What's the next big video format?

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A coworker recently asked me: "What is the next big format that will hit after 1080p? I'm curious what is on the horizon."

There are a number of ways to answer that question. In terms of factual numbers, 1080p is a "resolution." The next logical larger sizes are 2K and 4K. But those exist already... so the answer switches from fact-based, to opinion-based.

I am a video tweak head, so I am always interested in the next video format that can squeeze in one more pixel of resolution. But I realize that I am in the minority, at least as far as a business case goes for an entire industry to adopt a format. Moving from standard definition video to HD (specifically 1080p) was a no brainer. There are clearly visable advantages in clarity and overall viewing experience. But if you look at what is next in terms of higher resolution, we run into a wall.

The wall is the ability for the human eye to see the detail that the device is displaying. Here is an interesting article on the science behind what the human eye can see. It basically says that there is almost no visable difference even between 720p and 1080p when watching a 50" screen from 8 feet away, which is the average viewing distance in the average home. Therefore, in order to need more detail than what 1080p can provide, you would either need to sit closer than 8 feet, or need a screen larger than 100". Video is mostly consumed on a TV, or online. As far as online video publishing is concerned, most online video is downres'd from 1080. So higher res will not get a push from online video management either.

My coworker also asked what the next "big" format would be. If you define "big" as something that will change the entire industry, including aquisition, editing, display, and broadcasting, I don't think 2K or 4K will be the next "big" format. There isn't enough of an advantage for large groups of consumers to make a switch.

I really think that the next "big" format change will be something regarding 3D. Something that does not require wearing nerdy glasses. We will also have to keep a close watch to see how it affects digital asset managment tools.


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