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Apple iTunes Upsampling Higher Resolution Videos? 201

An anonymous reader writes "Engadget has a revealing look at Apple upsampling some of their new 640x480 videos from lower quality 320x240 videos. In fact, their upsampling appears to produce lower quality videos than quickly upsampling yourself with Quicktime. The worst part may be that Apple is charging people to download these new higher resolution videos even if they've already purchased the original, so people are essentially paying for nothing."
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Apple iTunes Upsampling Higher Resolution Videos?

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  • Why? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Watson Ladd ( 955755 ) on Saturday September 30, 2006 @06:19AM (#16257163)
    This makes no sense. Apple could use quicktime on all of the videos with ease, or resample. But instead they make the quality worse then if they had used Quicktime. I don't see how Apple wouldn't have used Quicktime in the first place considering they made it. Computer time really isn't an issue for Apple.
    • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MicrosoftRepresentit ( 1002310 ) on Saturday September 30, 2006 @06:53AM (#16257269)
      Apple doesn't do the upsampling, their content providers do. Blame Apple for not putting more pressure on them (although Apple are still in the 'beggars cant be choosers' stage here, so they probably cant put any pressure on at all), blame the providers for crappy quality.
      • Re:Why? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 30, 2006 @07:39AM (#16257407)
        "Apple doesn't do the upsampling, their content providers do."

        Actually, in this case, I believe they are doing the upsampling. Generally, the larger labels really don't care about reencoding what they've already put up there -- they only care about getting the new stuff up there.

        I'm not sure why everyone thought that just because there is a new format, everything was going to be magically resubmitted to Apple.

        At the same time, a good friend of mine just sent a note stating his lable just got word from Apple that at least the audio components of the iTS (I guess its no longer the iTMS) are going to need uploaded in Apple Lossless Format. Does this mean Apple is looking forward to holding the uncompressed files and transmitting compressed or are they going to do the lossless files to the customer? He didn't know because the note said nothing about it.

        Personally, I've never worried about the quality of the videos and all that. The videos are almost always better than I get from my local cable station...whatever that may be. After Battlestar went iTMS last year, I stopped doing the torrent thing and bought them from Apple (I also bought them on DVD, so I was never worried about the torrent stuff...I buy when I have a legal alternative). The iTMS vids were lesser quality than the torrents, *BUT* you never really noticed unless you were either completely anal or had paused a shot. Either way, the content of the show was there and it wasn't like Apple was providing an abridged version of the content. Same with music...as a former professional musician (and by that, I don't mean I've played a few bars) I've never really worried about CD vs. MP3 and I know very few pros that do. I use to get all sorts of promos and prereleases and everything else on CD...now they all send URLs to pick up the MP3s and they are happy with what it is. The last time I got a CD was at a release party and even then it was hinted that since I wasn't a journalist, there were only limited copies available.

        This just goes back to content over 'quality'. Bad pop music with a limited lifespan? Yeah, it better be 100% lossless and the video at HD quality -- I'm going to get sick of it with each passing listen, so it needs to be perfect each time or I'll discard it that much faster. True classics? Well, I just transfered some shitty reel to reel studio outtake from an old blues guitarist that had molded up in someones basement to digital...there are dropouts and songs that just end and a general dampness about the sound that distorts it and makes it sound like its playing through wet cardboard...and its PERFECT. I couldn't imagine listening to this in any other format.

        I guess this is the difference between consumers and creators. Consumers can't add anything to what they buy...creators will fill in the blanks in their head and be satisfied without whinging endlessly about getting ripped off.

        I've ranted too long on this subject...
        • Re:Why? (Score:4, Informative)

          by jcr ( 53032 ) <<jcr> <at> <mac.com>> on Saturday September 30, 2006 @08:59AM (#16257813) Journal
          Actually, in this case, I believe they are doing the upsampling.

          Nope. Everything you can download from the iTMS today was submitted by the labels.

          At the same time, a good friend of mine just sent a note stating his lable just got word from Apple that at least the audio components of the iTS (I guess its no longer the iTMS) are going to need uploaded in Apple Lossless Format. Does this mean Apple is looking forward to holding the uncompressed files and transmitting compressed or are they going to do the lossless files to the customer?

          Neither. It means that Apple's getting too many complaints about the labels botching the conversion, so they want to do the compression in-house for quality control.

