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Old 02-06-2021, 01:49 PM   #1
cicada88 cicada88 is offline
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Default iTunes (etc.) vs DVD for SD video?

I imagine that this is still a somewhat case-by-case basis, but does iTunes (and other similar digital services) usually have better PQ than DVD for standard definition content?

The reason I ask is that for 1080p and 4K, the streaming usually have significantly lower specs compared to disc, but I would think that the lower bandwidth to match or exceed SD DVD specs would come into play.

BTW, I’m particularly interested in stuff that’s not out anywhere in HD and likely never will be. For example cartoons & TV shows mastered on video tapes, and older documentaries shot on SD video, etc.

Any related thoughts welcome and appreciated!
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Old 02-07-2021, 04:59 AM   #2
SpaceBlackKnight SpaceBlackKnight is offline
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SD content on streaming tends to look like utter dogshit when compared to the DVD versions. For one, streaming providers always convert interlaced content to progressive output modes. Most of the time they severely botch the deinterlacing so bad, that you would easily notice jagged edges and scanlined/field blended frames.

Second, they compress the hell out of them more than the DVD MPEG-2 counterparts. A 1990s 16:9 movie on DVD that is MPEG-2 would be roughly 3-7gbs in overall size. On streaming, the SD version of that same movie would clock in at 600mbs-1.2gbs in size. Even though the stream would be using H264 (which is more advanced and efficient than MPEG-2), they would set the H264 perimeters at such low settings that PQ can noticeably suffer on top of whatever botched deinterlacing job was done.
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Old 02-07-2021, 05:12 AM   #3
mastadge mastadge is offline
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Streams vary by provider and source, but in my experience the DVDs of Star Trek DS9 and VOY and of Babylon 5 looked much better than the streaming options at the time I was watching them.

On the other hand I've also occasionally seen some really shoddy DVDs too.
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Old 02-07-2021, 05:27 AM   #4
SpaceBlackKnight SpaceBlackKnight is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mastadge View Post
On the other hand I've also occasionally seen some really shoddy DVDs too.
Very true indeed, especially with releases from smaller companies that encode with awful compression, or source from field blended/PAL masters.

In very rare cases, a SD streaming version can be superior to the DVD equivalent. I recall seeing a comparison with some British/Australian show where the only DVD release of it from the US not only heavily compressed 15 episodes on a DVD5, but had a completely ****ed up frame rate as well (23.976 soft pulldown made from a 29.97i field blended conversion from 25fps/50i native frame rate). The US streaming version of that same British/Australian show ran the proper 25/50fps rate on most providers.
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Old 02-07-2021, 08:35 AM   #5
KPackratt2k KPackratt2k is offline
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It depends on how the provider/distributor encoded the program and the frame rate it was produced in. In my personal experience, I bought some Disney Channel Original Movies and shows from iTunes solely because they didn't get released officially on DVD, for most of them, the image quality looked about as good as if it were to get an official DVD release, but for a few other titles there were noticeable compression artifacts that made it look worse than what you'd expect out of a DVD, so much so to the point where even a good HDTV rip had less compression. For example: the first Zenon movie had some noticeable color banding in its iTunes version.

As someone already briefly mentioned, digital services do change the frame rate on interlaced content, in my case these older (SD mastered) TV movies were IVTC'd (converted from 29.97i to 23.976p), so scenes that were fast motion when these movies previously aired on TV didn't feel quite the same as they used to (you can easily spot this change in scrolling end credits). There was also noticeable deinterlacing in a few of these movies as there were jagged edges.

Another compromise that might be bothersome is the way the audio is compressed. More often than not, digital services (including streaming and purchases) use AAC compression at 128kbps for Stereo sound, whereas DVDs typically use AC3 compression at 192-256kbps for Stereo (384-448kbps is more commonly used for Surround sound than it is for Stereo). I've also noticed that the audio sample rate of most of my iTunes movie purchases was 44.1KHz (CD sample rate) rather than the 48KHz sample rate that DVDs commonly use.

Last edited by KPackratt2k; 02-07-2021 at 08:52 AM. Reason: Added more information
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Old 02-07-2021, 09:08 AM   #6
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SD streamed content for the most part is inferior to DVD. The exception is when the DVD release is really just a digital VHS copy and the stream is remastered.
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Old 02-07-2021, 09:09 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpaceBlackKnight View Post
Very true indeed, especially with releases from smaller companies that encode with awful compression, or source from field blended/PAL masters.

In very rare cases, a SD streaming version can be superior to the DVD equivalent. I recall seeing a comparison with some British/Australian show where the only DVD release of it from the US not only heavily compressed 15 episodes on a DVD5, but had a completely ****ed up frame rate as well (23.976 soft pulldown made from a 29.97i field blended conversion from 25fps/50i native frame rate). The US streaming version of that same British/Australian show ran the proper 25/50fps rate on most providers.
15 episodes on a DVD5? Damn cheapskates.
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Old 02-07-2021, 05:55 PM   #8
cicada88 cicada88 is offline
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Thanks everyone for your information.

