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 [email protected]
Answers by Joshua Zyber
Mono 1.0 vs. Mono 2.0 Soundtracks
Q: I have a disc that claims to offer DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 sound, but the audio only comes out the front center and the subwoofer, which I understood to be 1.1. Am I missing something?
A: Mono soundtracks can be encoded either in 1.0 format (audio only to the center channel) or 2.0 (an identical signal to the left and right mains). If your receiver has any form of Dolby ProLogic engaged, it will detect a 2.0 mono signal and automatically redirect the audio to the center speaker. This is the same process by which ProLogic extracts dialogue from a stereo or 2.0 surround track. At the end of the day, there shouldn't be any audible difference between 1.0 or 2.0 mono.
If you'd rather hear a 2.0 signal coming from the left and right channels as it was authored, turn off ProLogic. I don't usually recommend this, however. In the home environment, dialogue usually sounds strange coming from the side speakers.
As for your subwoofer being active, if you've programmed your receiver with any bass management, it will filter low-frequency signals from the main channels and redirect them to the sub. This doesn't require the disc to be authored with anything in the .1 channel.
Fancy Blu-ray Packaging
Q: Why don't American Blu-ray releases get fancy cases or better packaging like other countries often do? In Europe and Japan, a lot of movies get released with Steelbook cases or gift set editions like 'Ghost in the Shell', 'Inglourious Basterds', or 'This is Spinal Tap'.
A: This is a trend that started with DVD and has carried through to Blu-ray. The U.S. market does occasionally get elaborate disc packages such as the 'Blade Runner', 'Gone with the Wind', or 'Wizard of Oz' gift sets. (Warner Home Video seems to favor them more than other studios.) Sometimes, specific retailers will carry exclusive packages, like this edition of 'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen' with an Optimus Prime bust that's available only at Best Buy.
However, you are correct that we see these sort of things much less frequently than some foreign territories do. Steelbook cases in particular are hot collectible items in many countries, but are rarely offered here. The reasons for that are largely cultural. For the most part, American consumers aren't attracted to elaborate movie packaging. In fact, some are outright turned off by it. Many collectors prefer uniformity, so that all their movies line up neatly on a shelf. Or, those with large collections may simply be looking to conserve space. A big box set is often seen as a waste of room. Not everyone feels this way, of course. Some collectors cherish unique cases or large gift sets. Nevertheless, by and large, fancy disc packaging doesn't sell well in the U.S. As a result, the studios don't bother to offer it here.
The situation is different in other countries. In Asia, studios often use elaborate packaging as a way to entice shoppers to buy legitimate retail editions of movies rather than cheap bootlegs. A box set or nice case makes the buyer feel that he or she is paying for something of quality. European collectors often embrace diversity in packaging. The downright crazy Hogwarts Prestige Edition gift set for the 'Harry Potter' movies that was released in France is perhaps the ultimate example of collectors' indulgence.
Blu-rays with Less Features than DVDs
Q: What is it that makes companies release a Blu-ray of a film with less special features than the DVD? This makes the DVD version all the more enticing and not worth replacing. Two cases: 'Big Fish' and 'Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium'. I love both films, and both have amazing imagery that look spectacular on Blu-ray, but both feature none of the behind the scenes features that appear on the DVDs. Doesn't the extra space on the Blu-ray allow them to fit all of that and more?
A: The choice to release a Blu-ray with fewer bonus features than the comparable DVD edition of the film usually comes down to three reasons: technical issues, licensing issues, or business policy decisions.
In the early days of the Blu-ray format, many movies were authored on BD-25 single-layer discs. At the time, BD-50 dual-layer discs had poor reliability rates. This was especially problematic when the studios used inefficient MPEG-2 video compression and space-hogging PCM audio (which are troublesome even on dual-layer discs like 'Big Fish'). That left very little room on the disc for supplemental content. As a result, a lot of Blu-rays released in 2006 and 2007 had no features other than the movie. Obviously, this is much less of a concern these days. BD-50 discs are pretty standard now, and the studios have almost all switched to the more efficient AVC MPEG-4 or VC-1 compression and lossless audio formats.
In some cases, the studio may no longer hold the licensing rights to certain pieces of content. This often happens to music videos, documentaries and featurettes produced by a third-party company, or vintage material. In an example like 'La Femme Nikita', the movie was last released on DVD by MGM Home Entertainment with a handful of bonus features. But the film's distribution rights later changed hands to Sony Home Entertainment, who released it on Blu-ray but couldn't retain any of MGM's supplements.
By far the most frustrating scenario is when a studio deliberately drops bonus features with the expectation of forcing fans to buy both the Blu-ray and DVD edition of the film to get everything. 20th Century Fox (the studio behind 'Mr. Magorium') is one of the worst offenders in this regard.
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!
DVD Playback Issue with Mitsubishi DLP TV
Q: I have a problem with doing any upscaling on my TV. I have a Mitsubishi WD-73833 diamond DLP TV. I hooked up an OPPO DV-983H upscaling DVD player directly to the TV via HDMI. When the upscaling was on, the left and right side of the picture was bowed in towards the center. Just enough to make it noticeable and looking like the movie was compressed by a pair of backwards parentheses. With the upscaling off, the problem went away. But 480p on a 73" screen could look better, you know? I called Mitsubishi, who assured me it was the player, so I bought a PS3 and went with Blu-ray. Blu-ray playback has perfect screen geometry, but even the PS3 (again, direct HDMI hookup to TV) has the same problem if the upscaling is on when playing standard DVDs. Help! What's going on?
JZ: That is very odd indeed. The WD-73833 is a 1080p TV. Assuming that you have your PS3 set to output DVDs at 1080p resolution (use the settings that I provided in this older column), I can think of no technical reason why your TV would have an issue displaying upconverted DVDs that it doesn't have when displaying Blu-rays. As far as the TV is concerned, all it sees is a 1080p input signal. It has no way of knowing which is DVD and which is Blu-ray. Has anyone else out there experienced a problem like this?
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.