          -jcr
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Golias ( 176380 )
          Same with music...as a former professional musician (and by that, I don't mean I've played a few bars) I've never really worried about CD vs. MP3 and I know very few pros that do.

          Oddly enough, professional musicians tend to be much, much more tolerant of bad audio fidelity than serious music lovers who don't play or only play as non-professionals. As long as there are no obvious distractions (such as surface noise from a record or tape hiss), they tend to "listen around" missing data better than most peopl
    • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by PowerKe ( 641836 ) on Saturday September 30, 2006 @06:54AM (#16257273)
      Upsampling will not put more information in the picture. It just makes it look better. Possibly Apple is using the same way to upsample the video as you'd do yourself using Quicktime. However, when they have to recompress the video to distribute the upsampled video, there will be another round of quality loss. This is probably what makes the video from Apple look worse than just upsampling yourself.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pclminion ( 145572 )

        Upsampling will not put more information in the picture. It just makes it look better.

        Sure it puts information in the picture. Anything that isn't just doubling pixels has to, by definition, put some kind of information in the picture. The question is whether that information is "close to" what the REAL information would have been if the video had originally been shot at a higher resolution.

        I've played with neural networks that "upsample" an image to double its original resolution, and the results (fo

      • "Upsampling will not put more information in the picture. It just makes it look better."

        Upsampling at anything but the final-output end almost never 'looks better'; Essentially, you have to decode the video (and all it's compression errors), double it using some sort of interpolation / median filter (ie: make it blurry or make it blobby), and recompress it (hey, compression artifacts in TWO resolutions!).
    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by aplusjimages ( 939458 ) on Saturday September 30, 2006 @07:39AM (#16257405) Journal
      I don't understand why they didn't forsee that one day i-pod screens would be larger, so they should keep everything in its native size (the largest SD resolution possible). I work at a mobile content company and we make video ringtones, but we have copies of all are videos at the highest resolution, because we know that one day cell phones and mobile devices will be able to handle the higher resolutions. It prevents us from having to re-edit all those videos. When the time comes, I just run a simple batch and all are videos are ready.
      • iPod screens still aren't larger; the latest ones are the same 320x240 resolution. And from the start, all video-capable iPods have been able to decode 640x480 files (and, I believe, output this on their TV adapter), on the condition that they do not exceed a certain bitrate and only use certain compression codec features (e.g., for 640x480 H.264 low-complexity version of baseline profile, 1.5 Mbps or less).

        The only thing that has changed is that Apple has now started to actually sell files of this type.

        (Of
    • by omeg ( 907329 )
      Lack of batch support in Quicktime, of course. Why use Quicktime to manually convert every video when you can use other (better) software to do 'em all with one command?
      • by clifyt ( 11768 )
        "Lack of batch support in Quicktime, of course."

        There is PLENTY of batch support for Quicktime...you are probably talking the Quicktime PLAYER (which purchasing the pro version gives you access to simply the encoding portion).

        You need to buy Apple's Cinema Tools (err...I think this is the right one) to do batch encoding pretty easily. Of course, you can only get it as part of Final Cut.

        Beyond that, you can use Applescript to do a lot of this -- or use other third party software to batch encode this stuff.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by cmdrbuzz ( 681767 )
          Close, its Apple Compressor [apple.com] that does the conversion of formats.
          It can also use Qmaster to use multiple machines in Batch.

          Kinda like the Acrobat Distiller of movies, and its part of Final Cut Studio.
  • by dohzer ( 867770 ) on Saturday September 30, 2006 @06:22AM (#16257173) Homepage
    Another reason to buy physical CDs/DVDs rather than downloads.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I would say it is similar to paying for a CD of a record you already had on vinyl.
      It seems to be well-accepted practice in the media industry to let the customer pay per distribution medium instead of per piece of work he wants to have...
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by glesga_kiss ( 596639 )

        I would say it is similar to paying for a CD of a record you already had on vinyl.

        I disagree. CDs offer some advantages over vinyl, such as track skipping and fewer quality issues such as rumble and warpage. This would be more similar to someone borrowing your vinyl record and converting it to a CD, then selling it back to you. Except that is also a bad analogy as in this example you are at least paying for their time. Upsampling a bunch of videos is a simple hands-off batch script.

        Usually when you buy

        • Good turntables do not introduce much rumble at all. $50 turntables did.

          Usually when you buy a CD of something you had on vinyl, the CD is taken from the original master.

