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Home Entertainment Blog Archive

Brought to you by your friendly, opinionated, Home Entertainment and Technology writer, Stephen Dawson

Here I report, discuss, whinge or argue on matters related to high fidelity, home entertainment equipment and the discs and signals that feed them. Since this Blog is hand-coded (I like TextPad), there are no comments facilities. But feel free to email me at scdawson [at] hifi-writer.com. I will try to respond, either personally or by posting here emails I consider of interest. I shall assume that emails sent to me here can be freely posted by me unless you state otherwise.

This archive is for an uncertain period commencing Thursday, 12 February 2009

Is the Australian Blu-ray of The Fifth Element good quality? - Wednesday, 1 April 2009, 9:55 pm

It has been alleged on a forum that Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has dumped its substandard initial Blu-ray encode of The Fifth Element on the Australian market. I find this highly unlikely, but have been unable to get ahold of a copy of the disc to check for myself. I have a pressing, but it's a pre-release version sent by Sony. I cannot guarantee that this is the same as that sold in the shops.

Are there any Australian readers who purchased this movie on Blu-ray from a regular Australian retailer who would be prepared to lend me a copy for a couple of days? I would like to extract technical information from it to see whether it is as claimed on that forum or, as seems to me more likely, the Australian disc offers the same glorious picture quality as the remastered US version. I don't want to buy one myself because I already have four copies of the movie in different formats!

Serenity re-encode improves quality - Monday, 30 March 2009, 4:23 pm

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that the Universal Pictures (Australasia) Pty Ltd Blu-ray release of First Blood had an identical video encode to the previous HD DVD release. I have now checked both Total Recall and Serenity, which Universal had also sent me. Total Recall, as can be seen here, is also identical to the earlier HD DVD. I confirmed that by comparing 737 'I' frames from each and finding them bit-perfect matches.

Serenity, though, is very different. I shall write it up in due course in the appropriate place. Here, though, I will mention that besides the obvious differences (the Blu-ray has two PIP functions, for example), when I extracted frames and compared them, they were quite different. The 'I' frames were even in different places for the most part.

The extraction of frames from the HD DVD version fell over after only the first one hundred 'I' frames. I don't know why. So I had a limited number of chances to find matching frames between the HD DVD and Blu-ray versions. But I did manage to find one. Here it is, shrunk down:

Serenity frame

Now here is a 250 by 300 pixel detail from that frame, unscaled, and compressed only in the lossless PNG format, with the HD DVD capture on the left and the Blu-ray capture on the right:

Serenity HD DVD vs Blu-ray comparison

The differences are there, but by no means obvious. In fact, I chose this section because it was with the forested hills that the differences were most marked. If you examine them closely, you will see that the dark parts are a little darker on the Blu-ray, and the detail a bit clearer. It's as though a fine veil or haze overlays the HD DVD version. But an almost transparent one, just enough to knock the edge of clarity off.

The full PNG frames from which I extracted these details were the following sizes: 2,201,983 bytes for the HD DVD extract, and 2,421,047 bytes for the Blu-ray. In other words, the HD DVD frame was 91% of the size of the Blu-ray frame. That suggests that it was inherently more compressible than the Blu-ray version, given that the application I used employed the same compression parameters (for example, it produces identical HD DVD and Blu-ray PNG shots for Total Recall, Corpse Bride and First Blood). That in turn suggests that there truly is more detail in the Blu-ray version.

I expect to have more up under the review in a few days.

Wasting Space? - Sunday, 29 March 2009, 10:29 am

Last night I watched Pale Rider, a Clint Eastwood Western released on Blu-ray by Warner Bros. I strongly suspect it is the same as Warner Bros releases of the movie elsewhere in the world.

I find this disc interesting for a couple of reasons. One is that blu-ray.highdefdigest.com gives it a good write up on picture quality, whereas I thought it was one of the weakest titles I've seen. Mind you, I'd just finished watching the deep, deep blacks of Sweeney Todd. Still, the blacks of this movie were a deep muddy brown, and there was a persistent paler band down the right hand side of the frame. Some brief sections of the film were clearly out of focus, for which I suppose I should blame cinematography, rather than transfer. The 20.88Mbps average video bitrate for the VC1 encode is probably higher than average for Warner Bros.

