DVD Up-conversion Thoughts

This week my students have been working on their video productions. They are required to make an instructional video. I thought that I would use this week to learn some more about video and decided to learn about up-conversion. I have read things here and there, but this week I did some experimentation of my own.

The Basics

Up-conversion is the process of “blowing up” video to take up more pixels. A DVD has about 855×480 (480p)(It’s really 720×480 with non-square pixels, but that’s the square pixel equivalent). Your high end HD videos, like bluray, are at 1920×1080 (1080p). HD signals look nice because there is more information. Up-conversion blows up the original image and then guesses what the missing pixels in between should be. This is pretty tricky. There are lots of different methods for guessing. Some are better than others.

All Modern TVs up-convert. Most TVs are at 1920×1080. It converts any signal it gets to that resolution.┬áNot all TVs up-convert equally. In fact, some are horrible. The point is though, that they all up-convert.

So, why should I get an up-converting DVD player? Well, maybe you shouldn’t. If you have a high-end TV, there is no need. Your TV can do all the work. For example, I have a Samsung TV and a Samsung DVD player that does up-conversion. If I have up-conversion enabled on my DVD player, it sends a 1080p signal to the TV. The TV doesn’t have to do the conversion. However, if I turn off the up-conversion of the DVD player, my TV will do the work.

I tried both. My TV does a much better job than my dvd player. Mind you, neither do that great of a job.

So, do I need an HDMI cable? If you have a device that sends a signal higher than 480p, then yes. Otherwise, component cables are just fine.

An Alternative

I would never buy a $500 dvd player that does up-conversion extremely well. You can find them. Some bluray players do an excellent job of this too. Reviews are a good way to find out which ones work best. One thing that you might not know is that your computer up-converts DVDs. It’s amazing how well that they do to. When you switch your dvd player software to fullscreen, it’s up-converting (assuming that your resolution is high than 480p; if not, there are other problems.). If you were to hook your computer up to your tv, you would be very impressed at the quality. I’m not saying that computers do the best job. It is true that you can get some dedicated DVD players that will knock your socks off, but a computer often does the job.

So, that’s something I learned this week. It was fun!

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  • I always hook my computer up to my TV for this reason. My TV is weird and has a native resolution of 1680×1050, which doesn't match any video standard. So, no matter what kind of signal I plug in, my TV will be doing some conversion, and I don't really trust it to do so well because it was pretty cheap. But, if I plug my computer in, it will drive the TV at its native resolution everything looks much nicer.

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