05 Dec 2013

Video without Pixels - the debate

  • Written by 
Video without pixels Video without pixels Celia Hill/RedShark


 At the beginning of December, we published this, highly speculative, article, about how pixels might eventually be replaced by something better. When? Quite possibly before 8K becomes the norm. It made quite a stir on the internet, bringing record traffic to RedShark. Here's our follow-up to some of the questions raised

The article attracted a lot of readers, but, after a few hours, the numbers shot up rapidly. Someone had posted a link to the article on Reddit. This prompted a massive flow of new visitors to RedShark. We had our biggest day ever.

If you haven't heard of  Reddit (and the world is divided between those who have and those who haven't) it's a place where people post links to their favourite articles, and readers upvote or downvote them in real time. It's a very good way to see what's creating a buzz on the internet.

There's a busy comments system as well. In fact, Reddit very largely is the comments, with long and meandering threads quite often containing absolute gems of wisdom and a fair dose of abuse as well.

If you want to have a look at the original thread, it's here. But meanwhile, I've taken some of the more interesting posts and replied to them here. They weren't all positive! 

(Reddit questions in Blue, our answers in Black)

He's only talking about abolishing pixels in codecs. It's a bad title, I agree. I was expecting something about vector-based displays, honestly.

Yes, I was only talking about codecs here, but it follows that sensor and display technology should be considered as well. It's not obvious how this could be done but as computer power continues to increase exponentially (through parallelism mainly - i.e. multi-processors) other techniques which might have seemed impossible will suddenly come into view.

For example, one Reddit commenter suggested Neural Nets. After all, this is essentially how we make sense of the world, so why shouldn't a camera?

The sheer number of vectors you'd have to have to recreate a reasonably detailed image would have to be immense. And it seems unlikely that they'd be substantially smaller than video we have now.

Also, would it not require all-new sensors in digital video cameras? Because current hardware is all made with raster video in mind. That would be ridiculously expensive to replace the equipment, if it was even possible to make "vector sensors" for cameras.

Actually, the number of vectors you'd need doesn't really matter - although there will be real-world restrictions on the ultimate number. This was never exclusively an exercise to reduce bandwidth - but that would sometimes occur. Instead, it's an attempt to break away from the restrictions that pixels place on us when we try to represent the world. On the other hand, pixels give us great freedom too, because, without having to think too hard about it, we can digitise and reproduce virtually anything with relative ease (except for certain types of pullovers).

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David Shapton

David is the Editor In Chief of RedShark Publications. He's been a professional columnist and author since 1998, when he started writing for the European Music Technology magazine Sound on Sound. David has worked with professional digital audio and video for the last 25 years.

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