Who needs hi-def anyway?

Blu-ray? HD DVD? Cobblers to 'em, says Sarah. After all, are they really an improvement that we're looking for?

A HD DVD player

It’s all hotting up in the next-gen format wars, isn’t it? Lionsgate’s backing Blu-ray, Universal’s backing HD DVD, everyone else is pretty much hedging their bets and making some of each. On the consumer side of things, unless you’ve bought a next-gen console and inadvertently pinned your colours to the mast that way, you’re probably hanging back till either the price of the players drops considerably, and/or one format or the other dies off and removes the burden of choice.

The problem I have, though, is that I’m not convinced hi-def is even worth thinking about yet. Sure, I’ve seen the stunning demos; computer-animated movies shown on hi-def screens played through hi-def players till you can see every pixel of the stupid gurning animal faces (there’s a rant for another time: why are all computer animated cutesy animal movies so utterly shit?) and they look good… but that’s because they’re made with computers. What happens when you convert an existing film to hi-def?

It probably depends entirely on the film. Any new film will probably look just as pretty and shiny as the directors, with their high-definition cameras, hoped and intended. But we don’t just watch new films, do we? What happens to older movies?

A look at how movies fared when we all switched from VHS to DVD might offer some insight. And it’s not very encouraging: take pretty much any movie made in the 80s and I guarantee it looks shittier than it deserves on DVD. Now imagine upscaling that and showing it on a 42″ HD-ready DVD.

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If you’re anything like me, you also have to take into consideration that your eyesight is less than 20/20, so you won’t be able to appreciate the image quality anyway… plus there’s the small matter of human beings. A vast, vast majority of Hollywood starlets are going to look like shit in high definition. And I really don’t need a close up on Cameron Diaz’s acne, thank you very much.