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Films OLED TV permanently broke my piracy habit

Discussion in 'General' started by boiled_elephant, 17 May 2020.

  1. boiled_elephant

    boiled_elephant Whitelist Bit-Tech in your adblock!

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    Basic disclaimer: I am not advocating IP piracy, I won't discuss how to do it or how I do it, and nobody is to discuss those things or recommend them, because it'll get the thread deleted.

    Suffice to say, like so many people, I have pirated a lot of films and TV shows in the past, and still have a hefty collection. I won't delve into the ethical justifications I have for it: I buy lots of DVDs and Blu-Rays too, and I'm comfortable in my own skin.


    Disclaimer over.

    I recently upgraded to an OLED TV and basically, all my pirated media are useless now. This isn't a complaint. Thieves don't complain about the quality of their stolen goods; it's just not cricket. But I do think it's interesting and worth noting, for anyone considering OLED.

    I actually think it's a selling point of OLED. With caveats. Bear with me.

    Basically, as you may already understand, OLEDs display in HDR - a wider range of more detailed colours - and the blacks go deeper, to an actual true black as opposed to the backlight-bleed dark grey of LCD screens.

    As you may also know, pirated media (and streamed media) depend on video compression to be able to fit into a small enough file size or stream to be feasible over the internet. Even those 8GB or 12GB Blu-Ray rips you see on illegal sites are still a huge compression leap compared to the 40-50GB of data on a Blu-Ray disc.

    As you may also know, one of the main side-effects of video compression is colour banding - the horrible blocky lines between shades that appear when two very similar colours are supposed to gradient smoothly into each other (like in a shadowy alley or a cloud of smoke) but the compression reduces that huge mass of very similar pixels into simpler chunks of a few colours.

    And the thing you may not know if you haven't already seen one and used one is: colour banding is way, way more noticeable on an OLED. It's hard to explain just how much worse it is. Netflix on certain delivery platforms is unwatchable because of it (worse in a browser than in the TV's native app, for some reason).

    Pirated films are the real kicker. Even those 8GB or 12GB files with 10-bit colour, HEVC, whatever, look like garbage. With true black actually visible and really distinguishable, any imperfections in the transition through subtle shades is glaringly obvious. Even a 13GB rip of Moana, which is honestly a really well-encoded file with beautiful image quality, looks like crap in places. The night shots, where the sky is supposed to gradient from pure zero black at the horizon up through dark shades towards grey, just awkwardly clunks up from black to medium grey, because the video compression has screwed it. Most of the dark but higher-than-zero shades look too bright and tacky, like someone's sprayed grey paint over them.

    The upshot:

    (1) I'm done pirating. I'm not a poor student any more. I can buy films. And I care more about image quality than about maybe wasting money. I can always sell or gift a Blu-Ray I don't like.

    (2) My collection is useless. It's gone. Which is actually a huge weight off my mind, because it was this huge lumbering pile of storage that I kept backing up and moving around, but hardly ever delving into any more. I'm leaning more and more into Blu-Ray anyway. Now I have loads of free storage space, spare hard drives and less stress. My Blu-Rays don't need backing up. They won't develop bad sectors.

    (3) This is all good. This is an improvement. It all sounds like my OLED TV has made things worse, but it hasn't: scrapping the pirated media (and my own disc-ripped backups, god, how many wasted hours and kilowatts...) is the price I pay in exchange for a really noticeable leap in quality. The whole problem - and advantage - is I can actually see the difference between HDR and SD, between HD streaming and Blu-Ray, between a poor transfer and a good one.

    This is why I say it's actually a selling point of OLED TVs. The quality is so much better that my entire archive of digitized media is worthless now. It's comparable to getting a really nice audio setup and suddenly hearing all the flaws and artifacts in your 128kbps MP3s. Sure, your precious ripped archive is dirt now. But you've got massively better listening experiences ahead of you. Price of progress. I wouldn't trade it - in fact, I can't. Looking at an LCD TV now makes me want to punch my eyes into the back of my head. Take this as a warning: once you upgrade, you can't downgrade. There's no going home again.

    I'm simply posting this for posterity, for those considering OLED, for those unaware of the fundamental differences in viewing experience and the slight downsides there are. You should understand what you're getting into. It is worth it, but there are tradeoffs. Your Handbrake'd collection will be worthless. You won't be able to meaningfully archive your films any more (you'd have to retain the original bitrate of the Blu-Ray, which means ~40GB per film). You'll be tied to physical media again. Some streaming content won't look good, depending on the quality of the content provider's encoding. But, on the flipside, you'll have a simply amazing viewing experience. Blu-Ray on an OLED TV is the best media experience I've ever had.

    Swings and roundabouts.

    (I wanted to post photos comparing Blu-Ray and ripped file, to show the effects I'm talking about, but it's actually really hard to do. It doesn't come out in a photo, and in any case, it's bottlenecked by your viewing screen at the far end - as self-defeating as a Youtube listening review of a pair of speakers. You have to be there and judge for yourself.)

