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Is Online Delivery Acceptable for Home Theater Use?

Poll Results: Is Online Delivery Acceptable for Home Theater Use?

 
  • 11% (38)
    iTunes HD and Vudu HDX are totally acceptable for HT use
  • 7% (25)
    iTunes HD and Vudu HDX are barely acceptable for HT use
  • 11% (37)
    Vudu HDX and Blu-ray are acceptable for HT use, iTunes HD is not
  • 2% (7)
    iTunes HD and Blu-ray are acceptable for HT use, Vudu HDX is not
  • 67% (226)
    Blu-ray is acceptable for HT use, iTunes HD and Vudu HDX are not
333 Total Votes  
post #1 of 171
Thread Starter 
2013 is shaping up to be a landmark year for home-theater enthusiasts—in particular, the sound and image quality of Blu-ray is finally being challenged by downloadable and streaming formats. When it comes to new releases, two of the most popular sources for online-distributed movies are Apple's iTunes and Wal-Mart's Vudu. Both services offer new-release feature films for rent and purchase, sometimes before they are available on Blu-ray. iTunes HD is offered with 720p and 1080p video and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, while Vudu HDX provides 1080p video with Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 sound. Blu-ray remains the gold standard for picture and sound quality with up to 7.1 channels of uncompressed audio and a much higher video bitrate compared to iTunes HD and Vudu HDX.



The question: Are the latest HD formats from iTunes and Vudu good enough for use in a home-theater (HT) environment, where a large calibrated screen and a competent surround-sound audio system can reveal subtle flaws in a movie's presentation?

iTunes HD and Vudu HDX are totally acceptable for HT use
iTunes HD and Vudu HDX are barely acceptable for HT use
Vudu HDX and Blu-ray are acceptable for HT use, iTunes HD is not
iTunes HD and Blu-ray are acceptable for HT use, Vudu HDX is not
Blu-ray is acceptable for HT use, iTunes HD and Vudu HDX are not
Edited by imagic - 3/10/13 at 6:49pm
post #2 of 171
Blu ray is still the best all around, but the highest level of VUDU and iTunes may work for some films but it really depends on screen sizes and the taste of the individual. I will go on record saying a download will have the edge over any form of adaptive streaming for some time to come.
post #3 of 171
why bother with this? BigAW will come in and post again and again how "normal" people can't see the difference between BD and streaming media unless you "sit 5 feet away from a 200-inch screen" and "pixel peeping is necessary" rolleyes.gif
post #4 of 171
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Susilo View Post

why bother with this? BigAW will come in and post again and again how "normal" people can't see the difference between BD and streaming media unless you "sit 5 feet away from a 200-inch screen" and "pixel peeping is necessary" rolleyes.gif

You guys only get 1 vote each. Let's see what other people think.
post #5 of 171
Unfortunately "good enough" and "acceptable" are both very subjective terms, and as such the original question becomes one that you can only answer for yourself; aggregate opinion might be interesting but hardly scientific.

In my opinion, if a home theatre enthusiast is goes through the time, expense and undertaking to implement an impressive home setup then it seems a waste and a shame to feed it nothing less than the best possible source material. Blu-ray is currently the reigning champ across every definition of the term "high definition". Couple that against the vagaries of streaming delivery (bandwidth caps, network congestion) and the answer FOR ME is unequivocally Blu-ray.
post #6 of 171
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by KingLeerUK View Post

Unfortunately "good enough" and "acceptable" are both very subjective terms, and as such the original question becomes one that you can only answer for yourself; aggregate opinion might be interesting but hardly scientific.

In my opinion, if a home theatre enthusiast is goes through the time, expense and undertaking to implement an impressive home setup then it seems a waste and a shame to feed it nothing less than the best possible source material. Blu-ray is currently the reigning champ across every definition of the term "high definition". Couple that against the vagaries of streaming delivery (bandwidth caps, network congestion) and the answer FOR ME is unequivocally Blu-ray.

Polls like this one are inherently unscientific in the sense that they draw from personal experience. As with other opinion polls, a large response is still technically interesting, and once the votes get into the hundreds the margin of error drops to single-digit percentages, adding credibility to the admittedly subjective results. I am doing this for journalistic purposes, a truly scientific poll would be too long and boring. Buckaroo Banzai is one of the best movies of all time, BTW.
Edited by imagic - 3/8/13 at 8:31am
post #7 of 171
It's amazing what your eyes and ears can get used to. I signed up for Netflix not too long ago and ended up watching a movie pretty much every night from their site. A new Blu Ray came out that I wanted to see, so I went out and purchased it and watched it that night. My jaw was on the floor as to how good the picture and sound was. Or was it that the Netflix was just THAT crappy? After that comparison I decided that if there was a movie I really wanted to watch, I was not going to see it on Netflix - I was going to buy it on Blu Ray. Even the Super HD can't compare to Blu Ray and don't get me started on the sound. It just feels flat and lifeless on my setup. Throw in a good Blu Ray and it's like a kick in the pants. There's so much more punch to the sound in a Blu Ray. I am hoping for a hard copy solution for the next generation of 4k/8k movies, but I doubt that's going to happen. If given the choice, I will undoubtedly go out and purchase a hard copy of a movie as opposed to downloading it or streaming it.
post #8 of 171
Vudu HDX and BluRay are acceptable. Because Vudu, thank god, lets you download the whole movie first, not stream it, so quality or dropout issues.
post #9 of 171
It's not about the quality for me as much as the right to loan and sell the content I purchase. Call me crazy, but I still value the shiny discs.
post #10 of 171
i voted barely acceptable. many bluray rentals now have downrezed audio anyway. i have pretty much come to accept mediocrity.
post #11 of 171
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by robnix View Post

