The New iPad
HD keynote lead-in featured a new AppleTV with one major feature that you can’t get in the ATV2: support for 1080p playback. With that, iTunes has begun offering some of its content in the Holy Grail of high definition. The natural question: how does iTunes content stand up to Blu-Ray, the (remaining) high-definition standard-bearer?
The nerds over at Ars Technica have a couple of posts about how Apple was able to accomplish 1080p at downloadable file sizes and how the product stands up to the top-of-the line. They’re worth a read, but 2 passages in particular gave me a chuckle:
Due to hardware and DRM limitations, we were forced to take photos of the screen instead of using screenshots.
The BRD is a dual layer BD 50 and has a Dolby Digital 5.1 as well as a DTS-HD track, a number of special features and 30 seconds worth of unskippable copyright warnings.
Ah, the ignorant bliss of being the HD standard. I’d also add “have to get off my ass and load something into a tray to watch it” to my list of inconveniences.
In the end, the iTunes content held up surprisingly well, especially considering how much smaller the average file size is when compared to its Blu-Ray counterpart. Low-light scenes, particularly those combined with fast motion, suffered the most, but on balance the comparison was extremely favorable.
Steve Jobs famously described the encumbrances and licensing fees that accompanied the Blu-Ray format as “a bag of hurt” that would never see the light of day as an Apple product feature. Now that the AppleTV supports 1080p and Apple has developed an H.264 compression scheme that closes the gap to almost nothing, the writing is on the wall. Compression is going to keep getting more efficient, and that’s a trick those shiny little discs can’t emulate.