Adequacy front page
Stories Diaries Polls Users

Home About Topics Rejects Abortions
This is an archive site only. It is no longer maintained. You can not post comments. You can not make an account. Your email will not be read. Please read this page if you have questions.
What is the best home theater format?
VHS 2%
Betamax 19%
DVD 50%
Laserdisc 8%
Film 19%

Votes: 46

 DVD Versus VHS: The Surprising Truth

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Aug 24, 2001
Over the past few years, American consumers have been hearing a lot about DVD .. the Digital Versatile Disc that is promising to completely revolutionize how we watch movies at home. We've been told that our old and beloved standby, VHS, is Yesterday's News .. that it is old and decrepit, and that it is no longer capable of delivering the quality that is demanded by modern audiences. As a result of this, there has been an exodus from our analog roots as American families have abandoned their VHS collections for the new technology of DVD.

But is this a wise investment, and is the technology actually worth anything?

You might be surprised.


More stories about Technology
Building your dream PC. What the experts don't tell you.
How to increase the lifespan of your PC.
Why We Need National Missile Defense
Security, Microsoft, and You
Napster, Gnutella and the file sharing revolution
LIFE? Is What You Make Of It
The Stupidity of Environmental Liberalism
A Reader Disputes Our Wisdom
Apache 2.0 - Still Not a Contender?
The Console Wars, the Dust Has Settled.

More stories by

Is Catholicism to be tolerated?
Obesity and the Jennifer Lopez Message
The Truth About Reality TV
From Kids To Commies: The Truth About Daycare
The Scriptural Proof of Extraterrestrial Life
Review: Jurassic Park III
Beating Children Saves Lives
Gutless In Seattle
Isolationism Versus Go-F*ck-Yourself-ism
Stunned Beef: Dangerous Compassion?
Happy Labor Day -- Now Get Lost
Don't Go In The Water
A Day on the Links
The Evil of M*A*S*H
Brett Favre Must Be Stopped
An Early Analysis of Today's Attacks
Dealing With Communism in the Workplace
Why We Need National Missile Defense
Review: Gran Turismo 3
Death Threats on Groups.Google.Com
Adequacy.Org Presents the Commonsense Crossword
Dealing with Nazism in the Workplace
The truth is that there have been a plethora of unsubstantiated myths and outright lies spread by the DVD industry in order to dupe people into buying their products. Some of these untruths are slight exaggerations, but others are knee-slapping howlers. Let's take a look at some of the more extravagant ones and debunk them point-by-point:

  1. DVD picture quality is better

    This is largely a smokescreen. While it's true that DVD theoretically has double the vertical resolution of VHS, this fact has nothing to do with how the picture is presented. The vertical resolution of your television set is fixed by your local standard (NTSC in the United States and PAL in Europe.) The fact of the matter is that DVD could *quadruple* the vertical resolution of VHS and there would be no visual gain from it! NTSC has a resolution of 648 x 486. PAL is slightly higher at 720 x 486. You can increase output resolution all you want, but as soon as you surpass the resolution of the display standard, it no longer matters.

    Evidence about the alleged superiority of DVD picture versus VHS is largely anecdotal and suspicious, given the fact that it mostly originates from the DVD manufacturers themselves. In fact, the actual peer-reviewed evidence tends to point the other direction. In a recent study by Brown University, one hundred students were shown a clip of the movie "Big Momma's House" on VHS and then were shown the same clip on DVD. The students were not told which clip was which format. They were then asked which of the two clips had better video quality, or if they were about the same. Nearly two-thirds of the students (63%) thought that there was no difference. Of the remaining students, 19% thought that the VHS tape looked better! In other words, the students with a preference (narrowly) favored the image quality of the "inferior" VHS clip!

  2. DVD sound quality is better

    This might even be a bigger whopper than the picture quality myths. In the movie "The Rock", a character asks Nicholas Cage why he just spent $500 on an old Beatles LP record. The reply? "Two reasons. Number one, I'm a Beatle maniac. And number two, these sound better."

    Cage could not be more correct. Quite frankly, the digital sound that is employed by DVDs and satellite television is dreadful, and the same is largely true of compact discs. They lack the analog warmth that is present in VHS performances and LPs. When analog is recorded and mastered, the sound undergoes slight alterations from the original intonation. Usually, this is a pleasing effect; it emphasizes the presence of the low end while giving a "sheen" to the upper end of the overall recording. It makes music and dialogue sound real .. as opposed to the cold, mechanical sound of a digital soundtrack. For reproducing sound, analog is the only way to go. Sound waves themselves are analog! Reducing them to a series of zeroes and ones will not make them sound any better.

    It gets worse, though. Not only is DVD sound digital, it is compressed digital. Anybody who has ever heard the sound quality of an MP3 file when compared to its original source can tell you that digital compression makes already-bad audio sound even worse. Of course, if the DVD video is compressed, why should the zealots care if the audio is compressed?

    Finally, it's worth mentioning that all of these high-end sound formats such as "Dolby Digital 5.1" and "DTS" are pure junk. Scientists have demonstrated that the human brain is not capable of separating out more than four simultaneous sound channels at once. Coincidentally, four channels is what you get with the tried-and-true Dolby Surround technology (an analog technlogy that is available on VHS tapes.) Digital formats that claim to offer five, six, or even seven channels might sound tempting, but remember that your brain cannot process this much information anyway, so the point is moot! (And beyond that, it's all compressed digital sound, so it's garbage to begin with.)

  3. DVD preserves better than VHS tapes

    Again, this is mostly a lie. Any parent who has young children and a collection of Disney VHS movies knows that those things can be watched a dozen times of day for three years straight without showing any appreciable wear. Yes, the digital nature of DVD means that the encoded bits will never "wear out", but VHS movies rarely "wear out", either.

