Anamorphic Video on iPod

26 November 2008

I’ve been experimenting with anamorphic video. I read after the 2007 models came out that they supported anamorphic video, so the maximum matrix of 640 x 480 pixels can be used to squash a widescreen video with an anamorphic flag, so the iPod, iTunes and Apple TV would interpret it as roughly 855 x 480 pixels. Obviously the iPod would have to shrink this to 320 x 160 or so for its built-in screen.

Problem is, the results are disappointing. These two screenshots are from the same content and the exact same frame, Lemon Jelly’s ’64-’95 DVD:

'64-'95 DVD (720 x 400)

Lemon Jelly: '64-'95 DVD (720 x 400) (Click to enlarge)

'64-'95 DVD (854 x 480)

Lemon Jelly: '64-'95 DVD (854 x 480 anamorphic) (Click to enlarge)

Lots of ugly artefacts in the anamorphic version. There are also frequent failures to resolve detail, with the effect that spots of the video suddenly go out of focus for a few frames. Movement has the occasional judder or skip. These are all present in non-anamorphic iPod rips, but far less frequent or noticeable.

I also did test rips of Sigur Ros’ Heima. What’s most disturbing about the results is the fact that the source in both cases is pristine, some of the highest bitrate, cleanest, most perfect DVD I’ve ever seen. If I ripped trash as anamorphic, the effect could only be more pronounced.

So I don’t think anamorphic is for me, despite the unassailable coolness this brings, especially as the increased resolution makes it more attractive for both iPod and computer/Apple TV use, perhaps leading to one version, not two.

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