What is the difference between iTunes Downloads and Blu-Ray?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by kds1, Dec 29, 2013.

  1. kds1 Suspended


    Feb 17, 2013
    New York, New York
    What is the difference between 1080p iTunes movie downloads and 1080p Blu-Ray disc movies? I mean picture quality.
  2. Julien macrumors G4


    Jun 30, 2007
    Average sizes of BD movies would be 25-35GB. Average size of iTunes HD movies 3-6GB. Most BD movies offer lossless audio (and several audio tracks) and iTunes is Dolby Digital (lossy).
  3. priitv8 macrumors 68040

    Jan 13, 2011
  4. Mrbobb macrumors 601

    Aug 27, 2012
    Which for a BD edition of Dinner with Andre won't matter :D
  5. alent1234 macrumors 603

    Jun 19, 2009
    itunes is OK for older movies, older than 2009 or 2007.
    for newer stuff shot on 4K cameras, blu ray is better

    you also get better results streaming itunes from a PC or Mac instead of the cloud
  6. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    I'll have to disagree with you. The reality is that even classic films properly restored such as Wizard of Oz look far better on blu ray than DVD. There are a lot of variables but the one constant is -

    iTunes movies are compressed which means great loss of data which mean loss of detail as opposed to blu ray which has less compression and often carries lossless audio or near lossless.

    Where the two can look similar is on low end systems - mediocre display and mediocre audio output and of course, very small displays.

    The above I can say from personal experience and also there are not only AV-philes out there who will say similar but reviews by test/comparison of iTunes, Vudi, Amazon streaming and Netflix streaming along with Blu Ray and DVD.

    Perhaps looking at sites such as AVforum and similar might lend a clearer view to those who are unsure. As for me, I watch movies on both my 24" monitor and also a 65" inch screen. What few iTunes movies I have look 'passable' on the 65" while the blu ray counterparts look excellent. I'll say similar for audio where HD audio almost always stands out as compared to Dolby counterpart.
  7. Pyromonkey83 macrumors 6502

    May 24, 2009
    As a person who mostly just watches the movies and doesn't care a whole ton for super epic zomg quality, I have a hard time telling a giant difference between Blu Ray and iTunes downloads. The most glaring difference, however, is that in low light and dark scenes I can see a small amount of blocking and speckling in iTunes videos where Blu Rays are crystal clear.

    Also, while I (again) don't particularly care enough to make a big deal out of it, I can tell a difference between 640kbps Dolby Digital audio and the Lossless DTS tracks that come with Blu Rays. The most glaring difference is with a few of the concert movies that I have. With everyday drama style movies, you will not likely ever be able to tell a difference.

    If you are not a nut over quality and don't need to have the best audio/video possible, iTunes is just fine for 99% of things that are out there.
  8. HobeSoundDarryl, Dec 30, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2013

    HobeSoundDarryl macrumors 604


    Feb 8, 2004
    Hobe Sound, FL (20 miles north of Palm Beach)
    Wow a lot of pro-Apple bias (as usual), putting down BD's much superior picture quality and sound as unimportant because "I" can't see the difference (so "you" can't either) and similar.

    The biggest difference is those two: picture and sound quality. BD has plenty of storage space on those discs and no concerns about internet download speeds or fitting into an iDevice (smallish) memory cap. So, the BD version has much less compression (which means much less picture quality is lost to an algorithm which will then try to best guess it's way back to a quality picture when it tries to build the image again as the film is being watched).

    Same with sound. BD uses modern audio options including lossless. iTunes is using 1992's Dolby Digital. Audio solutions have made HUGE progress since 1992.

    So, if you bought a great HDTV in hopes of "highest quality picture & sound" to display on that TV, there is no choice: BD all the way. Only if you care less about trying to max out the picture & sound quality on your HDTV can streaming options like iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, etc be a good alternative.

    Less important to many: you OWN a BD movie while you only "lifetime lease" an iTunes copy. So what? Owning a BD means you can sell it to someone else, give it away, will it to someone else, etc. Lifetime lease means it's locked to you- no selling it to someone else, giving it away, etc.

