Toshiba cooking up upconverting “super-dvd” to best Blu-Ray

May 31, 2008

Toshiba cooking up upconverting It isn’t news that Sony’s Blu-Ray has bested Toshiba’s HD-DVD video format a while ago, and it certainly isn’t news that Toshiba is reeling from the defeat. But I don’t think anyone could have predicted that Toshiba would pull its beaten and bloodied self together and make another affront to Blu-Ray; Toshiba plans to release a “super” DVD player, an upscaling format that promises to deliver Blu-Ray definition out of normal DVDs for quite a few bucks less.

Daily Yomiuri Online and the Associated Press report that that Toshiba’s new format is based on a new technology that incorporates a new “large integrated circuit” which can “instantly convert images produced in the current format into high-resolution images.” As Blu-Ray’s resolution is about 6 times that of standard DVDs, that new circuit must be something special, because Toshiba claims it will be able to compare to Blu-Ray’s quality.

Toshiba plans to release the new players by the end of the year at lower price points than Blu-Ray players, in hopes of hooking customers considering a switch to the HD format. As there is a vastly larger collection of DVDs than Blu-Rays at this point in time, and at cheaper prices than Blu-Ray discs, this technology could potentially sway some customers.

However, as anyone that’s actually owned both an upconverting player and a real high-definition player will know, upconversion doesn’t hold a candle to the real thing. As lower resolution formats like DVD have fewer pixels, to create the illusion of high definition, the upconverter simulates pixels that aren’t really there. Generally that results in blur or not-crisp images.

I’ve never been a big proponent of upconverting for that very reason. All that upconverters do is confuse customers who aren’t savvy about the technology and delay progress. If people are buying upconverters, companies like Toshiba are only holding back the advancement of true HD format. All this comes off looking like is a sore loser trying to injure the competition because Toshiba knows it can’t win anymore.

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4 Responses to “Toshiba cooking up upconverting “super-dvd” to best Blu-Ray”

  1. Jason:

    While it is true that (some of the) current converters do not shine when compared to true 1080p pictures, there are others like Oppo and the Samsung bdup5000 that do very competent jobs and for the majority are good enough.

    Comments about delaying progress or holding back the advancement of true HD format worry me, not because they are akin to statements religious belief. But becasue they are firmly based in a foundation of ignorance. Ignorance of new technology, how consumer choices are made, and how the market really works.

    Common wisdom in January was competition of two competing formats were holding adoption back, we now know that to be a blatantly false assumption.

    New developments in technology is making it possible to make true 1080p from 480p original sources.
    Is Toshiba using this technology? Possibly, if they are able to make a cheap DVD player that can do what is rumored now it will be very exciting indeed.

    It would also be good to remember that 1080p is not the end all of High Resolution movies, 35mm file for example. Closer to home PC and now super resolution go well beyond 1080p

    Maybe it is sour grapes on Toshiba’s part or maybe it is excellent showmanship, starting rumors and speculation now all leading up to a solid buzz when the product is finally revealed in November.

    If Toshiba is doing this there will be more behind it than a vendetta. It will be good business sense. It may even be that this new technology convinced them to pull the plug on HD DVD or it could be they read the tea leaves and saw no future mass adoption of any HDM format with a capable 1080p DVD player.

    Whatever the truth may be lets all wait for the product and judge it then.
    I for one will be surprised if they can pull it off. I own 3 next Gen players, 1 Blu-ray, 1 HD DVD, I’ll let you do the math on the 3rd player. The Difference of 1080p and dvd unconverted is clear to me, although some movies look better than other upconverted. If they can make DVDs 1080p it will be very exciting indeed. Don’t forget if this does work and proves to be popular it can be added to Blu-ray players in the future. Although it kind of defeats the purpose of Blu-ray players if old DVDs look as good as the new Blu-ray releases. After all it’s all about selling software.

  2. OH:

    I call BS on Toshiba, from a professional standpoint… now from a consumer standpoint, which is increasingly being driven by the “good enough” mentality, Toshiba might actually cajole the common Joe that their magic SD to HD converter box is “the same” as an HDDVD or BluRay player. Next thing they’re going to say is that they can convert a 2.1 or 5.1 ProLogic stereo signal found on DVD to 7.1 HD Master Audio…

    Can anyone explain HOW a 480i/p native source signal can all of a sudden be magically transfigured into a native 1080p signal? Just curious.

    From a prosumer standpoint I’ll take a 1080p scan of the same 35mm film over a 480i/p scan any day and I’d take a 70mm digital pull over a 35mm any day as well. Here’s a question, what happens when you capture a 35mm film sequence onto 70mm film. Do you all of a sudden “upconvert” the 35mm original to a 70mm original? Nope. Either way, 480p, 1080p, 1444p, etc are still move downs from 35mm, 65mm, or 70mm film. Film isn’t limited by pixels. We all remember the Fifth Element fiasco, they had to to do a rescan of the original film because they thought they could fool the consumer with a 480p to 1080p “conversion”… see where I’m going…?

    I do agree with you… seeing is believing but until I see what Toshiba is trying to push. I take what they have to say with a huge grain of salt. Your point about resolution is spot on with respect to the HD standard being a drop compared to most native resolutions found on a common PC. Try watching that DVD or even that BD in your PC’s native resolution…

  3. DaveBG:

    Shoe-horning this into a DVD v Blu-ray fight is absurd.

    DVD will be the (by far) larger part of the movie disc market for years to come, whatever happens.

    No amount of PS3 fanboy wishful thinking alters that one bit – and Blu-ray’s continuing drive up the PS3 dead-end does nothing in relation to the a/v mass-market.

    If this new Toshiba DVD player (and HD TV chipset) really can offer such a leap in detail then they are on to a winner.

    The method is nothing new, forensic labs have been doing this for decades with film & video.

    By scanning a number of the preceeding and following frames and combining the little differences in detail onto the frame being shown then real and genuine additional detail can be shown.

    It’s not mere upscaling a resolution.

    The big deal will be the cost.

    By not frightening people away with new types of expensive players (they will ‘just’ be DVD players) and everyone’s existing DVD collections (that one is a massive plus) this could be the tech that takes off.

  4. OH:

    @ DaveBG

    You sound rather anti-Sony… anyway, there’s a big difference between post-processing using whatever fractal-algorithm technique to enhance a low resolution image/video and doing it real-time, which is what Toshiba seems to be claiming…

    Anyway, the cell is at the heart of this new tech and Toshiba nextgen HDTVs. Which leads me to believe people are still going to have to pay a pretty penny… insert Toshiba advert = “If you want an optimal viewing experience, please buy our Cell Powered Flat Panel TV AND our SuperDVD player…”

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