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Old 01-14-2021, 03:28 PM   #1
VideoDave VideoDave is offline
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Default 4K Movies - Digital vs. Disc - which is better?

Hi ALL - not new to the forum but an infrequent poster, despite owning over 700 DVDs/BDs (70+% being blu-ray discs).

For the holidays, we replaced our 9 y/o LG 42" LED w/ a 49" Sony 4K LED (Sony XBR-49X950H) - fantastic picture w/ 4K streaming; do not own a 4K player - the Sony supposedly does some BD upscaling - now in our 70s, I do not plan to replace my BDs w/ 4K versions, if and when available (a lot of my films are older ones and unlikely will see UHD releases).

My question is whether buying a 4K streaming version of a film (vs. the physical 4K disc) would provide a similar viewing experience on this new Sony UDHTV? I suspect the physical disc would be better, but is there much of a difference? As an example, I did purchase two 4K films for streaming from Amazon (Dr. No & Sense and Sensibility) which I did not own, and both looked great to my eyes. Thanks for any comments. Dave
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Old 01-14-2021, 04:55 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VideoDave View Post
Hi ALL - not new to the forum but an infrequent poster, despite owning over 700 DVDs/BDs (70+% being blu-ray discs).

For the holidays, we replaced our 9 y/o LG 42" LED w/ a 49" Sony 4K LED (Sony XBR-49X950H) - fantastic picture w/ 4K streaming; do not own a 4K player - the Sony supposedly does some BD upscaling - now in our 70s, I do not plan to replace my BDs w/ 4K versions, if and when available (a lot of my films are older ones and unlikely will see UHD releases).

My question is whether buying a 4K streaming version of a film (vs. the physical 4K disc) would provide a similar viewing experience on this new Sony UDHTV? I suspect the physical disc would be better, but is there much of a difference? As an example, I did purchase two 4K films for streaming from Amazon (Dr. No & Sense and Sensibility) which I did not own, and both looked great to my eyes. Thanks for any comments. Dave
Physical generally has better quality. Imo a blu ray is around the same quality as Most 4k streams due to the compression streaming sites do.
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Old 01-14-2021, 05:49 PM   #3
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The biggest difference between the quality of physical and digital on my own personal set up is the audio. I can definitely hear the difference between compressed (digital) and uncompressed (physical) especially with Dolby Atmos. As for the video, I know physical is better quality, but unlike the audio that I can hear the difference while watching the movie, for the most part unless it’s a crappy digital transfer being used by a particular streaming service, I can’t tell the difference unless I switch back n forth doing A/B comparisons.

I’m never going to deny physical isn’t better especially with uncompressed Dolby Atmos or DTS-X, but due to the sheer number of movies I buy (400+ digital since March vs just 5 physical disc), paying $5 per movie vs. $15 to $20 has saved me at least $4000 to $5000 in 2020 which for me combined with minimal difference in quality, I have no problems spending the majority on digital and only occasionally picking up a physical disc.

With a lot of titles, if you want 4K... you don’t even have a choice anymore as studios are relying more and more on 4K digital exclusives especially with non blockbuster titles.
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Old 01-14-2021, 07:20 PM   #4
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49 inch TV is a bit small for that 4K cinematic immersive experience unless you are sitting close to the screen. You will be squinting to discern any differences on this screen size between the 2 formats even from a reasonable viewing distance. The bigger the screen and lower the bit rate, compression artifacts starts to creep in but thankfully vast majority of the 4K films streamed via iTunes and MA are of very good quality which means they look close to the disc even on bigger screens (65 or 75 inches).

However, some of the digital films suck on the audio front. You can tell it's compressed but the vast majority won't discern that.
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Old 01-14-2021, 08:21 PM   #5
bladerunner1 bladerunner1 is offline
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I look at a 4K stream as a BD with Dolby Vision/HDR - IMO the biggest benefit of 4K unless you have a huge screen. Internet quality and possible bandwidth restrictions have to be taken into consideration when streaming.

If you are big into audio and have a quality system then disc all the way - even though streaming isn't bad by any means.

Convivence is no contest - Digital all the way.

I have found that streaming is a much cheaper cost when compared to disc if you get codes on here or other sites that sell codes. iTunes and Vudu also have great sales.

All in all it doesn't hurt to be open to both options.


