What is 1080i?

I could tell you that 1080i is the designation given to a combination of frame resolution and scan type, and that would be answering the question. However, what I just wrote might not mean much to someone unfamiliar with television resolution standards, scan speeds or the dynamics involved with HD broadcasting and how it translates to your television. To truly understand just what 1080i is, you must understand what it applies to and what it compares to.

What is 1080i and how does it apply to your viewing experience?

Under a microscope, let’s first look at the designation and what all the numbers and the letters mean. The 1080 refers to the number of lines of vertical resolution in a single frame of video. Were you to really get up close and personal with your TV, you would find that the solid image you’re staring at is actually a composition of vertical lines that create the picture. There are easier ways to see this for yourself without damaging your eyes, so please don’t crowd your TV screen.

The “i” stands for interlaced scan pattern. It’s a big fifty-dollar word that basically refers to the quality of the image in motion. To understand what an interlaced scan pattern looks like, let’s recall an example. Have you ever watched an older television program and noticed the way the movement and the action all seem to cut and clip into each other? You usually see what appear to be lines or static afterimages. Poor interlacing creates this kind of image distortion.

1080i takes into account the way the human brain processes an image in motion in order to create seamless footage that doesn’t suffer the distortion of previous resolution and scan standards.

Televisions stepping up their game

You don’t see too many of the older cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions on the market these days. Even before the days of 1080i, standards were still improving and the demand for better televisions was on the rise. Today, most standard Plasma or LCD flat screens come equipped with the necessary hardware to run at 1080i, the previous benchmark in television resolution. However, as we speak, 1080p, the next step, is fast-becoming a reality.

Broadcaster bottleneck

Unfortunately, all the money in the world for the top-of-the-line televisions won’t guarantee an unmitigated 1080p experience without the broadcasters upping the ante. While newer televisions are being developed to receive the new 1080p video standard, it still falls on the broadcaster and home video manufacturers – DVD and Blu-ray™ – to start outputting in 1080p.

Better resolution, better programming

The television industry is always struggling to attain that uncanny perfection that narrows the distance between real life and what you see on television. There’s always that distinct difference where you know that what you’re watching on television is just that – on television. However, greater resolution standards ultimately create the potential for more true-to-life imagery and that’s where standards like 1080p are coming into their own. 1080p is just another attempt at a clearer picture that ultimately seeks to blur the line between the reality without and the reality within the television.

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