    In fact, movie damage is a far greater concern with DVD than it is with VHS tapes. A DVD is the same physical size as a compact disc, but a double-layer DVD can fit up to fourteen times the amount of data that a CD can hold. Those of you with CD players will certainly be familiar with the effect that scratches can have on your music. Even the smallest scratch can make your CD skip and generate annoying popping noises during playback. Well, how do you think that same scratch will affect a DVD .. a piece of media that has fourteen times the amount of information on it? A single tiny scratch will destroy a DVD forever. There's a lot of data on a DVD, but the downside is that the bits must be stored so close together that any imperfection at all will ruin the entire movie. When you take a DVD out of its case and load it into your player, the only way you're going to give that movie a fighting chance to last more than a month or two is to treat it as a brain surgeon treats a scalpel during a tricky operation. There is no reason that home theater has to be this inconvenient and clumsy.

    VHS tapes, on the other hand, are virtually impossible to destroy. If a part of the tape gets dirty or crinkeled, you may have to put up with a few lines of static for a few seconds, but that's it. Unlike a DVD, it is not possible to easily destroy an entire movie, since doing so would require you to destroy an extended length of magnetic tape. Even in severe cases where defective players "eat" the video tape, all that one needs to do is wind the tape back up into the cartridge. Compared to their fragile digital brothers, VHS tapes are invincible.

  4. DVD has lots of "special features"

    So? You can put "special features" on a VHS tape, too .. they're just not as "convenient" to get at. This really isn't the point, however. The point is that the vast majority of "special features" that are placed on DVDs are 100% crap. They are garbage that some DVD manufacturer threw together at the last minute in order to try to trick you into buying the disc. You'll watch them once, say "Well, that was worthless", and you'll never watch them again.

    Case in point: I was at a friend's house the other night watching the DVD version of the movie "Se7en", and he switched over to the "audio commentary" track. After about five minutes of listening to Morgan Freeman pontificate about how superior Broadway theater is, I was ready to stab both of my eyes out with a wooden fork. It was excruciating. We watched the rest of the "special features", and with very few exceptions, they were all embarassingly bad. I felt genuinely sorry for the person who had put this DVD together.

    The fact of the matter is that VHS movies have higher-quality special features because there is less room for them, and they must be placed at strategic points (usually, at the beginning of the tape.) This means that VHS movie designers are forced to pick the best features .. the cream of the crop, if you will .. and leave the rest of them behind. When DVD zealots brag about having "more features", they might as well be bragging about having "more crap." Any special feature that is worth anything is going to also be included on the VHS version of the movie. The added extras on the DVD are discarded table scraps.

Those are the highlights. The truth is that for all practical purposes, VHS is a better all-around home theater format than DVD. There are many little things that make VHS a better choice; for one, you don't have to put up with the annoying pause when a DVD player switches between layers on the disc. Additionally, linear searches forward and back are much smoother than they are on a DVD player .. even the most brainwashed DVD junkies admit that searching DVDs is a bit choppy.

The dirty little secret that the DVD industry doesn't want you to hear is that you can get roughly the same picture and sound quality out of a two-head Technics VCR for $39 at Wal-Mart as you can out of a "high-end" $5,000 Harmon Kardon DVD player ordered from some foo-foo electronics "boutique." When your friends with DVD players smile at you condescendingly and tell you that you'll probably buy a DVD player soon, you can smile right back at them and point them at this article. Tell them that they are corporate shills who are living a hateful lie.


DVD has one important feature (none / 0) (#2)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Aug 24th, 2001 at 11:47:37 AM PST
As for the sound issue, please go to R3mix for a lesson. Compression does not always mean bad sound. Know your equipment and know your compression algorithms. The sound may not be exactly the same, but with the exception of those with "golden ears", very few can tell the difference.

As for the video, I can't believe those professors would subject their students to such torture as to force them to watch a Martin Lawrence movie! Oh, the humanity!

Extra stuff is cool, and DVD's can afford the space to put it on. The only way to put extra stuff on a VHS tape is to run the tape in EP (extended play) mode which has bad video quality.

And the important feature mentioned in the title? Instant scene selection. No fast forwarding or rewinding. This is why CD's killed audio cassettes.

Not quite accurate (5.00 / 1) (#3)
by seventypercent on Fri Aug 24th, 2001 at 11:54:18 AM PST
Extra stuff is cool, and DVD's can afford the space to put it on. The only way to put extra stuff on a VHS tape is to run the tape in EP (extended play) mode which has bad video quality.

Not true. Star Wars : Episode One : The Phantom Menace has an intro piece that runs about 15 or 20 minutes, followed by the full feature film (about 2 hours and 20 minutes) all on one VHS tape, all in SP mode. The video and sound are excellent, of course. All you have to do is use a longer tape. Your comment is applicable to generic, store-bought tapes that are manufactured to be exactly two hours long (in SP mode.) Specific VHS movie manufacturers have a bit more elbow room.

And the important feature mentioned in the title? Instant scene selection. No fast forwarding or rewinding. This is why CD's killed audio cassettes.

I admit that this is one area where DVD may have the upper hand. But many modern VCRs let you do things like skip commercials and/or set stop points that you can quickly fast forward or rewind to. They're not quite as convenient as the DVD chapter system, but I'm willing to put up with a bit of extra overhead in order to get the superior sound and picture from VHS.

Red-blooded patriots do not use Linux.

Improved video (5.00 / 2) (#4)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Aug 24th, 2001 at 12:11:17 PM PST
You say that VHS is better because the display can't handle DVD's 550 lines. Older TV's can't but the newer stuff can. Even a low end analog projection big screen TV can do 800 lines.

Also, DVD's can do progressive scan. There is a huge difference in quality between interlaced and progressive pictures.

VHS a much better value (none / 0) (#5)
by Josh Everist on Fri Aug 24th, 2001 at 12:46:33 PM PST
You can typically find movies for $5-$7. DVDs are at least $10.

I find the picture quality to be very acceptable. Maybe not "quite as good" as DVD, but as far as I am concerned it doesn't matter until I upgrade to HDTV.

The sound quality is great, as the poster noted. I remember the day when bands used to master their music to VHS because of the high quality masters they could make cheaply.

