In Defense of Blu-ray

My wife owns a ballet company, which explains the frequent use of ballet sequences in my test clips and other content. Over the years, it’s been a great source of learning and training for me, though not really a business. I shoot because I have the best gear in town, which produces a great archive of my daughter’s progress and my wife’s achievements, and so my wife can prevent 60 groups of parents from setting up their own cameras and tripods at the shows. And yes, she keeps all the revenue.

One tradition that suited both the dancers and the videographer (moi) was to watch the raw camera footage after the last show of the season, usually on a Sunday afternoon. The dancers, having rehearsed for months, can finally see the fruits of their efforts. As the camera guy, I get to see how the latest gear I was testing performed, or simply how I performed. It’s a really fun time.

Then I go off and create the DVDs. Usually, there’s little quality difference between the original footage and the DVD, even on our 46″ LCD panel, since MPEG-2 at 7 mbps can deliver pretty good quality, and the scaling filters on DVD players are pretty good. However, this year, in her constant efforts to create fun new ways to present the traditional Nutcracker, my wife decided to use a disco-style 60s theme, complete with Polaroid selfies. And the back curtain was a very compression unfriendly reflective grey. Great for a disco, awful for compression.

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My wife’s disco-inspired Nutcracker.

So when I watched the DVD, I was pretty much horrified at the quality. Not only was the still image quality poor, but motion artifacts like mosquitoes were everywhere. Since I was working from an HD timeline in Premiere Pro, I then burned a Blu-ray, which looked pretty much identical to the original footage, as you can see below. So that’s the version I’ll keep.

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Frames from the Blu-ray, Original and DVD footage.

I thought that parents who had a Blu-ray player would feel the same way. However, when we offered the DVD for $15, and the Blu-ray for $25, most of the parents who had Blu-ray players balked and said no. That’s small town living; I’m guessing in Atlanta, Boston or Manhattan, the answers would have been different.

So what’s the point? Not sure. I guess that as video producers our job is to deliver video to our customers (or at least make it available to them) in the highest possible quality. I haven’t gone to Internet delivery because in my small town, many folks still like watching videos on their living room TV, which may or may not be connected. Plus, when it comes to holiday presents for the grandparents, an on-line link can’t match a physical DVD/Blu-ray disc. Plus, let’s face it, it takes only a few minutes to create a Blu-ray disc, particularly after you’ve created a DVD.

So when you’re considering options for delivering HD quality video to your customers, or even for your own use, don’t forget about Blu-ray.

About Jan Ozer

I help companies train new technical hires in streaming media-related positions; I also help companies optimize their codec selections and encoding stacks, and evaluate new encoders and codecs.

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