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What Is DVD Upscaling?

DVD players may have an upscaling feature that allows dvd pictures to appear as better quality on a higher resolution screen.
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  • Written By: John Lister
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 September 2014
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DVD upscaling is a technique used by some DVD players to make the picture from a DVD appear as better quality on a higher resolution screen. This will most commonly be done on a high definition television. The technique is only a workaround, however, and does not produce an HD quality picture.

The main use of DVD upscaling is for viewers who have an HD television but do not have a Blu-ray or HD-DVD player. The upscaling resolves the fact that a standard DVD player can output pictures with a maximum resolution of 480 vertical lines of pictures, but an HD television usually has either 720 or 1080 vertical lines. Though the DVD picture will be stretched to fill the screen, this does not make the most of the screen's capabilities.

Some DVD players have a built-in upscaling feature. This will convert the signal so that it sends out information to "fill" all 720 or 1080 lines. To do this, it artificially creates the information for the extra lines using a series of mathematical calculations. While the actual process is more complex than this, the general principle is that each added pixel is given the color which is most appropriate given those surrounding it.

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It is worth remembering that an LCD or plasma television will provide its own upscaling if required. The theory behind DVD upscaling is that better results are provided by performing the upscaling on the playback device itself. This is because there is the possibility that some of the original signal will be lost or subject to interference while being carried to the television. Although this isn't usually notable, it will leave the TV with less information to work from when upscaling.

The quality of pictures produced by DVD upscaling is disputed. Some sources believe it provides a sharper and more detailed picture than a standard DVD playback on the same high definition screen. Other sources maintain that the upscaling process makes little genuine difference and may even introduce picture errors.

Although it produces pictures with at least 720 vertical lines, DVD upscaling does not constitute a high definition picture. This is reserved for pictures which have 720 lines in the original source. For DVDs, this is only possible with discs using Blu-ray or the now defunct HD-DVD format.

It's also debatable whether standard DVD players with an upscaling feature represent value for money. By 2010 most Blu-ray players had reached a low enough price that the upscaling feature in a DVD player was arguably no longer needed as a stopgap measure. Virtually all Blu-ray players have DVD upscaling built-in.

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indemnifyme
Post 3

I think that DVD upscaler technology will probably be obsolete pretty soon, if it isn't already. I know that sometimes old technology takes a little while to be phased out (I knew a lot of people that still had VCRs after they were pretty much obsolete) so I'm sure some people still have these. However, I doubt that many stores will continue to sell these.

Eventually, I'm sure everyone will have HD-DVD players, or whatever comes out after that.

Monika
Post 2

@KaBoom - I'm pretty sure I know the photography process you're talking about. I think the technique has gotten a bit better in the last few years, but it's still better to start off with a high quality image rather than try to sample the pixels in order to enlarge the image.

That being said, I had a DVD upscaling player awhile ago, and I didn't think the image quality was very good. I know some people say that don't notice anything, but I definitely did. Maybe I just have a really good eye, but it really bothered me!

KaBoom
Post 1

I have a television with a pretty large screen, but I'm not sure if I have an upscaling DVD player or not. Whatever I have, it seems to be working fine, because I haven't noticed any problem with the picture quality when I watch a DVD.

Interestingly enough, I'm actually familiar with this whole upscaling process from a digital photography class I took years ago. If you want to make a photo bigger, some photo editing software programs will "sample" the photo, and extrapolate the colors for new pixels that are added into the picture. It's been a few years, but the few times I used this technique, it didn't look that great.

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