    AND, if you own a BD, it's going to be there whenever you want to watch it. If you trust iCloud for virtually storing your movie collection (and don't have a local copy) the Studios can pull movies from iTunes at any time and it's just gone. It's unheard of for the Studios to come into someone's home and take some BDs because they don't want them to be readily playable anymore.

    It's often possible to find a BD version for less cost than the iTunes version. And the BD version is usually accompanied by "extras" which can matter to some.

    On the other hand, if you care about file sizes, higher compression that tosses out picture details yields smaller file sizes. If you care about convenience, it is generally more convenient to stream a movie than find a disc and put it in a player. If you care about "kids & jelly" and other such excuses, it's near impossible for kids to get jelly on a virtual copy of a movie (a very complicated procedure of emplanting crushed fruit & sugar molecules in between bits or bytes on a platter). If you care about reclaiming the (probably) tiny space (relatively) that box of disc cases might take up in your home, virtual copies all fit on a hard drive(s) somewhere… or in the cloud if you can't make room for a hard drive.

    Lastly, if you are an "Apple is always right" type of guy, then iTunes video is the ONLY way to go. Until Apple decided to embrace 1080p, that crowd passionately argued that "720p was good enough" and "I can't see the <1080p> difference (so "you" can't either), "until internet bandwidth everywhere is expanded", "the chart", "1080p is just a gimmick", and on and on. In short, that crowd is always completely happy- and passionate- about whatever Apple deems THE way, trading objectivity for blind adulation. Side note: as soon as Apple embraced 1080p, that entire argument of "720p is good enough" and similar evaporated, seemingly overnight… as it always does when Apple shifts direction.

    Asking this question here should mostly yield about 75%+ arguing about the many relative benefits of the iTunes version (just like "720p is good enough") and/or putting down the BD option. But that only ignores the fundamentals. Why do we care about BD vs. iTunes HD? Why did we upgrade to an HD television instead of buying a much cheaper SD television? Why do we try to find the best speakers we can buy, the best amps, and so on? Generally, we're likely chasing best picture & sound. If we're not chasing that, we can argue that "SD is good enough" or S-VHS or VHS. Apple has come out against BD so it can't possibly have any merit. Apple has endorsed it's own alternative so that is the ONE and ONLY way… until Apple comes out with a different ONE & ONLY and then THAT will be the new best way.

    Best of both worlds suggestion: buy the BD version and learn how to make a version that can be stored in iTunes. While you have to jump through several hoops, THAT gets you all of the benefits of an iTunes version without many of the iTunes limitations. Key among these is the ability to choose your own level of compression rather than someone you don't even know deciding that for you. That means YOU get to decide the quality of the final result.

    And take the money you save on the BD version to buy a child-proof cap for your jelly.
  9. BJMRamage macrumors 68020


    Oct 2, 2007
    just clipped some part out but a really nice read.
    I like the Combo packs for Bluray that include DVD and Digital Copy.
    Then I can drop the DVD into the car or off to parents house...watch the Bluray on main TV and if i ever wanted, have the iCloud "backup" for on-the-go watching.

    I hate the idea of "renting/leasing" the movies. and that I am limited or....I can't let someone borrow it, you know, in hopes they'd want to buy it.
  10. priitv8 macrumors 68040

    Jan 13, 2011
    I don't believe there are more reasons behind sticking with the AC3 than, plain and simple:
    1) bandwidth consumption
    2) licensing (maybe?)

    Yet, it amazes me every time, how good the open-source x264 encoder is at squeezing the quality out of moderate bitrate.
  11. 2010mini macrumors 68040

    Jun 19, 2013
  12. HobeSoundDarryl macrumors 604


    Feb 8, 2004
    Hobe Sound, FL (20 miles north of Palm Beach)
    I'm guessing AC3 is dirt cheap to license all these years later and that it is mainstream enough per Apple's subjective judgement. But it is OLD and not nearly as good as more modern audio options.

