The last hardware format

Norman Hollyn thinks that the war is over.

Bill Gates said that HDVD and Blu-Ray would be the last hardware formats. Looks like he was almost right. It’ll be DVD. When I got my first DVD player I explained it to my VHS owning friends as a CD for movies. You don’t have to wind through stuff to jump to the bit of the film you want. You can also have different soundtracks if you want to watch a foreign film in English. Also watching a DVD many many times does not damage it.

I never mentioned the picture quality. I didn’t talk about the extras (what few there were in those days). I knew that most people weren’t interested in that. They liked the convenience and the resilience. They knew how to deal with CDs. They’d been through the transition from vinyl.

In the UK, 100% of TVs that are sold have a 16:9 aspect ratio. I would guess that the installed base for 4:3 TVs is down to less than 40%. We don’t associate widescreen TV with HD. It’s just the norm. This happened over six tears ago when the main commercial channels mandated that all commercials should be provided to the network with an aspect ratio of 16:9 with a 14:9 safe area. This meant that people in 4:3 TVs would get a little matting with a 14:9 image on a 4:3 screen. 16:9 TVs would get adverts and programmes where the action and titles were limited to the 14:9 centre of the screen.

We also have a slightly higher resolution in PAL than NTSC. NTSC has more frames per second, so it has slightly smoother motion and less strobing (unless the picture was orginated on film. There’s less demand for HD broadcasting in the UK.

A year or so ago, I was back stage at a conference. I noticed that the majority of the crew were using up the time between video, sound and lighting cues by using their computers to browse YouTube. They needed an unlimited amount of short video clips to fill variable chunks of time. These are the sort of people who buy the latest widescreen TVs. Some have HD cameras. They spent their time watching low-res flash video.

I think they’d agree with me: HD is for aquisition. For consumption, SD is good enough. 1080p24 for production. Eventually 720p for consumption, but not for a while.

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