The other reason is the size of the disc. Both the highdefdigest review and Nero DiscSpeed 4 report that this is a dual layer disc. The maximum capacity of a single layer disc is, according to Wikipedia, 23.28GB (using 1,024 as the divisor for the 'thousands'). This disc comes to 23.15GB, measured using BDInfo, AnyDVD HD and dir /s. So this might be the first disc that actually wastes more that half its capacity.

Know It All - Tuesday, 24 March 2009, 10:26 pm

Since 2004 I have been writing a column for Geare magazine called 'Know It All'. In each column I endeavour to explain how some bit or other of technology, or other working thing, actually does work.

I've uploaded the first 26 columns here. They include guns, power distribution, fuel cells, SCUBA, even us!

From the column on digital signals:

To understand, and accept, digital signals requires us to accept that analogue signal transfer is not perfect. What digital allows is for us to embrace those imperfections, draw a line in the sand on them and say, 'This far, and no further.'

You see, digital signals are inherently inaccurate. Instead of trying to transfer an analogue signal from form to form, device to device, perfectly (but always doomed to fall short), it imposes a defined level of imperfection on the signal, and then absolutely refuses to let it get worse.

Another suggests that switching off your TV at the power point is rather a waste of time.

Check them out. There's about twenty thousand words of reading for those who are interested!

Windows Vulnerabilities - Tuesday, 24 March 2009, 2:08 pm

A number of years ago I wrote a review of Microsoft Word for Windows 6.0 in which I concluded it has a significant list of problems, making it a lousy word processor. Except for all the other word processors on the market, which were even worse.

These days, Microsoft receives a hammering for poor security in Windows, in Windows Explorer, and in any other of its products where a security flaw is found. This has seeped into cultural discourse and belief as evidence that Microsoft has poor programmers, and just doesn't care anyway. That, notwithstanding the fortnightly updates and patches issued by the company.

My view has been that Microsoft is pretty good at what it does. Very good, in fact. Indeed, I suggest that it is its very success that has made it seem so vulnerable to viruses.

You see, Microsoft dominates the operating system market with around a ninety per cent market share.

So let's say that you are one of the twisted individuals who wish to wreak havoc throughout the Internet, or upon strangers' computers, whether for your own warped gratification or for money. Would you write your virus or worm or trojan horse or whatever for Macs? Linux boxes? Or course not. You'd concentrate on where the volume is. That is: Windows.

My brother draws my attention to this story about a hacking convention:

Security researcher Charlie Miller hacked Safari in just 10 seconds, then used a remote-execution exploit to take over the up-to-date MacBook and make it do his dirty bidding. Firefox and Internet Explorer 8 (which you can download at noon today) fell within a few hours to Nils, a master's student who busted all three browsers wide open.
So the main Mac brower was broken in ten seconds, while the main Windows browsers took 'a few hours'. All those attacks against Windows and Internet Explorer seem to have paid off with a more secure product.
DTS-HD High Resolution - Monday, 23 March 2009, 1:17 pm

I've been after a disc -- any disc -- carrying DTS-HD High Resolution audio. This is, of course, the improved version of DTS. It remains lossy, but can carry more bits of data, so it is less lossy than regular DTS. While regular DTS maxes out at 1.5Mbps (1,536 or 1,509kbps, depending on the tool you use to report it), on HD DVD, DTS-HD HR could use up to 3Mbps and on Blu-ray up to 6Mbps (see here).

Universal has now sent me three of them: First Blood, Total Recall and House of Flying Daggers. In each case, DTS-HD HR is used for some of the non-English audio tracks.

I also have the first two in their HD DVD incarnations, and in both cases these claimed also to carry their non-English sound as DTS-HD HR. And maybe they did, but if so I couldn't see or hear it. According to the info display on the Toshiba XE-1 HD DVD player (with the latest 4.0 firmware), this audio was regular DTS. Setting the player to bitstream the audio signal in original format, my Yamaha RX-V3900 informs me that the signal is indeed regular DTS. Except that the Yamaha doesn't report its bitrate. Yet the Yamaha happily reports the 1,536kbps of DTS from a DVD played on the Toshiba. On the other hand, it won't report the bitrate from the regular DTS track on the HD DVD of The Italian Job.