    Post-script:
    There is a wider issue to consider here, about the nature of archival generally, and the nature of lossy media. If you back up and archive anything, it will only be useful if your backed up media remain sufficiently high quality against future technologies, standards and norms that emerge. In 10 years OLED will be pretty much the norm, HDR will be in everything, and all existing pirated media will look like garbage. Anything less than a 13GB Blu-Ray rip will be undesirable, and even then it's not great.

    It makes you think. How many existing repositories of media will become useless with time, despite being intact, because the quality and formats they preserve simply become massively undesirable or even unusable to people in the future? Lossless is hard to achieve. Compromises are made at every stage of a media production chain. Cinema is now transitioning to entirely digital recording, storage and editing, which will undoubtedly see similar "good enough" lossy corner-cutting at various levels along the production pipeline. Will these measures make the finished products useless to some future generation?

    Probably.
     
    Last edited: 17 May 2020
  2. ElThomsono

    ElThomsono Well-Known Member

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    That's an interesting read, so cheers for posting it.

    But I can't agree with you on your last point about increased video quality making the old stuff obsolete. It's a diminishing return, and there are already a fair few people who can't tell a SD broadcast from an HD one. To then try to make the jump from even a 1080p Freeview broadcast to a BluRay is a difficult sell, let alone going above that.

    Unless there is a new leap in technology (full wraparound from a VR headset, perhaps?) the media we have is already at or above the threshold of most people's ability to discern.

    And as it stands, the bandwidth necessary to stream a BluRay is accessible, should streaming services ever decide to host such a thing, it could be another blow against physical media.
     
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  3. Pete J

    Pete J Working from home?

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    I remember a few years ago, during the last stages of my PhD, talking to someone about converting analogue data (in this case, specific type of maps) into digital while trying to maintain a level of fidelity meaning that it would still be valid for years. The end result was assessing what truly needed to be saved as information, as well as a gantry rig with a VERY expensive camera and custom lens, as well as a multi HDD RAID array.
     
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  4. liratheal

    liratheal Sharing is Caring

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    I buy films. For the same reason I buy CD's. I find there's something enjoyable in rummaging through a collection of media and putting a disc in a drive.

    However, some TV shows are nigh impossible to legally acquire on any format. I'd even buy a digital copy if it was possible. But it's not.
     
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  5. Mr_Mistoffelees

    Mr_Mistoffelees The Cat Lies Down on Broadway

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    That's one of the benefits of new TV technology. Our new Samsung QLED TV does a really good job of upscaling SD broadcasts, so they look better than they have any right to.

    Boiled's music analogy is a good one, my Audiolab M-DAC does a good job with poor recordings but, nevertheless the Beyerdynamic T5Ps reproduce so much detail, poor recordings have nowhere to hide.

    BTW, the T5Ps have gone back to Amazon for a full refund, then I will get my first choice Focals.
     
  6. sandys

    sandys Well-Known Member

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    Nearly everything I watch on my OLED is ripped content in someway, Sky Q, Netflix, Amazon and youtube most streamed UHD and it all looks good to me, blacks and contrast is very good, I see no banding on good quality sources, have you disabled some processing?

    I only have a 65inch ~3m away so perhaps its a bit small or I am at that age now where my eyes n longer work, I did get my first set of glasses last year :eek:
     
    Last edited: 17 May 2020
  7. GeorgeStorm

    GeorgeStorm Aggressive PC Builder

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    Was part way through watching The Force Awakens last night on Disney+ when I realised I have the bluray why aren't we watching that, such an improvement, as someone else who used to pirate stuff I can confirm, improving your screen just highlights the weaknesses of rips or even legal streams, got rid of all my pirated stuff a while back which felt good :)
     
  8. boiled_elephant

    boiled_elephant Whitelist Bit-Tech in your adblock!

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    I suspect the difference will be that you're using good quality sources on a native embedded platform. For reasons I can't understand, Netflix looks much better on my TV's built-in webOS app than on my PC in Chrome. Could be a browser compatibility issue. Could just be that Netflix use different codecs for different implementations, and the webOS embedded one is more efficient and heavy duty than the browser one. Wikipedia seems to support this theory.

    The banding issue I'm talking about is mainly just a plague on pirated/homeripped media, though. Again, I thought this might be a compatibility issue, but I've correctly configured VLC and Windows 10 and am definitely getting HDR all the way through, using DXVA 2.0.

    I think existing codecs and Handbrake presets just weren't designed with HDR and OLED in mind. That Moana rip is a really high bitrate HDR compression of the Blu-Ray source. But where the Blu-Ray gets all these smooth subtle gradients of colour in dark areas, the compressed 13GB pirate copy is a total mess - despite having very good colour depth and soft gradients elsewhere.

    I can only surmise that either the HEVC or the Handbrake presets these pirates are using specifically deprioritizes dark area information. Netflix's implementation supposedly uses h264 and HEVC variously, but codecs can be tweaked in their behaviour I presume. The Handbrake presets commonly used, that look fine on LCD, look awful on OLED because they assume a lower sensitivity to dark shades. Quite simply, they seem to be calibrated to take advantage of the poor dark area sensitivity of LCD.

