The ProShow Blog

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Slideshow Quality Talk: DVD, HD and Blu-ray Demystified

Do you know the difference between DVD and Blu-ray, HD vs. Standard Def?  With so many formats  and ways to share slideshows nowadays, we thought it would be good to interview an expert and get the straight answers about slideshow playback quality.

We sat down with Josh Green who heads up Photodex’s Quality Assurance team, a group whose job it is to test our software inside and out, and much of the testing involves disc burning and video output.  In fact, if you were to step into our QA department, you’d be bombarded by racks of test machines, spindles of discs and computer equipment everywhere!  (in a nice, neat and orderly fashion to give the QA team credit!)  Point being…Josh knows his stuff!

Q:  If I burn my slideshow to DVD, will it playback in high definition on my HDTV?

A: HDTVs are just too good for DVDs, they really are.  The video on a DVD just doesn’t have enough pixels to take advantage of an HDTV resolution and that makes things look less than crisp.  A DVD has a resolution of 720×480.  Compare that to an HDTV resolution of  1920×1080 and you’re looking at a TV display that has approximately 2 to 6 times more pixels than the DVD it’s displaying. 

Q:  But when I playback a Hollywood DVD on my HDTV, it appears to be a high-quality.

A:  Yes, motion picture DVDs appear to be high quality but they actually aren’t.  ProShow DVDs show the same amount of data per second as a Hollywood DVD, more in some cases.  The real difference between the two is content.  A motion picture video has lots of non-linear edges moving in natural motions with a relatively great deal of visual density.  Pause one of those DVDs and give it a closer look.  Those frames can be pretty blurry. 

ProShow DVDs by contrast are more likely to contain stark linear edges moving at a smooth (artificial) pace with fairly limited visual density.  That accentuates rather than hides the blemishes of the DVD format and it’s really an issue with all slideshows.

Q:  So, what are the best (and easiest) ways to play an HD slideshow on your HDTV? 

A: If you want something nice and portable I’d go with Blu-ray.  Players for that format are becoming more and more popular all the time.  You can also create an HD video of your slideshow and play it back through your laptop or computer directly to your HDTV. 

Many laptops nowadays come with an option to feed directly into an HDTV.  That probably gives the widest range of playback options since you’re only limited by what your computer supports.  You can also do this wirelessly now with some USB based devices that connect a computer to a TV but the technology does have its limits, primarily broadcast range.

Q:  What about photographers delivering a slideshow to a client?  What do you suggest is the best method for delivering an HD slideshow to a client?

A: There are two main options here, the Internet and Blu-ray.  Internet based options like YouTube, SmugMug, Facebook and Vimeo are easy to access and you can push shows to those services directly from ProShow or from ProShow Web.  Giving your clients a Blu-ray disc gives them something they can put their hands on.  For some people that’s just what they want and the quality won’t disappoint. 

But don’t rule out the DVD all together, though the quality isn’t HD, you can play a DVD back on your computer or DVD player and viewers are usually so emotionally attached to the photos, they don’t notice the difference in quality. 

Q:  Do you suggest a certain type of media to better ensure a playable disc?  DVD+ or -?  Are there brands that are better than others?

A: Historically we’ve seen the best success with Taiyo Yuden DVDs.  I haven’t seen a big difference in playback support between +R and -R formats but I know that +R is technically more compatible with the average DVD player.  I can say from personal experience that the +R format is easier to burn onto.  This is especially true when you’re dealing with +RW versus -RW, which I strongly recommend if you’re going to be doing any disc based proofing. 

Once you get into the Blu-ray realm my experience is primarily with BD-RE media and the difference between manufacturers has been pretty negligible.  Again, if you’re going to be proofing on disc be sure to us the BD-RE format.  It’ll save you a mint.

Q:  I think we’re done more question…what are you and the beta team working on next?  Can you give us a sneak peek?

A:  Well we’re always working on improving ProShow, taking in user feedback and coming up with new features.  The projects we have in process right now are really, really cool but you’re just going to have to wait and see!

So, there you have it folks.  Thanks to Josh for taking the time to speak with us!

Need assistance with ProShow? Call us at 1-800-377-4686 or email us.


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Amanda works in Photodex's marketing department and heads up the company's pr and events efforts. She loves photography, living in Austin and making slideshows.