The future of cinema and TV

The future of cinema and TV: It’s game over for the hi-res hype article claims that all you’ve ever been told sold about moving pictures is wrong. In this article digital video guru John Watkinson (author of The MPEG Handbook) examines the next generation of TV and film and reveals it shouldn’t be anything like what we’re being sold today. The movement of film and video is an illusion and it’s entirely in your own mind. What you see is a series of still pictures that are each held there for a short while before being replaced. Currently, the obsession is for ever higher pixel counts, an approach that disregards how we actually see moving images. If broadcasters have their way, we could be on course for some ridiculous format decisions.

The frame rate has quite a large bearing on the quality of the illusion and the currently used frame rates are far from optimal. The 24fps is used on movie films and television runs at 60 (USA) or 50 (Europe) fields per second. Movies have been short-changing their audiences by showing every frame twice and TV has used similar cost-saving mechanism called interlacing. There’s a whopping and tragic flaw in those approaches which causes a lot loss of perceived resolution when there is movement on the picture. Eye tracking causes interlace to fail in television.

The future of cinema and TV: It’s game over for the hi-res hype article says that most of the grammar of cinematography is about avoiding strobing. By throwing the background out of focus the strobing is diminished. In cinema everything is controlled. In television, there is often little control and no budget for a focus-puller. That is why they have to use higher picture rates. Rates will have to go up in both cinema and television, but the disparity will remain.

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. For example HFR 3D digital movies are shot often at 48 frames per second rate. The 48 framer per second is a very practical frame rate for film industry because the practices learned on 24 frames per second filming will apply there well and the movies can be easily converted to traditional 24 frames per second film distribution when needed.

The future of cinema and TV: It’s game over for the hi-res hype article says that in order to get higher frame rate for digital video you don’t necessarily need more bandwidth: doubling the frame rate can be achieved with no higher data rate when the resolution is dropped. Half as many pixels per frame, twice as often, will give an obvious improvement. Early work on a replacement for HDTV, called UHDTV, is considering 100 or 120 fps, but there is talk of broadcasting 4000 pixels across the screen at only 50/60Hz, which has to be the dumbest format ever. A useful metric for a moving picture is dynamic resolution: the apparent resolution presented to a tracking eye. The present fixation with static resolution leads to completely incorrect decisions being made.


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