Edit:
Digital Copies FS threads:
https://forum.blu-ray.com/forumdisplay.php?f=204

Digital Deals threads:
https://forum.blu-ray.com/forumdisplay.php?f=200

Last edited by bladerunner1; 01-14-2021 at 08:53 PM.
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Old 01-16-2021, 05:14 AM   #6
meremortal meremortal is offline
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4k streams as blus with hdr is perhaps a decent generality of expectations. That said, I've found even lower bitrate standard hd streams from Netflix, etc. to be pretty solid pq. Agree that the greater difference may come down to the audio if you have good ears and good audio gear.

Last edited by meremortal; 01-16-2021 at 03:30 PM.
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Old 01-16-2021, 07:14 PM   #7
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Go to any deal website when a digital deal is posted and read pages of people arguing this very question
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Old 01-17-2021, 11:31 AM   #8
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I just get everything digitally, I find it a ton easier to deal with.

Last edited by stonesfan129; 01-19-2021 at 01:58 AM.
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Old 01-17-2021, 01:58 PM   #9
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I love physical copies, but have to admit they take up much space.
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Old 01-17-2021, 04:44 PM   #10
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I will say this that nothing can match the audio of a physical disc and so if audio is a priority, then go with physical. No question. It is the best. As far as picture quality. I have a 65 inch 4K OLED and to be honest it is hard for me to discern any differences between physical and streaming when going back and forth. All the streaming services look great in HDR and Dolby Vision.

Streaming video will continue to improve though. For audio, I think since the majority of TV watchers either use the TV audio or a sound bar it's not a huge priority for streaming services. But maybe one day a streaming service will match the audio quality of a disc or get close to it.
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Old 01-18-2021, 12:40 AM   #11
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Discs come with a digital copy. Why not both?

I buy discs of my favorites and digital for blind buys.
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Old 01-18-2021, 01:00 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rodney-2187 View Post
Discs come with a digital copy. Why not both?

I buy discs of my favorites and digital for blind buys.
Quality.
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Old 01-18-2021, 02:29 AM   #13
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"Better" is a subjective term.

In terms of pure quality of both video and audio, physical will always be better than streaming. And I say this as a huge proponent of digital media.

For me, the convenience of digital is worth the trade-off. Streaming has come so far, I don't miss physical at all. I keep some favorites on physical simply to have something to watch in case my internet is down.
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Old 01-30-2021, 12:00 PM   #14
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Both.

Discs and collector editions for the films and TV shows that you truly love and treasure.

Streaming for the rest that you're only likely to watch once or unsure about disc purchase.
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Old 02-04-2021, 05:56 PM   #15
VideoDave VideoDave is offline
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Thanks ALL for the excellent comments - bottom line seems to be that w/ my 49" 4K HDTV that physical vs. streaming HUD will likely appear similar to my 'old' eyes (of course, assuming the video stream being sent is of good quality and that my internet bit-rate is above adequate; I get about 60+ Mbps from my Wi-Fi router in another room).

Now concerning audio, I have an optical connection from my new TV to my Cambridge receiver which has 2-channel output to some decent bookshelf speakers (ElectroVoice oldies!); plus, wife & I love musicals so good sound is important to me - thus, I might consider replacing BD w/ 4Ks on those musicals we like that are released in that format, although I'm not sure that standard stereo would make a 'big' difference, and don't plan to go to surround sound. Dave
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Old 02-19-2021, 09:13 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kizzo View Post
I will say this that nothing can match the audio of a physical disc and so if audio is a priority, then go with physical. No question. It is the best. As far as picture quality. I have a 65 inch 4K OLED and to be honest it is hard for me to discern any differences between physical and streaming when going back and forth. All the streaming services look great in HDR and Dolby Vision.

Streaming video will continue to improve though. For audio, I think since the majority of TV watchers either use the TV audio or a sound bar it's not a huge priority for streaming services. But maybe one day a streaming service will match the audio quality of a disc or get close to it.
Which is funny because an Atmos or DTS track usually only takes up a few Gigs on a disk and streaming audio tops out at about 4500kb yet with video Iíve seen it streaming at over 90mbps. Even compressed with x265 it will still be higher than the uncompressed audio.