    And yes, compression can yield lovely playback. Great compression work can be amazing. Still, I'd rather preserve the actual pixels as much as reasonably possible than settle for dumping detail in the name of smaller file sizes. Storage is cheap and getting cheaper. I'd rather pick my own level of compression rather than have it chosen for me as my own goal is to maximize quality of picture & sound, not choose a subjective tradeoff of quality so that it can stream to others with slower connections or fit into the typical space available to an iDevice or similar.

    And yes, I know BD is compressed too- just MUCH LESS.

    I didn't buy a quality HDTV to feed it "acceptable" video. I want to push it's limits with anything & everything I watch. While I can't have the latter in full, that's the goal. Else, why bother buying a great HDTV or a great audio system if we can rationalize feeding it something "average" or "good enough"? I could have got an average or "good enough" television and sound system for much less.

    Come to think of it, I can get an average or "good enough" computer or iDevice for much less than Apple charges for their stuff but we don't make those kinds of arguments when it's about Apple gear, and we gush at "retina" screen detail but then apparently want to feed that high resolution screen less than high resolution content.
  13. priitv8, Dec 30, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2013

    priitv8 macrumors 68040

    Jan 13, 2011
    I understand, but I think they just figured what would be the top bitrate that would still provide acceptable download speeds. (See the neighboring thread about Apple punishing rural customers with their software update downloads, to see where the least common denominator stands. In 2014!).
    And then they probably decided to devote 90% of that bitrate to picture, 9% to audio and 1% to metadata.

    PS I would like to think that my own HandBrake encodes have better picture quality than iTunes downloads, at the same bitrate, due to x264-s excellent encoding properties.
  14. HobeSoundDarryl macrumors 604


    Feb 8, 2004
    Hobe Sound, FL (20 miles north of Palm Beach)
    I would think that your own rips would have better encodes via Handbrake. It's not a complete measure but if the file size is generally bigger than the iTunes version's file size, you've probably retained more of the picture quality (but I know that can be easily foiled and that file size alone is not a complete measure). Bit rate variances would be another way to support such an idea too.

    However, again, the OP asked a question that I mostly read as a "quality" question. If that's what he meant, words like "acceptable" and similar seem to be changing the question into something more like "is iTunes video good enough quality?" which is- IMO- a very different question.

    As always, the answer to this question is subjective and a to-each-his-own question. If one finds iTunes "good enough" video, good for you. If someone else wants the better quality from BD, good for you too. The issue I tried to hit was asking this kind of question in a very biased place like this may not give the OP much of an objective answer. It would be like posting a poll asking whether Windows or OS X is the better OS. From here, the voting would probably be overwhelmingly in favor of the latter but if you look at it on a global basis, Windows appears to be far more desirable than OS X. Personally, I use both and like OS X way better myself, but the world seems to still "choose" the Windows OS far more often.

    If OP is still following the thread, BD is the only choice if your question is about picture & sound quality maximization. If your question is more about "acceptable" or "good enough" then only you (OP) can make such a judgement per your own setup… and eyes… and ears. Asking here, one should always expect whatever Apple has appeared to endorse is going to be touted as THE ONE CORRECT ANSWER… right up until Apple shifts and then that shift will become THE ONE CORRECT ANSWER.
  15. kelub macrumors regular

    Jun 15, 2010
    Wow, 7 posts in and there's "a lot of pro-Apple bias?" After the first 3 posts specifically say "BD is better, go look here <link> for more info"? :confused: The bulk of your post was very well reasoned and informative, but there was just enough "I can't believe the Apple site has such Apple fans" mixed in - without any actual "pro-Apple" posts to back up your claim - to be a bit off-putting. (The rest of your posts were also very well reasoned and stated, so please take this as just "constructive criticism" and in no way shape or form an attempt to troll or take a jab.)

    As usual, there are two ways to approach this conversation:

    1) Objective: when comparing the actual numbers - bitrate, resolution, etc - which one is better;
    2) Subjective: which looks better to me?

