Def Jammed

Someone gave me a Blu-Ray player and I am, frankly, reluctant to install it. When I was over friends’ homes watching movies on Blu-Ray, they just seemed… bad… to me. They didn’t look like film. Everything looked like it was shot on videotape, and *bad* videotape like 1970’s soap operas: just a little *too* lifelike and surreal.

This worries me because the industry is, of course, forcing us to use this technology (and, inevitably, 4k), but, to me, my upscaled “normal” DVD’s look a lot better and more film-like.

Is this normal? Is there some adjustment period I need to go through or is this actually what people are enjoying these days, films that look like bad 1970’s soap operas where everything seems to be made out of plastic? What am I missing?

Whether upscaled to 1080p or on my Classic Coke Sony XBR, “normal” DVD’s look a lot, lot better. That’s with my glasses on, with them off, with my contacts, with one eye closed. The only area where Blu-Ray has DVD beat is if I’m virtually pressing my nose against the screen. Close-in, DVD’s (even upscaled) look terrible on HD flatscreens, but at a reasonable distance, the picture still looks great to me.

And, hey, I can save $$ because the upscale DVD bit works best on 720 dpi TVs.

Oh, one other observation: my giant, energy-hog CRT Sony looks fine in the nose-to-glass test. So, HDTV provides much bigger screen AND much higher resolution…which, once I do the math, ends up *looking about the same* as my high-end CRT (given its smaller real estate). The leap to Hi-Def seems, therefore, a little self-defeating because, while increasing screen size, they so increased screen resolution such that you end up about where you started.

Now, granted, football games in HD look amazing, and the news, etc., all look really great. But I hate watching Blu-Ray movies because they take the film out of film. I had planned to dump the giant Sony CRT, but it’s picture rivals any HD stuff I’ve seen, and my films still look like film.

Or, is it just me?


  1. I haven’t made the transition to BR yet either, since I’m convinced the NEXT format will start to kick in before it becomes hard to get DVD versions. 🙂

    That said, it depends on the BR transfer, I suspect. BR is just a format for storing the 1’s and 0’s (you can fit more with blue light than red light, due to the shorter wavelength). You can have a good MP3 and an artificial-sounding MP3, after all.

  2. ireactions says:

    Wait wait wait wait — Priest, you have FRIENDS?! … I was under the impression you were an anti-social hermit who avoided all people except in your role as a priest.

    Anyway. I suspect what’s going on with your friends is this: they’ve switched on the ‘motion-smoothing’ effect on their TV or player. The TV or player adds extra frames, extrapolated from the previous and subsequent frame, to “reduce motion blur.”

    In practice, this results in all movement look like it’s at a slight fast-forward. This up in speed makes film and digital film look like cheap video — the motion blur and the slower rate feels more true to how the world looks in real life. The lack of motion blur actually alienates, making the onscreen reality look artificial and unconvincing.

    I do feel, however, that once you subtract the extra frame-rate, blu-ray and 1080p playback really add something. I like how there’s a sharpness to facial features and props starting at 720p that’s missing from 420p; when watching DOCTOR WHO, I’m happy to see the texture of skin and clothing.

    That said, I prefer that texture blended into motion blur, so I keep the motion smoothing off.

    480p DVDs do look fine to me on my 40-inch 1080p TV, and I don’t even play Netflix in full HD because the HD detail is lost on my home theatre. The reason for that is that most of my DVDs and Netflix content received transfers where they were being downscaled from higher resolutions; even Netflix SD is just reduced-res HD. However, for larger TVs or viewing on high-res tablets, HD will offer sharpness and detail.

    I wouldn’t go out of my way to pay for a blu-ray if I could get a DVD at a lower price, but I’d pay for blu-ray/HD if the price were at bar with the standard definition version.

    • Priest Priest says:

      I do have friends and I actually do go over their homoes. Few come over mine because I live out in the county and it’s a haul, and I don’t watch TV so I have no cable or satellite and there’s really nothing to do here. If it makes you feel any better, I’m usually wondering why I came about ten minutes into a visit and am already prepping my exit excuse. I’m really not much of a people person, which is why I do most of my preaching online 🙂

      Re: the motion blur thing: I’m planning a dreaded visit tomorrow and will check this out. What you are describing is precisely what I mean: things looking somewhat unreal.

      Dave: thanks, I am now officially in no rush to dump my old 480 CRT. She puts out a beautiful picture and, yes, you’re right: prices on 4k players and accessories are already tumbling down so I imagine this to be some kind of marketing goof where they’re actually encouraging most people to wait out the next big thing.

