Truth Patrol: Amazing DVD Facts!

HDTV Truth Patrol
Source: BuyMagazine article — The 4-1-1 on HD DVD (no author attribution)

Quote: “Two new pre-recorded disc formats are coming this spring — the HD DVD and Blu-ray — which will be able to play conventional DVDs by trying to extract hi-def info from them.”

Hooboy! Let me start by saying that most of this article starts off pretty well, and explains things fairly clearly and accurately. But then the author goes and drops this brick. It is true that HD DVD and Blu-ray discs were designed to be able to hold movies in HD format, but the basic fact is that they simply hold more data than standard DVDs. They use smaller holes to store the data, and so need blue laser light — with smaller light waves — to read the smaller holes accurately.

Will these drives be able to play conventional DVDs? No they won’t, unless they have a conventional DVD read head with a red laser in addition to the blue laser hardware. But the truly amazing “fact” is that there is somehow “hi-def info” stored on a standard DVD that can somehow be extracted by a blue laser drive. This is just plain wrong.

The author may have been confused about the feature found on some newer DVD players, which is called “upconverting“. These take the standard-definition images of a conventional DVD, and expand the image to fill a high-definition screen. It is not extracting HD content, but rather is more or less making it up. Instead of seeing a coarse and blocky image as you get with an inexpensive scaling feature, these upconverting drives create a smoother image that looks better, though it still does not have the detail of a true HD image.