So as far as I can work out, the claimed DTS-HD HR on those HD DVDs isn't there.

But it is definitely there on First Blood and House of Flying Daggers, and I have no doubt will be on Total Recall as well when I get around to examining it. Thanks to BDInfo, I can say that the DTS-HD HR on First Blood has a bitrate of 2,046kbps.

Meanwhile, I compared the video of First Blood between the Blu-ray and HD DVD versions. I am pretty confident that they are identical VC1 encodes. To confirm, I extracted the first 257 'I' frames from each and compared the resulting graphics files. They were bit perfect matches, every single one of them.

Visiting elsewhere - Monday, 23 March 2009, 1:11 pm

That's naughty of me. I've been hanging around elsewhere over the last ten days or so. Primarily here.

That is a site for gathering detailed statistical information on Blu-ray content. I've contributed some information on a few discs, thanks to a superb tool called BDInfo, currently at version 0.5.2. This scans Blu-ray discs and gives extraordinary insight into what's on them. If you have a Windows PC and a Blu-ray drive and a sense of curiosity, check it out. Perhaps contribute to the forum as well.

Overseas Blu-ray purchases - Thursday, 12 March 2009, 10:11 am

Today I received a copy of the Japanese Anime movie Akira, which I ordered on Blu-ray from Amazon. Reason: the Japanese 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD sound track is encoded at 192kHz and 24 bits: the maximum supported by the format. Already, the first Blu-ray player I've tested this with -- and it works fine at decoding Dolby TrueHD 7.1 channel 96kHz 24 bit material -- collapses to two channels if called on to decode this. Of course, what you do is simply pipe this out to your receiver as a bitstream. My Yamaha RX-V3900 seems to work fine with it.

Anyway, if you are considering purchasing Blu-ray from overseas, may I suggest that you check out the 'Blu-Ray Region Code Info' site. It has region code info on hundreds of discs. Remember, you cannot trust the region coding shown on the back of the box.

As a rule, anything released by Paramount, Warner Bros and Universal is safe to buy from overseas. Sony seems to be abandoning region coding. Twentieth Century Fox seems to be sticking with it, while Disney is a bit all over the place.

UPDATE (Thursday, 12 March 2009, 11:23 am): Just having a look at Akira now. The disc is 38.6GB in size. More than half is sound. The video bitrate seems to be averaging about 8-9Mbps (can get away on this because of the inherently simple nature of the animation, and due to many frames being repeated intact, or almost entirely intact). With the high resolution track engaged audio is ranging from 11-17Mbps.


To Bookmark, or Not To Bookmark? - Thursday, 12 March 2009, 9:35 am

A lot of Blu-ray discs come with a book marking facility. Such facilities have appeared over the years on a number of DVD players. Most were utterly useless, since the moment you popped the disc out your bookmarks were wiped. However my first DVD player, the Sony DVP-S725, had a persistent bookmark feature. It maintained a bit of non-volatile memory in which it kept the status of the last two hundred discs that you played, including any bookmarks you cared to insert.

That was at the hardware level.

Blu-ray bookmarks at done at the software level. Of the 113 Blu-ray discs I have examined exhaustively, 28 have a bookmark facility, and 85 do not. Although the implementation is in software, persistent storage built into the Blu-ray player is used. Even grace period players are required to have 64kB of this. So if you save a bookmark on a suitably equipped Blu-ray disc, you will be able to come back to that point weeks or months into the future, despite having played other discs in the meantime.

But it comes at a cost. Because it is implemented in software, the player needs to load in a chunk of BD-Java programming code as it's starting up. I'm not sure if this is necessarily the case in theory, but in practice Blu-ray players are incapable of restarting from the same place in a movie as where they were stopped if BD-Java code is loaded. Instead, all such discs must go through the entire boot up sequence again, including trailers, copyright warnings and so on.

