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

Digital video guru and author of The MPEG Handbook, John Watkinson, examines the next generation of TV and film and reveals it shouldn't be anything like what we're being sold today. The next time you watch TV or go to the movies, bear in mind that you are not actually going to see any moving pictures at all. The movement is an …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Generally I've been in favour of this for a long time. Upping the frame rate rather than paying attention to resolution that is.

    Going to HDTV made a lot of sense, even with my poor eyesight I could see the pixels, but UHDTV seems a little excessive for little gain. I'd much rather see an increase in framerate than an increase in resolution. Heck that was all the buzz for a short while, you had a number of TVs outputting 300fps or higher using the same double frame methods used in movies. If we could see a push for higher framerates backed by a large industry body, and mirrored by hollywood it'd probably be far better for us than the current increase in resolution.

    in conclusion 120fps > uhdtv

    1. Test Man
      Thumb Up

      The thing is, technically of course upping the frame rate would make the picture much much better in comparison to upping the pixel count, but would the masses accept it?

      We've already seen things where technically the better solution is generally rejected, even as recent as the Xbox One digital sharing feature that, amongst others, was dropped. There's also some detractors that don't like the look of the 48fps The Hobbit film.

      So I'm not sure if people are ready to accept a 120fps UHDTV film, for example. Still, it might make live broadcasts look much more vivid. And maybe might make those silly 100Hz interpolate feature that are on some current HDTVs obsolete (hate them - picture always looks naff and it ruins "the feel" of footage that is filmed on film).

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        I haven't seen The Hobbit at 48 fps, but I have noticed strobing in the cinema in most of the big action 'event' movies of the last ten years... especially in big action tracking shots, such as in Star Wars III.

        Ridley Scott seemed to have embraced the strobing in the opening battle scene of Gladiator, to give the viewer an impression of how the participants in the battle might feel disorientated.

        Good article.

        1. bonkers
          Thumb Up


          The article makes a good case for higher framerates and I agree totally. However we already have a solution that will halve the pixel count and double the framerate - its our old friend interlacing - a 1080i (note i not p) screen is what we need, within the existing frameworks, then move to higher non-interlaced framerates.

          Interlacing is a really good method, only if the frames are shot at 48/50/60fps, like with a video camera - its rubbish if the source is 24fps film since the second field is simply delivered late. Interlacing with say 2 x 540 line (1080i) conveniently bridges the dilemna of motion and detail since on static shots its indistinguishable from 1080p.

          It is justifiably unpopular in the codec world because you don't know if the two fields are part of a single exposed image or if they are two exposures, there is no easy way to benefit from the second field - shot at a different time - when trying to convert from i to p. . Also converting 1080p to 1080i looks blurry and is a waste of time since the temporal information is missing.

          1. bonkers

            Re: interlacing

            Downvoted twice - any reason?

            I can't see why, its a balanced presentation of the case for and against interlacing. Interlacing is an easy existing method of increasing framerate at the expense of "specmanship" resolution, but there are issues with exactly what information it holds that make it difficult to know how best to upscale or interpolate the video.

            1. Jim 59

              Re: interlacing

              Oh dear. It looks like we have a rampant down-voter in here Many folks have been downvoted for no reason, eg Tastman, Bonkers, me, Dave 126, karlp and several ACs so far. It seems that if you mention a number in your post, the troll will down vote you that many times. Funny, huh?

              El Reg forums have hosted high quality discussion and comment over the years, and have become almost as amusing and informative as the magazine itself. I hope it doesn't fall to the trolls. It could end up like Youtube comments, which so bad most comments are nsfw.

              1. .stu
                Thumb Down

                Re: interlacing

                I downvoted you because you are making too much of a fuss about it.

          2. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: interlacing

            There's a BIG problem with interlacing today that becomes apparent with high degrees of motion: tearing. Basically, if the motion is too, when the interlaced picture is reconstituted, we can actually perceive the different fields.

            It's for this reason some networks in the US broadcast sports (infamous for high amounts of motion) in 720p instead of 1080i.

          3. ridley

            Re: interlacing

            One problem with interlaced is when a moving image is displayed on a large screen the difference between the images becomes visible as a herringbone pattern around the edges of the moving object.

        2. Jim 59

          The above comment was down voted why ?

          Why was Dave 126 down voted there ? Somebody having a bad day?

          1. Rampant Spaniel

            oh joy so we have to shoot 1/240 instead of 1/48 :-) Less need for nd's but will hurt in low light.

          2. Jim 59

            Re: The above comment was down voted why ?

            Phantom down-voter got to my post within 12 minutes. Impressive. Timing this one...