    This is what I meant, ElThomsono, about future tech. I don't mean that future standards changing will make us more sensitive to media quality; I mean that future tech developments may uncover weak areas in our existing media that we don't even think about because our current tech is blind to them.

    Like transitioning to widescreen and 4:3 suddenly being a problem. Transitioning to OLED and the bottom 16 bits of dark area info suddenly being way more visible. Transitioning to surround sound and 2 channel audio streams having no way to directly transfer.

    It's about future tech having extra capabilities that our existing conventions and tech can't anticipate, our media having missing info we never thought to prioritize because we couldn't take advantage of it.
     
  9. Ramble

    Ramble Ginger Nut

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    Pirating has never been image-quality focussed, having said that you can easily find 50 GB+ rips of films, and if you're lucky then the raw blu-ray rip.

    Codec presets will likely catch up as warez groups get their act together.
     
  10. ElThomsono

    ElThomsono Well-Known Member

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    As an aside, this reminds me of some AI upscaled / restored video I saw on YouTube, there's some incredible work being done there. I know it's tantamount to guesswork but the transformation is quite something.
     
  11. ElThomsono

    ElThomsono Well-Known Member

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    There's plenty more about, I was impressed.

    Edite: Cripes, I've quoted my own post. I am not good with computer.
     
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  12. boiled_elephant

    boiled_elephant Whitelist Bit-Tech in your adblock!

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    Blimey.

    I'm not sure how to feel about that. It's an incredible result, but as you say, it's sort of guesswork - it's seamlessly painting fictional fine detail into something historical. For immersion and imagination, as an aid to scene setting and empathy (which oldtimey footage otherwise makes very difficult) it's brilliant, but as a record it becomes dubious...like deepfakes, you know you're looking at something that isn't real, but your brain can't tell you which bits aren't real.

    I am forcefully reminded once more that our legal institutions and our society are not ready for the things AI is going to make possible.
     
  13. VipersGratitude

    VipersGratitude Well-Known Member

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    Given that the goal of the quasi-monopolistic multinationals is to own the infrastructure of society, ending private ownership of data, having everything provided as-a-service, and using our own data to manipulate us - both economically and politically - it's arguable that piracy is actually the more ethical choice from a free market perspective.
     
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  14. Pete J

    Pete J Working from home?

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    THEY'RE AFTERS US, I TELLS YA! QUICK, TO THE PLACE WHERE THEY CAN'T READ OUR MINDS!

    :p:

    One day the whole of humanity will come round to the realisation that profit for the sake of profit is a bit...pointless. But not yet.

    But I digress. We're talking about OLEDS and digital reproduction.
     
  15. VipersGratitude

    VipersGratitude Well-Known Member

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    ...and formats with their associated distribution methods.

    While you might minimise the argument, the Financial Times has been sounding the alarm about it in articles for years. Sorry, but FT does tend to carry more weight in such matters than Pete from the internet.
     
  16. wyx087

    wyx087 Homeworld 3 is happening!!

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    I think I have seen what you speak of, 25 Mbps HEVC game streaming into Oculus Quest OLED looks pretty bad in dark scenes.

    But blu-ray is said to be only maximum 40 Mbps for 4K video, it is by no means lossless, it's compressed in similar way to pirated media. I can still see some minor banding on 50 Mbps 2880x1600 (lower than 4k) stream. So what bit-rate is actually required to NOT see those banding problems?

    End of the day, it's a maths problem. I personally don't buy it when you say bluray is best. It's still a digital media and its maximum bit-rate is by no means high.
     
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  17. GeorgeStorm

    GeorgeStorm Aggressive PC Builder

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    I'm guessing he means blu ray is best out of the available options? No streaming service comes close as far as I'm aware, and blu ray is the peak of available no? (UHD 4k fancy ones I guess)
     
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  18. edzieba

    edzieba Virtual Realist

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    Crappy transcodes maybe. BD image or bust! Or actual BDs, whichever is easier to acquire (I'm not going to shed a tear for Disney, but I'll put in the work to import the nice JP Ghibli BDs).
     
  19. Pete J

    Pete J Working from home?

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    I'm hurt! How dare you say an institution consisting of in excess of 1000 people and specialises in financial matters knows more than me! :lol:
     
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  20. Mister_Tad

    Mister_Tad Super Moderator Super Moderator

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    Some of my rips are >100mbit - that's likely including soundtracks as well, but I'm sure the video is >40mbit.

    I rip all of my discs out of convenience, to watch on any TV and to not have to sift through physical media when I want to watch something (or when I'm figuring out what I want to watch).

    The playback quality should be indistinguishable from the original media so long as you're set up correctly. The only thing I "miss" is Dolby Vision (as AFAIK it's not yet possible to play back DV rips?), but 9 times out of 10 it's not worth my effort to get up from the sofa.
     
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