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I fully agree. People are comparing iTunes HD movie rentals to slightly worse than upconverted DVD. Raw resolution isn't everything. I could compress an entire HD DVD/Blu-Ray movie to fit onto a single DVD-R using MPEG4 AVC/VC-1, and even though the resolution would still remain 1920x1080, the amount of artifacting, the loss of color detail, macroblocking, banding, etc. would make the overall video of lower quality than a normal upconverted DVD.


Apple is pulling the wool over a lot of people's eyes, just like they did when they started selling lossy 128kbps AAC music for $0.99 per track, the same price as 16-bit PCM CD audio.

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Last week at CES, Comcast announced their “HD” video on demand download service over its future DOCSIS 3.0 that allows 4 minute downloads of entire HD movies. Attendees at MacWorld this week were told that disk-based HD formats like HD DVD and Blu-ray are essentially obsolete because you can simply download “HD” movies from your Apple TV 2.0 box on demand. Microsoft started offering HD downloads for the XBOX360 starting in late 2006. You can even watch “HD” videos from ABC right from the web. There are even YouTube competitors that offer user uploaded “HD” content. There’s just one minor little problem, it’s not HD.


As I’ve tried to educate my readers last year with my blog “Why HD movie downloads are a big lie“, these so-called HD movies use very low bit-rates compared to even standard definition DVDs let alone something like HD DVD or Blu-ray DVD. Raw uncompressed 1080p video at 60 frames per second is about 3000 mbps so even HD DVD’s 28 mbps needs to be compressed about 107 to 1 with the H.264 or VC-1 codec. By all reasonable standards this needs to be the minimum bit-rate for acceptable loss in quality on 1080p video.


Updated 4:30PM - Standard definition 480i DVD movies are typically 5 to 8 mbps (megabits per second) MPEG-2 whereas these so-called HD wannabes weigh in at a pathetic 1.5 to 4 mbps of 720p H.264. Apple’s new HD service is capable of 4 mbps which simply isn’t enough to be considered HD. XBOX360 downloads are 6.8 mbps 720p VC-1 so they’re semi-decent borderline HD. Marketing will push the nicer sounding “720p” aspect of the video but they don’t tell you it’s way too compressed to offer good video fidelity. Blu-ray has a maximum bit-rate of 40 mbps while HD DVD offers a maximum of 28 mbps. Over the air broadcasts can be up to 24 19.38 mbps.


Modern video compression codecs like H.264 or VC-1 can hide these compression artifact problems much better than MPEG-2 video compression but there’s only so much it can do. At best you might get away 50% more compression over older compression technology but 1.5 to 4 mbps H.264 will not be better than 8 mbps MPEG-2 under most video complexity requirements. The only time 4 mbps 720p will look better than 8 mbps 480i is when the video on the screen is almost entirely stationary or it’s a low-complexity video such as animation movies. Under most normal circumstances, the low bit-rate 720p so-called “HD” video will be inferior though many companies are betting that consumers won’t know any better.


So the bottom line is that so-called “HD” video from Microsoft’s XBOX360 HD download service and Apple’s new Apple TV service or any other web download service is simply not HD by any respectable definition. These companies cannot and should not use the “HD” name with video that is lower fidelity than standard DVD. As for Comcast, there’s not much detail on it but I highly doubt it’s more than 4 to 8 mbps even on DOCSIS 3.0 because its 160 mbps total capacity is divided between 50 to 400 customers. Only FiOS technology with its massive 620 mbps per 32-user capacity and possibly U-Verse (but slower than real time) has sufficient last-mile capacity to deliver true HD movie downloads at the quality of HD DVD and Blu-ray technology.


I’m not saying that you shouldn’t buy these services from Apple, or other services that offer low bit-rate 720p video downloads, but consumers must be aware of the fact that they’re slightly worse than a 1080p up-converted DVD. Microsoft’s XBOX service is border-line HD that is slightly better than DVD but nowhere near 1080i over-the-air HD broadcast quality.
 

