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DVD or Blu-ray? These Images Will Make Up Your Mind for Ever

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A Blu-ray disc makes the movie experience in the home as closest possible to how the director intended the film to be seen. Of course, there have been a few mishaps with the format (including a dire edition of Predator), but generally you can be sure that if you are buying a Blu-ray it is quite likely you are getting the best available version of the film.

In these difficult times, it is understandable that some viewers choose the cheaper DVD option, but anyone who really cares about cinema needs to be buying their film content in HD if they can.

If you have a well-mastered, well-transferred Blu-ray compared to a DVD edition of a film, the differences, if seen side by side, can be astonishing. Here we have collected a series of comparisons that really highlight the potential of the format. It’s important to stress that these images have been scaled down from their original size, so the definition is not truly representative of the images on the disc, but the difference between the two formats is still remarkable. Take a look below!

Breaking the Waves (1996)

The image detail can change drasitcally when you put on a Blu-ray after seeing a DVD, but sometimes the new release can give the director the chance to make sure it is being presented in the way they intended. Criterion's Blu-ray release of Lars von Trier's Breaking the Waves contains a director approved transfer of the film scanned in at 6K resolution. The difference is astonishing.

Paramount's Region 2 DVD:

 Criterion's Blu-ray release:

Breaking the Waves BD

See more comparisons here.

Niagara (1953)

As previously mentioned, colour can change, as well as texture, depth and grain structure when you watch a Blu-ray instead of a DVD. Even if the colour scheme doesn't change quite as drastically as Breaking the Waves, quite often, such is the case of the 1953 Marilyn Monroe film Niagara, the colours become a lot richer and more intense. 

Fox's DVD release:

Fox's Blu-ray release:

See more comparisons here.

Pride & Prejudice (1995)

Sometimes, when a film is transfered to Blu-ray, the remastering process involves reframing or altering the aspect ratio of the film or television programme. Viewers can get quite worried about this - understandably so - though with TV dramas people seem to be more forgiving. Pride & Prejudice was shot for a 4:3 transmission (similar to the size of the Niagara frame above) but was 'future-proofed' for widescreen television. For this reason, the Blu-ray 'opens out' the frame to reveal more information either side of the original image. The colours are also much stronger, the detail clearer and the picture looks a lot more healthy than the dreary DVD version. 

Warner Bros DVD:

BBC Blu-ray edition:

See more comparions here.

Schindler's List (1993)

Steven Spielberg's harrowing and beautifully made film about the Holocaust is famous for its black and white cinematography. The DVD of the film isn't terrible but it is a shame to see such beautiful images too soft and devoid of life and detail. The Blu-ray does the movie full justice, as can be seen from the comparison below: 

Warner Bros DVD:


Warner Bros Blu-ray: 

Schindler's List BD

See more comparisons here.

Prime Suspect (1990 - 2006)

ITV's series starring Helen Mirren as the tough and ambitious police detective Jane Tennison became a cultural phenomenon and arguably changed crime fiction for ever. For this reason, it deserves the best possible treatment, and that it certainly got when Acorn Media in the US (and Koch Media in Europe) released the box set of films from the series remastered in High Definition. Like Pride & Prejudice, the image has been 'opened out' to reveal more of the negative so as to fill modern-day HD widescreen displays. Purists need not fear; the show was shot with a widescreen future in mind. The dreadfully murkey colours of the DVD have been sorted out so we can actually see what is happening and clarity is brilliantly captured. It is a shame broadcasters have effectively banned 16mm film (what Prime Suspect was shot on) as some of the images, when scanned in at HD, can look sumptuous. 



Acorn Media's Blu-ray:

See more comparisons here.

The Toolbox Murders (1978)

This piece of nasty expoitation gore from Dennis Donnelly is not a pleasant experience, and neither is the UK DVD release of the film. The quality is truly appalling. It's a catastrophe. When watching it you can't help but try to make excuses for it, thinking that afterall the film is over thirty years old. But of course that means nothing: Casablanca, for example, is much older than and that terrific on both DVD and (even better) Blu-ray. No, this is just a case of really lazy work from the distributor. The Blu-ray, released in the US last year, is a revelation. It's like watching a different film. Take a look.

Vipco's DVD release:

Toolbox Murders DVD


Blue Underground's Blu-ray release:

DVD still from UK DVD screencap. See more Blu-ray stills here.

All BD titles available at time of writing. Image credits: DVD UK/Twenieth Century Fox/Acorn Media/ITV/Criterion/BBC.

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