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward



          That's why he got a downvote from me.

          1. Tubs

            Re: "disorientated"


            Disorientated is currently correct in English.

            Disoriented is the American English variant.

            However, when the soon-to-be Americans left our soil for lands free of imposed religion, we - in old English - also used the word "disoriented". It is us, the English, that are at odds for changing the word when the Americans retained the original.

            I blame the French!

            1. Steve I

              Re: "disorientated"

              Unless you're Asian, then it's "Disorientaled"...

            2. Uffish

              Re: "disorientated"

              Kudos for your erudition. I just checked the online version of Johnson's dictionary - he has "disorientated" so it's good enough for me.

          2. Robert Baker

            Re: "disorientated"

            What's wrong with disorientateteted?

            Seriously, "disorientated" means that you've lost your orientation; "disoriented" means that you've gone off Chinese food, or no longer support Leyton Orient FC.

            Still, dumb downvotes are no strangers to these boards; I've been downvoted for pointing out the (unpopular but true) fact that copyright violation is now a crime, as if voting against this fact will somehow make it false. It won't; piracy is indeed now a crime, and no number of votes against this statement will cause those laws to repeal themselves.

            1. veti Silver badge

              Re: "disorientated"

              To a serious pedant, 'disorientate' means 'to turn away from the east'. To lose one's sense of relative position or direction would be 'disorient'.

              However, you need to be a real, table-chewing-level pedant to actually care about that. 'Disorientate' has been sanctioned by over 200 years of usage and, I think, every serious dictionary. The only reason to continue to hate it at this point is if you're the kind of person who gets really, really worked up about redundant syllables, and in that case "utilise" would be a much better target for automatic downvoting (it's "use", dammit).

      2. Greg J Preece

        We've already seen things where technically the better solution is generally rejected, even as recent as the Xbox One digital sharing feature that, amongst others, was dropped.

        ....and then turned out to apparently not be nearly as nice as MS made it out to be. But I'm sure their glorified demo mode was worth it for all the inconveniences it brought.

        No-one rejected digital sharing. They rejected the excessive bullshit the console heaped on the consumer, and when they did, MS threw a tantrum and took digital sharing away as punishment. There is literally no reason at all why they couldn't have both.

        1. karlp

          ...... and you turned out to be wrong in your correction.

          The digital sharing thing wasn't what some people made it out to be, but it was very cool, and was not, to be clear, a demo of any type.

          While MS didn't respond as some may have hoped, the reality is that this topic is complicated and involves both technical and human (read: Contracts and agreements) angles.

          While not perfect, MS seemed to have the best concept of a digital ecosystem I have yet seen. I and my friends preordered multiple consoles because of it. We are still debating whether we want them anymore.

          We desperately hope they bring them back, and have reached out to number of senior MS execs to express that. Hopefully we will see a return at some point in the future, or at very least a better compromise.

          Karl P

      3. JEDIDIAH

        Confused Lemming.

        > We've already seen things where technically the better solution

        You are confusing technical superiority with personal preference.

      4. Daniel B.

        Oh you had to ruin your argument.

        We've already seen things where technically the better solution is generally rejected, even as recent as the Xbox One digital sharing feature that, amongst others, was dropped.

        You had to choose the worst example? We've got x86 vs. RISC, 30/60fps vs. 24fps, full dynamic range audio vs. Dynamic Range Compressed loudness, watching SDTV content in 4:3 vs. "stretch-o-vision" grossness, and you choose the draconian DRM thing as an example?

        There's also some detractors that don't like the look of the 48fps The Hobbit film.

        This is a much better example. I've heard a lot that >24fps movies look too weird to the human eye. Others say they don't like HD because you can see all the imperfections on the actor's skin or whatever. I'd rather have better image/motion resolution, and yes we should be doing real 60fps filming by now!

    2. Naughtyhorse
      Thumb Down


      Are you talking about pixels or compression artifacts, or is your eyesight so bad you need to sit with your nose pressed against the screen?

      Oddly enough the people who invented TV _DID_ think long and hard about human vision, and did investigate it. I think maybe there is a difference between research not being done, and the author not being aware of the research being done - but the system developed in europe {insert your own joke about Never Twice the Same Colour - that was broke straight out of the box} considered cone angles, persistence of vision, typical eye acuity and also engineered an analogue standard that worked with 1950's technology and lasted for kinda 50 years, and was flexible enough to accommodate Colour, Nicam stereo, teletext and macrovision, hell even SMPSUs without ANY revision to existing equipment. (of course existing equipment could _use_ colour, nicam etc etc)

      that said I do agree with the basic principle of 'enough with all the dots already, can't you make the ones we have move smoother' although i had tended to ascribe this the the smoke and mirrors stunt pulled with variations on the theme of delta compression algorithms all going tits up when every frame is significantly different from the last.

