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The Death Of Cinema?

The Death Of Cinema?

By Hayley Birch

For the last year the BBC has been experimenting with high definition TV. Would we watch it? Can people see an improvement from their beloved old TVs? And do we really care? The answer has been a resounding yes.

50 million households around the globe are now staring goggle-eyed at high definition screens. But do we actually know what HD is? And is it going to mean that we’ll all stop going to the cinema? Hayley Birch goes in search of some answers.

Makers of television sets have turned up the tech a notch recently. Any movie theatres currently projecting films digitally are probably using a resolution known as "2K", which amounts to the same resolution as the new breed of digital TVs. Therefore, cinemas are going to have fork out for some new kit if they want to continue to put bums on seats in future.

Write for the Null. It's great experience.

High definition television, as it name implies, offers a much clearer, smoother picture than a standard television with brighter, more natural colours. But HDTV has other benefits as well. They use a superior audio system, so not only can you have cinema-quality pictures at home, but superb surround sound too. And all this comes without having to fork out half a month’s wages on a tiny tub of sub-standard popcorn.

So what can the cinemas do about this new threat? Well, 2K looks good in your living room, but 4K, which confusingly is four times the resolution of 2K, is the new gold standard in the industry. The resolution of your average HDTV is around 1920 x 1080 pixels. So a 2K HD picture has over two million pixels in total, whereas 4K images, at 3996 × 2160, have over eight million.

Comparison of a high definition HD tv picture and a standard television picture.  The image is much clearer and smoother for the hd image
A comparison of a high definition (HD) picture on the left and a standard television picture.  The image is much clearer and smoother for the HD version.  Image: W

To put that in perspective, if you’re old enough to remember when Space Invaders was a cutting edge computer game (and a classy corn snack), you would have been blasting aliens on a screen that boasted a mighty 270,000 pixels.

Most cinemas, however, still project movies from film and, in fact, film projection is widely thought of as still being superior to digital projection in terms of image quality, which means the old fashioned notion of the film reel whirring round lives on. Not for long, however.

The advent of 4K has thrown a spanner in the works for traditionalists. Although there is still some weight behind the argument that 35mm film captures more detail than even the newest digital cameras, the only way to display this kind of detail on screen may be to scan it and project it in 4K.

Personally, I’m a traditionalist. Anyone for Chuckie Egg?

More of Hayley's articles can be found on her homepage.  They're really quite good.

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16 Oct 2009
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