An easy restart from where you stopped is nice if you have a remote control that allows you to accidentally stop a movie too easily. Hit 'Play', and you're back into the action within a few seconds. But that restart point isn't retained over time.

I think I prefer bookmarks, but it doesn't come without cost.

Do these cables support HDMI 1.3? - Friday, 27 February 2009, 11:03 am

On lots of Internet forums there is discussion about suitable cables for home theatre. In particular, people frequently ask about HDMI 1.3 cables. The problem is, despite labels on some cables, their capabilities aren't as clear cut as simple versions would suggest.

The wiring of all HDMI cables is identical. Different HDMI versions don't have a different number of conductors in the cables, or different pin arrangements. The only thing that you need to pay attention to is whether the cable will carry the necessary bandwidth.

HDMI 1.3 does indeed bump up the bandwidth requirements from 165MHz to 340MHz, or 4.95Gbps to 10.2Gbps. So if you want your cable to handle everything that HDMI 1.3 or later may throw your way in the future, get a cable labelled 'High Speed' or 'HDMI 1.3'.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, what does HDMI 1.3 mean in the home theatre context? There is only one thing that HDMI 1.3 added that would increase bandwidth over earlier versions for currently existing systems, and for systems likely to exist in the near future: 'Deep Color' support. HDMI 1.0 to 1.2a support up to 24 bit colour, HDMI 1.3 and later support 48 bit colour. Some current Blu-ray players (and the PS3) support 36 bit colour. That could add some demands to the video bandwidth required of a cable.

But if it causes problems, go into your Blu-ray player's menu and switch off 'Deep Color' support. Because Blu-ray discs do not support 'Deep Color'! (Note, the PS3 does with compatible games.) So there is no need for Deep Color with a Blu-ray player.

HDMI 1.3 adds higher resolutions, including 2,560 by 1,600 pixels. Nice, but nothing to do with home theatre. The highest bandwidth video available from a Blu-ray player is 1080p60, and that was supported way back with HDMI 1.0.

HDMI 1.3 also added bitstream support for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Guess what: the maximum audio bandwidth for all versions of HDMI, including 1.3, remains the same. Because even HDMI 1.0 supported 8 channels of 192kHz, 24 bit LPCM. All forms of TrueHD and DTS-HD make significantly lower demands on bandwidth than that (they are compressed formats that typically require about half the dataspace of the LPCM streams that they carry). The change to allow these formats had nothing to do with bandwidth, but with the electronics at either end of the cable recognising these formats and dealing with them appropriately. Same as when DSD bitstream support was introduced in HDMI 1.2, and DVD Audio support in HDMI 1.1.

So, to summarise, if you have a cable that properly supports HDMI 1.0, it will properly support HDMI 1.3 as experienced in the real world of home theatre. Conversely, if you have one that doesn't work with HDMI 1.3, then the cable is defective and probably won't work with some material as transported by HDMI 1.0. The only division between the two could be if you have 36 bit colour switched on in your Blu-ray player.

As always, you should be aware of quality and brand reputation. Over two years ago I found that one of my cables wouldn't even support the full HDMI specification. It carried 1080i video fine, but fell apart with 1080p. So choose carefully, but looking specifically for 'HDMI 1.3' isn't the way to do it.

3626216940 - Thursday, 26 February 2009, 9:40 am

In the last item on today's 'Best of the Web Today' column in the Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal, the writer draws attention to a gaffe by the US Vice President in which he made reference to 'a website number'. Presumably, that's what most people would refer to as a website address, or even a URL.

At the end of this item the writer has a link to what he claims is the website number which, he says, is 3626216940. If you hover the over this link (either here or in the WSJ piece), you ought to see on your browser's status bar an address: But what is actually in the link is http://3626216940.

Of course, the 216.35 etc is the fixed address of the website in question (recovery.org). But what's 3626216940 all about?

The way we specify URLs in numerical terms is a weird hybrid of hexadecimal and decimal notation. In the AAA.BBB.CCC.DDD format, each of those AAA etc is the decimal form of a two digit hexadecimal number. A more sensible representation of the address using actual hexadecimal numbers would be D8.23.AD.EC. Since a two digit hex number can encompass only an integer range from 0 to 255, that's why you never see an Internet or network address in the hybrid dec/hex format with a value of greater than 255 in any of the four slots.

