Will Apple “up� the resolution on video downloads? - Macenstein

Will Apple “up� the resolution on video downloads?

Posted by Helper Monkey

The Apple-rumor mills have been chugging away recently, pumping out report after report about the next generation video iPod. While their guesses on potential form factors and navigation schemes differ, most agree that the screen on this new video iPod will be substantially larger than in the current 5th generation model, with some reports putting it as much as 3 times larger.

Currently, most videos downloaded via the iTunes store come in at 320 pixels wide x 240 pixels high, the size of the current iPod screen. This translates to about half of a standard definition television set’s resolution. The compression Apple uses on its videos is quite aggressive. Videos looks great at native size, but once you begin scaling ITMS videos, you begin to see blocky compression artifacts (these artifacts are more noticeable in “dark� shows like LOST). Playing back iTunes video from an iPod hooked to a television via Apple’s AV Connection Kit results in a viewing experience similar to watching a VHS tape.

But lets imagine for a moment that the next “videoâ€? iPod does indeed have a screen 3x larger than the current model. Assuming Apple adopts a 16×9 horizontal form factor, as most predict, and assuming Apple ups the resolution to accommodate reasonable touch screen accuracy, we could be looking at a be a 960 x 540 screen, Although Apple’s compression codec scales fairly well, and videos often look reasonable (if not a bit soft) at even double their size, a 3x scaling is pushing it a bit. Throw in the fact that it’s hard to even find a standard definition TV in a store like Circuit City anymore, and you see that the idea of Apple locking itself into half-res video meant for standard def viewing is a dead end.

The fact is eventually Apple will have to release higher quality videos. If they don’t someone else (Microsoft) will. While I understand the argument that the ITMS videos are really just meant for playback on the iPod at the moment, this will likely not be the case for long. There have been rumors of an Apple media hub for the living room not too far down the road. Apple’s Front Row software currently allows you to play back ITMS videos fullscreen on an iMac’s 20-inch monitor. If you stand back far enough (so the iMac’s screen is the size of the iPod’s) these videos look great. However, close up, you begin to see The Emperor is wearing very pixilated, blocky clothes.

If the rumors are true of an April 1st (Apple’s 30th birthday) video iPod with a larger screen, I say Apple would be foolish not to also unveil “iPod HDâ€? videos alongside it. While I do not expect these videos to be true HD, I do expect higher quality 16×9 video. It would be presumptuous to expect people to buy videos that look soft even when viewed on their new “big screenâ€? iPod, much less an iMac. The longer Apple waits, the more angry customers it will have who feel ripped off for buying the “legacyâ€? version of their favorite shows once the HD versions are released. Let’s hope Apple once again proves its pioneering spirit in the online entertainment field by being the first to deliver higher quality “High Defâ€? content (hopefully at “Standard Defâ€? prices).

19 Responses to “Will Apple “upâ€? the resolution on video downloads?”
  1. Stitch says:

    “a screen 3x larger than the current model. That would be a 960 x 540 ”

    Uhh, that would be 6.75 times as big. Would be more like 576 x 400 (in 3/4).

  2. Way Cool Jr. says:

    He said 16×9.
    I think it is close.
    the width is 3 x’s as big as current 320.
    and then to keep a 16×9 ratio, the height worked out to 540.

    What I am more worried about is whether Apple would let me re-download the LOST episdoes I already bought.
    I assume not…
    Maybe an upgrade price for previously downloaded stuff?
    Like Lost HD costs $2.50, so I only need to pay an extra $0.51?

    I can dream can’t I?!?!

  3. Stitch says:

    i’m just saying 3 times would be 960 x 240. adding vertical size to that adds up.

    16/9 would be 640 x 360. effectivelly 3 times as many pixels. This makes sense.

  4. Jim says:

    “..the fact that it’s hard to even find a standard definition TV in a store like Circuit City anymore..”

