The native hue of resolution

At last I've gone High Definition: sold the standard-definition 32 inch plasma TV, and bought the latest Sony 40 inch LCD High-Definition set, with the full resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels; together with a Blu-Ray player (now that DVD-HD has gone the way of Betamax and the 8-track cassette).

HD on Blu-Ray discs is a revelation - Planet Earth looks quite stunning, Blade Runner has a remarkable crispness and depth, and The Searchers, being taken from the original VistaVision source, looks sharper than it ever did in the 35mm release prints.

Eventually I should like a Sky HD box, which can record HD satellite transmissions, but not until they've sorted out the insufficient disk space and the general bugginess of the current model (particularly as the principal forum suggests a widespread problem with failing power supplies).

Importantly, on the whole the set handles good-quality Standard Definition broadcasts extremely well - very little line structure showing, and though obviously not as sharply defined as proper HD certainly extremely watchable. Mostly I watch films, and with a screen now simulating the size of screen in a cinema (in terms of angle of view at the eye) the impact and perspective of cinema films snaps into place: The Big Trail, which I mentioned in my last post, looks natural in its use of the wide open spaces.

Of course, where the broadcast quality is poor, the set shows it up unmercifully: which highlights the dilemma of modern TV: just as we now have sets capable of this remarkable quality (and, if not cheap, at least moderately affordable), broadcasting executives seem bent on forcing the bitrates, and hence the broadcast quality, down in order to squeeze in more channels. With analogue TV and radio the quality is fixed: with digital TV and radio quality can be traded off against the number of stations which can be fitted into the bandwidth (space) available, so there is constant pressure from executives to reduce the quality to the point where hopefully most people won't notice it too much (and tell those who do that they are being fussy).

The title of this post is a quote from Hamlet - of course by 'resolution' he meant 'determination' rather than picture quality: in his case the determination to commit suicide. The determination to drive down quality may spread to HD transmissions yet; given the potential impact of HD, that would be a pity. Hamlet would have had more sense.

Posted: Sat - June 14, 2008 at 08:54 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM