I mentioned recently that I got an HD-DVD player for my 360. Today I decided to do a quick visual comparison between the DVD and HD-DVD versions of Hot Fuzz (which conveniently come on two sides of the same disc), to try and see the difference in image quality for myself. First, I watched the opening 10 minutes of the DVD version. (I watched the DVD version first to try and prevent myself from subconsciously nitpicking at its image quality if I watched it after the HD-DVD version.) Then, I watched the same 10 minutes of the HD-DVD version of the film and noted any significant differences.
As could be expected, fine detail was much more apparent in the HD-DVD version. In the opening shot of the film, part of the Metropolitan Police desk sign is illegible in the DVD cut, but is quite readable in the HD-DVD version. The shots of Angel talking with members of the community were also noticeably improved in the HD-DVD version. The DVD version also exhibited extreme blurriness and a bit of a moire effect in the scene where Angel is talking to his superiors and discovering that they plan to ship him off to Sandford — the venetian blinds in the background look much better in the HD-DVD version.
One other interesting difference is that the menu system in the DVD version was considerably nicer than the one in the HD-DVD version. I’m not sure if this is due to limitations of the interactive content format used by HD-DVD, or time/budgetary/effort considerations, but it’s a little annoying that the high definition format gets stiffed on something like this.
Overall, though, it’s a pretty clear win for HD-DVD and high definition formats in general. The visual quality difference is pretty easy to see, even if you’re not really looking for it — things just look nice and sharp. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, given the resolution differences between most DVD video and HD-DVD video, but it’s nice to be able to verify this for myself.