You can convert this address format to a fully decimal number by adding the least significant (right-most) number, to the next least significant multiplied by 256, to the third least significant multiplied by 256 and again by 256, and so on. Let's do it:


Copy and paste that expression into a suitable calculator and you will see that the answer is 3626216940, the number mentioned in the WSJ piece.

What I found surprising is that a browser will treat this as a decimal representation of URL.

Disclosures and subjectivity - Tuesday, 24 February 2009, 12:58 pm

This morning my attention was drawn to my disclosures page on this site (click on 'Disclosures' above). Having more or less forgotten about it, I went and had a read. Two things struck me. First, it was woefully out of date (last updated in August 2004!) Second, I still agree with most of it.

Anyway, I've brought it up to date. And now I want to quote a little of it:

There has long been a trend towards high fidelity mysticism. Sometimes it is dressed up with a pseudo-scientific facade, but in the end it boils down to unadulterated subjectivism and is based on the silly notion that the listener's ears and heart are calibrated, stable, measuring devices. Else, how could they be so certain that amplifier A sounds different in some way to amplifier B, when the listening takes place days or weeks apart.


The honest reviewer will approach his or her task with humility, and a proper understanding of the variability of all humans. That a particular recording causes one to tap one's foot with the music today, using System A, unlike yesterday, using System B, says much more about the reviewer's mood on those two days than it does about the differences between the systems.

That brought to mind a little visit I made to Sydney last week. Epson flew me up for the launch of two of their new home theatre projectors, the TW4000 and TW5000. These bump up the dynamic contrast ratio of Epson's three panel LCD technology to a claimed 72,000:1. Interestingly, the 'native' contrast ratio they now put at a very impressive 6,000:1. They also add frame interpolation, which generates intermediate frames between the actual frames of the signal, smoothing motion. This sort of technology has been around for years in some Philips and Loewe TVs, and in recent years has appeared in Samsung, Sony and Panasonic TVs. But the only front projector I'm aware of in which it has previously appeared is the near $20,000 Sony VPL-VW200 projector.

Anyway, the venue was Audio Connection in Sydney, a high-end audio and home theatre specialist. While waiting around at one point I spied lots of exotic and interesting sound gear, but one that had me puzzled was a CD transport (ie. digital out only) from C.E.C. which claimed to be 'belt drive'. This was obviously an expensive and audiophile piece of equipment, but I must say I had a chuckle over it.

I figured that this was one of those faddish things and that this was probably an old model that had been traded in. But I checked.

Here's a review from 2005 of the C.E.C. TL-51XZ Belt Drive CD player. Turns out they've been around for years.

From this point, my draft of this post continued for another 800 or so words. Then I decided that I really ought to try to sell it as an article. So consider for yourself, what do you think I could have found objectionable about the review to which I linked? Clue: it starts at the words: 'I would submit ...'

WALL-E Blu-ray vs PAL DVD screenshots - Monday, 23 February 2009, 12:28 pm

Here's my comparison between the two formats for WALL-E. The most startling of the six comparison shots is this one (DVD bottom left, Blu-ray bottom right, full frame top):

More Blu-ray vs PAL DVD screenshots - Sunday, 22 February 2009, 11:19 am

Classics this time: Bonnie and Clyde (1967) (made slightly topical by Faye Dunaway's meanspirited dismissal of Hilary Duff soon reprising the Bonnie Parker role - we all have our doubts, but perhaps this will be a breakout performance, proving Duff is seriously good) and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975).

The latter has two sets of comparisons, one with the original lousy DVD release from 1999, and the other with the greatly improved 2002 Special Edition.

Whacky WALL-E - Saturday, 21 February 2009, 11:19 pm

Well, that has been a struggle. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has sent me both the Blu-ray and DVD versions of the most recent Pixar animation: WALL-E. So I set out to do a Blu-ray vs DVD comparison. There were some interesting things the process revealed.