          That is true now; it wasn't true in the mid-80s when CDs were still fairly new; the original CDs were sometimes mastered either with the phono EQ curve, and had a very "harsh" sound ("brighter" doesn't describe some early CDs, they were downright jarring) relative to the vinyl or cassette releases.

    • Yeah, because you know that when you're ready to upgrade to HD, they'll give you a free new set of disks if you already bought the non-HD DVD!

      There are some perfectly good reasons to prefer CDs and DVDs the currently available download methods, so why do people insist on instead putting forth rationalizations for their preference based on topics where downloads and physical media have identical limits (i.e. you have to pay if you want another, possibly higher quality, copy)?

      In any case, this up-sampling of
    • When CD's came out, many CD's where mastered directly from a LP lying around. Basicly the result was worst of LP and CD, LP's noise and limited dynamic range, and CD limited 44Khz frequence response. Later on record companies noticed that people will actually pay for a third time for their record, if they dig up original master tapes and relaunch the record as "digitally remasted". Perhaps they only sound better than the first generation CD's because they have been compressed to sound better on average joes
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        CDs have a dynamic range of a little over 20 KHz, not 44. They have a sample rate of 44.1 KHz, but you can't physically have a frequency response that is more than half the sample rate.

        I'd also be interested to see some kind of documentation that reinforces your assertion that some early CDs were mastered from vinyl LPs. *Every* CD I own (and quite a few date back to the early days of CD) was mastered from the original studio tapes or first-gen copies of them, or from digitally remastered versions of t
        • 22,050hz to be exact, although during the mastering process engineers will roll off the highs gradually starting somewhere between 18khz and 20khz to avoid the "harsh" cutoff that some people (who haven't destroyed their hearing with headphones) will be able to hear.
          • 22,050 is the Nyquist limit, but there's almost always filtering in the player that will prevent it from being reached in order to preclude artifacts like aliasing, and usually the output amp isn't linear up to that range anyway unless you want to shell out some dough.
  • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Saturday September 30, 2006 @06:33AM (#16257217)
    Apple made a big song and dance of the fact that you can transfer songs, and burn them to CD. Can you burn downloaded movies to DVD or are you restricted to play them on one or two devices?
    • by mblase ( 200735 ) on Saturday September 30, 2006 @07:25AM (#16257365)
      You're not allowed to burn downloaded videos to a video DVD, but you can back them up as a file to a DVD and play it again on iTunes.

      This is a restriction imposed on Apple by the video owners, and was pretty much the only way they could get video on the iTunes Store at all. Hopefully they're still negotiating to have that particular block removed.
      • At least I can burn stuff I torrented to a DVD for playback, should that be the thing I want to do.

        Why restrict your paying customers to less use than non-paying copyright infringers? Chewbacca is a Wookie! It does not make SENSE!
        • Why restrict your paying customers to less use than non-paying copyright infringers?

          Why make a law saying you can't kill people, when murderers do it regardless? Your comment made no sense.
          • by Lehk228 ( 705449 )
            actually your comment makes no sense, the GP makes perfect sense.

            selling a product that is worse than an illegal rip-off is a stupid business practice, especially when it is artificially worse than an illegal ripoff.
            • It's the copyright holders decision to say what can and cannot be used to distribute their content. You can't have your cake and eat it too.
              • by Lehk228 ( 705449 )
                are you high? or just stupid? my point is that their decision is dumb not that it's illegal for them to decide that way
    • just as data disks for backup. that part kind of sucks. it seems to be a deal they could not make with the TV studios and now movie studios. considering every Mac is available with a DVD burner (except some base models), and includes DVD burning software, that would have been great. maybe it'll be cracked soon enough.

      kind of OT
      there are some TV shows available free from the TV station as well as iTunes. i read somewhere (possibly here on /.?) that those shows (like LOST for example) are viewed many times mo
  • moral implications (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 30, 2006 @06:57AM (#16257283)
    To me, this is far more egregious than Sony's rootkit fiasco.

    I've personally written software that had undesigned implications.
    but...
    I've never taken money, a second time, from anyone, knowing that I had already sold them that very same thing.

    The difference is incompetance vs. intentional malice driven by greed.
    I'll always choose to associate with a fool rather than someone I am certain is out to get me.
    • Even if the fool unlocks all of your door and windows and invites criminals over, and the person out to get you sells a dinner plate you already own, but claims it is higher quality?
    • To me, this is far more egregious than Sony's rootkit fiasco.