      Reminds me of my adopted mother out here: she wants an iPhone 6 plus but is waiting for the next iPhone model. Meanwhile her 5s is shot and only rings half the time, and the battery only lasts about an hour. Apple has created a culture of wait for the next one because nobody wants to plunk down the kind of cash Apple demands for their stuff only to see the next version ship immediately thereafter.

      • ireactions says:

        I would never buy an iPhone because I’m too accident prone. I do have an iPad Mini 2, but I’ve jailbroken it so that no OS updates will be installed and it’ll run on an OS optimized for the hardware rather than newer versions that will invariably slow it down.

        Android offers a lot of benefits over iPhones in that they can be stunningly inexpensive and good. For Christmas, I bought my mother an unlocked Moto E smartphone. If your adopted mom can cope with Android, I’d encourage her to look at Motorola’s budget phones — the 8GB Moto E or the 16GB Moto G at — with a microSD slot, Android phones tend to be unstoppable for long-term file storage.

        I do like an LCD TV because it’s a bit of a clearer image than a CRT monitor — no scanlines, more detail. However, if you’re happy with your setup, leave it alone! The reason I upgraded was because I wanted to have a desktop computer in my living room with me typing on a wireless keyboard from the sofa, and 480p was too low to run Windows well.

        I like to spend time with friends where we sit quietly together, working on our laptops, labouring on our separate projects but sharing a sense of solidarity in silence.

        • Priest Priest says:

          Mom will not buy an Android. She’s not a techie but iOS is a status symbol, Android is considered “ghetto.” It’s really stupid, but that’s the bill of goods sold around here. Reminds me of black people buying Cadillacs (and now those hideous Chrysler 300’s): faux status, a greater investment in how the thing looks externally or, more to the point, a cry of external validation. One friend absolutely insists on Apple-only and absolutely must have a case that allows the Apple logo to show thru the back so everyone knows it’s an Apple. *shakes head* I can’t ever imagine being that invested in what other people think of me or of what I own or what I drive. And, FTR, anybody can phony up an Apple backplate and slip it into the case behind your Galaxy 5. I tend to be much more practical. My 2K 8-inch ASUS tablet has specs that rival iPad Mini Retina but cost $159 ($250 for the 4 Gig memory version); 2k screen with amazing graphics and an array of fine tuning options and 128G Micro SD expansion. But Mom would never buy it; must be an iPad, ASUS is ghetto.

          I used to be Apple-only because I liked Apple–this was back in the days when you’d get laughed at–seriously–for owning anything Apple. Mine was the first desktop PC in the comics industry, an Apple 512k sitting on my desk, where I and my assistant were openly mocked, called “The Robo Office,” because we had a computer and had bought an answering machine for our phone. I find Apple’s current business model to be patently offensive, exploiting deeply insecure people for a 40% markup on everything. If you love apple (I mean, I do, too) and have the cash,so be it. But I know, every time I give them my money, that I’m getting took because my $159 Asus performs along the same lines as their $299 iPad mini. I just can’t fathom giving them my money like that. If/when Apple ever chooses to stop exploiting their fans, I’d be more enthused about their product line. But, honestly, for $1900–their base-price 27-inch iMac–I can build one heck of a Wintel box. Actually, I could build maybe three, and they’d run like rabbits.

          “I like to spend time with friends where we sit quietly together, working on our laptops, labouring on our separate projects but sharing a sense of solidarity in silence.”

          That’s pretty scary. Might consider keeping that one to yourself 🙂

          • My third ASUS is on its way to death, but I’ll probably replace it with an iPad. Why? Because ASUS has gone Windows-only, and I’m not techy enough to install Android on a new ASUS tablet. Sure, there’s Android tablets out there from other companies, but since I have a Mac desktop, I might as well go all-Apple next time I shell out several hundred for a tablet.

            (Not completely leaving Android…I got a Kindle Fire this week to have a cheap tablet at work that I can use to read typed lecture notes. Our office doesn’t have a color printer, and I prefer to have color in my lecture notes as cues to myself. Including indigo for solutions to example problems.)

          • Priest Priest says:

            Windows-Only, really? My Asus ZenPad 8.0 is Android. I replaces my iPad mini, which I still drag around but the ZP blows it away. I think what I like most about it is it’s clearly aimed at iPad users with its “unfashionable” 4:3 screen ratio, which is much better for docs and serious work than 16:9. But i’m guessing most tablet users are playing games and/or binge-watching YouTube and the “annoyance” of black space on their screens outweighs the benefits of reading a book on a book-shaped screen.