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I've seen HD/BD rips that are single layer DVD sized and they look damn good and sound damn good. I would prefer to have better, but the average person would be incredibly happy with them I suspect.
 

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Rather than try to compare it to anything when no one has really seen it in action, I'll reserve judgement until there are reviews of actual content on calibrated equipment. I've never seen so many people convinced their opinion was correct by just looking at specs.


Now, I don't expect Apple TV HD to be equal to the best of BD or HD DVD. What I'd like to know is will it be a viable rental service, with good selection and quality that is fine for a one night viewing. Must everything be about absolutes?
 

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Indeed, I've yet to see one that wasn't considerably better than a broadcast/satellite/cable source. 2-pass VBR encoding is a big step above real-time encoding.


It also means, of course, that there`s little reason to pay to rent one, since those are generally free of charge. If I`m paying a rental fee, I want a full quality 20 or 30 gigabyte version.
 

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Apple's previous low-def movie/TV downloads were awful; a simple visit to the Apple TV demo displays at an Apple Store were very disappointing to most. Almost all the content looked worse than DVD. At least they were honest: I expected better encodes on the demo than iTunes really sold.
We can hope Apple does a better job with the HD stuff. (Since I don't own a Apple TV, I can't "demo" it at home: all HD content is locked to Apple TV.)
 

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Is that a duplicate from the thread @ blu-ray.com?
 

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I am going to call out this guy when he says broadcast 1080i is better than xbox live downloads.... i have the exact opposite experince on the few things i have downloaded from the xbox live service. the xbox marketplace looks substantially better than my local cbs station (compared csi:ny) and better than directv's mpeg4 stuff.


Its not quite bluray/hd-dvd but its better than most broadcast hdtv ive seen and quite a bit better than upconverted dvd.


That imo will be good enough for people when they look into these things because of the advantages they can and will potentially have over physical media. I know as soon as somebody offers me a netflix style sub (IE cheaper) with all the studios im ditching my hd-dvd and bluray players. Ive gotten tired of having to fight with netflix/bb online to get new hd movies and 99% of the movies i see are from netflix.


Ive got 20 hd movies in my queue and I just yesterday got knocked up which has been in my queue since the movie came out and thats the most recent hd release ive gotten. this will never be a problem with a download service since everybody has one copy of the movie and that alone will make it a better service imo (i can live with slightly less quality when the ease of use is much much better). And the worst part is i have specifically not abused the system after hearing all the horror stories about getting limited and they still do it (as did bb online).
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by grommet /forum/post/12871422


Apple's previous low-def movie/TV downloads were awful; a simple visit to the Apple TV demo displays at an Apple Store were very disappointing to most. Almost all the content looked worse than DVD. At least they were honest: I expected better encodes on the demo than iTunes really sold.
We can hope Apple does a better job with the HD stuff. (Since I don't own a Apple TV, I can't "demo" it at home: all HD content is locked to Apple TV.)

I would need to demo it before I would purchase one. It seemed to me that the previous content had more of an eye on iPod/computer viewing. Since they're pushing rentals and calling it HD, I'd expect they understand that greater quality is necessary. We'll see.
 

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Depends on the movie for me. There are some I definitely wouldn't want to watch in a degraded form like maybe Transformers or Pirates of the Caribbean. There are some films I only have a mild interest in seeing and DVD9 size/quality would be just fine. As mentioned by some others in this thread, it's amazing how decent some...uh...scaled down versions out there look. Both VC1 and AVC are simply remarkable codecs compared to their predecessors and I'm sure they'll improve with time.


