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We're Being Short-Changed with Blu-Ray

November 19th, 2009 @ 3:00 am PST

A movie's aspect ratio coming from the movie studios is the main factor in reduced quality of what a Blu-Ray picture can really show. Remember the old days when we all had 4:3 TVs and got those black bars on the top and bottom of the picture when DVD came out? It's annoying to have a TV where a third or more isn't even being used... a waste of space in my opinion. A 16:9 widescreen picture definitely looks better than a mostly square-shaped 4:3 as far as viewing experience goes. When DVD came out and hardly any of us had widescreen TV sets, the studios gave us 4:3 versions of their movies so that it didn't look so crummy at home. Same issue is happening again with Blu-Ray and DVD, except we've all upgraded our TVs for that magic 16:9 aspect ratio... but the movies are now coming out even WIDER (2.35:1) giving us those annoying "unused areas" on our widescreen sets.

Example of 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio

The adoption rate of Blu-Ray seems to be slower than DVD (or at least I've heard/read from various sources online), and the general consensus seems to be the DVD is "good enough" for most people. I think that one of the big reasons for this is that our movies aren't filling our screen and therefore not showing us much more detail than we'd get with a DVD. A 2.35:1 OAR (original aspect ratio) picture with the black bars on the top and bottom shows us more information on the left and right of the picture, but also makes it shorter than it'd be if the 16:9 to 4:3 treatment was done to give us a 16:9 picture from a 2.35:1 source. The overall quality of a 1080p 2.35:1 picture is the equivalent of a 720p 16:9 picture, thus 2.35:1 movies are HALF the quality our 1080p sets want to give us. And with the black bars, in most cases it just seems like they're cropping off the top of people's heads or something else that not being there really adds to the viewing experience.

Comparing 2.35:1 movie height to full 16:9 image quality

There are two sides to this debate, however: the movie geeks and the regular joe. I love movies and would like to see the whole picture, sure, but I'd trade that in a heartbeat, for the OPTION to view the same movie filling up my screen. I don't want this option as two separate options like some DVDs do with Widescreen or Fullscreen versions... that's just a rip. When DVD first came out, they used to put both versions in the same package. With Blu-Ray, it seems like a no-brainer since there's so much more space on a disc for this additional information. To be honest, I'd give up all those special features for a 16:9 version of my favorite movies.

16:9 movie fills the screen on a widescreen TV

For those few movies I've seen on Blu-Ray that do fill up a 16:9 display, they look amazing... no questioning the incredible picture quality and detail you get over DVD. A quality that's much less apparent when everything is shorter and surrounded by emptiness.

I refuse to get another new TV for 2.35:1, as I've seen mentioned a few places online. What's to stop the movie studios for coming out with an even shorter/wider aspect ratio requiring yet another new TV for the new format?

Movie theaters are overpriced and not at all the same experience as they used to be. It's busy. A glass of water cost 3 bucks. The guy sitting next to you eats like a cow and smells like cheese. Parents take their kids to totally age inappropriate films that make them cry. Teenagers talk throughout the whole film... And in my experience, the picture quality is sub-par compared to what I get at home w/o ANY of the the above annoyances.

Movie Studios: Consider the home user and give us a better home viewing experience of your movies that we love. If you do, we'll buy it.