Joe Kane on Blu-ray

July 14, 2006

Blu-rayThe name Joe Kane is either (1) synonymous with video quality to you, or (2) completely foreign. If you fall into the later category, Joe Kane is the man behind ‘A Video Standard’, ‘Video Essentials’ and ‘Digital Video Essentials’, some of the most widely accepted and referenced video calibration software titles ever released.

Mr. Kane is also the former chair of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) ‘Working Group on professional and studio monitors’. During his stay with the SMPTE “Mr. Kane introduced the idea of display device calibration to consumers in a laserdisc called A Video Standard. It was the first comprehensive video reference to our NTSC video system.”

A Video Standard was later followed by the above mentioned ‘Video Essentials’ and ‘Digital Video Essentials’ the later title is still used in nearly all of my video display calibrations, I consider it an indispensable tool in proper video calibration.

Joe Kane’s career and accomplishments go back even farther however, he worked at Eastman Kodak in the mid 1970’s where “he participated in video product oriented research, including film to video transfer and magnetic and optical video recording”.

Mr. Kane later moved to Los Angels to work on videodisc program production, where he learned about post production standards prior to participating in the SMPTE effort. Needless to say Joe Kane knows video; he knows what it’s capable of and what goes into producing great looking images on both professional and consumer displays.

No, all of this wasn’t my stab a mini Joe Kane biography; I’m simply giving some background as to Joe Kane’s credentials in the world of home video. Mr. Kane recently granted CineNow an exclusive interview, where he spoke to their audience on the launch of HDTV in Europe and of course any discussion of HDTV eventually turned toward Blu-ray and HD DVD, some of his comments were, well I’ll let you read them for yourself:

“It is my personal belief that Blu-ray is all about greed”

“For example Sony has said their only going to do MPEG2 rather than the newer codecs, either the advanced video codec that was pickled here in Europe or the SMPTE standardized VC-1 codec, both of those codecs are superior to MPEG2”

“Sony’s claim that MPEG2 is equal to or superior to VC-1 clearly says they haven’t been looking at it, in a manner in which they can see it’

“I’ve been doing demonstrations now for over a year, of what MPEG2 looks like versus VC-1 and in all cases in audiences I do it for; no one misses the differences between MPEG2 and VC-1”

“The fact that a company would claim that something we can prove is inferior, the fact that they would claim that it would be superior, says their must be another motivation and or their looking at it at a level where they can’t see the difference”

One of the quotes (but certainly not the only example) Mr. Kane was referring to, likely came from Sony Pictures senior vice president of advanced technology:

“Advanced (formats) don’t necessarily improve picture quality,” said Don Eklund, Sony Pictures’ senior vice president of advanced technology. “Our goal is to present the best picture quality for Blu-ray. Right now, and for the foreseeable future, that’s with MPEG-2.”

Many assumed the format war would be settled by who had more studio support, who offered more storage or who had more manufacturing partners. It now appears as if many of these concerns will be eclipsed by something that many never considered, something much more important than how many gigabytes the disc can hold or which formats the studios have said they’ll be supporting. That something is the actual image quality of the proposed video formats.

Sony and the Bu-ray consortium stand to gain billions if Blu-ray comes out on top, as the format encompasses more than just movies, but at what cost to what should be the real goal? namely higher quality video.

Is it possible that ensuring the studios have the proper Blu-ray encoding tools, implementing Blu-ray drives in PS3’s and coordinating Blu-ray’s facilitation into other manufacturers products, is simply just too much for Sony to accomplish in such a relatively short time span?

Only time will tell, let’s just hope that video quality (and the consumers) aren’t the real losers in all this. Watch the Joe Kane interview in its entirety at CineNow.



Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Blu-ray


Comments

  • Tom Sweet

    Blu-ray is a better technology, but politics and economics enter into the equation too. I believe Blu-ray will be the clear winner, propelled primarily by the multitude of uses of these disks for data storage. I own and watch some SD DVDs, for example, but I use DVD disks for computer storage of data such as photographs and other files. I will purchase a 100GB Blu-ray disk for that purpose in the future.

