Interstellar: Blu-ray vs. iTunes vs. Vudu vs. Amazon - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 150 Old 04-21-2015, 06:00 PM - Thread Starter
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Interstellar: Blu-ray vs. iTunes vs. Vudu vs. Amazon



Christopher Nolan's sci-fi epic is a visual masterpiece at any resolution. Mark Henninger compares the quality of 1080p online delivery to Blu-ray.

It's been over two years since I posted my first comparison of Blu-ray versus online delivery. During that time, I've witnessed a noticeable improvement in quality from the cloud-based options. Still, Blu-ray has beaten online delivery in every comparison I've performed.

With Vudu officially rolling out UHD streaming this year—including Dolby Vision (HDR) and Dolby Atmos (immersive sound)—online delivery might finally surpass Blu-ray quality. But until then, 1080p, standard dynamic range, and 5.1/7.1 audio are the best available specs from physical media or streaming sources.

My latest comparison of Blu-ray and streaming involves Interstellar, a spectacularly beautiful movie, much of which was shot on 70mm Imax film. Thanks to the incredible resolution that Imax cameras capture, it contains much more visual detail than any 1080p video format can convey. Of course, all that resolution must be downscaled to 1080p for Blu-ray and streaming.

The Blu-ray release of Interstellar came with an interesting souvenir—a film cell from a 70mm film print. It's the first time I've been able to compare film-based Imax 70mm to Blu-ray and online-delivery formats. There's no comparison—even with the generational loss incurred by photographically scanning a film print and downscaling it to 1920 pixels wide, there's much more detail in it compared to Blu-ray—see for yourself:


I downsampled a photographic scan of the 70mm film print to match the dimensions of the unresized, cropped Blu-ray screenshot.

In this comparison, I photographed the 70mm film frame included with the Blu-ray using a 20-megapixel camera and downscaled it to match the dimensions of an unresized Blu-ray screenshot of the same image. I saved both as PNG files for maximum fidelity and cropped them so they weren't too large for the AVS image-hosting system. As you see, the photo of the film frame exhibits more detail than the Blu-ray screen shot.


Here is the original 70mm film cell I photographed.

With Interstellar, the best-performing cloud-based format was Vudu HDX, followed by iTunes HD and trailed by Amazon HD. The gap between online-delivery formats and Blu-ray was moderately obvious—Blu-ray retained more detail as well as film grain. Furthermore, the Blu-ray preserves the changing aspect ratio of the movie; the online formats cropped the movie to 2.40:1 from beginning to end. Unfortunately I was not able to receive Amazon's highest-bandwidth stream on my PC and the screenshots show it—Amazon HD consistently looked softer than the other cloud-based formats.

Being a space movie, Interstellar contains many scenes with deep shadows and black backgrounds. Contouring and blocking artifacts often manifest in dark regions, and online-delivery formats are more likely to suffer from these compression-related artifacts than Blu-ray. This was certainly true here, even with Vudu HDX.

When it comes to sound, Blu-ray outperforms online delivery by a noticeable margin. With uncompressed 24/96 audio to work with, Interstellar on Blu-ray is an impressive-sounding movie. If your subs are up to the task, it'll rattle you to the bone.

I thought the sound quality of Vudu HDX was the best of the online delivery formats. HDX uses Dolby Digital+, and it managed to retain a measure of the dynamics found in the Blu-ray's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, but it was not as immersive or impactful.

iTunes and Amazon sounded identical. I sensed moderate a loss of clarity compared to Blu-ray. Bass seemed to suffer the most; it just didn't have the same gripping and guttural physicality of the Blu-ray version.

Will UHD/4K online delivery from a cloud-based service match or beat Blu-ray video and audio quality? I'm dying to find out. On top of that, the next-generation Ultra HD Blu-ray is due this fall. I look forward to the first comparison that includes such content. For now, check out the following screenshot comparisons to see how Blu-ray picture quality continues to beat 1080p cloud-based formats.

------

The following comparison images are best viewed full-size at 1920x1080 pixels. Please click the provided links to see the original images.



Blu-ray is considerably sharper than the online-delivery formats. https://www.avsforum.com/forum/vbimgh...mg&imgid=10617



With Blu-ray, you see more streaking stars and the streaks vary in color—unlike the online-delivery formats. https://www.avsforum.com/forum/vbimgh...mg&imgid=10625



Look at how Blu-ray renders the rays of light. https://www.avsforum.com/forum/vbimgh...mg&imgid=10657



Amazon HD lags behind the rest in this screenshot. https://www.avsforum.com/forum/vbimgh...mg&imgid=10649


Compression artifacts show up in the Amazon and Vudu versions. https://www.avsforum.com/forum/vbimgh...mg&imgid=10641


Compare the textures on the spacecraft's hull. https://www.avsforum.com/forum/vbimgh...mg&imgid=10633



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Last edited by imagic; 04-22-2015 at 10:41 AM.
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post #2 of 150 Old 04-21-2015, 06:39 PM
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I'm getting permissions errors when I try to view the screenshots.