    Umm.. I don’t think that IS a fact. While HD TVs are doing well, and most people agree they are the next generation. They are still quite a bit more expensive. From what I have seen, as many people are still buying the super cheap TVs with only a Coax input than HD TVs.

    Granted, people who’s VCR is still flashing 12:00 are probably not going to be downloading iTunes Video to play on the TV, but I don’t think the HD market is there yet.

  5. Way Cool Jr. says:

    Maybe I live in a nicer area, but the CC in the Union NJ (which isn’t nice) , there are like 3 standard sets. BJ’s (not exactly the technology mecha, I know) dropped all old sets, it is all LCDs and plasmas and HD CRTs.

    I just went to CC online, and they have 46 “old” tvs, and 74 flat screens.

    But in the physical stores, it is tough to find a good analog set.

  6. Way Cool Jr. says:

    stitch, are you going based on total number of pixels, like when you figure out Handbrake diemnsions, or actual physical resolution of the screen?

  7. Stitch says:

    Way cool,

    yes pixels, just because I dont think they would want to make the ipod bigger. 640×360 is becomming a popular size and it is verry close to letterboxed broadcast quality. (ie plays on your tv)

    assuming the pixel density on the present screen is top of the line, (2″ x 1.5″ screen, 2.5″ diagonal 320×240) a 640 x 360 screen would measure 2.25″ x 4″ inches. an ipod is 2.4 by 4.1.

  8. Way Cool Jr. says:

    OK, so you are saying the screen’s actual resolution capabilities will likely not increase with size, ie. a better quality, higher res screen with more pixels packed into that space ain’t gonna happen?

  9. Way Cool Jr. says:

    I kinda figured that if Apple ads this rumored touch screen click wheel thing, it would have been a better screen, resolution-wise.

  10. Paul-Serge says:

    If they drop the click wheel in favor of a touch screen, they could indeed turn the using direction to “landscape”, so the new videopod looks more like a Creative Zen portable media player and look-a-likes ..

    Wich is of course a very good thing, and I would seriously consider throwing away my normal iPod and finally switching to a video player.

  11. scott says:

    ok it would be turned on its side, the whole thing will be a touch screen, no clickwheel…just my idea…

  12. OSX says:

    Wishful thinking. By this reasoning, Apple should be selling full quality music by now as well. They aren’t. Apple’s offerings are convenient and nothing else. All of their stuff has DRM so I really don’t see why they aren’t selling full quality audio and video by now. Until they do I’ll sick with my DRM free CDs and DVDs.

  13. Steve says:

    DVD’s do have DRM, not good DRM, but DRM none the less.

  14. gonffen says:

    @scott Unless the screen was had a good layer of protection on it to protect from scratches that would be a horrible idea, and even then it’d still be bad because of marks left by your fingers when changing songs and videos. Who wants to watch Lost behind fingerprints?

  15. Ptarmigandalf says:

    Or more likely, there’s actually no hi-res iPod in the works.

  16. Nuno says:

    Duh !!!!
    What is your point ? Of course ALL video devices and media will grow in size and capabilities…
    What a ass…

  17. Mac & Cheese says:

    i think the point here is whether it will happen on this next iPod revision, rumored on the 1st o’ April.

    but yes, obviously it will EVENTUALLY happen.

    I guess it depends on whether it is 16x9er or not.

  18. Kai says:

    I’m doubting 16×9. HD is the only broadcast spec in that format, and all of the current itms video content is 4:3. They’re not going to be able to pull off HD on an ipod yet, so they’re no likely to make people use pan & scan or side letterbox on their ipods..

  19. IHateScreenNames says:

    I’m just nitpicking here but 320 x 240 is only 1/4 the resolution of a standard screen. A SD screen is 640 x 480, when you cut each dimension in half you are left with only 25% of your original size.

    However, I too would like to see higher quality content coming out of iTMS. Maybe then I’ll start to buy it.

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