Now that DVD players are cheap and have MP3 playback I am considering getting one. I'll likely only buy movies that aren't available in VHS though, since I am quite happy watching movies in the VHS format.

My ears have evolved. I plan on buying a turntable and buying some records, at least for some things. Its true, you invariably sterilize the sound and lose certain qualities when you go digital. If you don't believe me ask any guitar player if digital technology has ever been able to amplify guitar sound as well as tubes(1930s tech, BTW). Playing a guitar through different amps really tells you a lot about the differences between technologies. You might not notice the difference between a $300 solid state amp and a high end audiophile tube amp, but trust me its there.

DVD picture quality (none / 0) (#6)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Aug 24th, 2001 at 12:51:16 PM PST
I've long suspected that the whole DVD picture quality thing was a big hoax, at least as far as watching DVD on TV's goes. I have a nice 19" monitor on my computer and my bedroom is set out so that I can see both my monitor and my 14" TV whilst lying in bed. My sister has a TV card which I borrowed off her for a little experiment. I'd like to start by stating that I accept that all observations here are purely subjective as I knew at all times what I was watching, but one day I hope to redo this setup with the help of a few friends so that I can repeat it "blind".

First off I played a DVD on my TV using the TV-Out on my MPEG card. The picture quality wasnt really discernable from VHS. I then played the DVD on my monitor using my MPEG card (its a Dxr2) and the picture quality was pretty bad at anything above 640*480, lots of blocky scaling artifacts. Then I played the DVD on my monitor using a software based DVD player (which utilises the hardware scaling features on my GeForce, I think most modern graphics cards have these features nowadays) and the picture quality was pretty amazing. 1024*768 on a 19" monitor with a decent player really does look good and is noticably higher quality to VHS on a TV.

For the second part of my "experiment" I watched the same TV channel on both my TV and my monitor (using the TV card I borrowed from my sister). The picture looked far better on the TV than it did scaled up on my monitor (the card is a fairly recent Hauppage WinTV which I'm lead to believe is the best of the bunch as far as TV cards go. If anyone wants to correct me...).

In short, my conclusion is this. Why the hell is anyone bothering with DVD unless they have a good display setup to go with it? I imagine something along the lines of HDTV would be a good bet for watching DVD's on, but having never actually seen HDTV myself I couldnt really comment.

Oh yea, as for sound, I have a creative labs 4 speaker + subwoofer setup. It was cheap (~40-50 a few years ago) and the quality rocks.

Hope that was of some use to someone out there. Oh yea, and if you DivX(MPEG4) a DVD then you can get away with picture quality that is just as good (99% of the time) and fits on either 1 or 2 CD's. When I've got the money I'm gonna buy a few big HD's and build a cheap box dedicated to playing movies and hook it up to the widescreen TV we have downstairs. I figure I can do it for about the same price as a good DVD player with the added advantage of having all my movies available on demand across my home network. If the picture quality is that hard to discern from DVD on a good monitor then I should imagine it would be impossible to tell on a TV.

DVD on a computer (none / 0) (#8)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Aug 24th, 2001 at 12:55:00 PM PST
DVD on a regular analog TV doesn't look so good because it's interlaced. A computer monitor is inherently progressive scan. It will always look much better than a similar sized TV.

Letterboxing (none / 0) (#40)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Aug 30th, 2001 at 07:06:28 PM PST
Finding letterboxed DVDs is a lot easier than finding letterboxed videotapes. For those who prefer letterboxing to pan-and-scan, it's nice.

I'd like to comment on this. (5.00 / 2) (#9)
by elenchos on Fri Aug 24th, 2001 at 05:16:55 PM PST
I haven't owned a TV in several years, and have never had my own VCR, though a few of my friends have them and I've had a chance to view the output on more than one occasion. I certainly don't have a DVD player, of course, and I don't know anyone who does. I also have never seen nor heard any actual examples of the so-called "home theater" that I've noticed discussed in major media recently. I'm not an "audiophile" or "videophile" by any stretch of the imagination. In fact I only go out to see movies in theaters at most three times a year.

I think this all makes it obvious that I am exceedingly well-qualified to judge how annoying avid audio and video hobbyists are. People who reveal that they know anything about home entertainment equipment are totally obnoxious. The more they know about it, the more obnoxious they are. Just hearing them begin to lecture you about this stuff is painfully boring. The crap they regale you with when they find out that you don't care whether Beta is better than VHS is unbearable. Often the only way to make them stop is to change the subject to car audio, or alarm systems, or the merits of wireless communication devices. Which is to say that they will torture you with some kind of meaningless consumer electronic terminology and self-satisfied judgments about the superiority of one technology or another. It is only a question of which particular useless yuppie toy it will be.

For this reason, I applaud this article in the hopes that it catches on, and starts a movement backward to older technology. Perhaps this will precipitate an end to any research into improved home electronics, if no one buys anything but yesterday's tried and true equipment. The result would be nothing to talk about except perhaps whether you should buy a VCR in black, silver or that racy new translucent plastic. Knowing how home entertainment afficionados would hate that would brighten my otherwise drab and pointless life just a little tiny bit, for a moment anyway.

Thank you.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

I'd expect this kind of answer (1.00 / 2) (#10)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Aug 24th, 2001 at 07:52:44 PM PST
from someone who attends a university which sounds like it's named after a Muppet.

What disturbs me is... (5.00 / 1) (#13)
by elenchos on Sat Aug 25th, 2001 at 05:03:00 PM PST
...not that so few people know anything about the Italian Renaissance, but that there is even one person who doesn't even know it is GONZO on the Muppets, not Gonzaga. No wonder you post anonymously.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

Please reread the post (1.00 / 1) (#14)
by Anonymous Reader on Sat Aug 25th, 2001 at 06:10:21 PM PST
which sounds like

That means to most intelligent primates that it's close but not quite.

No wonder you post anonymously.

Your ignorance of english makes me wonder why you log in.