      I dunno about you, but I'd rather have somebody try to sell me useless crap than break into and compromise the security of my system...

  • Upsampling (Score:5, Funny)

    by Random Q. Hacker ( 137687 ) on Saturday September 30, 2006 @07:09AM (#16257319)

    In other news, Apple was discovered to have upsampled regular commodity PCs into more expensive versions with no real additional benefits. A source at Apple revealed that their upsampling engine, code named "marketing", could turn any piece of crap hardware into something people would buy. Cited as their greatest achievement was the "iPod", a device that had been upsampled and resold over five times, with it's users apparently none the wiser.

  • by 10Ghz ( 453478 ) on Saturday September 30, 2006 @07:15AM (#16257329)
    You are becoming retarded. Stop it. Please.
  • ...as far as I know, encoding is handled not by Apple, but by the providers. Which, as a matter of fact, explains the discrepancy in the Engadget post: some videos look good at higher-res, whereas others appear to have been upsampled.

    Most likely, not Apple is to blame, but the content providers, some of whom were apparently too lazy or stupid or stingy to provide truly higher-res versions.
    • I don't care if the content isn't encoded by Apple. The fact is that they are selling something that isn't good quality. They're supposed to check and ensure that the encoding is as good as possible within the constraints of the codec and compression ratio.

      If they don't fix this it is going to be very damaging.

    • by jcr ( 53032 ) <<jcr> <at> <mac.com>> on Saturday September 30, 2006 @09:03AM (#16257845) Journal
      ...as far as I know, encoding is handled not by Apple, but by the providers.

      That is correct. This has been confirmed to me personally on several occasions by iTMS staff.

      -jcr
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        But why look at where responsibility lies when you can be trendy and bash Apple? After all, bashing big media is soooo 90's
        • The studios provided the crap videos, but Apple was still responsible for deciding to sell it anyway!

          (Posting from a Mac -- they make a good OS and decent hardware, but their DRM store can go fuck itself!)

      • I remember at the beginning of iTMS Steve Jobs said that in some cases the record companies were delivering studio tape quality files to them which they were converting to 128 AAC and thus some of these files sounded better than even the CDs put out by the record companies because the source files were that much better to begin with.
    • by tentimestwenty ( 693290 ) on Saturday September 30, 2006 @09:27AM (#16257987)
      Even if content providers are responsible for encoding the files (which I doubt) Apple should still be professional and ensure they meet a certain standard. It just makes them look bad.
      • Yeah, and they shouldn't let Britney Spears upload her latest single, it sucks! ...c'mon, dude, you know that if some video podcast show started whining that Apple wouldn't let them post their shows because it didn't meet their "high-res quality standards," the Slashdot whining about Apple arrogance/Naziism would be twice as long and virulent.
        • That's just stupid. There's no reason Apple couldn't just let them post their 320x240 videos; they just need to be labeled as such. An upsampled QVGA video is still a QVGA video, and calling it otherwise is dishonest.

  • We always need a continous stream of new products to consume. I'm old enough to remember an innovation called "waxless floors" that would save money on maintenance costs as tough shiney flooring could merely be swept with a broom. Then, Johnson wax company come out with a new product we dubbed "waxless wax." It was for shining your waxless floors.
  • I'd prefer reasonable prices for the DVDs and CDs. Paying for content that has been compressed and indexed in a manner that may or may not suit your needs seems pretty stupid to me. Charge reasonable prices for the stuff and then let me use it however works best for me under existing fair use laws. Get rid of the DRM, charge a fair price. Maybe people would buy more of it then.
  • Look, Apple has always emphasized design, appearance and usability. And they have always catered to the less technical among us ("computers for the rest of us)". Of course that doesn't mean their machines don't also appeal to techies. In fact now that they don't carry as steep a price penalty, and now that it is possible to dual boot to Windows, their appeal has grown in that regard. But still their bread-and-butter is people who don't want to fuss with their PCs and who don't want to become computer geeks.
  • Which means that it is probably either the content providers who are not going back to the maters to encode high quality, or it is stuff that Apple probably doesn't have access to the originals, which then the shouldn't re-sell it.

    My guess is that it's the content providers who haven't re-encoded. I don't see Apple as being *that* dumb.
  • by SnowDog74 ( 745848 ) on Saturday September 30, 2006 @11:30AM (#16258711)
    Best Buy is one of the largest retailers in the world, yet one out of every five or ten DVD's I purchase from them is defective. I gurarantee you they do not inspect stock from the distributors and subdistributors. In this case, I inspect the discs at the purchasing counter. I have held up other customers in the process... one of them may be you.

