Truth Patrol: Are DVDs HD?

HDTV Truth Patrol

Everyone knows that people are confused about HDTV. And lots of people are trying to help consumers understand this technology and the various choices; that’s why the HDTV Almanac exists in the first place. These efforts are commendable. But sadly, many responsible individuals and companies spread confusion and misinformation rather than eliminate it. Under the Truth Patrol’s spotlight this time is Crutchfield.

The company’s latest catalog has a “Televisions Shopping Guide” on page 31 that has some good information. One of the highlights is one of the better viewing distance/screen size tables I’ve seen (though it doesn’t take resolution into account, so I still think the one in Professor Poor’s Guide to Buying HDTV is better.) But then they go and stub their toe big time:

If most of your viewing is DVD-quality or better, you’ll see more details by sitting closer. If you watch more regular (non-HD) video, sit farther back for a smoother picture.

Hmmm… they make a distinction between “DVD-quality” and “non-HD” video. Folks, unless you’re watching a Blu-ray or HD DVD disc, you’re watching “non-HD” video when you watch a DVD. Yes, there are “upscaling” DVD players that take the standard definition DVD signal and scale it up to fill an HD screen. For every 10 by 10 block of pixels, these enlarge the image to about 20 by 20 pixels. In other words, they take the 100 original pixels and expand them to use 400 pixels. They do it very cleverly, so that lines look smooth and you don’t get a big blotchy image that looks like a mosaic. But these players still can’t invent detail that’s not already in the image, so a DVD still only has standard definition content. Lots of people think that DVDs are high-definition because they look good on a large screen, but they’re not. Crutchfield has a good reputation for reliable information, so it’s unfortunate that they have added to the confusion.

Thanks to George in Chicago for pointing this one out. If you see something about HDTV that is wrong, or just makes you go “huh?”, write me at alfred@hdtvprofessor.com and you could win a cool Truth Patrol t-shirt.