Looky here!
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post #3 of 150 Old 04-21-2015, 06:43 PM
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I'm getting permissions errors when I try to view the screenshots.
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post #4 of 150 Old 04-21-2015, 06:43 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm getting permissions errors when I try to view the screenshots.
That's odd. I'll see what I can do.

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post #5 of 150 Old 04-21-2015, 06:50 PM
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post #6 of 150 Old 04-21-2015, 06:52 PM
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I'm getting permissions errors when I try to view the screenshots.
Me too; we'll probably have to wait until tomorrow to sort it out.
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post #7 of 150 Old 04-21-2015, 06:52 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
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I'm getting permissions errors when I try to view the screenshots.
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+1
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Originally Posted by luismanrara View Post
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Originally Posted by Scott Wilkinson View Post
Me too; we'll probably have to wait until tomorrow to sort it out.


I replaced the previews, made sure permissions were set to public and added direct links to the full-sized images. You might have to clear your cache to see the updated post.

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post #8 of 150 Old 04-21-2015, 07:01 PM
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I replaced the previews, made sure permissions were set to public, and added direct links to the full-sized images. You might have to clear your cache to see the updated post.
Thanks Mark!

Looky here!
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post #9 of 150 Old 04-21-2015, 08:15 PM
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Once again, Blu-ray comes out on top. It's not even close. I'm sure the audio superiority of Blu-ray is assured as well. Later, when 4K Blu-rays become the norm, they will be superior again. I will always take the superior quality release over convenience any day.
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post #10 of 150 Old 04-21-2015, 09:51 PM
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Blu-ray clearly better, and obviously more color in almost all images. Sad considering blu-ray is 8bit 4:2:0 chroma and there's all of the fuss out there about 4K bluray being 4:4:4 or not The streaming might meet the on screen resolution but they are throwing out data elsewhere left and right so they can fit it down the pipe.

Can't wait for UHD bluray!!!!!
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post #11 of 150 Old 04-21-2015, 10:14 PM
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It's not really surprising that the film cell looks better...even films that were shot decades ago have higher resolution than what bluray can display. That's why so many older films (the one that blew me away was The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly bluray transfer) look better on bluray than they've ever looked before. When the original prints are cleaned up, you're able to make a 1080p+ transfer. I don't know the exact numbers, but someone once explained to me that film has an equivalent resolution (equivalent because film doesn't have pixels) to like 4k or better. So it's almost like our technology has had to catch up with the quality of film from years and years ago.
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post #12 of 150 Old 04-21-2015, 10:19 PM
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Fantastic movie and the sound I thought my room was going to explode my kids said Dad can you lower the subs please
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post #13 of 150 Old 04-21-2015, 10:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Summa View Post
It's not really surprising that the film cell looks better...even films that were shot decades ago have higher resolution than what bluray can display. That's why so many older films (the one that blew me away was The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly bluray transfer) look better on bluray than they've ever looked before. When the original prints are cleaned up, you're able to make a 1080p+ transfer. I don't know the exact numbers, but someone once explained to me that film has an equivalent resolution (equivalent because film doesn't have pixels) to like 4k or better. So it's almost like our technology has had to catch up with the quality of film from years and years ago.
Film is more like 8K or more!
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post #14 of 150 Old 04-21-2015, 10:35 PM
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Even better!

I'm absolutely fascinated by that. It's like a time machine, you know? Like the Eastwood film I cited above. It's like that film is a time capsule, and the better and better our technology gets, the closer to the actual experience we can get to when that movie was shot. We automatically can be transported back DECADES to when Clint was in his 20s. Or when Cary Grant was looking dapper and exuding all that charisma. It makes me look at older films in a completely different light.
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post #15 of 150 Old 04-21-2015, 11:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kilgore View Post
Once again, Blu-ray comes out on top. It's not even close. I'm sure the audio superiority of Blu-ray is assured as well. Later, when 4K Blu-rays become the norm, they will be superior again. I will always take the superior quality release over convenience any day.
In fact I have said it before, and I say it again.
Blueray is simply the best we as consumers can get at the moment but certainly not as good as it can be.