Do I think Apple (or anybody else for that matter) is going to make a fortune on HiDef downloads? Nah, maybe in a few more years but not right now. I think adding an extra device just for downloads is the deal breaker. I see movie downloads working if integrated into familiar devices like TVs and disc players. Sounds like we may be heading in that direction but it's not quite there yet.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by benes /forum/post/12871374


Indeed. Average audiences are also happy with DVD. That doesn't mean the rest of us should be.

benes. Most of us here know that you are a Videophile and can't stand compression artifacts. I too stand by that on many instances but we also need to consider the J6P. There was a big documentary in Japan's national channel on how people are migrating from buying to downloading. In-fact they mentioned that downloading HD contents at lower rates will become de-facto in another 3-5 years once Japan goes fully digital by 2011-July. May be true as far as Japan is concerned. Btw I have a 100 Mbps Fiber Optic Connection at my residence which is good enough to download HDM movies put on torrent sites but I refrain from doing it and rather buy the original media.
 

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AppleTV is small peanuts compared to what is coming later this year.


Digital downloads (through internet and sattelite) will very soon offer even greater bitrates than bluray. This is going to happen even before the blu ray plane leaves the tarmac. Then, the op will have to create a thread called "don't believe the HDM bitrate lie".


I'm getting tired of the main argument against digital delivery being bitrate. It's a very short sighted and temporary argument.
 

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Originally Posted by lgans316 /forum/post/12872017


benes. Most of us here know that you are a Videophile and can't stand compression artifacts. I too stand by that on many instances but we also need to consider the J6P. There was a big documentary in Japan's national channel on how people are migrating from buying to downloading. In-fact they mentioned that downloading HD contents at lower rates will become de-facto in another 3-5 years once Japan goes fully digital by 2011-July. May be true as far as Japan is concerned. Btw I have a 100 Mbps Fiber Optic Connection at my residence which is good enough to download HDM movies put on torrent sites but I refrain from doing it and rather buy the original media.

If youre gonna talk about J6P.. arent the vast majority of people still on 4Mbps connections?


And places like Japan and South Korea have a pretty big advantage when it comes to network infrastructure. That sucks that North America isnt the size of California..
 

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Originally Posted by benes /forum/post/12871374


Indeed. Average audiences are also happy with DVD. That doesn't mean the rest of us should be.

I find the original premise hard to believe, though. (That average consumers are fine with compression artifacts). I watched Transformers via Comcast VOD a few months ago and the macroblocking was horribly distracting. I can't emphasize how bad it was during any action scene.


I can remember the early days of HDTV when my buddy had a plasma and I saw all of the macroblocking and said to myself "this is worth thousands of dollars???" Of course I didn't know at the time what was causing it, but I knew that to me it was worse than watching SDTV. I had no idea it was the source material and that those were compression artifacts, but I just knew it didn't look good.


I'm still learning a lot about audio and video, and I think it's safe to say 2-3 years ago I was the average movie watcher, and there's no way I was okay with those types of things even then.


DVD on the other hand, I can see the average person being fine with that. It's soft and fuzzy, and there are some compression artifacts, but not nearly as distracting or bad as some of the stuff you see in highly compressed HD. But now, for me, DVD is nearly unacceptable. I hate it when I get sent DVDs from netflix. I feel like I just received a very bad Christmas gift.

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Originally Posted by thrustbucket /forum/post/12872733


I'm getting tired of the main argument against digital delivery being bitrate. It's a very short sighted and temporary argument.

So is the notion that digital downloads are going to take off like a bat out of hell anytime in the very near future with J6P anywhere onboard.


Brandon
 

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Originally Posted by grommet /forum/post/12871422


Apple's previous low-def movie/TV downloads were awful; a simple visit to the Apple TV demo displays at an Apple Store were very disappointing to most. Almost all the content looked worse than DVD. At least they were honest: I expected better encodes on the demo than iTunes really sold.
We can hope Apple does a better job with the HD stuff. (Since I don't own a Apple TV, I can't "demo" it at home: all HD content is locked to Apple TV.)

When I watched the demo's on Pioneer Plasma's at MacWorld SF, I observed the so called HD demos were almost as good as SD (but not quite), and the SD demo was lot worst then SD. Apple is just trying to con people into buying into their on-demand scheme.
 

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Originally Posted by jpco /forum/post/12870898


Rather than try to compare it to anything when no one has really seen it in action, I'll reserve judgement until there are reviews of actual content on calibrated equipment. I've never seen so many people convinced their opinion was correct by just looking at specs.