There's no need to exaggerate... (none / 0) (#22)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Aug 28th, 2001 at 06:17:08 AM PST
Just because some people are obnoxious, it does not mean that new technology is a bad thing.
It is true that a lot of times new technology is a hype and misses it's purpose, which is after all to be more user friendly. I would recommend a DVD because it has a potential to be easier for the user (quite frankly, I've had it with rewinding and fast-forwarding video cassettes).
When eventually technology matures and even Mom & Pop can use it (Don't even get me started about parents and VCR programming...) it will be a good thing.

Easier to use? (none / 0) (#29)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Aug 28th, 2001 at 03:19:33 PM PST
There is nothing user-unfriendly about VHS. You pop the tape in, hit play, stop when the credits roll, rewind, return to rental store. What is so hard about this? Some VCRs even play automatically when you pop the tape in and rewind when they hit the end! It couldn't get much easier! If you are getting tired of hitting rewind when the tape finishes, spend $50 on one that does it automatically. Spending $300 on a DVD player isn't going to fix anything. Most likely, you just trade the "tedium" of fastforward and rewind for the hassle of handling DVDs like a surgeon handles a kidney for transplant.

Re: programming the VCR.. there is no rule that says a VCR needs to be programmed. It will play tapes right out of the box. Even while flashing "12:00!"

The only real complicated part about home entertainment is hooking the stuff up. And frankly, this is get more user unfriendly every day. DVD isn't helping. Especially if you actually want to reap the benefits of DVD's superior image and sound quality.

So, if you want simplicity, you should probably just stick with the tried and true VHS and enjoy the show rather than fuss about an extra hundred lines of resolution.

I love audio CD's vs. cassettes. CD's offer much convienience over tapes. No more winding the tape the the song you want to hear. No more hiss. No more eaten tapes. I listen to CD's over and over and over again. They are great. Despite the similarity of CD vs. cassette and DVD vs. VHS. The latter just doesn't prove to be such a difference. Few people watch movies more than a couple times. And most start at the beginning and watch straight through. The random seek features and the longer life of DVD just doesn't provide much advantage over VHS.


CD V Cassette (5.00 / 1) (#33)
by bc on Wed Aug 29th, 2001 at 06:52:40 AM PST
I would disagree on that issue. I am a cassette user, I don't own any CD's or a CD player. When I have used CD's, I found them to be a huge irritation. For one, the cater to the 'Now Now Now! Me Me Me!' generation. On tape, I have many difficult orchestral, classical, jazz, and expiremental works that I have grown to love just because, when playing the tape, I couldn't be bothered fast-forwarding past song I disliked at first, and eventually, through this process, came to like and indeed love some difficult and inaccessible works.

In the world of the CD, people switch from track to track in microseconds, and so are never exposed to the new and challenging.

Listenning to music is a ritual, and should not be easy.

I like tapes, they have a nice warm sound, and unless you are using extremely expensive anal-retentive music hardware you are unlikely to notica any difference in quality anyway.

Tapes are smaller and more convenient to carry around, as well as more robust and scratch resistant than CD's.

I will never move away from the cassette tape.

♥, bc.

I appreciate (none / 0) (#34)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Aug 29th, 2001 at 07:48:54 AM PST
While I appreciate your loyalty to tapes, I was speaking more in general about people's viewing/listening habits. If you are just watching movies straight through, a DVD doesn't add much more convienience. But people don't listen to CD's straight through. They skip around. Even if they don't skip around, they might want to be able to start at the beginning if they left off somewhere in the middle last time. So they have to find the right side, and sit there while it rewinds. While not horrible, its not a great scenerio for most.

Also, I don't think it is about "now now now!" Its just about being able to pop in a CD and hearing what you want to hear. I understand that lots of people will listen to the same damn song over and over and over again. Completely skipping over the other songs. But you know what? They did that with tapes too. I remember my little sister and her Debbie GIbson. I swear, she rewound the tape back to the same stupid song over, and over, and over again. The nature of tapes didn't force her to listen to any song but the one she wanted. I think your point is moot.

Anyway, you don't hear many people reveling about the glories of cassettes. If you want tried and true in audio, records seem to be where its at. And surprisingly enough CD's offer many of the advantages of records. So in a sense, we have come full circle. Its mostly just a debate over analog vs. digital. Oh, and you can't "scratch" a CD. :)


anoraks (none / 0) (#24)
by Nobody on Tue Aug 28th, 2001 at 09:28:16 AM PST
"For this reason, I applaud this article in the hopes that it catches on, and starts a movement backward to older technology."

Sadly, a lot of the people who rant about "older technology" - the vinyl purists, the DVD-haters - are themselves anoraks, just like the people who rant about NEW technology! They're all full of crap really :-)

Parkas? (none / 0) (#26)
by 6e7a on Tue Aug 28th, 2001 at 10:11:23 AM PST
An anorak is a parka. WTF are you talking about?!

6e77a 70 6e 6e7a!

anoraks (none / 0) (#27)
by Nobody on Tue Aug 28th, 2001 at 11:33:44 AM PST
anorak = geek = nerd = trainspotter

Ignorance... (4.00 / 4) (#11)
by Wiggy on Sat Aug 25th, 2001 at 04:42:56 AM PST
Ignorance is bliss, eh? In your world it seems to be screwing you up and making you post here. :-)

Can I reccomend that in future, when you're quoting 'studies' and 'reports' and the like, that you link to them, or at least tell us where these came from. I'm having real problems swallowing what you're dishing out here. Still, I'm going to come back to you on some of your claims...

DVD picture quality is better

It is better. OK, let me explain - the output possible is better. Here at home, I have a 32" widescreen TV that is probably no more than a year old. Coupled with it over SCART leads is a VCR and a DVD player (the TV, DVD and VCR are all from the same manufacturer - Thomson, a cheapish French brand) and an 'ITV Digital' box. I.e. digital TV received over a normal aerial. I can compare the VCR and the DVD directly with the same films. I have a great show-off trick to show picutre quality - show the first few minutes of The Matrix on VCR (everybody says 'very nice, good picture' etc.) then show them the same few minutes on DVD - at this point most people sit there with their mouths slightly open. When I stop the DVD the majority agree - they need to buy a DVD player.

