Search CE Pro






Print  |  Email  |  Comments (10)  |  Share  |  News  |  Follow on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or RSS

Vudu’s New HDX Format Offers 1080p/24 Video with ‘Virtually No Artifacts’

Ideal for large-screen TVs, new format features super-high bit rates that might turn Blu-ray faithfuls into nearly-on-demand users.


image

The images that Vudu provided are hardly fair. The left side shows HDX, and the right shows SD. How about HDX vs. HD? Guess we’ll have to see for ourselves how bit rates affect 1080p/24.

Vudu, provider of IP-based video-on-demand, is launching a new 1080p format that is "virtually artifact free," says CTO Prasana Ganesan.

The new format, called HDX, delivers the same 1080p/24 resolution as the company's "Instant HD" format, but at more than twice the bit rates – on average around 9.5 Mbps, and as high as 20 Mbps for "complex scenes."

The catch? As opposed to Vudu's original HD format, which allows almost instant access to high-def movies, HDX makes you wait about 3 hours until you can start watching your on-demand video.

That three-hour window was the target for Vudu in creating a solution that balances "quality and convenience," Ganesan says. "I can order a video at 4 pm at work, and start watching it at 7:00 when I get home."

The higher bit rates were necessary for Vudu's bleeding-edge customers (and especially non-customers) who have front projection systems yielding large images. "Even with true 1080p, you can still have artifacts," Ganesan says.

He suggests that "a lot of people are waiting on the sidelines because Blu-ray has the best quality, but they're looking for a combination of quality and convenience."

How Does Vudu Do It?


To enable high-bit-rate 1080p/24 downloads in its self-imposed three-hour threshold, Vudu had to create a new encoding scheme – actually the same encoding scheme as its existing HD format, but better.

In short, Vudu looks at a film in its entirety, freeing up bandwidth in the boring scenes in order to blow the wad on action-packed sequences.

"We review the whole movie to maximize quality across the picture," says Ganesan. "At the nine-minute mark, there might be lots of action so we would allocate extra [bandwidth]. At 10 minutes, there might be just a scene with talking heads that doesn't need to be at 9 Mbps."

Similar technology is used by Vudu to deliver instant HD, which enabled the company to be the first on-demand provider of "regular" 1080p/24 resolutions over IP.

"We're using the same concepts we have used in the past, but the implementation has indeed improved," Ganesan says. "We had some breakthroughs to get to the HD threshold where we could eliminate artifacts."

Ganesan claims that, even now, "no other Internet services are even at 1080p," let alone the higher bit rates of HDX.

The closest, he suggests, is cable on-demand, "but our tests have shown that we're even better than cable because of better encoding."

He explains that cable and satellite are encoded in real time, so there is no opportunity to analyze an entire movie to adjust bit rates.

Vudu hopes its HDX option will win over Blu-ray faithfuls who have been "unhappy with the level of quality available" with today's on-demand options.

At launch today, Vudu is offering more than 50 films in HDX, and will be offering every newly released HD title in the new format. Vudu also will be encoding into HDX many of the HD movies in the existing Vudu catalog.

Currently, Vudu has about 300 HD titles.

HDX films can be rented or purchased at the same price as Instant HD content.

Updating existing Vudu boxes to make them HDX-capable requires a simple software download.

XXX: Will They or Won't They?


OK, we know you're wondering … now that Vudu has joined with the adult video community, will we see XXX films in HDX?

"Our intent is to do so," says Ganesan, "but I'm not really sure. Instant access is probably more popular."




Subscribe to the CE Pro Newsletter

Article Topics

News · Product News · Video Sources · Video Sources · All topics

About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Co-Founder, EH Publishing / Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.

10 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Ben Drawbaugh  on  10/02  at  08:09 AM

Glad they finally stepped up the quality, but by reading that you’d think they invented two-pass video encoding.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  10/02  at  08:13 AM

Well, they claim to have proprietary algorithms, and so far the other IP-VOD services haven’t reached 1080p so they must be doing SOMETHING.