As far as I am concerned, blueray itself is a compromise and further compromising content is truly detrimental to the experience.
And this will hold true until the day every house on the planet has a TB\s download speeds without caps.
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post #16 of 150 Old 04-22-2015, 01:27 AM
 
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From those screenshots (not the best to judge, but what can you do), and from my own eyes, the Blu-ray ones have slightly better details.
But I wouldn't fret much over it, for most people. ...It's just that I am not most people, and that's why I only get Blu-rays, and nothing else.
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post #17 of 150 Old 04-22-2015, 02:10 AM
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Film is more like 8K or more!
it depends ...

35mm negatives have roughly UHD worth of resolution. 70mm IMAX is a different story of course.

edit: and here are digital cinema cameras:

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post #18 of 150 Old 04-22-2015, 03:28 AM
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Point of all of these comparison threads is Blu Ray is better than any form of streaming.

But, no amount of these threads will deter people who somehow got stuck with that "streaming is the future" notion.

At least it's a reminder of the truth... Go with streaming and you rob yourself of quality.
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post #19 of 150 Old 04-22-2015, 03:44 AM
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Blu-ray is clearly better than any of the streams, but suffers horribly compared to 70mm film.

Showing that Nolan clearly knows what he's insisting upon.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Summa View Post
Even better!

I'm absolutely fascinated by that. It's like a time machine, you know? Like the Eastwood film I cited above. It's like that film is a time capsule, and the better and better our technology gets, the closer to the actual experience we can get to when that movie was shot. We automatically can be transported back DECADES to when Clint was in his 20s. Or when Cary Grant was looking dapper and exuding all that charisma. It makes me look at older films in a completely different light.
Better yet is looking at the Blu-ray transfers of The Twilight Zone or I Love Lucy.

Simply put, no one has ever seen those shows with the full resolution of the film they were originally shot on except those who made them and saw them projected at the studio and/or in edit bays.

Not unlike the way that there was no way that recording engineers of the time had any idea of what was captured on tape at Sinatra recording sessions in the 1960s.

The sad thing is that first videotape and now digital video inherently limit the best those programs will ever look; as an example, because it was shot to video tape, Three's Company will never look any better than S-VHS or Hi-8 do.
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post #20 of 150 Old 04-22-2015, 05:20 AM
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Do you happen to have bitrates for each of the files? I'd think that would be interesting to see.

Otherwise I don't understand why the 70mm would have so much more detail than the BD when you scale both to the same resolution, as that's basically what they do is scan (photograph) the 70mm and then scale it to 1080p. There shouldn't be a reason they both don't look the same unless the BD has more post FX applied to it that make it have less detail.

Lastly it's worth noting that the screenshots we are comparing are only 540p, so if you can see the quality degradation in the screen shots they will be even more obvious at 1080p.
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post #21 of 150 Old 04-22-2015, 05:47 AM
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Should have also included the 4k version streaming on Ultraflix....
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post #22 of 150 Old 04-22-2015, 06:00 AM - Thread Starter
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Should have also included the 4k version streaming on Ultraflix....
I agree, and when I am 4K/UHD equipped I will do so. It won't be long.

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post #23 of 150 Old 04-22-2015, 06:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Summa View Post
It's not really surprising that the film cell looks better...even films that were shot decades ago have higher resolution than what bluray can display. That's why so many older films (the one that blew me away was The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly bluray transfer) look better on bluray than they've ever looked before.
While I'd agree (better than before) I was rather disappointed. The "4K" remaster of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly actually made me wonder if my front projector had a technical defect. I instantly gave Lawrence of Arabia and How the West Was Won a spin to verify that everything was okay.

I think that proves that just because something was mastered in 4K it still mostly depends on the camera negative materials at hand during the transfer process.

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post #24 of 150 Old 04-22-2015, 06:04 AM
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Mark,

What were you using as a backlight when you took the photo of the 70mm film print? Just curious because the "sky" in the photo of the film print appears to have a clear gradient to it from light in the upper right hand corner to dark in the lower left, whereas the screen grab from the Blu-Ray shows a basically "flat" sky. I didn't know whether to attribute that to an uneven backlight or if they flattened the sky when mastering for Blu-Ray. Not only does the 70mm print have more detail, but it also appears to have more contrast. As best as I can tell, the brightest parts of the images appear to match, but the darkest parts of the 70mm film print are darker than those of the Blu-Ray. Any thoughts on this?
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post #25 of 150 Old 04-22-2015, 06:21 AM - Thread Starter
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Mark,

