Editor's Note: Each Friday, High-Def Digest's own HD Advisor will answer a new round of questions from our readers. If you have home theater questions you need answered, send an email to HDanswers@gmail.com.
Answers by Joshua Zyber
Double Feature Blu-rays
Q: I was recently shopping at Wal-Mart and I headed over to the Blu-ray section. I saw Blu-rays on sale with 2 movies in them, particularly 'First Blood' and 'Rambo'. Are these movies both on 1 disc, or are they just saving on packaging and including both discs in one box? I know that studios would put multiple movies on 1 disc when it came to DVDs, but I wasn't sure if that had found its way to Blu yet. If they are putting 2 movies on 1 disc, isn't the quality of each movie going to be downgraded due to compression?
A: I believe what you saw was this so-called "Blu-ray 2-Pack" with both 'First Blood' and the latest 'Rambo' sequel in the same case. From what I can tell, this is a 2-disc set that's just a repackaging of the previous separate editions of each into the same case together. The discs themselves should be identical to those released earlier.
However, other studios (notably Warner Bros.) have embraced the double-feature Blu-ray with two movies on the same disc. For example, Warner issued this single-disc edition of 'The Last Boyscout' and 'Last Man Standing', as well as this pairing of 'Presumed Innocent' and 'Frantic', among others.
Yes, you are correct that putting two movies on the same disc may compromise both due to compression. Essentially, this means that each movie has been authored onto a single 25 gb disc layer. However, keep in mind that, depending on the length and visual complexity of the movies, this doesn't necessarily mean that they'll be unwatchable.
For the studios, double-feature discs like these are a compromise that allows them to issue catalog releases of marginal interest titles that will hopefully generate some sales, but probably not enough to justify full-blown restorations or special treatment. This certainly isn't ideal, but may be our only chance to see some of these movies on Blu-ray at all.
PS3 Audio Settings Revisited
Q: I have a follow up question for your last column. My Onkyo reciever does not decode the DTS-HD or Dolby TrueHD formats. Are there any settings in the PS3 that need to be done to be able to output the high definition audio, or am I stuck with lossy formats? Or is the PS3 converting to LPCM and sending it to the receiver as high def? The system sounds good and I feel that the sound is better when I am watching a Blu-ray compared to a DVD, but I am not sure if it some kind of placebo effect where I think it sounds better but it may be the same.
A: If your Onkyo receiver has an HDMI input, and if it's able to process audio over HDMI (as opposed to just video passthrough on that connection), you can get the full benefit of Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio from your PS3. In the PS3s setup menu, make sure you set your audio to output in LPCM format. With this, the PS3 decodes the TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio internally and converts them to uncompressed PCM. The PCM has all the full quality of the original master. It's just been unpacked from the compression codec similar to un-Zipping a data file on your computer.
If your receiver doesn't have an HDMI input, or if it is limited to video passthrough over HDMI, you will not get full lossless quality audio from a PS3. You'll have to connect the console to the receiver by a digital coax or Toslink optical connection, which cannot carry 5.1 channels of PCM. They are limited to 2 channels of PCM, or up to 6.1 channels of the lossy Dolby Digital or DTS codecs. In this case, set the PS3 to "bitstream" for audio. The console will downgrade the signal to standard DD 5.1 or DTS 5.1 quality, but that's the best you can do with this combination of equipment.
I'll point out one more option for you, though. If your receiver has multi-channel analog inputs, you may consider buying a standalone Blu-ray player with the same type of multi-channel analog outputs. You should be able to find one for a reasonable price these days. In this scenario, the player would both decode the TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio and convert it to analog for you. All your receiver would have to do is amplify the signal, and you'd still benefit from the quality of the original lossless track.
Audyssey Calibration and Analog Connections
Q: My current set-up includes a Panasonic DMP-BD80 Blu-ray player and a Onkyo TX-SR506 A/V receiver. Unfortunately, the receiver is unable to decode HD audio tracks, but the Blu-ray player is. The two are thus connected via analog multi-channel outputs; the player decodes and converts the track where it is then sent to the receiver for amplification (information which you know of course). The Onkyo has the Audyssey calibration feature which through the use of the supplied microphone, allows the user to calibrate the receiver with the connecting speakers for an improved audio experience. Does this mean that when I am watching Blu-ray films, I am not benefiting from Audyssey calibration, because it is decoded and converted in the player?
A: Essentially, yes. Audyssey MultEQ (and similar auto-calibration features) will set speaker levels and add EQ to compensate for acoustic issues in your room. These adjustments are made in the processing component of the A/V receiver.
When you connect your Blu-ray player to the receiver by multi-channel analog, you bypass the processing section of the receiver and only use the amplification section. All audio decoding and processing is handled in the Blu-ray player, not the receiver. Therefore, you should adjust your speaker levels in the player's setup menu, preferably using a sound level meter. You might be able to copy the level settings that Audyssey programmed into the receiver and carry them over to the Blu-ray player. (Theoretically, they should wind up with the same results, but I don't know that I'd be comfortable relying on that.) However, you will not be able to benefit from any EQ that Audyssey might apply.
The HD Advisor knows many things, but he doesn't know everything. Some questions are best answered with a consensus of opinions from our readers. If you can help to answer the following question, please post your response in our forum thread linked at the end of this article. Your advice and opinions matter too!
Transferring 8mm Film to DVD
Q: We have tons of old 8mm film home movies laying around. The films are getting old, and I am afraid that they will not last much longer. My first thought was to send them off to have them professionally restored and transferred. There are a lot of services like this, and places like CVS that resale the service for other companies. I got excited when I saw prices of $25 a reel – but soon realized that those were for the small reels. Most places charge per foot, and I calculated that it would cost us about $300 for a large reel, and we have about 15 or so large reels. I then looked at buying my own telecine device. These seem to start at $1500 and go up to several grand. With the cheap ones, I think you are supposed to supply your own camera. $1500 would be cheaper than having all the movies transferred, and then I could sale the service to others, but I am looking at something cheaper still.
I found these. Basically, it’s a little box that you shine a projector in one side, and put a camera in the other. I was wondering if anyone has had any experience with these? I got an HD Nikon camera, but it only takes video with auto-focus, and I'm not sure if I can auto-focus with that short of a distance. (Nikon Coolpix p100). However, what I am even more worried about is differences in frame rate. I also keep thinking of those awful CAMs that you see on the internet (not that I know anything about them). So, what do you think? Or do you know of another solution? I saw somewhere where you could build your own telecine device, and that could possibly be an option too, if the price is right.
Check back soon for another round of answers. Keep those questions coming.
Joshua Zyber's opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of this site, its owners or employees.