    Since we can easily establish that, objectively, blu-ray is superior in quality to anything reasonably compressed enough to be downloaded, then that only leaves the subjective to be discussed.

    If the OP is looking for the objective, then it's been answered.

    If OP is looking for a more subjective, "group opinion" then there's plenty to be had. Just in case he is, here's mine.

    Yes, BD is superior, but on *some* movies it's hard to tell the differences when compared to a digital download, and even harder on personal rips. On digital downloads, honestly I'm not sure who is responsible for the actual compression portion of the process - the publisher (likely) or Apple - but I've seen huge differences in quality between HD digital films, leading me to believe that the compression level (and method, perhaps) was to blame. In some there's a gradient/graininess that occurs in dark portions of movies, while in others nothing of the sort occurs.

    Personally I prefer owning and then ripping BD discs, although I do not keep them uncompressed myself, even though I know I'm sacrificing a modicum of quality - in my opinion the quality drop-off, when done right, is unnoticeable. I use MakeMKV to rip, and then Handbrake's ATV3 preset for compressing, which keeps discreet audio in-tact (although, again, compressed). I used to manually tweak it and had the quality settings higher, but it resulted in larger files with no noticeable increase in quality.

    I watch my movies on a 70" LED TV with a 5.1 surround sound system, and to me the biggest drop-off in quality (when discussing compressed vs disc) is typically on the sound end before it's on the visuals. If a movie has good audio to begin with (and plenty do not, unfortunately) then compressing it, even just a little, can result in slightly muffled sounds that, again, is hard to perceive, but is there.

    The last two movies I've put to the test on all 3 options - BD, BD rip, and iTunes HD download - were Star Trek: Into Darkness and Oblivion. Both were *excellent* BD's with crisp sound and a wide array of visuals that went from very bright to very dark, and subtle/muted visuals to bright/saturated ones. In both films, the audio definitely had a slightly noticeable drop-off in quality with both the rip and the download when compared to the disc, but were indistinguishable from each other (my rip vs the download). On the video side, I honestly couldn't tell any of them from each other - whoever did the compression on the downloads of those movies did an outstanding job. (Side note: Oblivion, in particular, was impressive in its use of surround sound. It's frustrating how many movies I've watched where the side/rear channels go mostly unused because all of the action is always kept in front of the viewer. Oblivion did a really good job with peripheral audio to keep a viewer who is watching in a theater or surround sound room fully immersed.)

    If I have a choice, I always prefer purchasing the BD disc - preferably with an iTunes copy available to download/add to my collection - and then ripping the disc. That gives me the best of all worlds: the disc itself, my personal rip which I can best control the quality of, and the digital download available in the cloud for backup or convenience. Being able to browse hundreds of movies on a home server - whether it's for your own convenience, to safeguard against abuse by children (definitely a factor for me), or whatever the reason, is certainly a reasonable trade-off for a bit of compression. And if you *really* want the best of both worlds, rip the BD's and keep them lossless. It takes a lot of storage space, but if you don't want to keep 500 movies (or can afford to invest in a lot of storage space) then that's always an option as well.
  16. priitv8 macrumors 68040

    Jan 13, 2011
    To top this topic up: I never understood the people that accused Apple of enforcing to get your content exclusively from iTunes Store. Where this has never been the case. But the technology choices have been quite solid. If one can embrace it, one can use the Apple ecosystem with very good results. Esp when taking it to the limit, something Apple doesn't do with it's commercial offerings.
    Also oftentimes neglected - the iTunes LP/Extras. While not trivial to produce, a pure joy to consume. IMHO.
  17. ahall52 macrumors newbie

    Feb 3, 2013
    I completely respect this position.

    For myself, I have 5 TVs mounted to walls in my house each with an AppleTV attached plus twice as many and more iDevices. The convenience of having all of my media available via iTunes is unmatched and I will happily give up some quality for that regard. I completely skipped the Blu-Ray generation until two weeks ago when I purchased a PS4. I doubt seriously that I will ever buy a disc.
  18. tbayrgs macrumors 603


    Jul 5, 2009
    My position as well, for the most part. Having three kids and a household full of devices put more emphasis on convenience. I do have a problem with the limitations of iTunes purchased video and its associated DRM (considering our household has both Apple and non-Apple hardware) so I'm another advocate of ripping/encoding my own digital copies from Blu-ray discs. Funny thing is I don't even own a blu-ray player, just an external drive attached to my Mac Mini that's used for ripping.