It's not about the quality for me as much as the right to loan and sell the content I purchase. Call me crazy, but I still value the shiny discs.

As it stands it's just a patent filing, but it looks like Apple is working on that issue as well: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-57573080-37/apple-could-let-you-sell-your-itunes-content-to-other-people/
post #12 of 171
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flavius View Post

Vudu HDX and BluRay are acceptable. Because Vudu, thank god, lets you download the whole movie first, not stream it, so quality or dropout issues.

iTunes HD movie files are also downloadable, to iTunes on a Mac/PC/iPad. You can't download Vudu with all devices; with a TV, Blu-ray app or with a Roku, you have to stream Vudu just like Apple TV. Vudu on a Mac or PC is quite limited; it is stereo-only, no surround sound. OK for headphones, not home theater which is sad because Vudu seems like a decent match for home theater PC.
Edited by imagic - 3/8/13 at 12:27am
post #13 of 171
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tenthplanet View Post

Blu ray is still the best all around, but the highest level of VUDU and iTunes may work for some films but it really depends on screen sizes and the taste of the individual. I will go on record saying a download will have the edge over any form of adaptive streaming for some time to come.

One thing is for sure, Blu-ray is untouchable when it comes to 3D. For 2D film I think it's getting to the point there the online delivery versions are free of obvious issues but Blu-ray holds more texture in the images and in the sound, and for some people the physical disc holds more value as well. I also think it varies from movie to movie, I've only recently begun comparisons between the three formats using actual movies and so far the results are different and intriguing each time. As for streaming vs. download; I have no issues, but my internet is many times faster than what's needed for the highest-quality streaming. In my recent comparison of frame grabs from Life of Pi, I explained that I directly compared Vudu HDX streaming and download frame grabs. There was no difference in quality, so it's only a question of bandwidth.
post #14 of 171
I owe it to my HT to watch content in the best available format.
post #15 of 171
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by stepyourgameup View Post

I owe it to my HT to watch content in the best available format.

That's one of the issues I wonder about, with iTunes "Life of Pi" has been available online for over two weeks, but the Blu-ray is still four days away from release. So, in the context of the Academy Awards, for three full weeks the "best available format" has been and is exclusively an online-deliverable format. Throughout the year there will be other movies offered through a similar arrangement. Can timing and availability trump ultimate quality?
Edited by imagic - 3/8/13 at 6:45am
post #16 of 171
Quote:
Originally Posted by imagic View Post

That's one of the issues I wonder about, with iTunes "Life of Pi" has been available online for over two weeks, but the Blu-ray is still four days away from release. So, in the context of the Academy Awards, for three full weeks the "best available format" has been and is exclusively an online-deliverable format. Throughout the year there will be other movies offered through a similar arrangement. Can timing and availability trump ultimate quality?

Not for me!! I'll gladly wait in order to get the best possible presentation of a movie. Right now that's Blu-ray but I have no doubt that online delivery of HD content will catch up. Maybe not in the near future but it will catch up and surpass.
post #17 of 171
I don't care how good the movie is I can wait for the Blu-ray.
post #18 of 171
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chucky08016 View Post

Not for me!! I'll gladly wait in order to get the best possible presentation of a movie. Right now that's Blu-ray but I have no doubt that online delivery of HD content will catch up. Maybe not in the near future but it will catch up and surpass.

Back in the day (i.e. 1989) I worked at a seriously old-school movie theater. I changed the marquee, I made the popcorn. I collected the tickets, I adjusted the screen aspect and I carried the darned movies up the stairs to the projection booth. The funny thing about movies back in the day, they looked best on premier night and from there on it was all downhill - scratches and dust and splices all show up promptly, because most movie theaters did not maintain immaculate facilities. Digital projection in movie theaters has ended the degradation effect, so now it's potentially better to go to a movie a few weeks after the premier because there's a good chance the theater will be empty, but the movie will look and sound the same as it did on premier night. Blu-ray is very much like that when it comes to rentals, the further you get from release day, the sketchier the discs become. Online delivery - and specifically downloads - eliminate that degradation, so at least for rentals it's possible to spend only a few bucks to watch a movie in 1080p with no chance of the movie skipping. A new, purchased Blu-ray is a different story and typically offers the same movie as free downloads, so if ownership is the plan then often Blu-ray is a no-brainier... but not always. I have that every movie is a "must buy", online delivery of rentals allowed me to supplement my Blu-ray collection with movies that really looked and sounded great but that I'd only want to watch once and where the small differences in quality just didn't matter that much.
post #19 of 171
I voted "Blu-ray is acceptable for HT use, iTunes HD and Vudu HDX are not".