First, instead of Disney packing the entire movie into one large 20GB+ file on the disc, as generally happens, it split it up into twenty-ish smaller files, ranging from about half a gigabyte up to over six gigabytes in size. I ended up having to write a DOS batch file to automate the extraction of the shots from these files.

Second, the Blu-ray seems to be region coded for B and C, but not for A. That's a bit weird, and the first one of those I've come across.

Third, the DVD seems to have layers upon layers of protection. When I inserted the disc in the computer, it trashed around for ages before it did anything useful. Here's what AnyDVD HD eventually reported:

Media is a DVD.
Booktype: dvd-rom (version 1), Layers: 2 (opposite)
Size of first Layer: 2072144 sectors (4047 MBytes)
Total size: 3912832 sectors (7642 MBytes)

Video DVD (or CD) label: WALL_E_LIC2_D1
Media is CSS protected!
Video Standard: PAL
Media is locked to region(s): 2 4!

RCE protection not found.
Found & removed structural copy protection!
Found & removed invalid cell pieces!
Found & removed bogus title set(s)!
UDF filesystem patched!
Autorun not found on Video DVD.
Found & removed 9 potential bad sector protections!
Emulating RPC-2 drive with region 4!
Checking the disc using Windows Explorer, it was reported to have a size of 7.46GB. Opening up the disc and checking the contents of the VIDEO_TS folder, I found claimed contents of 61.7GB. The main *.VOB movie files seemed to be listed under different names eleven times! It seems the studio has screwed around with the disc table of contents. I copied one of these to the hard drive, but despite several applications of 'Quickstream Fix' by Video ReDo Plus, attempting to play the resulting file crashed VideoReDo Plus. That's the first time Quickstream Fix has been unable to produce something playable for me.

Fortunately, the disc working happily in PowerDVD so I was able to get me comparison shots, albeit in a tedious way.

Alex Proyas' Dark City on Blu-ray - Monday, 16 February 2009, 9:31 am

Reel DVD has released Dark City on Blu-ray. In addition to providing a ten minute longer Director's Cut version, the Blu-ray offers amongst the greatest picture quality improvement I've seen from the format over DVD.

UPDATE (Saturday, 21 February 2009, 11:16 pm): I forgot to mention: rather than using seamless branching, the two versions of the movie are both encoded entirely separately onto the disc. That's why there are so many commentary tracks: two are for one version and three are for the other.

The oldest comparison yet - Sunday, 15 February 2009, 11:21 am

I have just added a Blu-ray vs DVD comparsion of Casablanca, the oldest movie I've yet done (1942), here.

Another 1080i50 movie - Friday, 13 February 2009, 4:21 pm

Icon Film Distribution has kindly sent me another of its Blu-ray discs, the movie In Bruges. I'm pretty keen on watching this one since it scores a solid 8.1 on IMDB with 55,000+ votes. The disc is, like Miss Potter, encoded at 1080i50 rather than 1080p24, so it runs four or five minutes shorter than its original cinema timing. It shall also challenge most Blu-ray players. Now that I've been testing with Miss Potter, it has become clear that few players do a good job with this format.

Speaking of Miss Potter, she seems to be causing some US purchasers some headaches. On the Amazon.com product page there are, as I write, four customer reviews. The most recent one is from me warning that the disc may not play in some US Blu-ray players, despite it being all region, because of the 1080i50 encoding. As to the other reviews, here are some excerpts:

BUYER BEWARE!! This is the first Blu-ray disc which is supposed to play in regions A,B, and C, but it did not play on either one of my SONY Blu-ray players which have up to date firmwares. I believe the problem is that the standard and Hi-def content was encoded at 25 frames per second which is considered PAL, and will NOT play on U.S. Blu-ray players.


I have a regular DVD copy of it which, I suppose, will have to suffice, because my Blu-ray copy will not play on my Sony Blu-ray player. I even updated the firmware as suggested, but it did not help. I wish Amazon would post a disclaimer to this fact so that others will be spared the inconvenience of having to return unplayable copies. I have purchased many Blu-ray discs over the past six months, and this is the first one that I've had a problem with.