    I can appreciate the top notch quality provided on a Blu-ray Disc but actually prefer the ability to quickly pull up a movie/show at a moments notice on an Apple TV. Of course, YMMV.
  19. thekb macrumors 6502a

    May 8, 2010

    They haven't done it explicitly, but what else can be interpreted by removing CD / DVD drives from all their computers? Saving size and weight was part of the equation for MacBooks, but it was irrelevant for the iMacs.

    You think the idea of nudging people toward an iTunes delivery system didn't enter into the discussion when they were making those decisions?
  20. pdjudd macrumors 601

    Jun 19, 2007
    Plymouth, MN
    Maybe. But Apple has never removed the DVD player application which seems to me that they still think people use it. They also sell external drives.

    Apple’s perspective is that if you want to use legacy media, external it is. Of course this doesn’t really apply to BluRay of which Apple has never supported in any real sense of things.
  21. boomhower macrumors 68000


    Oct 21, 2011
    To me it depends on you expectations and requirements. If your are a videophile and audiophile then you certainly want the BR. If you have spend the money on a higher end TV and home theater system then get the BR, you've already spent the coin on equipment. If you just watching on the $500 flatscreen the iTunes will be just fine.
  22. priitv8 macrumors 68040

    Jan 13, 2011
    Yeah, that's regarding the delivery media. Apple has always lead the pack when it comes to ditching old technology.
    My point was more about the fact, that you were never required to acquire the media from iTunes. You can always bring in your own. Whatever the source.
  23. Michael CM1 macrumors 603

    Feb 4, 2008
    iTunes HD movies are basically the MP3 equivalent for video. At birth, MP3 was billed as near-CD quality that was in a computer file format. It has gotten much better, but it's still not 100 percent as good.

    IHD is the same. I switched to it because I really liked watching video using my ATV. I got very tired of buying BDs only to occasionally watch them and instead use a digital copy or a rip from the DVD version. If you sat back and comparison studied IHD vs. BD you could probably pick apart flaws. But IHD is damn good considering you don't have to buy and store discs nor deal with all the pre-movie BS from discs.

    Many titles are also available before discs. Price is kind of a wash. iTunes runs different sales every week. The most I have seen a movie sold for is $19.99. I see plenty of BD movies in stores for more, also plenty for less.

    The convenience got to be enough that I gave up on discs. If Apple will ever add better audio options -- hello, DTS -- add more features to iTunes Extras and figure out how to at least access those from ATV, it will rock.

    My only other main issue now is hard disk space. If there's a sale on a couple of TV show seasons you like, that eats up storage space in a hurry. I have almost filled up 3.5GB of external drives. I probably need to figure out a way to move to a RAID setup so I can expand the storage as a single volume, but it would probably mean having to shell out a ton of money for some hardware. I would like to use RAID 5 so I could expand easily, but I don't want to pop in another 2 TB disk and lose half a gig when there are now 4 TB drives for about $30 more.

    So there's a lot to consider. There is no perfect answer.
  24. thekb macrumors 6502a

    May 8, 2010

    Well ... you're technically correct that they haven't "required" people to get their media from iTunes. But the reality is, there aren't that many people willing to rip their own stuff in the first place, and even fewer willing to buy and keep track of an external drive to rip their stuff. It's one more obstacle people have to overcome.

    I think this is a slippery slope, like how so many companies want to transition to email statements instead of paper statements. At first, it's optional, then it becomes mandatory. Within a generation or two of future Macs, they will stop including the software and drivers necessary to use DVD drives, then you WILL be forced to acquire any media from iTunes.

    And that's fine for about 95% of the public that desires convenience more than quality.

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