But it only looks good, because I have a decent-ish player, with a pretty decent CRT TV (rear projection looks crappy, and plasma looks *awful* if you try playing video on it). And I'm using SCART cables rather than the regular crap most people use. If you spend an extra $20 on a SCART cable, and you have a decent TV, you'll see that DVD is very nice indeed when it comes to picture quality. An order of magnitude better than VCR, easily.

DVD sound quality is better

This is kind of true. The problem here, is again, like the picture quality issue, is that it comes down to equipment. DVD as a format has the ability to exploit high-end audio kit. Personally, I'm quite happy with regular surround sound at the moment, but I have watched Toy Story 2 with DTS and the right sound kit, and it really is as good as watching it at a cinema. Your arguments about 'turning analogue into ones and zeroes' without any understanding of sampling rates and PCM whilst arguing that the brain is too slow and stupid to handle more than four channels shows how little you've actually thought about this.

DVD preserves better than VHS tapes

Not sure about this, as VHS is as old as me, yet DVD is still relatively new. What I do know is that DVD playback can be susceptible to dust and scratches, agreed. However, I think with the advent of DVD-RW in the home, we're going to be able to test this one out a little better. For now, I would argue that if reasonable care is taken over a DVD (it 'sleeps' in a proper case) then it is less likely to suffer picture degradation than a similarly cared for VHS tape, simply on the physics of how a magentic tape works.

DVD has lots of "special features"

I'd agree that because DVD is a new format, a lot of the special features available are pretty crap. However, it's only the beginning, and as with VHS, the porno industry is taking the lead. The 'special features' on adult DVDs (I'm assured by others) are quite... ummm... astonishing. Choosing camera angles for example. You know where I'm going with this...

Anyway, the point is that the features are there to be used unlike VHS which will never have these features. If film companies aren't able to use them fully yet, that is not a fault of the DVD format, but of the film company - don't confuse the two.

You missed the biggest objection (none / 0) (#12)
by localroger on Sat Aug 25th, 2001 at 01:12:53 PM PST
The reason I don't plan to buy a DVD player is the swarm of software gimmicks embedded within these systems that prevent you from doing certain things.

First you have the evil region awareness which has no legitimate reason to exist. Then you have the encryption and anticopy "protection" which is at the heart of the whole DeCSS mess. Then you have "features" which allow movies to "expire" so you can only watch them once or for a few days, or selectively disable player features like fast-forward to force you to watch commercials and disclaimers.

The quality of the VHS picture and sound may or may not be as good or better, but it's adequate and it's a technology that does what I tell it, when I tell it, and harbors few nasty surprises.

Well (5.00 / 1) (#15)
by seventypercent on Sat Aug 25th, 2001 at 07:24:15 PM PST
I don't object to companies and content providers taking steps to protect their intellectual property. That is their right. However, when they take these protections and wrap them around a format that is basically crap, they will impress nobody.

Red-blooded patriots do not use Linux.

kinda sorta (none / 0) (#30)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Aug 28th, 2001 at 04:04:54 PM PST
First you have the evil region awareness which has no legitimate reason to exist.
bypassable, plus units are available without it.

Then you have the encryption and anticopy "protection" which is at the heart of the whole DeCSS mess.
Macrovision is on most VHS tapes (i think)

Then you have "features" which allow movies to "expire" so you can only watch them once or for a few days,
Never ran into this. How common is that?

or selectively disable player features like fast-forward to force you to watch commercials and disclaimers.
True! I HATE that. Almost enuff reason to agree with you.

kinda sorta (none / 0) (#39)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Aug 30th, 2001 at 07:04:54 PM PST
<i>Macrovision is on most VHS tapes (i think)</i>

No, just the big budget ones.

<i>Then you have "features" which allow movies to "expire" so you can only watch them once or for a few days,</i>
<i>Never ran into this. How common is that? </i>

DVDs don't have that "feature". Circuit City's "DivX" standard did, but it's dead now.

Technical Flaws (3.66 / 3) (#16)
by 6e7a on Sat Aug 25th, 2001 at 10:05:00 PM PST
Your facts are flawed in section 1. Yes, NTSC has a fixed vertical resolution, but "lines of resolution" is a measure of horizontal resolution! VHS has about 230 lines, broadcast TV has about 330, and laserdisc has about 425. Compare those horizontal resolutions with DVD's 540 lines (or more if you like squished images). You should also notice that 540 is well within the theoretical NTSC maximum horizontal resolution of 648.

You mention this Brown University study, but you fail to mention any critical details. Was this a low-quality display, restricted to 230 lines, so the two video sources looked the same? Was the display far away from the viewers so they couldn't see much detail anyway?

I see a huge difference on my television; probably because I chose a display with sufficient resolution and an S-Video input that prevents loss of resolution due to interference between the color and luminance signals. I have also been able to make professional-quality VHS copies of DVDs, and there is a noticeable smearing effect, but exactly the same amount as store-bought VHS movies.

6e77a 70 6e 6e7a!

Its because Analog is always better. (5.00 / 2) (#17)
by dmg on Sun Aug 26th, 2001 at 05:02:18 AM PST
In almost any situation, an analog recording will sound better than a digital one. This is due to a technical misfeature of the digitization process. When converting a signal from the analog domain to the digital one "Undersampling" occurs. What this means in practice is that high frequency inaudible parts of the recording are thrown away.