      PS you are aware that a light flickering at 50 Hz appears, to almost everyone, as a constant unvarying light. so a 120Hz(p) screen starts to sound a lot like monster cables bullshit. Bigger number so it must be better.... now where have I heard that recently?

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: orly

        But a lightbulb IS a constant stream of light, it isnt being chopped 50 times per second, it is merely powered by oscillating since wave 50 times a second. If it was a digital light switching on and off 50 times a second (shuttered rather than refreshed) with no lag you would probably notice something.

        Cinefilm was exactly that, presentations of shuttered stills relying on your eye to maintain the previous scene.

        1. h3

          Re: orly

          Now interestingly when it comes to lightbulbs the new energy efficient ones give my migraines. But the old tungsten ones didn't at all. (I have tested it as well as I can). I think the light is different. (I am somewhat al-right if they are covered but if they are not I get migraines.)

          1. Robert Forsyth

            Re: orly

            Tungsten bulbs still vary in intensity, but they do not go completely dark.

            Florescent tubes flicker in your side vision, but stop flickering when you look directly at them.

            Tungsten's spectrum is smooth from red to blue, whereas others tend to have gaps and be more blue.

            In the eye, the quick acting rods are more sensitive to yellow.

            1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

              Re: orly

              Just to add to the flickering (light) topic here... human eyes have considerably more movement sensors on the periphery than in the centre, interesting balanced by having almost no colour sensors in the periphery where we see in monochrome and the brain fills in the detail with what it remembers (or guesses from experience).

              As a result, many household bulbs don't flicker when looked at directly but look (!) at them from the corner of your eye and you'll see the flicker. This flicker can also be seen when the light is reflecting off a surface. It's one of the (many) causes behind offices fitted with fluorescent bulbs giving staff headaches.Interestingly the flicker is also one of the reason that these bulbs often come in pairs (or more) as gives not only gives fail-over in the event of tube failure but reduces the impact of the flicker through it being masked by neighbouring tubes.

              Incandescent bulbs also flicker due to the power supply frequency but the effect is negligible as they operate by heating an element and this element does not cool enough between cycles for the flicker to be noticeable. However you can make it so you can see the flicker if you use a high output bulb and reduce the output to minimal using a dimmer switch.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. Matthew 3

          Re: orly

          If you'd like to see the effect of alternating current on a filament bulb take a look at The Slow Mo guys' video. Well worth a look.

        4. Naughtyhorse

          Re: orly

          fluorescent isnt constant

          and NO you wouldn't notice something (in fact you don't notice something... much thats part of why fluorescent light is unpleasant), which is kinda why I said as much.

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: orly

          A lightbulb powered at 50 Hz actually flickers at 100 Hz because the polarity of the voltage does not matter, try to put a diode in series with the bulb and you see flickering at 50 Hz.

          The 100 Hz flicker from a 60W ligthbulb is about 8% so it is close to a constant source of light.

      2. Vic

        Re: orly

        > a light flickering at 50 Hz appears, to almost everyone, as a constant unvarying light

        That depends on how you look at it.

        Human vision is essentially made up of two parts - the high-resolution, full colour bit in the centre of yuor vision (the "foveal view"), and the low-resolution, monochrome bit[1] that surrounds it.

        The monochrome sensors are *much* more sensitive and *much* faster to react; they may well see a 50Hz[2] LED as flickering, but once you turn your eyeballs to look at the light, you will see it as steady...


        [1] Most of what you can currently see is actually viewed in monochrome, with your eyes & brain filling in the colour. There's an excellent party trick you can show people - get someone to look straight ahead, and slowly bring into their view a white card with a vivid red dot on it. Ask them not to look at the card, but to tell you what colour the dot is. It's black. As you move the card towards the centre of your subject's vision, the dot will suddenly change to red - and you can then back it out along the same path and it remains red.

        [2] I can't remember the cutoff frequencies, but a 50Hz TV will flicker visibly when you're not looking at it, and stabilise when you do. I sometimes wonder if that means that content on 50Hz broadcasts needs to be more enthralling, so that you never look away :-)

  2. Pete 2 Silver badge

    It's not what you see that counts

    > ever higher pixel counts, an approach that disregards how we actually see moving images

    ... it's what you can sell.

    Let's face it, while some people sit close enough to their screens to make high definition worthwhile, most don't. Just like most people don't watch TV or media players in a perfectly darkened room, so specifications for contrast ratios are irrelevant. Likewise for pretty much any other specification-led consumer product: cars, hi fi, computers, cameras, phone and the list goes on.

