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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Popping colors, spectacular computer animation, and constant action are but a few of Wreck-It Ralph's charms. The new Disney animated film is a 3D spectacular that was recently released on Blu-ray as well as through online-distribution channels like iTunes and Vudu. Wreck-It Ralph is the very definition of eye candy, and it also sounds great with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack on Blu-ray.


Photographic comparison of iTunes, Vudu and Blu-ray formats


I thought Wreck-It Ralph would be a relatively straightforward quality comparison between iTunes HD, Vudu HDX, and Blu-ray. However, it turned out to be a bit more complex, because the quality of the various online versions varied wildly, much more so than I have encountered in previous comparisons.


When it comes to sound, there is a recurring theme with online distribution vs. Blu-ray: The sound quality of Blu-ray is consistently better than the online formats. In the past, I have found that Vudu HDX 7.1 audio sounds marginally better than iTunes 5.1 audio, and with Wreck it Ralph, the audio-quality difference between iTunes and Vudu was minor. I recommend Vudu HDX because it reproduced all 7.1 channels of the original soundtrack.


Visually, the results of my comparisons varied wildly and in unexpected ways. On Blu-ray, the movie looked essentially perfect, but so did Vudu HDX from a PS3. Vudu HD 720p on a PC looked better than iTunes 1080p. Finally, iTunes 720p looked inferior to all the other formats. The image-quality gap between Blu-ray and iTunes is significant and involves noticeable losses in color, tone, and detail.


Comparing Blu-ray to Vudu, I found that colors and tonality were properly preserved, but Vudu HD did not retain as much detail as Vudu HDX. Even so, Vudu HD exceeded both iTunes 720p and 1080p in overall quality. In the frame-comparison process, I discovered that the Vudu HD version skipped a number of frames; one frame I wanted to compare existed in all the versions except Vudu HD.


For some reason, Vudu on the PC is restricted to 720p HD, a decision that baffles me, since this is the first time I have seen that distinction. Using Vudu HDX on a PS3, I saw a movie that truly looked "as good as Blu-ray." There is no reason Apple could not have provided a similar-quality product.


As always, the visual examples below speak for themselves. However, in order to compare PS3 Vudu playback with Blu-ray, I had to use a digital camera. It is not as precise or elegant as using direct screen capture on a PC. If you wish, take these photography-based comparisons with a grain of salt or ignore them completely.


Screen grab of Blu-ray on the left, photograph of Blu-ray on the right. The photo is not pretty, but it is still a useful tool for gauging resolution.






I'll start with a photograph-based macro comparison. The magnification is similar to watching a movie on a 120" screen from 40" away. That's some serious pixel peeping, the fine art of scrutinizing individual pixels. Vudu HDX just about matches Blu-ray quality, pixel for pixel. iTunes HD 1080p is noticeably blurry, and iTunes HD 720p is even less sharp.



In this screen-grab comparison, Vudu is represented by its 720p "HD" format, which looks about as sharp and detailed as the iTunes 1080p version. Sadly, Wreck-It Ralph was only available in Vudu HD 720p on the PC, which is where I obtain my frame grabs. As a rule, Vudu HDX 1080p is considerably sharper than Vudu HD 720p, and Wreck-It Ralph is no exception.



This comparison is photo-based; Vudu HDX keeps up with Blu-ray while both iTunes version suffer considerable loss of detail. Pay close attention to the walking figure—in the iTunes versions, they have no legs.



Comparing Blu-ray to iTunes 1080p using frame grabs reveals the same loss of detail that was apparent in the previous, photo-based example.



My favorite example from Wreck-It Ralph: The first moment Vanellope "glitches," her character is momentarily replaced by a Chuck Close-like abstraction. It's a perfect image for comparing resolution, and Vudu HDX does not disappoint, rendering essentially the same pattern as Blu-ray, while iTunes loses considerable amounts of contrast, sharpness, and detail in both versions. Here is a full screen comparison: http://screenshotcomparison.com/comparison/12949



This photo-based comparison shows why Blu-ray is a superior medium for rendering fast action, thanks to a much higher bitrate than the online-delivery versions. During the final race, the animation in Wreck-It Ralph is incredibly fast, causing Vudu HDX to perform worse than iTunes, losing almost all the detail in the textures. The iTunes versions are only marginally better at preserving these details. Blu-ray totally outclasses the online-delivery formats in this specific example.



