Is it worth buying Old Movies for Blu Ray to watch on your HDTV?

By December 20, 2011 Blog No Comments

The Godfather on Blu Ray

As far as technology goes I’m what some may consider a moderate adapter. Early in some areas and maybe not as much in others. When mp3′s first made headway through file sharing app’s in college dorm rooms in the late 90′s and shortly thereafter was legitimized by Apple through the advent of iTunes… I watched and participated from inception to legitimization. When analog cable turned to Fiber Optic digital signals and VHS moved to DVD – yes like everyone else I grumbled and re-purchased my favorite movies on upgraded media to have the latest greatest quality standards.

Recently I made my first HDTV purchase with a 55″ Samsung LED smart tv making this my first 1080p set. A late adapter in this case since Plasma and LCD have been around for awhile. However, when your supporting a family of 5 it isn’t always the “big kid toys” that come first. Priorities aside, for the past several years whenever we would be in a Target or Best Buy I would seam to wonder off into the electronics department and investigate. Finally this year I broke down and through the Black Friday deals after Thanksgiving I was able to get an offer I couldn’t refuse. Now able to ditch my 150 pound glass tube “beast” I felt like I made a leap into 2011.

Of course, with anything in life nothing is quite that simple is it? For example, ever tried to watch an old 70′s or 80′s broadcast television show (480i) on a 1080p screen? Hook up a VCR to your HDTV and try it out. Or better yet pull up Jim Henson’s Emmet Otter Jug-Band Christmas on Netflix (link) and try to watch. It’s like taking a 1 inch web graphic and scaling it up by 225% and trying to print it out. The graphic becomes jagged and blurry and distorted to the point that you just don’t want to look at it anymore. So the question wasn’t is it time to upgrade from DVD to Blu Ray but rather how are old movies going to look in Blu Ray? And is it even worth buying movies in a higher resolution if the originals were released 20 plus years ago? What I learned was interesting so I thought I would share it with you…

Historically film has always had the best picture because its a photo-chemical process like traditional photography rather than an electronic one. Old movies and most new movies are shot in 35 mm wide negative film. Film negative is a very high resolution medium. This is something I hadn’t really considered when I thought that purchasing old movies on Blu Ray would be a waste but makes perfect sense now that I think about it. Even movies filmed before 1955 using a 15mm x 21mm have a resolution somewhere around 2160 pixels x 2970 pixels (higher than even the latest digital 1080p technology can display on current HDTV’s). So as long as the studios kept the original archived films in good condition then scanning the film into a digital format for Blu Ray is no problem. Even a film predating 1955 can look crystal clear and amazing on a 2011 HDTV. That is astonishing! Even more so is the fact that these same films could stand to jump yet again to a higher resolution (2160p) media without degradation in quality.

Another fun fact. The BBC apparently intends to trial UHDTV (Ultra Hi-Definition TV) during the 2012 Summer Olympics which has a resolution of…. get this…. wait for it…. 7680 x 4320!! It’s pretty safe to assume that George Lucas will have ample time to yet further tweak and alter his Star Wars franchise with many new media formats for years to come. HA!

Maybe it’s time I just stop buying copies of movies for awhile. What do you think?

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