However, these inaudible frequencies have an effect on the audible ones, due to a scientific phenomenon called 'harmonic distortion'. Its the same for visual signals. An analog VHS recording will always be superior to a digital DVD, because the analog signal contains more information making the picture seem 'warmer' and more realistic. DVD can never achieve the higher qualitiy of the analog system

Why else would people pay > $10000 for a turntable to play their analog vinyl records when they could use a cheap CD player ?

time to give a Newtonian demonstration - of a bullet, its mass and its acceleration.
-- MC Hawking

Re: Its because Analog is always better. (3.00 / 3) (#18)
by 6e7a on Mon Aug 27th, 2001 at 08:02:23 PM PST
While CDs are indeed undersampled, this is not inherent in AD conversion. One could capture all these nuances by taking more samples per second. You get similarly bad results by narrowing the bandwidth of an analog signal, as a telephone does to your voice. I would take a high-resolution digital signal over a bandwidth-limited analog signal any day. DVD is a high-resolution digital signal, and VHS is a bandwidth-limited analog signal. You must think smearing and loss of signal increases the video quality. You're entitled, I suppose.

The reason people still play vinyl records is because the turntable is not bandwidth-limited by anything besides the amplifier and speakers. Personally I dislike the crackling, but these people are apparently willing to tolerate it to listen to the heterodyning effect that purportedly adds warmth. They're entitled, I suppose.

6e77a 70 6e 6e7a!

Are you crazy (none / 0) (#46)
by linuxyhacker on Thu Aug 8th, 2002 at 01:26:35 AM PST
A: DVD video is encoded in Mpeg 2 Video ate 720x480 NTSC. At a very high bit rate. The only bad you will see in it is in older movies that have large black areas in them.

B: DVD audio is Mpeg 1 Layer 2 at a high bit rate. The truth is, our ears dont have channels, they can hear from different directions. So the more channels the better the image of where a sound is coming from.

C: one tiny scuff wont do anything unless you have the cheapest dvd player you can get since most dvd players have 2x read aheaed that will correct the data errors and put it in a memory buffer. Unless you have small children you wont have to worry about big scratches.

D: VHS is subject to the metal wearing down, loss of magnetism, and external magnetism modifying the tape data. Under heat they can be severly damaged. They only offer an effective resolution of about 352x240, nearly half of the 640x480 tvs can handle.

E: DVD audio has a sample rate of 48Khz. That has a pretty clear and quick sound format. Not only that it captures 0hz -20Khz which is the range in which most humans can hear. Not to mention most anything over that can be heard, except maybe static.

F: VHS does use compression.

You are missing one of the biggest features of DVD (none / 0) (#19)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Aug 27th, 2001 at 08:34:55 PM PST
As someone who likes to watch Japanese anime and various films in other languages, I really like having the option to choose if I am going to have subtitles, a dub, or whatever language they have for me to choose. I can give my DVD of "El Mariachi" which is in Spanish to my sister who can then put subtitles on or put it in the English dub to watch. Then she could hand it to her French teacher who could use the French subtitles to watch it if so inclined. You can't do that with VHS.

Also, your complaints about the quality of DVD are obvious from someone who has a crappy TV, a $60 DVD player, or some other garbage. I have a good DVD player and a good VCR, and I can tell the difference. It's not so much in the DVDs being a higher resolution, but their animation is much smoother, they don't lose quality (the ones and zeros you mentioned) so that if you take care of the disc itself, the picture quality doesn't decrease like it does on VHS.

Anyways I would suggest you actually try out a DVD player before you start bitching about how they suck just because you don't have the money to buy one or are not smart enough to use it.

Japanese anime (5.00 / 1) (#20)
by fluffy grue on Mon Aug 27th, 2001 at 10:23:17 PM PST
Japanese anime, as opposed to American, French, or Spanish anime? Retard.

OT: fluffy grue is on Las Adequacy! (none / 0) (#21)
by elenchos on Tue Aug 28th, 2001 at 12:45:58 AM PST
Cool. You rock. :)

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

The Transformers? (none / 0) (#28)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Aug 28th, 2001 at 02:20:29 PM PST
Wouldn't cartoons like The Transformers, G.I. Joe, Titan AE, etc. be considered American Anime? And despite your belief, there are other countries that release it as well. Maybe not the same as manga or hentai that you are so interested in, but other forms of anime.

Anime (none / 0) (#36)
by theboz on Thu Aug 30th, 2001 at 06:31:08 PM PST
<i>Japanese anime, as opposed to American, French, or Spanish anime? Retard.</i><p>
Now now fluffy, I must clarify that 'anime' is indeed a French word. Whether or not the French started the style of animation we all think of as anime is unlikely, but they did come up with the word for it.

Yes, Japanese anime (none / 0) (#37)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Aug 30th, 2001 at 06:57:08 PM PST
Anime is not necessarily Japanese, and it's not an artistic style. However, it is usually safe to assume that when someone says "anime" they are referring to nihon no anime, unless they are speaking Japanese.

And anyway, the poster's point stands: DVDs are really great for foreign films.

*dub" (none / 0) (#35)
by jsm on Wed Aug 29th, 2001 at 08:53:23 AM PST
As someone who likes to watch Japanese anime and various films in other languages, I really like having the option to choose if I am going to have subtitles, a dub, or whatever language they have for me to choose.

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you do not in fact have the option of watching anything other than "a dub". This is because the little cartoon people in your anime films are not, in fact, real, and cannot make any noise at all, in English or Japanese. The soundtrack has to be "dubbed" onto the picture track, usually at the editing stage.

... the worst tempered and least consistent of the editors
... now also Legal department and general counsel,

*dub" (none / 0) (#38)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Aug 30th, 2001 at 07:01:04 PM PST
Good point. Still, it's nice to listen to a soundtrack that's synced with the visuals. Also, most English soundtracks for anime are made on much smaller budgets than the original Japanese soundtracks, and without the benefit of the series producers' casting choices, etc.