    The problem is that you can't say or show yer average consumer a "better" product and just have them see/hear/smell/taste/feel that it's better. If you're lucky they might just recognise that it's different, though since change is often unwelcome or even plain bad <cough>3D</cough>, that's a double edged sword.

    No, it's far better to bamboozle them with figures - occasionally even relevant figures - of real or imagined origin to "prove" that your product is better than the other guy's/ Luckily scienec and technology education is so mind-numbingly bad that only a tiny fraction of the population has any chance of knowing what a specification means and almost nobody, anywhere, ever (though I did work for an electronics company a long time ago -one of the engineers took his stereo amp back to the shop after running bench tests with our mil-spec test gear) has any chance of validating those specifications.

    Although tech-specs aren't the only way of persuading the public. While some credulous techies might be taken in by the babble that accompanies them - and is often promoted by magazines and articles in their reviews - most people just get hostile when confronted by pages of meaningless numbers. For them the solution is just to wrap up the goodies in an attractive enclosure - or failing that, a shiny cardboard box will do.

    1. Anonymous Coward 101

      Re: It's not what you see that counts

      "... it's what you can sell."

      See the drivel in Hi-Fi magazines for examples.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's not what you see that counts

        Not to single out Monster Cables, but I'd like to single out Monster Cables.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It's not what you see that counts

          "Not to single out Monster Cables, but I'd like to single out Monster Cables."

          You know you really want some oxygen free gold hyper core mark 2, special edition with sheathing of pure unicorn intestine.

          1. Rampant Spaniel

            Unicorn intestine sheathing? Thats so last month, you need the pixie love juice version with sheathing woven from gandalfs shower plug hair. Still cheaper per gram than HP ink. Then again it's cheaper per gram to take water into space than make ink apparently.

            1. Irongut

              Oh I really need one of those cables to connect an iPod to one of those vibrates the table speakers the MTV flog.

              It'll sound just... awful as always.

          2. Donald Becker

            Re: It's not what you see that counts

            Make certain that it's transparent unicorn intestine, so that you get a magnified view of the stranded wire within. Of course it has to be a prime number of strands, to avoid generating harmonics that muddy the width and height of field.

        2. Darryl

          Re: It's not what you see that counts

          And, the A/V world's equivalent - Monster HDMI Cables.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It's not what you see that counts

            My favourite is gold plated TOS (optical) connectors.

            1. Montreal Sean

              Re: It's not what you see that counts

              But but the gold TOS-link connectors are so shiny!

            2. Squander Two


              I think everyone I know is now quite bored with my ranting about using analogue tech on digital systems. People stream some audio from a server in the US but think the conductive quality of the two or three metres of cable in their own house matters.

              1. Rampant Spaniel

                Re: Gold.

                I don't know, it sounds more like your wife wouldn't let you buy the expensive cables ;-)

                As for UHDTV, having seen real 4k (and uhdtv shouldn't me much different from 4k) now side by side with 1080p on decent monitors I'm convinced enough to lay out the cash for a monitor. As for a uhdtv tv, I'm waiting to see how the content delivery turns out. ymmv and thats fine :-) We all only have to justify it to ourselves (and our wives). A higher frame rate and higher res would be nice, and any bump in monitor res is very much welcomed by this tog!

              2. Vic

                Re: Gold.

                > but think the conductive quality of the two or three metres of cable in their own house matters.

                For home kit, you're absolutely right.

                For professional kit, it's a little different - if you're setting up a PA, it needs to work. The couple of quid extra you pay for gold-flashed connectors is nothing compared to the hussle of having a dodgy lead in a live show. Think of it as insurance :-)


                1. Naughtyhorse

                  Re: Gold.

                  Ill call bollocks on that!

                  almost never known a lead to go because of shitty contact between the plug and socket. it's always a break in the wire. Save your money, buy decent robust looking connectors... and blow it all on a soldering iron and a decent pair of box jointed side cutters :-)

                  1. Vic

                    Re: Gold.

                    > it's always a break in the wire.

                    Not when you're plugging / unplugging every night, it isn't. Connectors are important.


            3. SteveK

              Re: It's not what you see that counts

              "My favourite is gold plated TOS (optical) connectors."

              I thought you were joking.

              I *hoped* you were joking.

              I now see you weren't.

              I feel unclean.

            4. Steve I

              Gold plated TOS (optical) connectors.

              Please tell me you made those up...

              1. Steve I

                Re: Gold plated TOS (optical) connectors.

                "Please tell me you made those up..."

                Dear god, you didn't...


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