    Most of the discussion is focused on MPEG-2 versus VC-1 encoding, not on the disk technology itself. I have seen some people argue the HD DVD has thicker plastic than Blu-ray, while others acknowledge Blu-ray uses a much tougher coating material. Nobody questions whether Blu-ray will have higher storage capacity.

    Sony and Microsoft compete in the entertainment marketplace, and Sony’s desire to use MPEG-2 encoding may have more to do with its competitive positioning with Microsoft than in the quality of video output. Players will handle multiple decoding schemes, and even if Sony sticks with MPEG-2 encoding, other producers will easily make the switch to newer codecs.

    There are actually many codecs that can be used within the standards. For lossless compression, here’s a list http://www.compression.ru/video/codec_comparison/mpeg-2_2006_en.html

    Alpary
    ArithYuv
    AVIzlib
    CamStudio GZIP
    CorePNG
    FastCodec
    FFV1
    Huffyuv
    Lagarith
    LOCO
    LZO
    MSU Lab
    PICVideo
    Snow
    x264
    YULS.

    Each codec has unique characteristics of file size, quality in certain conditions, etc. The underlying Blu-ray disk provides a better platform for entertainment providers to use advanced encoding methodologies to deliver HD video. Blu-ray also uses laser technology that allows for much higher capacity for data storage.

  • Tom Sweet

    Blu-ray is a better technology, but politics and economics enter into the equation too. I believe Blu-ray will be the clear winner, propelled primarily by the multitude of uses of these disks for data storage. I own and watch some SD DVDs, for example, but I use DVD disks for computer storage of data such as photographs and other files. I will purchase a 100GB Blu-ray disk for that purpose in the future.

    Most of the discussion is focused on MPEG-2 versus VC-1 encoding, not on the disk technology itself. I have seen some people argue the HD DVD has thicker plastic than Blu-ray, while others acknowledge Blu-ray uses a much tougher coating material. Nobody questions whether Blu-ray will have higher storage capacity.

    Sony and Microsoft compete in the entertainment marketplace, and Sony’s desire to use MPEG-2 encoding may have more to do with its competitive positioning with Microsoft than in the quality of video output. Players will handle multiple decoding schemes, and even if Sony sticks with MPEG-2 encoding, other producers will easily make the switch to newer codecs.

    There are actually many codecs that can be used within the standards. For lossless compression, here’s a list http://www.compression.ru/video/codec_comparison/mpeg-2_2006_en.html

    Alpary
    ArithYuv
    AVIzlib
    CamStudio GZIP
    CorePNG
    FastCodec
    FFV1
    Huffyuv
    Lagarith
    LOCO
    LZO
    MSU Lab
    PICVideo
    Snow
    x264
    YULS.

    Each codec has unique characteristics of file size, quality in certain conditions, etc. The underlying Blu-ray disk provides a better platform for entertainment providers to use advanced encoding methodologies to deliver HD video. Blu-ray also uses laser technology that allows for much higher capacity for data storage.

  • Nensy Cooper

    I see Blu Ray as the iPod of home entertainment. The iPod does not offer the highest quality, in fact you can easily tell that there is a significant drop in sound quality compared to other hard drive music players. Yet iPods are most popular because they offer the most non-technical specs… in other words the only thing the consumers see.

  • Nensy Cooper

    I see Blu Ray as the iPod of home entertainment. The iPod does not offer the highest quality, in fact you can easily tell that there is a significant drop in sound quality compared to other hard drive music players. Yet iPods are most popular because they offer the most non-technical specs… in other words the only thing the consumers see.

  • Jamie Bryan

    I think Blu Ray is better because why else would sony have gone for it… hd dvd isnt as good because its not in a playstation 3, Im cisco certified and I know my stuff

  • Jamie Bryan

    I think Blu Ray is better because why else would sony have gone for it… hd dvd isnt as good because its not in a playstation 3, Im cisco certified and I know my stuff

  • Ko Sha

    “Sony’s claim that MPEG2 is equal to or superior to VC-1 clearly says they haven’t been looking at it, in a manner in which they can see it’

    That is absolutely true at high bit rates (> 25 MBps for HD).

    I am Encoder and Decoder developer.

  • Ko Sha

    “Sony’s claim that MPEG2 is equal to or superior to VC-1 clearly says they haven’t been looking at it, in a manner in which they can see it’

    That is absolutely true at high bit rates (> 25 MBps for HD).

