Frankenfight: Blu-ray vs. HD DVD, Formats Not Equal

Click to viewThe Blu-Ray vs. HD DVD battle seems as old as time itself. Being tech savvy consumers, we've heard the two formats are, to the end user, pretty identical. Both are capable of equal resolution, equal sound output and equal mass flopping.

But are tech specs the only way to judge DVDs? Of course not. Technology is only step one. How studios utilize the technology is equally as important. Besides, the gods gave us eyes and ears for a reason.

For this week's topic, we dug through the entire archive from the DVD critics at High-Def Digest (about 300 total reviews), averaging every rating they've given yet to HD DVD and Blu-Ray titles. And you know what?

Not all was equal.

Frankenfight: Blu-ray vs. HD DVD, Formats Not Equal

Our preliminary average results graph is above. It gives a slight edge to HD DVD in video and all extra disc content. But we ran these results by a statistics-savvy friend who further analyzed the data in terms of actual statistical significance (through one-way ANOVA, stats geeks). She deemed the video results to be too close to call, but simultaneously deemed the other averages as noteworthy. What's all that mean? We had to make a new graph.

Frankenfight: Blu-ray vs. HD DVD, Formats Not Equal

Significant review averages tell us that Blu-ray titles were slightly, but definitely superior in audio playback. HD DVD titles had far superior standard def features and moderately superior hi def features.

But how could this be? Spec sheets claim the same audio codecs are supported on Blu-ray and HD DVD. Why would one format sound better? And why is HD DVD kicking major Blu-ray bonus content ass? ISN'T IT ALL IDENTICAL EXCEPT FOR THE BOX COLOR??

Frankenfight: Blu-ray vs. HD DVD, Formats Not Equal

Nope.

So we asked High-Def Digest for their take on their own review disparities.



Why Blu-ray audio is winning:

This is primarily due to stronger support for high-resolution audio formats on the majority of Blu-ray releases, primarily DTS-HD and uncompressed PCM. HD DVD, by contrast, has seen far less significant support — few, if any, titles have been released on the format in either DTS-HD and PCM, with only a handful even sporting Dolby TrueHD.

That situation doesn't appear to be changing, at least at the moment. The sole exclusive supporter of HD DVD, Universal, has yet to release a single title with Dolby TrueHD, let alone DTS-HD and/or PCM tracks. Paramount the same. And Warner titles with Dolby TrueHD are rather meager. Only the smaller upstart the Weinstein Co. has really pushed Dolby TrueHD on their most recent ...At the moment, it seems Blu-ray enjoys the edge in widespread studio support for high-resolution audio.

Translation: the studios are using crappier audio compression on HD DVD.

Why HD DVD bonus features are winning:

The confusion is vexing with interactive features...the HD DVD group [made] support of the HDi authoring environment mandatory as part of their spec. That means that all HD DVD players bearing the logo must fully support the feature, which is why early HD DVD titles were so flush with cutting-edge features. Right now, HD DVD is leading in this regard...

Blu-ray is still rushing to catch up with its rival BD-Java tools. Though support will eventually come,

and BD-J should deliver the same level of interactivity as HDi. But...until Blu-ray reaches parity, it will lag behind HD DVD, if only in regards to full-on, cutting-edge interactivity.

Translation: Sony didn't offer developers enough software support for their programming.

WINNER: Are you an audiophile or an extrasphile?

And of course, the two issues could be feeding off one another while playing to each format's strengths. Blu-ray may easily accommodate uncompressed audio with its larger disc capacity, compensating for its lack of special features. Meanwhile, HD DVD may exploit special features at the expense of audio (where most people won't even notice).

If only I weren't too cynical to believe that anyone is looking out for the consumer here.

High-Def Digest [where I stole stories/quotes from this week]