Cloud Video is Just the Beginning

Chris Janota

There were  many reasons why the DVD replaced the popular VHS tape 10 years ago.  The DVD was compact, it had a higher picture quality, you could instantly rewind or fast forward, it had a longer longevity, and offerred extra features and interaction.  The universal acceptance  of the new technology made mass production possible.  The economics of producing disc versus vhs cartridges was cheaper and made it explode on the scene even quicker and perhaps unexpectedly.

The long evolution of media  went from 32mm > 16mm -> 8mm -> VHS/Betamax -> VHS won -> DVD -> Blu-Ray

Back in 1998 when the DVD arrived it was perhaps understood that the next format of the future would offer a leap forward in picture quality as Blu-ray now does.  Will the future enhancement bring continued video resolution?  Currently, the highest resolution television you can buy is 1080 lines. That’s not because we’ve hit a physical limit on how many pixels we can fit into a screen. It has more to do with the HDTV standard. The limits of HDTV aren’t really technologically mandated,  they’re biologically dictated. If the human eye can’t tell the difference between a 48-inch picture that has fewer than 2,000,000 pixels and another that has 24,000,000 pixels, there’s no point in pushing the technology further. For the average consumer, a 1080-pixel resolution will probably be enough.  The future of video will not offer a signiocant increase in resolution.

Streaming video from the cloud is here.  As you sit hunched over your laptop at home watching a YouTube video you’re actually plugging into the collective power of thousands of computers that serve all this information to you from far-away rooms distributed around the world. It’s almost like having a massive supercomputer at your beck and call, thanks to the Internet.  But perhaps the most important element streaming video content from the cloud has offerrred  is: the death of phyisical storage devices. In 1998 looking to the future it was unimaginable we could stream your movies from the cloud from your television or any other device in your home without carrying some sort of physical storage media.

There has been always three obstacles limiting video format innovation:

1)    Storage media space limits (DVD and Blu-Ray)

2)    The standard (HD)

3)    Initial recording.

Without the limit of physical media storage, streaming allows potentially unlimited pipeline of data to our homes.  Unlimited bandwith would also eventually mean the end of one dominate format standard.  Each device manufacturer could structure deals with studios to create recording specially designed for even larger screens, pandormaic screens, 3-d screens and interactive screens and innovate to do whatever they wanted without regard for bandwith.  In the recording à screen path, the directors vision can be extended to the viewer’s screen experience.  limitation of the physical storage has been removed.   Anything is possible.  Creativity would be unleashed for manufactures to develop and invest without format restraints.

So perhaps the best to predict video in the future is to understand there will be many formats going in new directions at an ever rapid rate.  We can see that happening right now with every new smart phone release.  The pipeline is big enough to power a full size television so without storage format limits smart phone manufactures are free to develop improved resolution with each new smartphone release.

Barriers to advance to new formats will be reduced for consumers.  Within the DVD era the consumer was unable to advance to Blu-ray without upgraging to  1) their HD television, 2) the disc BR player and 3) the BR disc.  Even if you get a HD television, you would not have any content to watch on it.  In the future the only investment required to upgrade with be purchasing a new television.  The risk of gambling on a losing format like Betamax or HDDVD would be nil.