And yeah, watching English films and programs re-dubbed into Japanese sucks just as badly as watching Japanese films and programs re-dubbed into English.

digital v analogue (5.00 / 1) (#23)
by Nobody on Tue Aug 28th, 2001 at 09:23:59 AM PST
"They [digital sound recordings] lack the analog warmth that is present in VHS performances and LPs. When analog is recorded and mastered, the sound undergoes slight alterations from the original intonation. Usually, this is a pleasing effect"

That's a matter of opinion. I agree that, in theory, downsampling and compressing sound can cause a discerible degredation of quality. However if you can tell the difference between a 44.1KHz / 16-bit recording (played back on a good sound system) and the original analogue sound, then you have superhuman ears. Also, compression algorithms such as MP3 are specially designed to only remove parts of the sound which you can't hear anyway! MP3 CAN cause noticeable quality reduction with a specially-"designed" sound (i.e. one that deliberately draws attention to the compression techniques) but for normal music and speech the quality is near perfect.

On the other hand, the "warmth" of an analogue recording is evidence of quality degredation, not quality improvement. The purpose of recording onto a medium such as DVD is to reproduce the original sounds and pictures as accurately as possible - not to change it in arbitrary ways. For example, LPs often sound a little bass heavy compared with their CD counterparts, but this can hardly be classed as an argument in favour of vinyl!!! If you want more bass, turn up the bass on your amplifier!

I'm not an authority on the VHS v DVD matter, but in principle your digital v analogue argument is flawed. I would add that, from my experience of watching VHS on a number of video players, the picture can often interfere with the sound (e.g. a bright part of the screen causes audio distortion).

Also, at least you don't have to worry about tracking with a DVD player (even auto-tracking VHS players seem to have difficulty with some of my tapes). This is a bit like the console v PC debate of years past: even though you could get really good games on PCs, many people favoured consoles because you can just plug-n-play, no messing ... whereas on a PC you can never be sure whether your game will work or not, whether you would have to tinker with the system settings...

analogue v digital ... a better explanation (5.00 / 1) (#25)
by Nobody on Tue Aug 28th, 2001 at 09:51:49 AM PST
"For reproducing sound, analog is the only way to go. Sound waves themselves are analog! Reducing them to a series of zeroes and ones will not make them sound any better."

Yes, sound waves are analogue. If you use an analogue medium to represent them, they become distorted, due to the limitations of the medium. If they are not noticeably distorted to begin with, they will become distorted over time, as the medium wears out. You don't have to scratch a record or drop a VHS tape to cause this distortion - you just have to play it.

If you use a digital medium to represent them, it is IMPOSSIBLE for distortion to occur. It will sound exactly the same EVERY time ... until such time as you damage the CD, unsurprisingly. Unfortunately, at this point you are indeed stuffed. However I've never "broken" a CD before (if it jumps then you clean it, then it's fine again) despite having inflicted some minor scratches on my albums. Don't forget that CD/DVD players have enough error correction to cope with small amounts of dirt and dust on the surface of the disc!

Exactly! (none / 0) (#31)
by zikzak on Tue Aug 28th, 2001 at 04:28:38 PM PST
This is why I've always felt that CD's should be recorded in analog rather than digital. I mean, it's a wonderful medium and all, but it's just not ready for digital sound. I think the record companies tried to do too much at once by introducing compact disks while at the same time introducing digital audio.

CD's are great, but since there is still so much argument over analog vs. digital, I think we should just make all new disks analog. This would satisfy everybody, since you would have a superior, more durable medium and also have the full tonal range.

eh?! (none / 0) (#32)
by Nobody on Wed Aug 29th, 2001 at 02:31:06 AM PST
I think you've misunderstood me!! :-)

How could you have an analogue CD? And what would be the point? Why would it be more durable?! And how could it have more tonal range??

Yes (none / 0) (#41)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Aug 31st, 2001 at 07:46:14 AM PST
Interestingly enough, many bands mix down their studio recordings to analog tape, as opposed to digital, then have that mastered to cd; this is especially true in the dance music industry. They feel having this analog loop in the chain gives a better final sound.

Huh! (5.00 / 1) (#42)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Aug 31st, 2001 at 02:59:18 PM PST
I cannot believe what I am reading here. You guys post some pretty sensible, common sense opinion pieces, a bit extreme at times maybe. But this is just rubbish, like hiding your head in sand in the face of facts. I'm so worked up I can't create an account here fast enough (just send my password already!)

Here's the deal about DVD vs VHS, as I see it.

  • 1. DVD picture quality is better
    It _is_ better. A properly transferred and encoded DVD will have none of the artifacts you see on VHS tapes, even on first play. The picture does not degrade, and whether you like it or not, you cannot see the compression. The image is clear, sharp and rock solid.

    In regards to the study you mention, well, a study is a study is a dime a dozen. College students are hardly qualified to judge picture quality (there are _many_ other factors affecting response, like order, viewing conditions, instructions, etc). And 'Big Momma's House' is hardly a movie worth using for a picture quality test. You show me a study, I'll show you a dozen contradicting studies.
  • 2. DVD sound quality is better
    I hesitate to tread into the tired old digital vs vinyl territory, but looks like I have to. I don't care what anyone says, what they demonstrate or however many sound wave curves they show me. You just can't compare vinyl to a high quality digital recording. Here is why I say this, even if I never heard vinly (which I have, I own a dozen records which I enjoy). People who are vinyl advocates usually spend tons of money on sound equipment, and as a result even a Barbie walkman recorder would sound better on it than on your average stereo. You play _anything_ from _any_ source on a $100,000 system, and the difference you'll hear is the sound of $99,500, not the difference between vinyl and CD.

    Warmth my ass. If you like the hissing and crackling from analog sources, good for you, save yourself some money. You can't tell me 48kHz, 4 channel + bass doesn't sound as good or better than (at most) 4 channel VHS sound track. It's bullshit, but of course you're welcome to believe whatever you want.

    And while the human ear demonstrably cannot distinguish more than 4 sound sources, the keyword you omitted is 'separate'. Four _separate_, _distinct_ sounds. Your brain will just concentrate the most 'important' 4, and ignore the rest. But 5.1 is not about _separate_, it's a more immersive 1 or 2 sources, spread around you so your brain preceives them as more believable. If there is anything selling DVDs, it's the sound. It's so easy to dismiss until you hear it properly, then anything else just pales in comparison.

