19 Oct 2016

8K is not the future of TV. We think 21:9 Ultra Widescreen is instead. Here's why...

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The shape of things to come? The shape of things to come? Samsung/RedShark


RedShark Replay: Here's another chance to read our argument that wider screens would be better than 8K. Screens are getting wider: wider than widescreen. And this is a good thing

The next logical thing after 4K is 8K, or so we're told. But I think there's a better alternative, that will give a nicer visual experience, and which doesn't need the almost impossibly high bandwidth demanded by 8K. The idea is for wider than widescreen TV. Sounds impractical? Not at all. If it's implemented properly, everyone should be happy.

Here's how it could happen, starting with some background, and the story of how it even happened before.

Why not round?

If you didn’t know any better, you might be tempted to say that the best shape for a screen is completely round. For a start, your eyes are round: just look at your pupils. Camera lenses are round too, as are the images they produce. Very little in nature is square or rectangular, but plenty of things are naturally circular, or very nearly so.

But, quite obviously, based on the direction that video and film have taken so far in their short histories, this is not the correct answer.

You could be forgiven for thinking otherwise, though, in the early days of television. The first sets had screens that were very nearly circular. At the very least, they had extremely rounded edges. But this was probably more due to factors involved in Cathode Ray Tube  manufacturing than anything else. Much later in the story of the CRT, we would see “Flatter, Squarer Tubes”, as if the technology was at last reaching the shape it was always intended to be.  Now that we have moved beyond CRTs, screens are perfectly rectangular because it wouldn’t make any sense - and it would be difficult - to make them any other shape (triangular screens, anyone?).




Regardless of the shape of our eyes, our natural field of vision is very far from circular. Most of us have two working eyes, in a line horizontally with each other, and we have a very wide field of view. You can test this by holding a finger on each hand in front of your eyes and moving your arms round to the side. It’s quite surprising how far round - almost behind your head - you can still see.

So there is something rather natural about seeing an image on a screen that’s wider than it is tall, but at the same time, there is probably no natural or absolute law that says what the ratio between the horizontal and the vertical hight if the image should be.

Aspect ratio

When we’re talking about screens, there’s more to it than the so-called aspect ratio. There are other factors like the distance we’re sitting from the screen. At one extreme, you have a typical living-room situation where there’s a small screen and everyone’s sitting quite a long way back from it. In these circumstances, the amount of your total field of view taken up by the screen is very small. The opposite scenario is where you’re sitting so close to a very large screen that you can’t see all of it without moving your head. In this case, the shape of the screen hardly matters at all.


IMAX screen - ODEON Swiss Cottage

In between these you might have a big screen that you’re a medium distance from, which doesn’t fully fit your field of vision, but which covers the majority of it if you’re looking forward. This is what it’s like in a conventional modern cinema.

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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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