I figured the DVDs would be better, but it’s been years since I thought about buying videos on iTunes and I wasn’t sure if they had ever caught up or exceeded physical media for SD.
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Old 02-07-2021, 06:18 PM   #9
lgans316 lgans316 is offline
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SD - medium to high gap in quality
HD - low to medium gap in picture quality
4K - negligible to low gap in picture quality
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Old 02-07-2021, 07:07 PM   #10
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They don't seem to care about SD at all. While the HD encodings have been significantly improved over time (and of course they added 4K), the SD bitrates are still about the same as in 2008.
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Old 02-07-2021, 07:52 PM   #11
cicada88 cicada88 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fiffy View Post
They don't seem to care about SD at all. While the HD encodings have been significantly improved over time (and of course they added 4K), the SD bitrates are still about the same as in 2008.
Yeah, it’s somewhat surprising. I checked out the Simpson’s SD seasons on Disney+, and while they finally put them up in the original 4:3 aspect ratio, they are completely smeary messes.

Granted, that’s streaming, but I can’t believe how bad it looked compared to the DVDs (which aren’t anything to write home about to begin with)
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Old 02-07-2021, 07:55 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cicada88 View Post
Thanks everyone for your information.

I figured the DVDs would be better, but itís been years since I thought about buying videos on iTunes and I wasnít sure if they had ever caught up or exceeded physical media for SD.
A lot are into buying movies and shows on iTunes, but I'd never do that due to not being able to actually own it. I don't mean physically in this scenario, rather have the option to download a non-DRM copy and store it wherever I want.

I know why they don't do that though I can't see myself buying and knowing it can disappear from my account, or my account might somehow be banned or what have you for whatever reason.

iTunes music files are DRM-free so I can download and listen to them anywhere I want.
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Old 02-07-2021, 08:01 PM   #13
Fiffy Fiffy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cicada88 View Post
Yeah, itís somewhat surprising. I checked out the Simpsonís SD seasons on Disney+, and while they finally put them up in the original 4:3 aspect ratio, they are completely smeary messes.

Granted, thatís streaming, but I canít believe how bad it looked compared to the DVDs (which arenít anything to write home about to begin with)
I'm not familiar with the history of that show. What do the HD versions on iTunes look like?

As was already mentioned, lot of SD-only content from the 80s and early 90s is sourced from analog video, which brings a lot of inherent problems (such as deinterlacing) with it.
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Old 02-07-2021, 08:23 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lgans316 View Post
SD - medium to high gap in quality
HD - low to medium gap in picture quality
4K - negligible to low gap in picture quality
Right all of that is generally true but you also have to figure in:

Screen size
Seating distance
Gear quality
Picture and sound settings/calibration
Eye and ear quality
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Old 02-07-2021, 08:48 PM   #15
cicada88 cicada88 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fiffy View Post
I'm not familiar with the history of that show. What do the HD versions on iTunes look like?

As was already mentioned, lot of SD-only content from the 80s and early 90s is sourced from analog video, which brings a lot of inherent problems (such as deinterlacing) with it.
I honestly donít know about the HD Simpsons episodes, but I would assume they are pretty good because they were created in HD and not from analog videotape masters.

I only really care about the first 10 or so seasons which are all definitely from analog videotape masters, and I would guess face deinterlacing issues.

Still, I would expect Disney to be able to use the best deinterlacing algorithm combined with uncompressed digitized masters, they could easily beat out the original DVD. Instead, they did a sloppy heavy DNR job from what I saw.
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Old 02-07-2021, 09:34 PM   #16
Fiffy Fiffy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cicada88 View Post
I honestly donít know about the HD Simpsons episodes, but I would assume they are pretty good because they were created in HD and not from analog videotape masters.

I only really care about the first 10 or so seasons which are all definitely from analog videotape masters, and I would guess face deinterlacing issues.
The iTunes store has all seasons, including the first 10, in HD. I have no idea what the image quality is like though.
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Old 02-07-2021, 10:33 PM   #17
cicada88 cicada88 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fiffy View Post
The iTunes store has all seasons, including the first 10, in HD. I have no idea what the image quality is like though.
Oh, I just checked them out but they are zoomed / cropped to 16:9 from 4:3, so not even an option in my opinion.
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Old 02-07-2021, 10:51 PM   #18
lgans316 lgans316 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bladerunner1 View Post
Right all of that is generally true but you also have to figure in:

Screen size
Seating distance
Gear quality
Picture and sound settings/calibration
Eye and ear quality
Well, it's based on all the above factors and after spending days comparing before I had to make my mind to go the digital route.
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Old 02-08-2021, 01:12 AM   #19
SpaceBlackKnight SpaceBlackKnight is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fiffy View Post
I'm not familiar with the history of that show. What do the HD versions on iTunes look like?
The earlier Simpsons seasons were edited and finished in SD until the 10th episode of Season 20. The first 13 seasons were animated on film but finished in SD. The film elements for the first 10 seasons were reportedly discarded due to extremely poor conditions from the back and forth shipments and manhandling from Klasky Cuspo and the Korean animation studios.

Fox did messy, DNR'd HD upconverts of the first 19 seasons, and were all cropped to widescreen for FX broadcasts and used on most streaming providers. The first 5 seasons in HD look the worst due to being upconverted and DNR'd from composite masters, sporting dot crawl and rainbow artifacts all over the place.
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