Looking at the screen grabs from the same frame, Blu-ray's superior detail rendering during fast action really shines.



In some movies, I have seen examples of iTunes 720p that looked better than iTunes 1080p. That's not the case for Wreck-It Ralph. The full frames can be compared using a mouse-over action on screenshotcomparison.com - http://screenshotcomparison.com/comparison/12853



Using the same frame to compare Blu-ray and iTunes 1080p, it's clear that Blu-ray has superior resolution, sharpness, and color saturation, evident even in an easy-to-render scene like this. Here is the full-frame comparison: http://screenshotcomparison.com/comparison/12856



Looking at the photo-based comparison, it's clear so long as Vudu HDX does not have to work too hard rendering fast action, it can keep up with Blu-ray better than either iTunes HD version.



Looking at individual pixels confirms what the previous examples show, Vudu HDX is just about matching Blu-ray pixel-for-pixel, iTunes HD 1080p loses a little bit of sharpness and detail and the 720p version loses a fair bit more.



This comparison is photo-based but does not involve pixel peeping. It's hard to see any difference in sharpness between the three 1080p versions when "zoomed out" in this manner, while iTunes 720p definitely looks blurry.



The difference between iTunes HD 720p and Blu-ray is very easy to see when they are compared directly: http://screenshotcomparison.com/comparison/12960
 

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Hi, during the final race part you talk about, I see the screenshot and there's no doubt blu-ray is much better. But watching it in regular speed were you able to see that much of a difference? Also is it possible that the movie being animated has a lot to do with blu-ray being so dominant. I did not notice this much of a difference in some of the other movies you reviewed.
 

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The images are already so fantastically close ZOOMED IN that I seriously doubt there's virtually any meaningful differences at typical viewing distances...and I own about 350 blu rays so I'm hardly biased.



James
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by comfynumb  /t/1462983/wreck-it-ralph-comparing-itunes-vudu-and-blu-ray#post_23074723


Hi, during the final race part you talk about, I see the screenshot and there's no doubt blu-ray is much better. But watching it in regular speed were you able to see that much of a difference? Also is it possible that the movie being animated has a lot to do with blu-ray being so dominant. I did not notice this much of a difference in some of the other movies you reviewed.

When things are moving fast in the final race, there's no way to see those details clearly. It's only a couple seconds of footage where Vudu HDX fails to preserve detail, not a big deal. I feel that Vudu's overall good performance vs. iTunes is partly due to the fact it's computer animated and Vudu's algorithms like a nice clean image to work with.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by imagic  /t/1462983/wreck-it-ralph-comparing-itunes-vudu-and-blu-ray/0_100#post_23074948


When things are moving fast in the final race, there's no way to see those details clearly. It's only a couple seconds of footage where Vudu HDX fails to preserve detail, not a big deal. I feel that Vudu's overall good performance vs. iTunes is partly due to the fact it's computer animated and Vudu's algorithms like a nice clean image to work with.



Ok, I was just wondering. It does appear Vudu is putting apple to shame. That really surprised me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by mastermaybe  /t/1462983/wreck-it-ralph-comparing-itunes-vudu-and-blu-ray#post_23074835


The images are already so fantastically close ZOOMED IN that I seriously doubt there's virtually any meaningful differences at typical viewing distances...and I own about 350 blu rays so I'm hardly biased.

James

The first time I watched Wreck-It Ralph, it was the iTunes 1080p version. I enjoyed the film thoroughly and didn't think twice about what I saw (or heard, quite frankly). Without another point of reference and some scrutiny, all of the 1080p version were acceptable. The iTunes 720 p version was definitely blurry enough to be immediately noticeable from 6-7 feet away on a 55" screen. However if you follow the links to screenshotcomparison.com, It's easy to see how the Blu-ray version outclasses the iTunes 1080 version at normal magnification and viewing distances.


I'll add a few more examples later today, I happen to be experiencing a rush of photography jobs at the moment, which is my work so I gotta go do later it. Here's one, iTunes 1080p vs. Blu-ray: http://screenshotcomparison.com/comparison/12949


The difference between iTunes HD 720p and Blu-ray is the most dramatic: http://screenshotcomparison.com/comparison/12960

 

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I rented it on iTunes because it was a buck cheaper than Vudu HDX. I thought it looked great. Had no issues with the quality whatsoever.