This release will not play on Sony PS3 (region A) DVD players.

Not only does Amazon fail to warn that the disc may not work in some US Blu-ray players, it incorrectly lists the format as NTSC. It also lists as 'Studio' a company which has explicitly told me that it does not import this disc to the US, yet when I tried to do an 'Update Product Info', my suggestion was robotically declined.

I'm still trying to find out from Icon why it has chosen this format for (now) at least two of its movies.

UPDATE (Friday, 13 February 2009, 5:57 pm): Icon also sent me Disaster Movie, which scores a dire 1.5 on IMDB, putting it at #17 in the bottom 100 movies of all time. I suspect that it will slide up a little from there, as it did produce the odd chuckle here and there. The video on this one is excellent 1080p24 ... except for the copyright notice at the start, which is 1080i50. The 'Icon' logo at the start is 1080p24, but the main menu is 1080i50. All the little featurettes are also 1080i50.

Still, it's Region B, so Americans won't have to wrestle with it (as is In Bruges).

Yay for Eastman Color! - Friday, 13 February 2009, 10:09 am

My brother has drawn to my attention a truly fascinating article published (perhaps, republished) in the Journal of the National Film and Sound Archive, an Australian government body. Entitled 'Crying in Color: How Hollywood Coped When Technicolor Died' (PDF).

In short, it explains how the introduction of the much derided Eastman Color film freed filmmakers from the tyranny, expense and technical limitations of the three strip Technicolor process. I had always thought that the near complete change from black and white to colour film during the 1950s was just another industry response to TV keeping audiences away. But it was in large part because Eastman Color was cheap.

Shawshank moves up - Thursday, 12 February 2009, 11:01 pm

As I mentioned the other day, Warner Bros is releasing The Shawshank Redemption on Blu-ray next month. A couple of days ago they sent me a sample. As it happens, it's the US version in the US packaging, which we will not be getting. I expect that the disc will be identical.

This evening I added it to my DVD/Blu-ray database. Two of the fields therein are the IMDB 'User Rating', and the date on which I recorded it. User Rating was 9.2 as of this evening. Then I noticed my last entry for this movie (the DVD version) dated 4 May 2005. Back then the rating was 9.0, so it seems to have been voted up higher over the last 3.5 years.

I also got ahold of Dark City today, now also on Blu-ray. This has creeped from 7.6 to 7.8 pm IMDB over the last three years. Interesting to see fine movies achieving greater appreciation over time.

More Bond Coming - Thursday, 12 February 2009, 10:41 am

Yesterday Twentieth Century Fox sent me five more James Bond catalogue movie Blu-ray releases, adding to the half dozen released last year. These are due out on 18 March this year. They are:

I watched Goldfinger last night. Picture quality is brilliant.
Finding Firmware Information - Thursday, 12 February 2009, 10:14 am

In my previous post I explained why it is important for me to report what firmware version is installed in some of the devices which I am reviewing. It occurs to me that consumer electronics manufacturers will need to come to terms with this as well.

At the moment, some still make it hard to find out what firmware version their products are using. For example, for the LG BD300 Blu-ray player you have to load a firmware update onto a memory stick and plug it in, whereupon the unit will inform you which firmware it is currently running. For the Panasonic DMP-BD35 you have to navigate to an unconnected setup menu item and then press the blue key on the remote control.

It perhaps isn't surprising. The culture of consumer electronics has been that a company designs and builds a product to do a particular job. Its failure to do the designed job comes about through the product breaking down. In other words, not doing the job is a failure.

They will have to accustom themselves to the information technology view, where software finalisation is an ongoing process. I downloaded a firmware for a Blu-ray player the other day and it was 95MB in size. That's about ten times the size, from memory, of the Beta versions of Windows 95 I used to download (via a horrid 28.8K dial-up).

I suspect that the coding of the firmware wasn't particularly efficient. Still, 95MB is a large program, and it's unrealistic to think that it will have no errors, nor room for improvement, at all.

So a plea: please put the firmware identifiers in a straightforward information panel. No need to be ashamed that this is an admission of imperfection. That's the way of the world now.

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