Feeds

The future of cinema and TV: It’s game over for the hi-res hype

All you've ever been told sold about moving pictures is wrong

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The eyes have it

The interpolator has to identify the boundaries of each moving object and move it the right distance so that it stays on the optic flow axis and looks good to the tracking eye. Exactly the same process has to be performed in a TV set that increases the display rate to avoid flicker.

By definition, the least motion of an object occurs with respect to the optic flow axis. If you are trying to build a compressor, the least motion translates to the smallest differences between successive pictures, leading to the smallest bit rate to describe motion. So MPEG coders send vectors to tell the decoder how much to shift parts of a picture to make it more similar to another picture.

Sony X9 4K KD-55X9005A UHDTV

Sony X9 4K KD-55X9005A: enjoy UHDTV just so long as the frog doesn't move

Distilling all this knowledge down into what to do for the future is simpler than might be thought. Every photographer knows that you need a short shutter time to freeze a moving object without blurring it, but if you try it in moving images, short shutter times just make the strobing more obvious. So in practice we need to increase the frame rate to make the strobing less visible and then we can use short shutter times to improve dynamic resolution. In the cinema, higher frame rates would allow projection without the multiple flashing that damages resolution.

Interestingly, because the dynamic resolution of traditional moving images is so poor, the static resolution due to the pixel count is never obtained. This suggests that raising the frame rate can be accompanied by a reduction in the number of pixels in each image not just without any visible loss, but with a perceived improvement in resolution.

Half measures?

For example, if we reduced the static resolution of digital cinema to 70 per cent of what it presently is, nobody would notice because the loss is drowned in the blur due to poor motion portrayal and other losses. However, digital images are two dimensional, so the pixel count per frame would be 70 per cent of 70 per cent, which is near enough 50 per cent. Thus doubling the frame rate can be achieved with no higher data rate. All we are doing is using the data rate more intelligently. Half as many pixels per frame, twice as often, will give an obvious improvement.

There are some signs that the film and TV industries are waking up to this modern understanding of moving pictures. Some movies are being shot at raised frame rates, generally to audience approval. But the full potential is not being reached. Where movies are shot at 48fps, the shutter time may deliberately be kept long so that a 24fps version can be released by discarding every other frame. If the short shutter times that 48fps allows were used, the 24fps version would strobe.

Early work on a replacement for HDTV, called UHDTV, is considering 100 or 120 fps. But the static resolution fixation is still there. There is talk of broadcasting 4000 pixels across the screen at only 50/60Hz, which has to be the dumbest format ever. The abysmal dynamic resolution will restrict us to gardening programmes showing plant growth and the new sport of snail racing. ®

John Watkinson is an international consultant on digital imaging and the author of numerous books regarded as industry bibles.

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Will.i.am gets CUFFED as he announces his new wristjob, the PULS
It's got four KILOWATTS of something, apparently
Don't wait for that big iPad, order a NEXUS 9 instead, industry little bird says
Google said to debut next big slab, Android L ahead of Apple event
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
A drone of one's own: Reg buyers' guide for UAV fanciers
Hardware: Check. Software: Huh? Licence: Licence...?
Jaguar Sportbrake: The chicken tikka masala of van-sized posh cars
Indian-owned Jag's latest offering curries favour with us
iPhone 6 shunned by fanbois in Apple's GREAT FAIL of CHINA
Just 100 Beijing fanbois queue to pick up new mobe
The Apple launch AS IT HAPPENED: Totally SERIOUS coverage, not for haters
Fandroids, Windows Phone fringe-oids – you wouldn't understand
Here's your chance to buy an ancient, working APPLE ONE
Warning: Likely to cost a lot even for a Mac
Is living with Dolby Atmos worth the faff?
Subtle, naturalistic ambiance – perfect for Transformers 4
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.