Advances in Home Theater, Part One
By Ed Wenck
Improvements in home theater are occurring at an incredible pace, and the terminology and concepts behind that progress can be confusing.
Over the course of several posts here on the CEDIA blog, we’ll look at some of the latest (and largest) steps the technology’s taken lately.
We’ll start with the image itself, the thing you’re physically looking at — your home theater screen.
There’s a veritable alphabet soup one could chew through: Terms you’re probably conversant with (like HDMI), terms you may have heard in passing (4K or Ultra HD, anyone?), and terms familiar mainly to those who spend their days gazing at trade publications (“nits” might be an example here — that’s the unit used to measure the brightness of your TV monitor).
Instead of touring Acronym City, allow us to simplify.
1. Image Sharpness: Let Us Be Clear
The current screen the average consumer’s looking at probably delivers an image 1080 pixels tall by 1920 pixels wide that’s presenting 256 different shades each of red, blue and green. It’s a fine setup as long as the viewer’s sitting at a distance from the panel that’s three times the height (in inches here, not pixels) of the screen. At that distance, the pixels don’t pixilate — any closer and the human eye begins to perceive a jagged kind of edge. 4K screens double those numbers, allowing you to scoot closer to the screen with no loss in sharpness; and at 8K we’re rapidly approaching an Image quality that the eye will perceive as utterly natural.
2. In Living Color — No, Really
As the video designers and engineers work to increasingly clarify the image, the other aspects they consider are color and brightness. A big issue faced by these folks is the “Coke Can Problem” — believe it or not, even with the potential to display a range of more than 16.7 million colors (256 reds x 256 greens x 256 blues), the image of a can on that average television can’t match the deeply nuanced red trademarked by that iconic soda. As screens approach true “HDR” — high dynamic range — the spectrum of color will spike into the trillions of shades, creating an image that surpasses what the human eye can see and matching the most expensive, professional-model cameras in use today.
3. Black and Whites: A Study in Contrasts
But there’s one more issue TV engineers contend with — lights and darks. Since television delivers images from a light source, displaying darkness has been a challenge — black is the absence of light. There are currently TVs on the market, though, according to Pedigo, that don’t even look like they’ve been turned on when they’re displaying an all-black image. Very bright shades of white are another challenge: a flash of sunlight on a TV screen doesn’t usually cause the viewer to squint, but display technology is marching closer and closer to prompting that reflex.
Of course, as the technology becomes more complex, the demand for professional installation, networking, and service grows at an exponential rate. To get more advice, estimates, name it, CEDIA’s got an online database here to help you find certified help in your area.
About the author:
Ed wenck is CEDIA's Content Marketing Manager. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.