You've probably heard about progressive scan DVD players, but you may not know what exactly they are or why they seem to be the hot item that people want these days. To understand why this is the case, first you need to learn about the different technology that progressive scan DVD players provide. And then you'll need to realize that at the moment, only those who have invested in HDTV or other high performance display screens or projectors will be able to take advantage of the difference.
To start with, let's review the way that traditional motion pictures are created. In fact, the term 'motion picture' is rather misleading because no pictures actually move. Instead, still pictures, also called frames, are played in rapid succession so that the resulting display is changing so quickly and in such small amounts at a time that we perceive it as moving. You may have recreated this illusion in school or on your own by drawing stick figures or other pictures on a stack of paper, then flipped through the paper quickly. The figures looked like they were moving rather jerkily. But if you took the time to draw enough frames and move them quickly enough, you would see much smoother motion, like in cartoons.
Television is recorded in the same type of frames. Then it's broken down to be transmitted in a signal. When the signal is received by your television, it is reassembled in sections, or stripes. These stripes are reassembled in two different sets, from top to bottom and left to right across your television screen. To explain this concept more clearly, imagine window blinds that are partly open. The actual blind pieces are one set of stripes and the space between the stripes represents the second half of stripes. In a TV transmission, the stripes of set one are laid in before the second set is laid in. This is called an interlaced display. Although it sounds like it would take some time, all of this happens in the fraction of a second - 60 of the fields or stripes are displayed per second.
DVD players and DVDs have used this same technology because of the fact that TVs displayed pictures this way. But with the advent of digital and high definition television projectors, display technology has changed, leading the way for DVD technology to change as well. These high performance TVs and projector screens receive and display signals in full progressive frames instead of stripes. And 60 full frames are displayed per second. Meaning even more detail can be included in the same amount of time, resulting in pictures with less flicker or picture distortions. Progressive scan DVD players work by sending DVD signals in the same progressive format.
However, progressive scan DVD players only make a difference if they have both the source material that can be scanned into progressive signals and the display screen that can receive progressive signals. Older DVDs were most likely not recorded with progressive signals. Newer ones will have the capability, though. But as mentioned before, you have to have a television that can receive progressive signals. HDTV televisions can, and so can CRT or LCD monitors.
If you have the right kind of television, a progressive scan DVD player, and a DVD that was produced in the last 5 years or so, you can test to see if you can tell an improvement. Just switch the DVD playing setup from progressive to normal as you watch the film. Look at the outline of things, and the details of the background elements. You may just experience home video with a clarity and sharpness like never before.