          • Well, maybe they still have some Android machines, but all the ones I looked at (like the Transformer) were only available in Windows. Bleh.

    • Craig says:

      The motion-smoothing was the first thing I thought of as well; a lot of TVs seem to make that the default mode for some reason, but it looks absolutely horrible to me.

      I never got a Blu-ray player, but jumped on the Apple TV bandwagon pretty early and get my HD movies that way. I visited friends with a Blu-ray over the holidays, and was shocked at how slow the thing was – unskippable promos, glacial loading of unused software features, periodic crashes when one studio’s disk were entered. Give me streaming and the extra space in my house free of DVD cases, thanks.

  3. Trev Trev says:

    Apple are clever somehow they get people waiting in line to be the ‘first’ to get their latest gadget and rip them off in the process. Still there are people who fall for it literally every year — just for a minor bloomin’ update on the gadget they have a year before.

    I do like the Ipads and have thought about getting one myself but when I see the price I just think, “I can get a PC for that price.”

    RE: Apple 512K. You were well ahead of those Luddites in the Marvel office back then. I bet that must have cost a fortune.

    Just for grins. If you’ve still got it, this site well tell you how much the 512K is going for now.


    • Priest Priest says:

      Jim Shooter paid around $2500 for the Mac + Printer. I repaid him by writing a Spider-Man annual and putting his name on it so he could voucher it and also be paid the back-end royalties 🙂

      In many ways, I was the Obama of 1980’s-era Marvel where the editorial staff kind of resented me first then looked for things to justify that resentment after the fact. “Too bad Owsley had to be the first one (black editor),” an editor was overheard saying behind my back, reported to be by several sources. There were routine off-premises pool parties and ski outings I wasn’t invited to (not that I would have gone–suckers–I don’t really do the social thing).

      The Mac incited a near-riot of cynicism and derogatory remarks, complaints that Adam (ne Maddie) Blaustien and I were too busy playing with the computer to get our work done (not true), etc.

      When I installed an answering machine because we were editing 10 books with no time to do anything and needed help with the constantly-ringing phone, the hostile environment went up a notch.

      The Mac just drove them _nuts. I also bought my own office furniture, which drove them _insane_ because parent company Cadence would never approve new furniture requests, so everybody had these dumpy 1950’s desks and broken chairs. I bought an executive leather chair and glass Architectural Digest desk, and had a drawing table installed for my assistant Keith Williams (succeeded by Adam).

      I brought the Mac to DC when I started there in 1990. By then, PCs were more commonly seen although no DC editor had one. I’d routinely come in and find some DC staffer trying to boot my Mac, not realizing it had been jailbroken and required some additional driver(s). I sensed some jealousy because DC eds didn’t have PCs back in those days, but not open hostility; it wasn’t personal. I remember one editor grousing about “…how come the new guy got a Mac,” before someone corrected him: this was Owsley’s personal machine.

      I can’t claim my having parked a Mac on my desk is what moved Paul Levitz to finally authorize desktops for all editors, but it may have helped.

      The environment at DC was totally different as well. Not because DC was more enlightened, but the kind of overt sophomoric open racism routinely displayed at Shooter’s Marvel would not have been tolerated in the Warner Bros. corporate environment. One well-known, openly, flamingly racist editor would have been fired, on the spot, for some of the crap he routinely used to tape to his office door at Marvel.

      Besides, by the time I landed at DC I wasn’t the black kid intern, I was Jim Owsley, an established professional, and I knew a lot of the staffers. If there was racist behavior at DC, it honestly did not land on my radar.

      Don’t know if Marvel is still a Mac shop, it was for a long time, which surprised me considering how much less expensive the Wintel boxes were.

  4. Trev Trev says:

    You know what? I was going to mention that the staff at Marvel were probably jealous of you because Shooter bought it and they considered you were the boss’ pet, so to speak.

    It’s sad to read about the racism going on at Marvel while you were there. I guess, as a young reader, and because of the whole Bullpen thing, I imagined you were all buddies but an office is an office so there was bound to be that type of crap going on, especially in those days.

    • Priest Priest says:

      Trev: Oh, yeah, you’re right. I forgot about that. Yes, the teacher’s pet thing was a major heat shield for (what I consider) racist attitudes. Jim and I were quite close. I wasn’t familiar with the old regime, and Shooter represented radical change and reform of cronyism that many staffers resented. I was being trained by Shooter (and, on brief occasions, Stan Lee) so I was in his office a lot, and I changed my named from “Chris” to “Jim” (I’d never been called “Jim” until Marvel) becoming a kind of little black Jim to Shooter’s extremely tall white Jim.

