I saw a post about Cinevision and their 5000 x 2000 pixel depth screen (16 megapixles is in development). Their focus is obviously on the theater market to begin with, but it would appear that their efforts are part of an inexorable march towards ever higher resolutions in capture and display technologies. For decades the shift from one level of video quality to another has been agonizingly slow. But the shift to an all-digital video supply chain is going to unleash forces that will drive video display resolutions to dizzying heights very quickly. Four major limitations have kept this growth in check, but each is about to fall away in a very short period of time.
The first limitation has been the difficulty in upgrading production equipment. Cameras and video editing equipment could only handle certain resolutions and upgrading this equipment has been enormously costly. But as storage prices and digital camera prices drop precipitously, these economic factors are becoming far more manageable, even for the amateur. Just look at digital camera megapixel counts; they continue their steep climb long after most assumed that optimal resolutions had been reached.
The second limitation has been in the horsepower of the editing and production equipment. But again, storage and processing power is dropping rapidly enough that within a few years, a very high-end video editing suite will cost under $1,000. Additionally, multi-core processors that can devote significant resources to multimedia rendering will drive massive improvements in computational efficiency.
The third limitation has been the inability to move these large files around. Limitations on storage capacity within portable media formats have set natural boundaries on the resolution of video. DVD and now HD-DVD/Blu-Ray have been logical steps forward, but it will be IP and portable HDD delivery technologies that finally begin to eliminate these boundaries entirely.
The last limitation has been displays. Existing LCD and Plasma technology provides pretty strict limits of overall resolution with current manufacturing techniques. But as OLED and other more exotic display technologies emerge, screen resolutions will explode as prices plummet. Given the state of these technologies it would appear that within a decade, purchasing multi-meter sheets of ultra-high resolution displays will begin to become affordable reality.
I have this argument with Jason all the time. He believes that resolution is nearing a point of being ‘good enough.’ He actually didn’t see why HD would be that big a deal given the relatively small improvement over existing SD screens until he began regularly watching shows in HD. But HD is still heavily limited by legacy production, distribution, and display technology. As each of these limitations falls, expect resolutions to grow rapidly. It might take 10-15 years, but 100 megapixel movies are coming and they will provide a viewing experience that will rival reality.