Consider the term video scalers to be the new marketing tool in electronics stores to make the picture on HDTV’s they’re selling look good to your eyes. This is a process that takes standard definition images on (unbelievable to have to say it) older-generation DVD’s and makes them appear to be at near 1,080 lines of resolution as most new-generation HDTV’s are capable of now. The most widely-used term, of course, is “up-converting” that’s used on the titles of most of the DVD players you see that promise to make your 100+ collection of standard-definition DVD’s look comparable to what a Blu-Ray player’s video output would provide. And, of course, the cheaper price of up-converting DVD players (most of them under $100) makes them hard not to resist in a time when Blu-Ray players still hover anywhere from $100-$200 more for a halfway decent model.
Digital TV connoisseurs, though, are having fits over up-converting DVD players even existing and consider them to be a cheat in what you’re actually seeing on the screen. This may turn out to be one of the strangest psychological reactions in the world of digital images where the eye of the beholder determines the sales of up-converting players over the seemingly standard hi-def format of Blu-Ray. When you consider that the most astute observer of what a true digital image is may be in the minority of a busy populace who don’t sit and analyze the quality of an image–it may give major corporations who invested in Blu-Ray some sweats.
The reason I suggest they take heed of these warnings is in comments I constantly see on Amazon.com from people who buy up-converting DVD players (usually at only around $80 there) and say that their collection of standard-definition DVD’s looked absolutely amazing on their 1080p digital TV. However, some of those comments were written back when Blu-Ray and HD-DVD were still warring and many (including myself in an article I wrote here) thought they’d be coexisting as part of a hi-def DVD civil war into the coming decade. Now that HD-DVD seems to be slipping away and Blu-Ray is slowly becoming the unsurprising stand-alone format, many still are unsure whether they want to spend the money on a Blu-Ray player when the prices still aren’t within most people’s price range comfort zone in a country hurting with a worsening economy.
For those who decide to go ahead and buy up-converting players (usually said to be just an “in-waiting” type of player so they can enjoy their 1080p digital TV’s to full capacity until Blu-Ray prices come down)–they have to be understood as just a player and nothing else. If you don’t care about all the special effects of your regular DVD player that obviously had the usual zoom feature and slo-mo features–then having an up-converting player (equivalent to the stand-alone VHS players) for a year probably won’t bother you. That’s the compromise in getting a cheaper price–plus not being able to enjoy some of the extra features Blu-Ray offers.
Some people, though, might bark at Blu-Ray’s features anyway when the only add-on for extra features are interactive elements that may not provide any more information about a movie than normal. And, most of the pickiest digital experts will say that a true Blu-Ray image can’t even compare to an up-converted image…
The American populace wanting to enjoy their existing DVD’s and analyzing what makes up-converting images look good…
In my view, the biggest mistake in the development and marketing of hi-def DVD’s has been putting them out only ten years after standard-definition DVD’s became everybody’s favorite home video format. With VHS, people had 20 years before DVD’s overtook it–and as more of a real incentive to change due to the increased video and sound quality. As of now, most people have probably hundreds of DVD’s in standard definition that they aren’t about to replace in Blu-Ray this fast. Maybe more people than I think will raise Blu-Ray into the mainstream a year away from the time of this article–but the American economic turndown will probably afflict that, too.
Based on the average American (and maybe those who have slightly deteriorating eyesight), most people don’t care if they find out that up-converting players do have some slight differences from Blu-Ray in picture quality. What fools the consumer won’t hurt them, though. That’s why it’s probably better to not say a word about what’s true high-definition and what isn’t. Even so, for those who don’t know much about it and still want to get the highest quality picture on their massive $1,500 investment of a Sumsung 1080p 50-inch HDTV (did I mention the economy is tanking?)–up-converting players do one unique thing to give the illusion of 1,080 lines from 420p DVD’s: matching the pixel count.
Many common players (Pioneer and Samsung seem to be the most popular up-converting players as of now) merely use an integrated circuit microchip to convert the signal into a higher amount of pixels. This actually means that the picture isn’t clearer or more detailed at all, but rather just increasing data to give the illusion of a higher definition. It doesn’t add better definition shadings to give that true 3-D effect (or the “it’s like looking through a freaking window!” effect) that Blu-Ray provides on 1080p TV’s.
Now it seems that the immediate success of Blu-Ray will come down to what images people perceive and paying for what they either can or can’t detect. The common procedure lately is springing a lot of dough for an expensive future-ready HDTV and then buying the up-converting player as an inexpensive extra. Add to that the comment of “I can’t see the difference” after seeing a Blu-Ray comparison done by nervous electronics salesmen desperate to make a sale on commission.
Yes, for the first time, the eye of the beholder may shape the economic future of technology…