I will say that depending on what is being watched, sometimes iTunes, Vudu, Netflix, etc are acceptable. If I am watching a sitcom or Anchorman, the quality is less important. Most comedies and some dramas, I really don't mind a less then perfect quality. BUT- for the true home theater experience, when watching a batman film, a bond film, Avatar, etc- I will settle for nothing less then blu ray quality.. and I CAN tell the difference. If blu ray was some holy format that was difficult to obtain due to cost and/or availability, I would settle for less.. Just like as 4k first gets rolled out, I will not be adopting the quality. But, with blu ray being widely available, and for the most part affordable- I would not settle for anything less when looking for a true home theater experience. Until streaming sources are equal or better then blu-ray quality, I will not be replacing blu rays for 95% of my movie watching. That's just my opinion.
post #20 of 171
I voted for Blu-ray only.

This is mainly due to the fact that the audio is always far superior on the disc.

I could honestly live with the slight decrease in picture quality though.
post #21 of 171
A good test I found was watching Dark Knight Rises through Vudu HDX and then from the Blu Ray copy. They had to take out the iMAX scenes for the VUDU release, I would assume due to limitations, and the soundtrack is very obviously compressed compared to the Blu Ray uncompressed track. There is just not enough bandwidth and space with these streaming services yet to compare with physical media.
post #22 of 171
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bcarithers View Post

A good test I found was watching Dark Knight Rises through Vudu HDX and then from the Blu Ray copy. They had to take out the iMAX scenes for the VUDU release, I would assume due to limitations, and the soundtrack is very obviously compressed compared to the Blu Ray uncompressed track. There is just not enough bandwidth and space with these streaming services yet to compare with physical media.

Any chance you could elaborate on that? Do you mean the Vudu HDX version eliminated the aspect ratio switching, or was it impossible to see the additional detail IMAX renders unless you watch the Blu-ray? Was it both those things? Vudu HDX did not simply omit 72 minutes of the movie, which is how much IMAX footage is used in "The Dark Knight Rises".
Edited by imagic - 3/8/13 at 8:32am
post #23 of 171
Where I live I'm 'lucky' enough to have DSL, and I'm not talking about one of the faster a/sDSL providers out there, I'm talking AT&T DSL.

On a regular basis a standard Netflix or Amazon stream will stop to buffer.

I can't even imagine what a 'HD' version would do!

Now if I could pre-buffer movies overnight, I would be willing to give it a go, but the content owners will never let that happen on my HTPC.

Mr Zoid
post #24 of 171
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimeran View Post

I voted for Blu-ray only.

This is mainly due to the fact that the audio is always far superior on the disc.

me, too
post #25 of 171
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrZoid View Post


On a regular basis a standard Netflix or Amazon stream will stop to buffer.

Whew, I feel for you.

HD material off Netflix is okay for sitcom type content. When it comes to big movies, dark movies and such it lacks. Blu-ray being the least compressed you can get right now will always outshine the alternatives at the moment.

When it comes to big budget movies, I always opt for blu-ray. The other day I walked up to my local Blockbuster only because they are closing. I picked up about 10 Blu-rays all $7ea... Yeah Boy!!!
post #26 of 171
Vudu HDX and Blu-ray are acceptable for HT use, iTunes HD is not

I made this vote based on the quality of picture in the screenshot.
If we get into the Audio quality discussion then Blu-ray only. This is the reason why I have a receiver and 6 speakers after all.

As far as Netflix is concerned the quality differs from device to device, my TV buffers the best and has the best quality.
All other 3 devices don't even come close.
post #27 of 171
Quote:
That's one of the issues I wonder about, with iTunes "Life of Pi" has been available online for over two weeks, but the Blu-ray is still four days away from release. So, in the context of the Academy Awards, for three full weeks the "best available format" has been and is exclusively an online-deliverable format. Throughout the year there will be other movies offered through a similar arrangement. Can timing and availability trump ultimate quality?

Not for me. That's why I have 1000+ bottles of wine aging for years, as opposed to buying swill off the shelf. Quaility matters - especially with a top notch home theater ( at least when you have a 120"+ dia. screen or bigger, and like the best audio ). smile.gif
post #28 of 171
Streaming can (censored) OFF!
post #29 of 171
It is illogical for anybody to sacrifice quality over release date. The better the moive, the more reason you should wait for the best presentation quality possible.
post #30 of 171
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Susilo View Post

It is illogical for anybody to sacrifice quality over release date. The better the moive, the more reason you should wait for the best presentation quality possible.

Price, convenience and availability should also be factored into the decision. Is it really beyond the pale to rent a movie through an online service? I'm not sure it is the case anymore, certainly one year ago the quality was not there.
Edited by imagic - 3/8/13 at 11:54am
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