    I am Encoder and Decoder developer.

  • kvid

    Two words: Memory Stick.

    $ony is worse than M$ when it comes to standards. Their licensing fees are aweful. That is what killed beta; JVC invented an inferior standard to avoid paying $ony fees and licensed it relatively cheap to every else.

    So history if going to repeat itself and HD-DVD will win out.

  • kvid

    Two words: Memory Stick.

    $ony is worse than M$ when it comes to standards. Their licensing fees are aweful. That is what killed beta; JVC invented an inferior standard to avoid paying $ony fees and licensed it relatively cheap to every else.

    So history if going to repeat itself and HD-DVD will win out.

  • B.Greenway

    It seems like even the iPod isn’t as popular as it once was. Maybe brand names in general are on the wane; perhaps we’ll see a much needed return to quality over vanity. http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1869042,00.html

  • B.Greenway

    It seems like even the iPod isn’t as popular as it once was. Maybe brand names in general are on the wane; perhaps we’ll see a much needed return to quality over vanity. http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1869042,00.html

  • ml

    I am slightly biased toward HD-DVD’s only because I’m mostly a pro-Microsoft person. But I can’t help but think that the format war can still result in a Blu Ray victory.

    I see Blu Ray as the iPod of home entertainment. The iPod does not offer the highest quality, in fact you can easily tell that there is a significant drop in sound quality compared to other hard drive music players. Yet iPods are most popular because they offer the most non-technical specs… in other words the only thing the consumers see.

    The majority of consumers will never know that Blu Ray uses MPEG 2 instead of a higher, more efficiant codec. All they will see is the 50GB or 100GB marker on the product label, compared to the 30GB on the HD DVD label. And most people, not knowing the difference in video quality, will most likely select the more capacity.

    Again, look at the iPod. It is not the cheapest 20Gb player, yet people still buy it. There are other 20Gb players that are cheaper and of higher quality but thats not what the people see. The people see the label. And as much as I want HD DVD to come out on top, this will be a tough battle.

  • ml

    I am slightly biased toward HD-DVD’s only because I’m mostly a pro-Microsoft person. But I can’t help but think that the format war can still result in a Blu Ray victory.

    I see Blu Ray as the iPod of home entertainment. The iPod does not offer the highest quality, in fact you can easily tell that there is a significant drop in sound quality compared to other hard drive music players. Yet iPods are most popular because they offer the most non-technical specs… in other words the only thing the consumers see.

    The majority of consumers will never know that Blu Ray uses MPEG 2 instead of a higher, more efficiant codec. All they will see is the 50GB or 100GB marker on the product label, compared to the 30GB on the HD DVD label. And most people, not knowing the difference in video quality, will most likely select the more capacity.

    Again, look at the iPod. It is not the cheapest 20Gb player, yet people still buy it. There are other 20Gb players that are cheaper and of higher quality but thats not what the people see. The people see the label. And as much as I want HD DVD to come out on top, this will be a tough battle.

  • B.Greenway

    Well Pepe, Sony Pictures senior vice president of advanced technology, Don Eklund said:

    “Advanced (formats) don’t necessarily improve picture quality. Our goal is to present the best picture quality for Blu-ray. Right now, and for the foreseeable future, that’s with MPEG-2.”

    If the Senior VP of Sony Pictures advanced technology says “for the foreseeable future, that’s with MPEG-2” What else are we left to believe?

  • B.Greenway

    Well Pepe, Sony Pictures senior vice president of advanced technology, Don Eklund said:

    “Advanced (formats) don’t necessarily improve picture quality. Our goal is to present the best picture quality for Blu-ray. Right now, and for the foreseeable future, that’s with MPEG-2.”

    If the Senior VP of Sony Pictures advanced technology says “for the foreseeable future, that’s with MPEG-2” What else are we left to believe?

  • pepe

    Why do you think Sony stay with the MPEG2 codec?

  • pepe

    Why do you think Sony stay with the MPEG2 codec?

  • B.Greenway

    Hi Robert,

    Unfortunately MPEG2 is a bigger stumbling block than the disc space. While I readily admit larger discs will allow Blu-ray titles higher bit-rates, it won’t solve the entire problem. You have to remember, they still need room for the advanced audio tracks, and then there are the extra features to consider.