Now, I don't expect Apple TV HD to be equal to the best of BD or HD DVD. What I'd like to know is will it be a viable rental service, with good selection and quality that is fine for a one night viewing. Must everything be about absolutes?

Why would you say no one has seen it in action, it was demo'ed on four Plasma's at MacWorld SF. The video quality of the HD selections they offered was not quite up to SD-DVD of the same movies.


Will it be a viable rental service . . no, but it will be just a another form of on-demand video service that will make a few bucks for the studios. When you need a high speed internet connection combined with a ATV for $229, I just don't see it competing with cable, or satellite on-demand services.
 

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As I’ve tried to educate my readers last year with my blog “Why HD movie downloads are a big lie“, these so-called HD movies use very low bit-rates compared to even standard definition DVDs let alone something like HD DVD or Blu-ray DVD. Raw uncompressed 1080p video at 60 frames per second is about 3000 mbps so even HD DVD’s 28 mbps needs to be compressed about 107 to 1 with the H.264 or VC-1 codec. By all reasonable standards this needs to be the minimum bit-rate for acceptable loss in quality on 1080p video.

One problem with this article is that neither HD-DVD nor Blu-ray can process 1080p video at 60 frames per second, compressed or not.
 

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Everyone is certainly going to push downloads, but think of it this way... after all these years of talking about MP3 and music downloading, the record industry is hoping - HOPING mind you - that downloading will get to represent 10% of all music sales by 2010. And video files present a much bigger problem due to filesize, bandwith, etc. So downloading still has a long way to go.

True, even if bandwidth wasnt an issue people would just rather put money into physical media, they just dont see any value in a download even if it could be the same quality. Which is why most people dont see any harm in downloading illegal software/movies/mp3s etc. And its why downloads will only affect rental markets.


I wouldnt be surprised if 10 years from now we are able to download 1080p movies nearly as easy as we dl an mp3, yet HD downloads still take up a small percentage of HDM and SD downloads have an even smaller percentage of DVD sales.
 

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JohnAV, if that's really what Apple will be delivering... that's sad. I guess I'll drop by an Apple Store one of these days and see if they have a new demo setup so I can experience the horror of "2.0" myself.



Now, the question... Is it still their awful compression process (as seen on the previous SD iTunes content), so there is glimmer of hope that they can improve it? (People that did their own SD encodes had far better quality.) Or is the Apple TV hardware just too limiting for effective 720p H.264 content? (Is it's decoder really peak limited to 5 Mbps?)


Microsoft's Xbox Live Marketplace HD content (in 720p), as mentioned by jagouar, is actually good. Shouldn't Apple be using this as a benchmark? (Hasn't Microsoft been doing this for over a year?)
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnAV /forum/post/12873101


Why would you say no one has seen it in action, it was demo'ed on four Plasma's at MacWorld SF. The video quality of the HD selections they offered was not quite up to SD-DVD of the same movies.

All I'm saying is that the service has not launched. As much as I respect the opinions of many around here, it being seen by some as a demo at MacWorld does not give me the information I need to complete my evaluation of whether it would serve a purpose for me. We all have our opinions colored by our biases, and when dealing with issues about which people have strong passion, I have read more than one audio/video quality report that did not align with my own experiences and perceptions.


I'm just keeping an open mind. Brick and mortar rentals don't work for me because of selection and because I'd rather not have to go out to get the discs and return them. Netflix doesn't work because I don't watch enough rentals to make it seem worthwhile and because we prefer to make instant decisions about what we want to watch. No other PPV works because of selection.


I'm interested in what Apple TV is promising, but I don't want to layout the cash on the hardware unless the PPV experience is worthwhile, and that does not mean it has to meet or exceed Blu-ray or HD DVD for my purposes. Actually, I'd prefer lower resolution with less artifacting, so I'm interested in their SD "DVD quality" as much as I am the HD (or maybe the HD, by exceeding DVD, will be good enough for a one-time viewing).
 
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