Are blu-ray discs brighter than normal?

I know this is going to sound crazy, but…

I’m watching BDs on a full HD LCD monitor on a PC using PowerDVD 10. On BDs only, the blacks are clearly a dark grey rather than a true black. Bright scenes look fine, but dark scenes, or scenes with shadows, look washed-out.

This is not my imagination. If I’m playing a movie with the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the black bars are clearly not black. Put it in a window that is, say, 4:3, and you can see where the true black of the video display is vs. where the “black” bars on the video start.

I’ve turned-off all of PowerDVD’s video “enhancements”. I’ve got the latest version of PowerDVD and my video drivers (ATI Radeon HD 5600). I’m stumped. All I can conclude is that it’s the video on the discs themselves.

What’s going on here?

I can’t think of any reason why there would be such an effect that would be universal to all manufacturers. My personal guess would be that the BluRay decoder that you’re using has this trait. Tried on a different machine or with a different program, the result might be different.

Can someone recommend some free/trial Blu-ray playback software for Windows 7?

WinDVD Pro 2010 requires purchase for Blu-ray playback, and I don’t want to pay money just to test a theory…

Digital videos have traditionally been encoded with a luminance range of 16-235 (tv levels) while PCs have always show a range of 0-255 (pc levels).

A decent player should give you the option to manually correct for this if needed. It’s also possible that your video drivers or a setting with your video drivers may affect this depending on the player.

My preferred video player of choice is MPC-HC (free):
http://mpc-hc.sourceforge.net/

So I need to “decompress” the luminance through the software, right?

Haha! MPC-HC works perfectly! Thanks!

Except… no audio.