problem we have in Europe - as all of our "HD Ready" (an EU licensing standard) displays must accept both 50 and 60Hz content at 720p and 1080i as standard (in order to use the HD Ready logo) (And many do 1080p as well)

The same was true of DVD players before them - as most (but not all) European TVs would display RGB 480/59.94i and 576/50i content via SCART (and most also were fine with both NTSC 3.58 and/or NTSC 4.43 and PAL 4.43)
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post #30 of 239 Old 01-27-2011, 02:22 PM
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Originally Posted by sneals2000 View Post

Sorry - my fault. Should have been clearer. Was talking about BBC/2entertain releases in the UK (and hence the issue for US importers). Have no first hand knowledge of BBC US releases (are they still in association with Warner Home Video?) - as I'm a Brit in the UK.

Yep, know you are from the U.K. I was kinda confused because it came as a surprise to read that BBC/2entertain would releasse 1080i29.97 material in the U.K. I was under the impression that any release would be 1080i25, or 1080p25 (forgetting at first that 1080p25 was not part of the BD specification), as that would be the source. The first U.K. BD that I bought was the first Doctor Who episode ever done in HD and it was 1080i25. I wanted progressive, but then remembered that progressive was not part of the spec

Yes, U.S. releases are still done through Warner Bros. The Doctor Who episode was released here in 1080i29.97, hence my going after the original frame rate. I do that with all of the DVD DW releases as well.

Quote:


I think the issue is usually in finding displays that will lock to 50Hz HD output - or less ideally BD players that will output 50Hz content at 59.94/60Hz. ISTR that when it comes to BD players - US PS3s aren't happy with 50Hz content on discs - even if region free? And some other players similarly. (Even if the main movie on a disc is 1080/23.976p or 1080/59.94i - if the intro copyright etc. stuff is 50Hz things aren't always playable?)

ISTR? Thank goodness I've never run across that issue regarding HD. Neither player will play 576i25 DVD content.

I'm not a gamer, so I never bought a PS3.

"What do you say Beckett. Wanna have a baby?" - Castle to Det. Beckett
"How Long have I been gone?" Alexis after arriving home and seeing Castle and Beckett w/ the baby - Castle - 11/25/13
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