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Highest HD spec--1080p--highlights complexity of display choice

Feb 24, 2005 10:55 AM

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For many corporate AV users, and the content creators who support them, the choice among today’s unprecedented array of display tools goes hand in hand with a commitment to a specific level of image resolution.

Increasingly, 1080p video resolution (a progressive-scanned image of 1080 vertical lines) is seen as the final destination in the years-long evolution of digital video and television. “1080p is the highest spec of HD, and eventually people are going to want it,” says Steve Sechrist of Insight Media. People already considering buying systems that support 720p display will often think, “Why not spend a few more dollars and be ready for 1080p when it arrives?” Sechrist says.

1080p may be a logical pausing place for HD technology because it was the highest-quality spec adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in the mid-1990s. But the spec’s universal adoption isn’t necessarily so logical or inevitable, observers say.

For one thing, Sechrist notes, “We have no 1080p content right now. We’ve only begun to have content in 720p and 1080i. People are starting to produce more in 720p, in WXGA (1280x720), and both LCD and plasma displays support that standard.”

Bruce Reid, vice president of event technologies at Mills James Productions, Columbus, Ohio, points out another factor. “Enhanced definition, anything greater than 525 lines, produces an image most of our clients are very happy with,” he says. This image is a higher resolution than the familiar “old” TV picture. “Any time we get into any digital enhanced-definition TV, clients notice, but the move up to 720 or 1080 is less obvious,” Reid says.

One advantage of the higher resolutions, Reid adds, is their ability to look good on larger screens, and often clients see these large screens as a means of creating excitement in events for large audiences. Similarly, he says, some clients have opted for plasma displays in training settings, thanks to the sense of intimacy they deliver to small groups. “A projection system would not deliver this feeling,” he says.

The choice of display product shapes creative strategies from the beginning, says Jessica Piscitelli, producer at Capture Video, Reston, Va. “There is a noticeable difference in screen quality, and that needs to be taken into account from the get-go,” she says. Higher resolution may pay off in screen menus, buttons, and other features that are easier to see and use. Moreover, as higher-quality image reproduction becomes more commonplace, producers may not have to anticipate display problems as they often do today.

“If a video is going to be played on VHS on an old LCD projector,” Piscitelli says, “I will make sure that the image is clear and crisp, but also somewhat saturated, due to the potential for washout.”

Thus, any broad movement to embrace 1080p resolution will also be shaped by considerations of content, end use, compatibility with existing systems, and the capabilities of display devices.

In that context, another old friend is making a comeback. “I wouldn’t write off CRT,” says Sechrist, and indeed the Consumer Electronics Show in January saw displays of several new “tube” TVs in new, thinner cabinets. “The CRT image is still the gold standard,” Sechrist says.

New and improved CRTs will soon join LCD panels, LCD and DLP projection, plasma displays, and other tools to offer a wide choice of tools for displaying the highest quality images yet...when 1080p video finally “arrives.”

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