Monday, March 24, 2008

Full HD: Hip or Hype?

Full HD is the latest buzzphrase in television marketing. If we want the latest and greatest in HDTV, we want Full HD—or so we’re told. But is it possible to have too much of a good thing?
Full HD is marketing-ese for 1080p. Since alphanumeric monikers tend to leave us cold, the name is an adroit way of turning something seemingly dry and technical into something that sounds more desirable, something you’ve just got to have—unless you want your neighbor smirking at you because his home theater system is Full HD and yours is only, well, partial HD.
I first wrote about 1080p for Audio Video Interiors in 1998, when HDTV was still gleaming on the horizon. But I didn’t hear the phrase Full HD until relatively recently. Now it’s rampant in TV ads, reviews, and all the assorted information and misinformation that surrounds digital television. When I realized what it meant, I began wondering why this, why now?
The Case for Full HD
What is 1080p, a.k.a. Full HD? Since I’ve written about this subject here before, I’ll keep the definition brief. It’s high-definition television with 1080 by 1920 pixels, delivered in full frames. The p is what distinguishes 1080p from 1080i, which uses an interlacing process to deliver gapped pairs of half-frames.
But 1080p and 1080i aren’t the only forms taken by HDTV. There is also a 720p format that delivers 720 by 1280 pixels. If 1080p is Full HD, then this other format must be less than Full HD, right? After all, it has fewer pixels.
The case for Full HD seems even clearer if you count the total number pixels onscreen. Multiply 720 by 1280 and you get 921,600 pixels. Multiple 1080 by 1920 and you get 2,073,600 pixels. Now it makes perfect sense, right? Full HD has more than two million pixels and that inferior HD has fewer than a million. Case closed. Send the jury home. Let’s go to the bar across the street from the courthouse and get wasted. We can drink and watch basketball games in Full HD.

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