Viewfinder: What's Next?

As a child, we had only black and white television. The arrival of color TV was a big deal. NBC was the major force behind promoting it because NBC also owned the only company making color TVs. The other networks (CBS and ABC) were reluctant to support color broadcasts until 1965 when NBC broadcast its prime-time schedule almost entirely in color. Fast forward to today and widescreen HDTVs are abundant and the market has accepted the modern video display.

We all know that technology doesn’t stand still for too long and many are curious about the next generation of video display. Japan’s national public broadcasting organization (NHK) is promoting Super Hi-Vision (SHV) which is 16 times the resolution of HDTV.

These transitions to higher quality video displays are never quick or easy. The world’s leading major brand companies compete and invest enormous amounts of money, hoping that the market will embrace their proposed video display standard. The transition to our next standard has started in, of all places, the movie theater with the use of digital technology to distribute and project motion pictures, referred to as digital cinema. Many theaters around the country are now using digital projection for digital cinema. Most of you know that, in 2006 the RED One was released as the first commercially available digital cinema camera. The EPIC hit the market in early 2011 and the Sony CineAlta F65 appeared around the same time.

I believe that we can expect the next transition to higher quality video to be even more challenging than it has been in the past because of likely shorter and shorter intervals between these technological advances. The move from black and white TV to color took place during an interval of 45 years. The move from color TV to HDTV was about 40 years. The transition from HDTV to a higher resolution is being pushed to occur more quickly because the interval of the affordability of the technology could be as little as 10 years.

I am also curious about the name of the next format. While Super Hi-Vision is a fine name, that format is not nearly as popular as the format used by the RED One, the RED Epic, the Sony CineAlta F65 or two new camcorders that appeared last fall; the RED Scarlet-X and the Canon Cinema EOS C300. See Beyond HD: 4K Resolution.

Each of these cameras shoot in a format called 4K because of its 4,000 pixels of horizontal resolution. What’s odd to me is that the name of this new format is descriptive for an engineer but not for a customer. The names for previous formats were more obvious. Black and white TV was simply called “TV”. The terms Color TV and High Definition TV are easy to understand for a layperson. In jest, I will close with this thought… I really liked the 1987 movie Spaceballs so I propose that 4K be renamed to LHDTV for Ludicrously High Definition TV.

Matthew York is Videomaker‘s Publisher/Editor.

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