    Blu-ray’s achilles heel is the antiquated MPEG2 codec, they have to address this if they really want to compete with HD DVD on video quality.

    Take the WMV HD discs for example, HD movies (up to 1920×1080) on a standard DVD. That kind of eliminates the larger disc capacity is required for HD resolutions argument. Now obviously the bit-rates of WMV HD discs aren’t what we want to settle for, but it does show what advanced video codecs are capable of.

    I was playing around with a bit rate calculator last night, the little app that helps you pick the highest bit-rate your movies run time will allow for on DVD, what I found kind of floored me.

    No matter how I adjusted the calc I couldn’t figure out how on earth a high bit-rate MPEG2 encode on a long movie, extra features AND lossless audio tracks could fit on either the 25GB or 50GB discs, MPEG2 just isn’t efficient enough.

    I just don’t see MPEG2 full length movies, lossless audio tracks and even the most minimal set of extra features fitting on these discs, that is unless the bit-rate is scaled back significantly, is that what everyone wants? HD-lite?

    Now the upcoming Warner Blu-ray titles may very well be AVC or VC-1 encodes, but that still leaves the Sony titles, (the titles everyone points to as part of their studio advantage) I’ve seen zero indication that these titles will use advanced video codecs any time soon, if ever.

  • B.Greenway

    Hi Robert,

    Unfortunately MPEG2 is a bigger stumbling block than the disc space. While I readily admit larger discs will allow Blu-ray titles higher bit-rates, it won’t solve the entire problem. You have to remember, they still need room for the advanced audio tracks, and then there are the extra features to consider.

    Blu-ray’s achilles heel is the antiquated MPEG2 codec, they have to address this if they really want to compete with HD DVD on video quality.

    Take the WMV HD discs for example, HD movies (up to 1920×1080) on a standard DVD. That kind of eliminates the larger disc capacity is required for HD resolutions argument. Now obviously the bit-rates of WMV HD discs aren’t what we want to settle for, but it does show what advanced video codecs are capable of.

    I was playing around with a bit rate calculator last night, the little app that helps you pick the highest bit-rate your movies run time will allow for on DVD, what I found kind of floored me.

    No matter how I adjusted the calc I couldn’t figure out how on earth a high bit-rate MPEG2 encode on a long movie, extra features AND lossless audio tracks could fit on either the 25GB or 50GB discs, MPEG2 just isn’t efficient enough.

    I just don’t see MPEG2 full length movies, lossless audio tracks and even the most minimal set of extra features fitting on these discs, that is unless the bit-rate is scaled back significantly, is that what everyone wants? HD-lite?

    Now the upcoming Warner Blu-ray titles may very well be AVC or VC-1 encodes, but that still leaves the Sony titles, (the titles everyone points to as part of their studio advantage) I’ve seen zero indication that these titles will use advanced video codecs any time soon, if ever.

  • JaxJD2B

    “I’ve been doing demonstrations now for over a year, of what MPEG2 looks like versus VC-1 and in all cases in audiences I do it for; no one misses the differences between MPEG2 and VC-1”

    This is absolutely true. I saw Joe at Samsung’s booth at INFOCOMM in Orlando last month, and he had a number of different programs on a HTPC in different resolutions. We looked at both codecs, and the difference between VC-1 and MPEG2 was VERY readily perceivable.

  • JaxJD2B

    “I’ve been doing demonstrations now for over a year, of what MPEG2 looks like versus VC-1 and in all cases in audiences I do it for; no one misses the differences between MPEG2 and VC-1”

    This is absolutely true. I saw Joe at Samsung’s booth at INFOCOMM in Orlando last month, and he had a number of different programs on a HTPC in different resolutions. We looked at both codecs, and the difference between VC-1 and MPEG2 was VERY readily perceivable.

  • Robert N. Bryant

    I agree, but once Sony masters the 50 GB dual layer discs they will be able to use a high enough data transfer/bit rate to where the video quality will be just as good as HD-DVD.

  • Robert N. Bryant

    I agree, but once Sony masters the 50 GB dual layer discs they will be able to use a high enough data transfer/bit rate to where the video quality will be just as good as HD-DVD.