      Jim was rather *loathed* for the tectonic shift his reign represented (and for moving from assistant editor to EIC; staffers wondering if Stan was on crack). I didn’t know or frankly care about any of that; I wanted to learn, Shooter wanted to teach. I eagerly sat at his knee and learned everything I possibly could.

      Everybody in this business–then and now–owes a huge debt of gratitude to Shooter who, along with Paul Levitz and Neal Adams, fought for creator rights and higher salaries. I was, absolutely, Jim’s protege and, therefore, inured the resentment of immature, clueless child-men kicking Jim in the balls while he tried to stuff money into their pockets.

  5. Oscar Jimenez says:

    Yippee ki-year, Jim!

    I own a rooted Galaxy Note 10.1 (the 2012 one) I use to sketch. the Q&W pages I sent you were sketched using it. Well, I printed them and took ’em to the light table where I transfered them to Strathmore boards, then the inks, but the actual breakdowns were done on the Note. I would only trade that damn trinket of wonder for a Note Pro or maybe -maybe- a Wacom Companion, but, you know, money. Not very keen on Apple products nowadays. I feel like they’ve transitioned from a serious company that built and sold solid, work-oriented machinery to a full-blown toy factory out of control. But that’s just me; to each his own.

    About the full high definition, 45 and up frames per second thing that drove you to write this entry, it’s the same thing. I love it to death, some people hate it. I don’t watch actual TV anymore, just like you; me and my wife, we just watch the shows and movies we like on demand and that’s it. But we always watch ’em in the highest available resolution and using hardware-assisted framerate boosting just because we like ’em better that way -we are the polar opposites to the snobbish type- even if our setup is actually fairly old by todays’ standards -again, M-. Luckily, I’m fairly tech-savvy so I keep managing to make the most out of it until something actually breaks -and even then, my first train of thought drives me straight to Do-it-yourself Land before contemplating other, more expensive options. I’m the Anti-Planned-Obsolescence Man. I should I get myself an uniform and a mask, come to think of it.

    But I digress. The fact is, the reason why movies and shows look so fake in high resolutions and high framerates is, precisely, because the high resolution discloses even the smallest details, specially in backgrounds and props. A shield made of rubber coated in silver paint looked like actual metal in lower resolutions because the brain compensates for the lack of detail. In higher res, specially 4K, you can see everything so clearly that even the places where the borders of the thing haven’t been properly sanded and there are dry paint drops left are distinguishable. Add to that the higher framerates that make the whole thing actually look more natural and what you get is, I admit it, something that is a combo of the actual thing and it’s own making of, all blended together.

    To answer your precise question: yes, definitely, you can get used to it and in fact I’m sure that your brain would adapt to it faster than the average, I reckon, due to your own creative nature, mindset and overall visual programming. The real question is, why would you if you don’t feel the need of it? If you like your movies the way you watch ’em, by all means, keep doing it :). Why not? Even if some day you find yourself in that strange situation where you’re forcefully stuck with tech that’s too modern for your sensorial tastes I can guarantee you there’s always a way to replicate the ‘retro’ experience in current technology. If something like that even happens to you, drop me a line and I’ll help you with it :D.

    • Priest Priest says:

      They look more natural? So much so that they seem unnatural? 🙂

      I think: sports and news and other HD “live” stuff: turn the motion crap on. For movies: turn it off. I am hooking the Blu-Ray via HDMI into a retired PC monitor (1920×1080) that does not have the added-frames crap built in. That’s where I watch most of my TV-on-disc (and, I presume, ultimately on-demand).

      Should I ever decide to upgrade the big TV to one of those jeez-get-a-life ridiculously huge HD TV’s, I may not use a DVD at all but stream everything to it.

  6. Hypestyle says:

    To date, I don’t own a blu-ray player. I have a regular DVD player, and my laptop has a regular DVD player. Pretty much all of my DVDs are regular, except the “Thor: The Dark World” Blu-Ray that I accidentally bought, thinking it also had a regular DVD copy.
    I remember when HD and Blu-Ray first came out, I was loathing the possibility of either, because I didn’t want to get trapped in a scenario like the generation before me when Beta and VHS were battling for market share. A few years back, while taking a TV-production course, I remember being thrown that Beta was apparently still actively being used by most TV stations.
    I can’t say that I knew much about how good HD was supposed to be before it eventually got abandoned. Now that Blu-Ray is the remainder, I’m still leery, if only because it’s already been, what, 6 years or so since HD officially ended commercial production? My guess is that, I don’t know, “Super-Blu-Ray” is around the corner, and is poised to have marketing campaigns that make everyone who already has Blu-Ray (or just reg’lar DVD machines) feel like chumps. Eyah! I already don’t like how home video companies are slowly not making regular DVDs anymore, or they’re forcing you to buy the Blu-Ray/DVD/3-D-Blu-Ray combo sets. The streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu (which I don’t have yet) are starting to look more attractive.