At least they more invented their technology than Speakercraft Invented iPhone Interface for Multiroom Audio

Posted by jbrown  on  10/03  at  09:01 AM

LOL @ “blow the wad”

But seriously folks, this is what is going to put a hurt on physical media.

Vudu’s original HD movies were weak (~4Mbps) but now, those who took the plunge are not out in the cold. A simple firmware upgrade, and BAM ... 2-3 times the bit rate with no new hardware and no new discs.

And guess what? Internet speeds aren’t exactly getting slower, so I doubt this will be the last upgrade for Vudu. No more re-buying a movie you already own every time a new format or a remastered version comes out ... just re-download it. Though I imagine Hollywood will get wise and eventually start charging a small fee for an upgrade, but it’s still a better deal than buying new players and new copies of the same movies.

Posted by Unknown  on  10/03  at  09:06 AM

Did you also see that Vudu is offering an exclusive deal to Best Buy customers. Buy your box for $299 and get $200 in free movie bucks. I guess that pretty much makes this a DIY product instead of a CI product.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  10/03  at  09:11 AM
Posted by jbrown  on  10/03  at  09:21 AM

Yeah, $299 does not get you a 1TB Vudu XL. It gets you a 250GB box with none of the integration support of the XL.

And Vudu is offering a $1000 movie credit that we can resell to our customers with the XL unit so they get a box ready to go with $1000 worth of available credit.

We have sold 25 or 30 of the XL boxes already and so far they are great and our customers really like them.

Posted by Jeff Kalman  on  10/03  at  08:46 PM

I don’t know why I never saw anything about Vudu before (or maybe I did and just forgot…).  HDX over the internet is just the thing I am looking for in my HT.  I can buy the top notch films on Blu-Ray and rent the ones not worth owning on Vudu!

Vudu, you should add DTS-HD and DD True HD to those boxes as part of the downloads though…  Or at least make it an option for people that prefer lossless sound quality.  I don’t care about it on most movies, but if I’m going to download a HD concert, I’m going to want the option of HD sound, even if I have to wait a bit longer to get it…

In any case, I just ordered my unit from Best Buy and I’ll have it hooked up by tomorrow night!

Thanks,

- Jeff

Posted by Mark Donnigan  on  10/04  at  11:36 PM

Hi Jeff,

Just beware the Best Buy model (X100) is limited compared with the XL.  Aside from very limited HDX storage, 6-10 films compared with 75 for the XL.  If you are in the CI business, you will find that this model doesn’t offer integration capabilities (IP) for all the modern remote products (Philips Pronto) and control systems, or HD over component, and will not support future CI specific software features on the X100. 

Give us a call (408-492-1010 OR http://www.vudu.com) and we can direct you to a distributor, or discuss requirements for becoming a dealer. 

If you are an end-user, our website lists the 1000 authorized direct dealers who would be happy to sell you an XL.

Enjoy your new VUDU!

Mark Donnigan
VUDU, Inc.

Posted by Grayson Evans  on  10/09  at  05:36 PM

I’m still not clear how this format needs to be output in order to see the quality.  Has anyone rented a movie in SD and in HDX format and compared the two using the component output?  Will the better quality be apparent?  I assume the HDMI format will show it.
Is the HDMI output providing 1080p 24 fps?  Anyone help me out here?
Thanks, Grayson

Posted by VUDUPatrick  on  10/09  at  09:31 PM

Grayson,

HDMI will be fine, as would HD over component with a VUDU XL.  The HDMI output does do 1080p/24 and that would be the best match for the content which is also 1080p24. 

That said, even on my 768p Panasonic plasma, the picture is fantastic increased detail evident.

Patrick
VUDU, Inc.

Page 1 of 1 comment pages
Post a comment
Name:
Email:
Choose smileys | View comment guidelines
Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Sponsored Links

  About Us Customer Service Privacy Policy Contact Us Advertise With Us Dealer Services Subscribe Reprints ©2013 CE Pro
  EH Network: Electronic House CE Ideas Store Commercial Integrator ChannelPro ProSoundWeb Church Production Worship Facilities Electronic House Expo Worship Facilities Expo