Monday, 21 January 2008

HD Downloads... so where's the High Definition?

A few days ago I decided to try out Microsoft's High Definition movie rental service out on the Xbox 360. It's a relatively new service (for us in the UK anyway) and there are only 25 movies up there to choose from, which I'm guessing is a reflection of this whole thing being a bit of an experiment.
Some of those movies are offered in standard definition only (like the classic Clash of the Titans film) while some are in both HD and SD. The pricing for HD is a little steep but I figured, what the hell, I'll try it out anyway, as I quite like the idea of renting by looking through a list and downloading.

There are some issues with this model for HD content. First of all, the download size is quite large. I picked the Zodiac film (about the Zodiac killings, based on a true story) as my test film. It's not a special effects heavy film, but as I own a number of HD DVD's from when I picked up the attachment for the 360, I've learned this doesn't matter too much. Films like Serenity looks simply awesome in HD but other HD DVD's I have like a View From Space (an hour of footage filmed by astronauts heading to the international space station) are also very, very good. Plus I had heard from a couple of friends that it is a good film. It weighed in at about 6.9gb, a fairly large download, but fairly small for HD content. HD DVD and Blu Ray hold around 20 gb (or more).

Anyway, I watched the film and enjoyed it's twists and turns, but overall, thought I had picked totally the wrong film to test the service out with. That is, until I read this: Don’t believe the low bit-rate ‘HD’ lie. It turns out that the film didn't really look HD because it isn't at all. It's compressed more highly than a regular DVD!


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