Then again I'm not pausing the movie every 2 minutes and sticking my nose up to the screen.



This was on my 70" Sharp watching from about 10'.
 

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I don't see nearly that distinction (if any most times, quite honestly) between 1080 apple downloads and BDs on my ps3 on my Kuro with my ISP, but I'm not going to argue about it.


What is the point here, I guess? That 35 gig blu rays offer improved image quality over 4 gig downloads? This really isn't the power play with d-loads and everyone knows it- even less so in what amounts to 3rd world data rates for most- it's a big part as to why the files arrive as they do: how many people see consistent i-net speeds in excess of 1-2 mbps?


James
 

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I enjoy reading your comparisons and care to present some information without being inflammatory. I am sure that various people have their "choices" of how to get movies to their screen but I admit I have to agree with your assessments.


Perhaps it would be wise to also compare to a DVD version. Itunes 720 vs DVD seems to be more Apples to Apples (no pun intended).


My latest challenge is finding that various smart players can handle Netflix, Vudu, Amazon and more and some play better than others.

For Netflix I find that my Oppo Blu Ray player does best, then my Panasonic plasma (VT50) then my TiVo 3. I bring this up because in some other instances where its a another provider, the order changes slightly. You may well find that your player influences the outcome on the lowest quality 1080. Similar can be said for audio to a receiver as to which does the heavy lifting. For archived hi def media on my NAS, the Oppo Blu Ray player without hesitation is the best player in my household followed by my Dune 3 Base and then the VT50 plasma (as long as it is not DTS HD). TiVo does a miserable job with the latter.


I had an ATV and it was quickly gifted to a friend who loves it. He has a 720 37" LCD and it does look good. It looks good because of the limitations of his screen. This too should be a consideration. If one has a moderate or mediocre screen then pretty much all of the listed you provided should look reasonably the same.


Thanks much for your work and I'll continue to enjoy reading your forum.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by mastermaybe  /t/1462983/wreck-it-ralph-comparing-itunes-vudu-and-blu-ray#post_23075854


I don't see nearly that distinction (if any most times, quite honestly) between 1080 apple downloads and BDs on my ps3 on my Kuro with my ISP, but I'm not going to argue about it.

What is the point here, I guess? That 35 gig blu rays offer improved image quality over 4 gig downloads? This really isn't the power play with d-loads and everyone knows it- even less so in what amounts to 3rd world data rates for most- it's a big part as to why the files arrive as they do: how many people see consistent i-net speeds in excess of 1-2 mbps?


James

I think more nuanced conclusions will require additional comparisons; the gist is that is that if you are going to choose an online version, Vudu HDX is the best choice. The national average internet download speed is somewhere between 7 and 10 Mbps.
 

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I saw Wreck-It-Ralph on Vudu HDX and I was thoroughly impressed on the video quality through Smart Viera. It did take me a bit to figure out how to get the app to play soung through my receiver, though.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by imagic  /t/1462983/wreck-it-ralph-comparing-itunes-vudu-and-blu-ray#post_23076017


I think more nuanced conclusions will require additional comparisons; the gist is that is that if you are going to choose an online version, Vudu HDX is the best choice. The national average for internet speed is 5.8Mbps, the global average is 2.3Mbps and that was a year ago already.

There's really nothing nuanced about it at all.


"Average' speed is of course meaningless when defining what the typical i-net user in the united states sees. I'm sure I don't have to explain to you or anyone else here that FIOS and 15+ mbps cable speeds hopelessly distort the "average" speed figure for all i-net users; this is not news. That's why we tend to use median much more often for these purposes than the mean to garner meaningful insight.


But just because I'm on hold right now...


User A: 2 mbps B: 3 mbps C: 2 mbps D: 22 mbps E: 4 mbps


Average: 6.6mbps. Median: 3


Pretty obvious what's more representative of the group. All this and the reality that ALL of the "internet survey/data" ignore REAL usage/speeds and simply work off peak figures and plan-participation provided by ISPs. That means my neighbors getting repped as 6mbps when in reality he rarely sees much above 2-3 with his dsl.



