Consumer watchdog Which? has been watching loads of Blu-ray movies and has come to a stunning conclusion.
Apparently, films which have been shot since the release of the High Definition Blu-ray format on High Definition cameras and which have been carefully mastered from the original digital sources are nicer to look at than those which were shot 40 years ago on fragile celluloid film and have been cobbled together from second-rate prints by lazy Hollywood studios trying to make money from old rope.
The testing saw an expert panel watching 17 BD titles ranging from James Cameron's all-digital blockbuster Avatar to Hitchock's 1959 classic North by Northwest, and comparing them with DVD versions.
Not surprisingly, recent movies like the aforementioned Avatar and Casino Royale came off best in the testing, but the inclusion of From Russia with Love, The Wizard of Oz, and Zulu in the list of outstanding Blu-ray disks points at a lack of care on the behalf of the studios making the transfer from film to Blu-ray rather than any shortfall in the digital format itself.
In general, the majority of titles showed significant improvement when viewed on the cutting-edge format but some, including Matrix Reloaded, Gangs of New York and Ghostbusters showed only marginal improvement or no difference at all.
Basically, if a film has been converted with care from high-quality source material - the original negative in the case of older titles - rather than a shonky old cinema print the studio found in a cupboard on a back-lot somewhere, the Blu-ray experience is well worth the extra outlay. After all, celluloid film has a much higher resolution than any commercially available digital format at the moment.
Unfortunately, there's no way of judging the quality of the material from the packaging as most will just say 'digitally remastered in full HD' which is really meaningless in this context.
Perhaps its time for Hollywood studios to be a little more honest in their packaging. That way we'll be able to make an informed choice and only buy BD disks labelled 'Lovingly remastered from the original negative by someone who actually cares about quality'.