But your right the streaming services compress the audio as much as possible because most people canít tell the difference. Some people still canít tell the difference of a128kb mp3.
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Old 02-20-2021, 09:05 PM   #17
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Quote:
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...But your right the streaming services compress the audio as much as possible because most people can’t tell the difference. Some people still can’t tell the difference of a128kb mp3.
The audio is compressed so they can fit the audio onto as small as possible total stream (the video is compressed as well) it has LESS to do with "people telling the difference" and more to do with limitations/ability of streaming internet. Keep in mind there are some who stream who are still limited to DSL speeds. You DO get better/faster speeds from storefront titles sold by Vudu, iTunes, GP, etc. but for those with slower speeds they're better off downloading the title and watching it later.

Keep in mind that 4K/DV/DA title you're watching on disc is a "dumbed down" version of the same digital title kept in theaters. Just as the digital-to-disc version has to both be compressed/decompressed to view on home theater BD/UHD players, it ALSO has to be reduced even further for streaming as well. Technology hasn't yet advanced the internet to the point where we can stream a commercial "Hollywood" master without significant loss of quality...but new codecs and increased bandwidth, and also the improvement of the current cable internet infrastructure to DOCSIS 4.0 will suffice the needs of cable internet users...there is still a significant number of the population that cannot even get recognized broadband speeds and that needs to change and change quickly, or there will be no incentive to service the 25% or so of the population who cannot get fast enough broadband to stream or game.

Last edited by tjritter79; 02-20-2021 at 09:31 PM.
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Old 02-20-2021, 11:31 PM   #18
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Old 02-28-2021, 05:36 PM   #19
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Okay, enough of spreading these unfounded fears. Streaming may not be perfect...yet, yet being the key word. It’s not normally as uncompressed as the average disc (which is also technically compressed) but unless we go back to the stone ages anytime soon, it will only get better.

Also, people act like studios will struggle to keep their libraries up to date. Ridiculous. Even if someone watches the most obscure thing imaginable (which should not be compared to mainstream popular movies, btw!) and it only gets watched one time, it’s no skin off Disney’s nose to keep it on their service. Many quake in fear over not owning the physical copy of something, but we’ve been doing this with music files for decades at this point and haven’t been losing songs en masse, if at all.

And to top it off there are many many options when it comes to streaming movies/television (and they all almost always share their libraries with each other, if you take 5 seconds out of your day to connect them) whereas there are technically really only two major music streaming services IMO (who don’t run around and delete your privately uploaded libraries btw).

Streaming connectivity and studios streaming platforms are only becoming more diverse, not less! Also, people bemoan licensing agreements but I don’t see that being a major issue in the long run. Look at the drama over Disney losing Home Alone last year as an example. It’s already back on D+. Licensing issues are a fact of life but they are also temporary. Unless Disney starts entering into temporary licensing agreements with studios/movies they will never own, these issues will no longer be issues in a few contract cycles.

And even if you stream the most obscure thing imaginable like some random BBC show that lasted 2.5 episodes in 1973, it should be no skin off the original content owners nose to keep it on their streaming service, streaming services do not have the limits shelf space does; it should not matter how obscure/popular it is, and it would be a mistake to compare the most obscure content to the most popular content anyway. Infinity War is not ever going to be at risk, for example.

With all of that said, sure I guess you are never going to have a physical copy of the movie on your shelf and you might never be able to stream Song of the South, but as I said before, the obscure should not be compared to the mainstream, and we don’t technically know that Disney won’t ever change their minds. But that’s the only real difference I’m seeing between the two in the long run. They are going to want content that will gain subscribers, not lose them, which equates to expanding their libraries, not limiting them. Again baring the scenario where we all end sending mankind back to the stone age, things will only get better.
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Old 03-01-2021, 01:07 AM   #20
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Streaming is still in its infancy, its still quite young and has a lot of potential to grow. Streaming's growth is dependent on the continued growth and innovation of internet technologies. So many companies are involved with this that the growth potential is beyond comprehension. But I said this on another thread, I see a time when the SAME high quality digital master, used for theatrical movies and creating physical media, will be streamed to the home theater market. With sound and visuals that rival any home system out there today. Once we get to that point, I think the era of collecting physical media ends. We're already breeding a generation of users who play games on demand and watch movies and TV shows....on their phones. They've already been ingrained into the digital age. While us collectors slowly die off, what remains will be those already primed for portability and ease of access. We're dinosaurs, we just don't know it yet.
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