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
Dolby ProLogic IIz on a 5.1 Audio System
Q: I've recently bought a Pioneer VSX-520 A/V receiver. It seems to have a very interesting feature. I thought it was a typo on the store display, but Page 29 of the owner's manual confirms it. It's a 5.1 system that has Dolby ProLogic IIz. I thought IIz added height channels to a 7.1 system, making it into a 9.1 system? Things get really confusing on Page 19 of the manual. It looks like the receiver has RCA pre-out jacks that you can use for surround rear. I was wondering if you could shed some light on this. Does this receiver really add height channel to a 5.1 system?
A: As I've mentioned in a previous article, Dolby ProLogic IIz adds two new height channels to a surround sound system. According to Dolby, these can be added on top of either 5.1 or 7.1 configurations. There is no requirement that the new height channels in ProLogic IIz must be used only with 7.1.
Based on the details in your receiver's manual, it appears that it is primarily a 5.1 model. However, it has pre-outs for two additional speakers. The receiver will not power these last two speaker channels itself. These outputs must be connected to an additional external amplifier. The receiver can be configured to use these extra two channels in either one of two ways:
You can use them for surround rear channels in a 7.1 configuration with Dolby ProLogic IIx processing.
You can use them for height channels in a 5.1 + Height configuration with Dolby ProLogic IIz processing.
The receiver has both ProLogic IIx and IIz processing, but forces you to make an either/or decision between them. The receiver will not support 7.1 + Height. It doesn't have enough speaker outputs for that.
Out of Print Blu-ray Discs
Q: I was wondering what the heck is going on with many, even somewhat recently released, Blu-ray titles that seem to now be out of print? I especially don't understand how major Hollywood studio titles like 'Hot Rod' and 'Indecent Proposal' are suddenly nearly impossible to find outside of the used market with a high price mark-up. I don't remember something like this ever happening during the early years of SD DVD. It is bad enough that I can't find BD titles like 'Opium and the Kung-Fu Master.' I don't need more mainstream titles being hard to buy as well. What is the cause for all this? Will they be re-released, and if so, under what circumstances and when?
A: The two movies you reference, 'Hot Rod' and 'Indecent Proposal', were released on Blu-ray in late-2008 and mid-2009 respectively. More importantly, at the time of release they were both already catalog titles, not day-and-date new releases. Unfortunately, catalog titles have often suffered from poor sales on Blu-ray. Many home video consumers feel little need to rebuy movies already owned on DVD, except in special circumstances – such as the title being a favorite movie, or something that they feel will particularly benefit from a high definition presentation.
My guess here is that these titles sold poorly on Blu-ray, and Paramount (the studio behind both) eventually discontinued them. These decisions are not made out of any plan to make the titles rare or obscure. It's simply a matter that the studio feels is not worth the investment of continuing to produce new copies that aren't selling.
In most cases like this, previously-produced copies of the titles will continue to linger on retailer shelves even after they've gone out of print. However, in some situations where the original production run may have been small to start, speculators sometimes scoop up the remaining copies of these out-of-print discs in order to sell them at a mark-up to collectors who can't find them at retail anymore.
'Hot Rod' is an interesting example. The film was released on DVD and the now-defunct HD DVD format in November of 2007, during the brief period when Paramount was an HD DVD exclusive studio. The high-def format war ended in Blu-ray's favor a few months later, so the HD DVD was discontinued pretty quickly. But Paramount didn't get around to issuing 'Hot Rod' on Blu-ray until December of 2008.
If we remember, 'Hot Rod' was a box office dud in theaters. Nonetheless, it probably generated enough interest to sell a decent number of copies on DVD in the first few months after its release. Had it been released day-and-date on Blu-ray at that time, it might have sold fairly well on that format too. Yet by the end of 2008, most people had forgotten about it, or had already bought it on DVD. Consumer interest for the title was at an ebb. When the movie stopped selling, Paramount stopped producing copies on either format. The comedy is currently out of print on DVD as well, however it's still easy to find on that format because so many more copies were produced. The Blu-ray had a smaller release window and a smaller production run. Therefore, it's harder to find a Blu-ray copy today.
In response to a recent column in which I answered a question about why it's better to encode Blu-ray video at 1080p – rather than encode it as 1080i to be deinterlaced later – one reader responded with the following bit of follow-up information.
1080i vs. 1080p Revisited
Q: You are correct that movies which were originally shot at 24 fps will be better if stored on the Blu-ray disc as 24p rather than 60i. However, you didn't mention that some material is native 1080i/60 – like concerts or shot-for-TV specials, where there are in fact 60 unique "pictures" per second. That's why "video" shot material often looks smoother than 24p (or 24 via 3:2 into 60i). Each video field is from a different point in time, meaning the only way to correctly display this on a progressively scanned display is to de-interlace 60i to 60p. (Note: not 30p.) Worse still, some made-for-TV material is shot on cameras at 24p, but then post produced in 60i, with 60i special effects, or 60i smooth rolling credits, etc. Such a disc would have to be authored as 60i, not 24p. The TV's deinterlacing would have to dynamically adapt to the changing 3:2 or 1:1 cadences of the source material as it plays in real time.
JZ: My original response referred specifically to content that originated at 24 fps. However, everything you point out here is correct, and worth the clarification. While it's always better to encode native 24 fps material as 24 fps on a Blu-ray, not all content originates that way or can be encoded that way.
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.