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In this blog I am discussing cinema Paradiso, no not Giuseppe Tornatore’s 1988 movie, but the DVD/Blu Ray rental service that launched in 2003 by die hard movie fans. Its main focus is that of a disc based rental service for Movies and TV Shows. Additionally the service allows movie fans to share lists of favourite films and write your own reviews.  In a world where you can stream pretty much anything and tweet about everything else, it seems madness to rent discs, but is there a method in this madness? The Silver Hedgehog is about to find out…

First, it’s worth looking at why to rent discs in the first place? It’s a little old fashioned …isn’t it?

There are two reasons to rent discs, superior audio quality and superior Video Quality compared to streaming video.  I have detailed this in more detail in the dropdown below, or you can skip ahead to the Cinema Paradiso review.

One of the major selling points of Blu ray and more recently Ultra HD Blu-ray is the space available for the audio track.  No longer do the tracks have to be compressed. Studio quality lossless audio formats such as DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby TrueHD and ATMOS are designed to provide clear, punchy, incredibly detailed sound and need to be experienced. With the right equipment playing the soundtracks you should be able to pick out individual instruments playing on the soundtrack, or hear the intricate details of effects or the crisp tones in someone’s voice. This is a detail that is hard to replicate with streaming services.

In my previous feature  I mentioned that in order to get the sound to your device you are using the sound signal has to be made smaller (compressed) and then unpacked at the other end and then sent to the speakers. It’s vital for video streaming services to compress the signal or it would take ages to display on your tv and the buffering would be intolerable.  The problem with compressing the sound is all the detail that gets lost in the process.  How often have you watched something on the tv and the speech seems muffled or volume has had to be turned up high? 

Then there is the type of sound that the services make available. For instance Now Tv simply provides the sound in stereo. If you want 5.1 surround they charge an extra £3.00 a month, even then it’s presented in an older dolby digital signal (that’s been around since the 1980’s).

Watching Now TV on a television in a living room situation, a stereo signal is just about passible, put it into a home theater situation and it’s woeful. Speech is muffled, volume has to be uncomfortable high, it’s simply just not good enough.

Next up is Netflix.  Now Netflix realised this was an area that needed to improve and they have been doing some truly great things with audio. A few years ago showrunners the Duffer Brothers beasted Netflix on the sound quality of Stranger Things.  Essentially they were not amused that the sound in the studio was not the sound received at home. They then worked with Netflix on optimising the sound streaming.  The result being that Netflix now claims to offer sound quality as good as any Blu-ray to customers who pay Netflix the top tier of subscription.

Of course I had to test this claim…

So using a home theater system consisting of a Yamaha AVR, Panasonic 4k blu-ray player, set of German built Canton movie speakers and Netflix HQ. Loading up Mission Impossible Rogue Nation and playing the title sequence as the test.

Netflix, the sound quality is superb, the Mission Impossible music plays right across the soundscape and the action moves around the speakers in great detail. Honesty if you had nothing else to compare it against you would be perfectly happy.

Next up the same movie played on Blu-Ray with Master Audio TrueHD selected.Playing the same title sequence I have to say the Netflix claim of having studio quality sound is really tested here.. I want to say that the TrueHD track should be a clear winner but in reality the differences are ever so slight. You can definitely make out the extra detail on the disc: Helicopter rotor blades whizz overhead in a more discernible form, extra instruments can be heard in the score, but the difference is so slight and get the impression that if I wasn’t doing a test and actually focusing on the sound, I wouldn’t have noticed.

Much like sound, streaming services have to compress the video to get it across the internet to your device of choice.  Now on small screens this does not make much difference but on today’s large screens it is noticeable.  Blu-ray discs and Ultra HD Blu-ray possess an incredible level of detail thanks to the 100 gb storage Ultra HD 4k Blu-Ray holds. This storage means that studios can include the latest technological advances such as HDR10 and Dolby Vision.  These are standards that provide amazing contrast, sharpness and dynamic colours.  There is no way that a streaming company is going to send 100gb of data down the internet to your home or device. The data costs alone would be huge. So streaming services have historically found it difficult to replicate the level of quality provided by disc’s, but they are getting better at it.

Now TV streams everything in 720p, want HD and it’s in the bolt on at £3 per month extra. Don’t even ask about 4k , HDR10 or Dolby Vision. It’s a poor show from NOW TV.

Netflix,Apple TV & Disney+ are doing amazing things with streaming 4k content with Dolby Vision and HDR10, but they still lack some of the finer detail found on discs in spite of getting very very close. The Mandalorian for instance looks stunning and Apple TV 4K is incredibly sharp but tends to put a weird tint on everything presumably in effort to improve HDR contrast. So from a video perspective choosing your streaming service will make a big impact on your experience and standards are not yet consistent. 

The Silver Hedgehog Final Thoughts:

Streaming companies are upping their game by improving streaming quality and Disney are being sketchy about releasing new content on Blu-ray  but there is still life in the disc format.

I am impressed by how easy Cinema Paradiso makes the rental processes. The website is a dream to use and the discs arrive relatively quickly, although they could be a tad faster in turnaround in some cases.  I have used Cinema Paradiso for a few months now and have had no problems. It definitely deserves to be tried out

I give Cinema Paradiso:

[yasr_overall_rating size=”large”]4.5 stars

This gives Cinema Paradiso

Silver Hedgehog ‘Recommended’ Status

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