Using software based up converters to simulate HD resolutions. Film transfers can be better served.

Rumble House Media Group Inc., April 19th, 2009

I want My HD — Up converting Film Transfers to HD

As a transitory step to real HD video, many consumer based manufacturers like Samsung, SONY, Panasonic and Pioneer have included an up scaling feature in their DVD player product line.  The converted video is ported to a High Definition display device using the HDMI interface, now standard on many HD LCD or Plasma displays.

Failing the purchase of a Blu-ray player, a standard DVD player with up scaling does represent some issues but the compromises may be acceptable (commercial DVD vs DVD-R recordables).  Particularly when considering to extend the shelf life of large commercial DVD movie libraries that may have been accumulated over the last 5 years or so.  It is however a stop gap measure.  DVD recordables up scaled to HD resolutions pales beside the real McCoy of an originally HD encoded movie on Blu-ray disc.  I should point out here that there is a great variation in the quality of the ‘up conversion’ as there are many ways to achieve this feature.  Blockiness, pixel creep or images that are just too soft are some of the results of poor pixel manipulation.  Cheap DVD player prices usually indicate a poor approach to up conversion (sub $70).  On the other hand, the cost of Blu-ray players are continuously dropping and can cross the point where consideration to jump on the HD bandwagon may be very tempting.  Blu-ray players will play DVD’s as well and have a better up converter to boot.

So to, in the film transfer business where customers expecting HD results, may receive their transferred films that have really been coded from SD to HD using software based up scaling tools.  Again, some of these tools do a very poor job while others produce acceptable results.  You can see varying degrees of coding artifacts depending on how well the up conversion algorithms have done their job.  The price of these tools is a good indicator as to their level of sophistication and processing power.  My bet is that the competitive landscape of the many transfer houses, who adopt this approach to HD film conversion, would tend to have investment into these tools on the low side to keep transfer prices down, and still claim to do “HD”.  Once up scaled, the video can be compressed to any of the Blu ray supported video formats and authored to Blu ray disc.  As long as the customer is aware of the up scaling approach to HD file generation and the sub-par quality that will result, its fair game.

Though not misleading as such, if this HD conversion approach is noted on the vendors web site, it is not true film to HD conversion, which does cost more.  Amateur film, even good quality 8mm film has enough detail within its film frames to warrant an honest transfer to the video domain (see our article on the questionable benefits of 8mm HD transfers in this Resource section as a sidebar).  The process of up conversion potentially destroys the finer aspects of small gauge film contents, assuming filter settings are set for best results.  The purpose of moving away from the SD approach of film transfer and its shortcomings is to take advantage of what HD has to offer, and that is increased resolution yielding finer details and image sharpness.  As always, the bottom line in the end is what a customer is willing to pay to have their films transferred to the HD domain assuming all the cards are on the table.