But apple (and virtually every other content provider) already knows this- hence the content being delivered as it currently is. There's other (read: "better") options available (at an additional cost, many times ((like vudu hdx)), of course) that unsurprisingly offer marginally improved IQ.


James
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by mastermaybe  /t/1462983/wreck-it-ralph-comparing-itunes-vudu-and-blu-ray#post_23076363


There's really nothing nuanced about it at all.


"Average' speed is of course meaningless when defining what the typical i-net user in the united states sees. I'm sure I don't have to explain to you or anyone else here that FIOS and 15+ mbps cable speeds hopelessly distort the "average" speed figure for all i-net users; this is not news. That's why we tend to use median much more often for these purposes than the mean to garner meaningful insight.


But just because I'm on hold right now...

User A: 2 mbps B: 3 mbps C: 2 mbps D: 22 mbps E: 4 mbps


Average: 6.6mbps. Median: 2



Pretty obvious what's more representative of the group. All this and the reality that ALL of the "internet survey/data" ignore REAL usage/speeds and simply work off peak figures off plan-participation provided by ISPs. That means my neighbors getting 6mbps+ when in reality he rarely sees much above 3 with his dsl.



But apple (and virtually every other content provider) already knows this- hence the content being delivered as it currently is. There's other (read: "better") options available (at an additional cost, many times ((like vudu hdx)), of course) that unsurprisingly offer marginally improved IQ.


James

If your internet is inadequate, don't use online distribution or stick with downloads and have a bit of patience. The median in your example is 3 BTW. I've had Comcast for 15 years and it always runs at the rated speed or within 10-15% of maximum. Sometimes it exceeds the tier's advertised maximum. This is at three different addresses, in two different states, for 15 years. Same is true for other family member's whose broadband I have tested
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by djc11369  /t/1462983/wreck-it-ralph-comparing-itunes-vudu-and-blu-ray#post_23075671


I'd rather keep the dollar and if it was a movie worth seeing again put it toward the Blu-ray, but to each his own.

True, I've never spent a cent on streaming content. I've only streamed when I've had credit or trial offers. Since, I just received a WDTV Live, I had $15 credit towards VUDU and this is the case where I would spend that extra $1 towards HDX. If I end up liking the movie it gets added to my blu-ray collection - ala Argo.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by imagic  /t/1462983/wreck-it-ralph-comparing-itunes-vudu-and-blu-ray#post_23076445


If your internet is inadequate, don't use online distribution or stick with downloads and have a bit of patience. The median in your example is 3 BTW. I've had Comcast for 15 years and it always runs at the rated speed or within 10-15% of maximum. Sometimes it exceeds the tier's advertised maximum. This is at three different addresses, in two different states, for 15 years. Same is true for other family member's whose broadband I have tested

I changed my data and failed to correct. Yep, 3 it is. Still infinitely much more representative than 6.6.


Sigh. My internet is fine, thanks. My internet has nothing to do with this. The total d-load file size is the total d-load file size.


Your anecdotal account of your comcast experience and those of your family members is akin to bailing the ocean with a thimble when you view the US' internet usage (and the problems with looking at "averages") in totality. Worse, it has nothing to do with what I'm talking about and I figure I'll just run along now like others have in your other "screen shot" threads that all end up circling the drain in a similar manner.


James
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by mastermaybe  /t/1462983/wreck-it-ralph-comparing-itunes-vudu-and-blu-ray#post_23076504


I changed my data and failed to correct. Yep, 3 it is. Still infinitely much more representative than 6.6.


Sigh. My internet is fine, thanks. My internet has nothing to do with this. The total d-load file size is the total d-load file size.

Your anecdotal account of your comcast experience and those of your family members is akin to bailing the ocean with a thimble when you view the US' internet usage (and the problems with looking at "averages") in totality. Worse, it has nothing to do with what I'm talking about and I figure I'll just run along now like others have in your other "screen shot" threads that all end up circling the drain in a similar manner.


James

Since more people live in urban areas than not, perhaps it is a few rural 56K connections that are bringing down the national average. Your argument about median vs. average internet speed needs some supporting evidence. It's likely that national average and median internet speeds are pretty close to each other.
 
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