    The Gap is one of the largest clothing retailers in the world, and one out of every three shirts I have purchased from them ends up discoloring badly in the wash in just a few months. Even though the clothing is their own brand, I guarantee you they do not inspect every shirt for quality. I no longer buy shirts from the Gap... Incidentally, I haven't had a problem with the Faconnable or Ralph Lauren polo shirts I paid $40-$70 for... you get what you pay for.

    Apple is one of the largest retailers of online music downloads with global load-balanced hosting operations worldwide, and every 50 to 75 downloads I come across a music track that is encoded from a defective source. I guarantee you Apple does not inspect the contents of every item published to its library. Incidentally I've had even fewer problems with purchased physical CD's, or better yet, DVD-Audio, but I find there's a level of quality I'll accept to take advantage of certain conveniences over going out to the store and paying $20-$25 for a DVD-Audio disc.

    Now, mind you I'm not defending Apple but I'm saying they're not unique at all in this regard. Obviously if there's a considerably high frequency of upsampled videos, then they've either got a problem they weren't aware of ... or this is simply something they accepted and are willing to deal with it as long as customers are. The solution is to complain to Apple in a constructive way so they have an idea of what customers really want.

    If the majority doesn't care then the majority doesn't care... and Apple will offer products as they see fit. I don't recall anywhere in Apple documentation that they ever stated that products in the 640x480 library were remastered from the source. So, all the energy expended whining here on slashdot about it should be spent sending complaints to Apple so that they get the picture and do what needs to be done to retain their bottom line. If a large enough percentage of consumers call them on this, they will change their practice and require all 640x480 content to be remastered... but don't expect them to be inspecting the contents of every file submitted to them, as the process to verify whether or not the content is upsampled cannot be derived from looking at the metadata... Each file would have to be inspected manually, at length. The end result is that you'd have to wait a hell of a lot longer for new releases and you'd be paying much more for them to make up the difference in labor expenditures. Then again, if you're willing to pay $10 a single and wait until three weeks after its initial release to obtain it, who am I to question?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by bogie ( 31020 )
      To paraphrase you:

      "You can't expect companies to actually know what they are selling to consumers at all times."

      What the fuck kind of logic is that? You'd make a great spokesperson for the Spinach grower's association.
      • by MoneyT ( 548795 )
        It's perfectly reasonable logic. It's not cost efficient for your or the company to do so. Let's say a cheap QA intern costs $15/hour. In order to ensure that each video is in perfect condition, that means your average QA intern can verify 2 videos per hour, maybe 3. Are you willing to pay an additional $7.50 per $2 episode?
      • Business is not about what consumers might expect from the marketplace. In other words, it's not about what consumers want... It's about what they're willing to settle for.

        Academically, intellectually and philosophically speaking, I acknowledge there's little that is honest, equitable or just in such a model. But that doesn't mean it doesn't serve its intended purpose... which is to generate an optimal level of profit for the investors concerned.

        Financial statements are not impacted by what you might like
  • ...M$'s Zune "grassroots" campaign...

    hey, it's doing wonders against Sony! Apple is next in line...
  • Jobs said that you would be getting the new resolution videos for free as long as you had purchased them before. I've been getting mine for free and the picture quality was an improvement. I wonder if it's the studios involved in the process that are doing it wrong.
  • I'm not surprised this Engadget piece was picked up by Digg in the usual OMG!!!!@#!!!!111!!! fashion, but here on slashdot? C'mon, guys.

    Apple doesn't do any of the encoding. They provide a software kit for the vendors to do that. This is obviously a case where vendors have cheaped out. And are we surprised? Oh no! The same people who support the RIAA have unethically upsampled low quality vids to make believe they are high quality! They're ripping off their customers! Like this is news?

    Have any of these pe
  • ... with Apple and video on Itunes:

    see
    http://apple.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=179695&c id=14886135 [slashdot.org]

    Never did buy any more video from Apple; probably won't.
  • It's even worse. Look at the examples in the article. The upconverted versions have big rectangular compression artifacts. So not only were they upconverted, they were decompressed and recompressed, which generates terrible artifacts. (See most files on YouTube for examples.) If they'd just been upconverted from low-rez source material, they'd just be blurry.

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