As regular readers know posts on this blog frequently feature screen caps from the DVD or Blu-ray disk reviewed. In the process of garnering the screen shots I have found out one or two interesting things about the picture quality of the originating disk. Using vlc to play disks gives a window the size of the image in pixels. (I use vlc because for some reason screen caps from DVDPlayer come out blank.) Older opera DVDs have a picture that is nominally 720 pixels wide giving a 720×540 window for 4:3 pictures. In practice there are often black bars at the side of screen reducing this a little and sometimes older TV derived material isn’t even really up to even that quality so this really represents an upper bound on the amount of information available. More recent 16:9 DVDs tend to be a bit more information rich; 830×468 pixels seems quite common and some HD derived material checks in at around 850×480. It does mean though that very few operas will fit on a single DVD9 disk.
The big change comes with Blu-ray. I haven’t capped enough Blu-ray’s yet to see if they are entirely consistent but I imagine the Zürich Semele from Decca will be fairly typical. Here the image size is 1184×668 or almost twice as much information as the best DVDs. The difference on a high resolution screen is striking. That I guess is the advantage of the 50GB Blu-ray format.
To illustrate I’ve included thumbnails of pictures at various resolutions. Click through to bring them up full size and really see the difference.
What I’m wondering is how long it will take for video directors of opera DVDs to realise that the increased picture resolution means that they can back off from the super closeups without the picture turning to mush. Of course it does depend a bit on what they think viewers are using to watch the recording too so in the interests of science here’s a poll on screen size.