What were you using as a backlight when you took the photo of the 70mm film print? Just curious because the "sky" in the photo of the film print appears to have a clear gradient to it from light in the upper right hand corner to dark in the lower left, whereas the screen grab from the Blu-Ray shows a basically "flat" sky. I didn't know whether to attribute that to an uneven backlight or if they flattened the sky when mastering for Blu-Ray. Not only does the 70mm print have more detail, but it also appears to have more contrast. As best as I can tell, the brightest parts of the images appear to match, but the darkest parts of the 70mm film print are darker than those of the Blu-Ray. Any thoughts on this?
I have the film cell, which is the reference. The gradient in the sky looks to be related to uneven backlighting. The real sky (cloudless, early afternoon) served as my backlight for the photo.

It's been over a decade and a half since I last had a film scanner and a light table in my studio. The 70mm films cell was a nice easter egg and I wanted to use it in the piece, but in the end it's a photo of a piece of film, not a proper scan. That said, the extra detail the film possesses is quite self-evident, and that's what I wanted to convey.

I did try to match the contrast of the film print as closely as I could when I prepared the image.

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post #26 of 150 Old 04-22-2015, 06:24 AM
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I agree, and when I am 4K/UHD equipped I will do so. It won't be long.
I been waiting as well, but I will most likely go 4K when projectors are at a decent price level and that content is King. The film shot was so much more detailed than the other 4 formats, but when looking at the other 4 formats Blu-Ray is still the clear winner on detail etc.. What is pissing me off is they are releasing movies weeks/months before Blu-Ray now and if it is a movie I want too keep and re-watch I might as wait. Example: American Sniper on iTunes already released but not coming out on Blu-Ray till May, 19th, and in some cases some of the Blu-Rays do not have a iTunes download anymore, but just like MP3 downloads the consumer is getting short changed if you ask me when it comes to downloads, especially looking at the above screen shots.
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post #27 of 150 Old 04-22-2015, 06:40 AM
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Do you happen to have bitrates for each of the files? I'd think that would be interesting to see.

Otherwise I don't understand why the 70mm would have so much more detail than the BD when you scale both to the same resolution, as that's basically what they do is scan (photograph) the 70mm and then scale it to 1080p. There shouldn't be a reason they both don't look the same unless the BD has more post FX applied to it that make it have less detail.

Lastly it's worth noting that the screenshots we are comparing are only 540p, so if you can see the quality degradation in the screen shots they will be even more obvious at 1080p.
Exactly; something is wrong with the comparison photos. The interpolation on the down scaling would render the same results. I can't think of any reason they would blur the BR intentionally during mastering. Also a keen eye will notice the BR images are cropped more than the on-line ones. So unless some mistakes were made creating the article the only other thing I can think of is the photos were processed to make the differences more dramatic. My guess is the latter from past articles/posts from the author.

That aside; the quality difference between all of the streaming sites is pretty negligible for this movie/shots scenes shown. Vudu seems to have the best details.

Although I'm pretty sure each streaming services video codec has moments were it shines and moments where it doesn't. So depending on when the screen captures are taken different opinions could be formed.

I also agree with previous comment that it would be nice to see a graph showing the streaming bit-rate obtained at the time of viewing/sampling of the photo. This would give the reviewer feedback to know if the stream wasn't at it's best and the reader some data to ponder. I know some video streaming services do have nice stats to show data/compression rates. I don't think any of the services mentioned in this review do however. So the next best thing would be to chart the data using an app while the video is playing.
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post #28 of 150 Old 04-22-2015, 06:51 AM
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If that is an indication of what Amazon HD is then wow, what a garbage looking service. $20 for that or $20 for the blu-ray. Tough decision! I see Vudu is also $20 to own it. I guess these types of streaming services are mainly just for quick renting.
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post #29 of 150 Old 04-22-2015, 06:53 AM
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Mark,

TBH im more interested in how the audio differs on the streams vs the BR, IMO this is a much larger issue. yes the video looks worse on the streams but in general is passable, the audio on the other hand is most often total crap
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post #30 of 150 Old 04-22-2015, 07:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by reallynotnick View Post
Otherwise I don't understand why the 70mm would have so much more detail than the BD when you scale both to the same resolution, as that's basically what they do is scan (photograph) the 70mm and then scale it to 1080p. There shouldn't be a reason they both don't look the same unless the BD has more post FX applied to it that make it have less detail.
BD is lossy compressed, so you lose content detail despite the output being 1080p.

 

 

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blu-ray , frontpage , interstellar , itunes , Vudu



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