    Finally, the reason CDs appear to sound like crap is because the popluar ones do. They're designed to be played on FM radio. I dare you to venture outside the Top 40.
  • 3. DVD preserves better than VHS tapes
    Obviously the DVD media is more fragile than the bulky industrial strength VHS cases. Anything is. You don't listen to audio on VHS tapes, do you, you have CDs right? (or vinyl, whavever makes you happer) Hardly convinient.

    Yes you can _play_ VHS tapes dozens of times, and again, it's fine for your kids, and it's fine for _watching_, but the picture quality is no longer there. You can see it, you can measure it, don't try and deny it. VHS is 'good enough', but doesn't compare to DVD quality after several viewings.
  • 4. DVD has lots of "special features"
    You got no argument from me there, I fail to see the value in most of the 'special' features out there, most DVDs will have the movie trailer, some commentary, maybe a couple deleted scenes. All equally useless.

    Where I do see the value of the DVD features is in the multi-language soundtracks and subtitles. I enjoy watching a foreign film in its original sound with subtitles. It's great. Also if a movie is widescreen, most subtitles will go below the picture on regular TVs (the movie is letterboxed), and I usually watch even English language movies with subtitles.

But you completely miss out on all the advantages of DVDs, and even slag them for one of them. Seeking. How can you possibly think VHS seeking is better than DVD? First of all, it's way better quality than VHS, your friends must have some really shitty bargain-basement players. Second, try seeking to the middle of the movie on a VHS player... not very convinient, is it? Not only can you seek faster on DVDs (my player has at least 6 seek speeds, FWD, FFWD and VeryFFWD, duplicated for rewind), but DVDs are also divided into chapters, which are conviniently indexed on the case insert. Skip chapters for even faster seeking!

I would recommend anyone buying new AV equipment (like, say, those moving out, or replacing old stuffs) get a regular VHS player (today's sub-$100 CDN players are easily better than even the best platers of 10 years ago), and a good mid-range DVD player ($200-400 will do you fine), a SVHS or component input TV set. If you need to save money anywhere, do it on the sound system, even though that's easily the best attribute of DVDs, save up and get something decent later.

DVDs _are_ the AV future, all upcoming equipment is geared towards them. Widescreen, high resolution TV sets are getting more affordable, so are better quality sound systems as more and more people demand them. Think it's silly to letterbox movies? You won't be the one laughing when your neighbours are enjoying the classics in all widescreen glory on their new widescreen TV. Virtually all new movies (and more and more older ones) are being released on DVD, and old classics are given new life (remastered, etc) on DVD.

Yes, the DVD industry _is_ designed to extract the maximum cash from its customers, but in this case customers are getting a decidedly better product. Just because someone happens to be making someone money on DVDs in the process is no reason to be fighting it.

I can see arguments based on the technology implementation (viewing controls, ie, can't skip the fbi warning, etc) (as a sidenote, many DVDs allow you to skip these warnings, and not just the 'underground' obscure titles), zoning (which is just ridiculous), licensing (a CSS license costs, what, $200,000?), and the whole big brother, conspiracy air about DVDs. But the points you mention are just laughable, you can do better.

That was Funny (1.00 / 1) (#43)
by ouija147 on Tue Sep 4th, 2001 at 12:01:23 PM PST
If this is the kind of humor that gets posted on this site, then you may give the Onion a run for the money. I haven't laughed this hard in months. Were did you dig up that old fossil. What an atavistic piece of work. The author uses all the tricks of the propaganda trade, just enough details to sound convincing, an authoritative voice and a few unsubstantiated statistics. If you read through the posts and do a little research (granted some of the details get a little technical) any reasonably intelligent person will see that this article must be meant in jest.

I have a one year old TV, a top of the line VCR and a mid-priced DVD player. Not one person has thought that the VCR had a better picture.

It is overly simplistic but video cassette tape is just plastic covered in rust...yeah I know they haven't used iron oxide in years. The point is that to get the amount of data required by video and audio off a video cassette, the tape is wrapped around a helical spinning drum, and the contact between the drum and tape wears off the magnetic media. So how can this last longer than a DVD?

There are too many inaccuracies in this article to list them all. Make up your own mind. Watch a DVD on a new TV (really needs to be at least 27" preferably bigger) and you will see why I laughed so hard when I read this article.

Fear of Change (none / 0) (#44)
by dm714 on Sat Jan 12th, 2002 at 10:56:35 PM PST
It appears that you are so afraid to switch from the old VHS to DVD that you have actually convinced yourself that VHS are superior. You started to make one true point about VHS lasting longer than DVD, but this is flawed like the rest of them. A dirty VHS is just as worthless as a scratched DVD. See how well your children's Disney's are playing with the filth that is on the tape. A DVD is simply wiped clean. In summary, get off your lazy ass and replace your collection.

DVD is just a scam from the movie industry. (none / 0) (#45)
by Anonymous Reader on Sat Jul 6th, 2002 at 06:09:14 PM PST
I agree completely but just want to add some things. The movie industry invented DVDs so that it would be impossible to copy the movies. The VHS market was flat so the electronics manufacturers are glad to have something new to sell you. There is no other reason, plain and simple. They don't look better on the screen and the sound out of the speaker is not any better. I found this out when I bought a DVD player from Walmart and tried it out. I took that stupid thing back the next day and got my $70 back. Who wants to watch a ten year old movie anyway? After that long it's been on cable 500 times and you could just record it. Special features? Who actually looks at that stuff? It's pointless.


All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments are owned by the Poster. The Rest ® 2001, 2002, 2003 The name, logo, symbol, and taglines "News for Grown-Ups", "Most Controversial Site on the Internet", "Linux Zealot", and "He just loves Open Source Software", and the RGB color value: D7D7D7 are trademarks of No part of this site may be republished or reproduced in whatever form without prior written permission by and, if and when applicable, prior written permission by the contributing author(s), artist(s), or user(s). Any inquiries are directed to