I have noticed lately some of the older movies like Titanic being sold on Blu-rays in high definition (HD). As I understand, high definition implies high level of detail, yet I do not understand what is the true difference in terms of quality. If I remember correctly, 35mm film already has a higher resolution than HD so 35mm frame has at least 3 million pixels, depending on the lens, and shooting conditions, while an HD frame has 2 million pixels, measured using 1920 x 1080 scan lines. Which, kind of steers me towards believing that original film should have better visual quality.

So what is the real quality-wise difference between digital HD recording and a 35mm film recording?

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    Reklated (if not even duplicate): Was film actually “better” than digital media?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Apr 14, 2016 at 12:54
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    @NapoleonWilson That question is (generally) about recording media... how is the image being captured on the set... the initial question here seems to be about distribution "recordings" meaning the release prints Blu-ray vs Film... which is a different question. At the very least, the other question is discussing professional distribution practices (film reels vs. digital projection).
    – Catija
    Apr 14, 2016 at 16:41

1 Answer 1


I think that what you're missing is that you need to be comparing Blu-ray to DVDs, not to film... Of course film is better quality than Blu-ray but the average person isn't watching a movie at home using a film projector.

The older films would have been originally sold on DVDs (or even VHS tapes) that were geared for display on largely non-HD flat screen TVs and even CRTs. I'm often startled by how horrid the quality is when I view mass-marketed early DVDs (using my Blu-ray player) for the first time after watching HD content. Often times, the image can't even be blown up big enough for my HD TV without major quality issues.

This is because the quality of a DVD or Tape is generally extremely low (compared to film or Blu-ray), so when they market the Blu-ray as being "HD" they're implying that the source for the content was a high-quality print of the film rather than a low-def burn from a DVD print... but this is only possible if such a high-quality copy of the original film even exists. Due to film's limited life span, many older films aren't available to be duplicated to HD media without going through major reconstruction efforts.

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