Thanks to Ars Technica for pointing us in the direction of the first ever head-to-head comparison of HD-DVD and Blu-ray. High Def Digest took a look at Training Day, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Rumor Has It ... side-by-side on HD-DVD and Blu-ray, and the results are a bit surprising. Although in hindsight, I suppose they shouldn't be.
While their reviewer had wonderful things to say about the overall quality and the richness of the color palettes (particularly in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), High Def did notice some unnerving problems with ... wait for it ... Sony's Blu-ray, in particular, an unusual cropping problem.
I estimate that about three to four percent of the area on the sides of the picture is lost on Blu-ray. Note that I also switched the outputs on both players to make sure it wasn't a problem with one of my set's HDMI or component inputs, but to no avail -- the Blu-ray remained cropped. Unfortunately, with no other Blu-ray players available with which to do a comparison, there is no way of yet telling if the altered aspect ratio on the Blu-ray is inherent to the encoded material itself, or a fault of the Samsung player's internal circuitry.
In addition to the cropping, "comparisons of three complete scenes on both discs, one after the other" showed other differences between the formats, which seem to give the lead in the technology race (so far) to HD-DVD.
The picture quality differences between [HD-DVD and Blu-ray] is often quite apparent. For example, during the very first shot of the film [Training Day] -- a zoom in on a red-hot, rising sun -- there was some posterization was visible on the Blu-ray, with the banding of colors obvious as the picture faded in. Looking closely at the HD DVD I could also spot some posterization, but it was not nearly as severe.
The review also revealed this little bug:
Once again, he Blu-ray disc is a bit darker. Though not as obvious as on 'Training Day,' whites look only ever-so-slightly brighter on the HD DVD, while black levels appear rock solid on both.
Do they still do that thing in Japan where they make you fall on those short, little swords when you make a big boo-boo? I ask because if they do A) that'd be awesome and B) they should probably start drawing straws over at Sony.
Not only is their new (as yet unreleased) console much more expensive than their competitor's machine and nearly impossible to manufacture it's also too expensive for many developers to make games for, and the proprietary video format they were counting on to sell the machines to game-wary consumers might just be losing the war with the cheaper, more readily available and now apparently better-looking HD-DVD format. Seriously. Straws, guys. Straws.