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What is an Upconverting DVD Player?

By Darlene Goodman
Updated May 16, 2024
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An upconverting DVD player is a digital video disc (DVD) player that changes the image resolution of a basic DVD into high definition. This conversion is typically accomplished by a video-processing computer chip. The processor creates more lines of pixels in the image in order to increase the picture’s overall resolution.

For the most part, the greater the resolution, the sharper the picture quality becomes. This is due to the fact that more visual information can be projected, which may increase the level of detail in the image. An upconverting DVD player typically uses a computerized algorithm to increase the resolution of basic DVD video and, in theory, increases the quality of the image.

The increased resolution provided by an upconverting DVD player may not always increase picture quality, however. Pixels are usually copied and added to the base image in order to increase the overall number on screen. As a result, the picture quality may not grow sharper with upconversion, but may in fact become blurry, especially on larger screens.

In standard DVD output, the basic or native resolution is typically called 480i or 480p. The number refers to how many horizontal lines of pixels are displayed on the screen. For standard DVDs, the image is usually 720 pixels wide and 480 high.

The native resolution for many high definition screens is either 720i/p or 1080i/p. Most of these projections are fixed in the number of pixels they have, so a normal 480i/p DVD needs some form of scaling to fit the greater number of pixels on screen. An upconverting DVD player may provide this scaling by using the video processor chip to add lines of pixels into the image. Many high definition televisions have upconversion capabilities.

An image produced by an upconverting DVD player typically needs to be transferred to a monitor or television (TV) using a digital video cable, such as a DVI-D or HDMI cord. The DVI-D cable transmits digital video only, while HDMI works with both audio and video. The upconverted image generally cannot be sent to the TV through an analog cable.

The lowercase letters of i and p in a resolution, such as 480i, refer to how the image is projected by the television, pixel by pixel. The 'i' stands for interlacing, which means that the pixels are projected back and forth on alternate lines that lace together. The 'p' refers to progressive scan, where the projection paints one line of pixels at a time in a continuous loop. These projections occur so quickly, the human eye cannot usually detect them.

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