Is HD a Schlimmbesserung?

At least for action movies, movies in HD is a step backwards in the viewing experience.

Schlimmbesserung is a handy German word for an ‘improvement’ that makes things worse, that is actually a step backwards–applicable, I think, to at least certain aspects of HD television.

I first truly experienced HD TV during the most recent Superbowl. Anyone who’s watched sports in HD will know what I’m talking about when I say it quite literally looks like you’re there on the sidelines. An unreserved “thumbs-up”. But my first HD movie experience (watching X-Men III the other day) was quite the opposite.

The actors of course looked more “realistic” but the heightened realism absolutely ruined the illusion. It felt like I was watching a badly-overly-lit, budget documentary. The computer graphics scenes were the worst–it was like all of sudden the technology had gone back twenty years, and I was watching Superman on a blue-screen, as if he had been cut out by a five-year-old using Photoshop’s lasso tool. Okay, maybe not that bad, but I couldn’t stop picturing the characters as just actors in a studio. It was like the “movie” filter had been lifted, with the result that the actors looked realer but everything else looked faker.

Maybe it’s different for movies without extensive simulated explosions, aircraft and weapons. Maybe I’ll find out if I ever watch one of those movies.

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