This Week's Reader Mail Is In

Posted Fri May 12, 2006 at 01:40 PM PDT by
Old-Fashioned Letter Mailbox Join us for the latest issue of High Def Digest's Reader Mailbag, where we answer all your questions on HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, industry trends and our site's news and reviews.

Got questions of your own? Send them our way, and we'll try to answer them on the site in future issues of our Reader Mailbag.

How Old is That HD Transfer in the Window?

"Thanks for your early review of 'Full Metal Jacket.' But as a Stanley Kubrick fan looking forward to more high-def releases of his movies from Warner, I was a bit surprised to read that you guys said the new disc utilizes 'the same master' as the previous standard DVD release of 'Jacket.' What gives?" -- Brandon

Dear Brandon: Very good question, and you're not alone -- we've gotten more email about our 'Full Metal Jacket' review than any other so far in the (albeit short) history of High Def Digest.

The information about the masters used for the HD-DVD release came from an interview our reviewer Peter had conducted three years ago with the DVD producer of all of the Warner Kubrick titles. All were remastered back in 2002 for a new standard DVD collection the studio was marketing of all of the director's films. Though the late Kubrick's wishes were to present all of his films (except '2001: A Space Odyssey,' which was shot at 2.35:1) in 4:3 "open matte" on home video, high-def masters in widescreen were also created, including 'Eyes Wide Shut,' 'Clockwork Orange,' 'Full Metal Jacket,' 'Barry Lyndon' and 'The Shining.' All were matted to an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (except 'Orange,' which was pillarboxed at 1.66:1). Many of these HD versions have already been seen over the past three years on many HD cable networks, and will be utilized again for their upcoming HD-DVD and Blu-Ray releases.

However, Warner's approach with the Kubrick titles is not an isolated one. The studios have already been minting high-def masters of their libraries for many years. Some, such as Sony, even began archiving in HD since the mid-'90s. So many of these "new" HD-DVD and Blu-Ray releases will indeed utilize masters created many years ago. As all of us early adopters know only too well, when it comes to new home video formats, indeed everything old is new again.

Dolby Digital-Plus versus DTS?

"I was curious about your 'Assault on Precinct 13' review. The cover of the disc lists as an audio option a DTS soundtrack. I was really hoping for a comparison between the DTS and Dolby Digital Plus soundtracks. I know the DTS isn't one of the new HD DTS formats, but Dolby + is supposed to be very comparable to DTS, and I was wondering how they compared in practice." -- Chad R.

Dear Chad: Thanks for the suggestion, and we have added a DTS versus Dolby Digital-Plus comparison to our 'Assault on Precinct 13' review.

As 'Assault' is but the first HD-DVD title to feature an optional DTS track, it is too soon to make any sweeping comparisons between the audio format and Dolby Digital-Plus. However, the results we found in our review seem to align with those the general tech press have also found so far in head-to-head comparison between DD+ and DTS. Given that Dolby Digital-Plus can support bit rates up to 6 Mbps (3 Mbps on HD-DVD and 1.7 Mbps on Blu-Ray, according to the official Dolby website), it is technically superior to DTS's max 1.5 Mbps. Certainly, there are many other factors that determine the overall quality of a soundtrack than just raw numbers, but Dolby Digital-Plus certainly closes the spec gap that had previously left DTS superior to standard Dolby Digital 5.1.

However, we feel the whole Dolby Digital versus DTS argument won't really begin anew until the next-gen versions of both audio formats begin to appear with any real frequency on HD-DVD and Blu-Ray discs. Warner has already released two HD-DVD titles, 'Training Day' and 'Phantom of the Opera,' that contain Dolby TrueHD soundtracks (which promise up to 7.1 channels of multichannel audio comparable in quality to the studio masters), though no high-def DVD titles have yet been announced with an DTS-HD audio option. But it is only a matter of time, and once more disc titles and A/V receives capable of playing the next-gen audio formats hit the market, then the real race for the crown of "Best HD Audio Format" will get underway.

Reviews of EVERY title?

"I stumbled onto your website via some random link in some random forum and I am glad I did. So far, you are the only website that I have found that has EVERY HD-DVD titled reviewed. Your release list is easiest to read (and find), and you seem very open to Toshiba's HD-DVD format. I purchased the HD-A1 on the launch, and have been buying 1 HD-DVD each week to help support the format. Your reviews help me decide which discs really show off what hi-def movies are all about. Who would have thought 'Goodfellas' could look so good? Thanks again." -- Kris

Dear Kris: Thanks for allowing us to end our week with such a nice praise, however self-serving we are being in printing it!

Indeed, our goal is to review every HD-DVD and Blu-Ray title that gets released. Certainly, over the coming months, the studios' release schedules for both high-def formats will be appreciable if not quite the opening of the floodgates, which makes our job a bit more manageable. But even as more and more studios come aboard the high-def DVD bandwagon in the coming weeks and months, we will definitely be doing our darndest to cover every title out there. So thanks again for the boost of confidence, and stay tuned for all the reviews we can throw at you!
Tags: Reader Mail (all tags)