    • Priest Priest says:

      Is it just me or was Thor:TDW a MUCH better movie than the first Thor…? They really Lord Of The Ringed it up a bit, yes? I’m asking because I actually dozed off a couple times during it. Not that it was boring, quite the opposite, I was just sleepy because all I do is work. 🙁

      • Ralf Haring says:

        It was just you. Thor 2 was abysmally terrible. It is the worst movie Marvel has produced, on par with Norton’s Incredible Hulk. It’s only saving grace was Hiddleston’s Loki.

        • Priest Priest says:

          Wow… ok, maybe that’s why I fell asleep 🙂 I’ve been meaning to buy it on DVD, but now, maybe not. Hiddleston was lightning in a bottle for Thor 1 which was otherwise an embarrassment. He may well be the most interesting thing abut the Marvel Movie Universe, but how many times can you write the Why Doesn’t Daddy Love Me story?

          • It seems that the “common” fan-culture consensus is in the negative, but I enjoyed “Dark World” well enough; I thought Malekith was underdeveloped and kind of a throwaway villain; and I could have done without the comic relief of Jane’s friends– attractive as Kat Dennings is, she didn’t add much to the narrative, other than to shout at the audience “this stuff is goofball!” (so to speak)..
            Hiddleston is the linchpin that holds the narrative together.
            I can’t believe that people weren’t feeling the ending with Loki on the throne.. Ah well..

            .. I’m still on the fence about totally bypassing Donald Blake as a character, though I suppose it does save time and money to just not bother.. 🙁

            The next film will add the Hulk, so I wonder how much of it will be on Earth vs. Asgard. We’re well into the era of “Marvel Team Up” for every Marvel movie now, lol.

    • Priest Priest says:

      Actually, I think discs, period, are in danger of becoming dinosaurs, but, yes, 4k DVD (“Ultra” HD) are certainly on their way (if not here already), but I think we’re looking at market saturation if not market rebellion. I own 300+ DVD titles. The want me to re-purchase all those discs in BR. Then they’ll want me to repurchase all of my BR in 4k. Seriously: enough already. Even my hard-core discophile collectors are not buying discs anymore since virtually everything’s online. I’m working my way thru my Seinfeld boxes now, which I haven;t done in a couple years and won;t do again in a couple. Why keep the discs when I can just stream them?

      The only possible advantage to 4k discs: streaming them will be a real pain unless you have uber-connection. My connection stinks. And it stinks worse when my neighbor’s kids are streaming whatever garbage they watch while I’m trying to build websites.

      • Ralf Haring says:

        I went through a big DVD house cleaning maybe five years ago when there was still somewhat of a market for them. Nowadays I expect to find no takers. I kept about half of what I had, but even so there are still plenty that I never rewatched in the intervening years.

        Since you mentioned Seinfeld … it was a moderately big story last summer that they were finally streaming.

        • Priest Priest says:

          “I went through a big DVD house cleaning maybe five years ago when there was still somewhat of a market for them…”

          Yes, this is heartbreaking: box sets I paid hefty sums for have almost no resale value. I took a *large* stack of good titles down to my local swap shop a few months back, they offered me ten bucks. Ten bucks for at least $200 worth of discs. I told them no thanks, tossed them into the car trunk and just gave them away to friends. It makes _no_sense to spend big bucks on discs. You can watch virtually anything you want for ten dollars a month.

          • Ralf Haring says:

            I knew it would be that way, though. People had had giant libraries of VHS cassettes years before, too, and those were worth nothing as well.

    • Ralf Haring says:

      Sony actually just announced that they’re ending production of new betamax tapes.

      You are confusing HD with Toshiba’s HD-DVD. HD (high definition) refers to both Bluray and HD-DVD. When you say “HD got abandoned”, that’s not true. HD-DVDs were abandoned, but Blurays are everywhere.

      Studios have actually generally abandoned Bluray/DVD combo packs, going with one or the other. They realized people aren’t upgrading whole cloth like they did with VHS->DVD.

      • Priest Priest says:

        “They realized people aren’t upgrading whole cloth like they did with VHS->DVD.”

        A-HA. That explains why there continues to be a strong rack of 480 DVDs produced. I assumed studios would simply stop making 480’s and thus force us all into Blu-ray.

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