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Graphics Software Technology

Vector Vengeance: British Claim They Can Kill the Pixel Within Five Years 221

MrSeb writes "The humble pixel — the 2D picture element that has formed the foundation of just about every kind of digital media for the last 50 years — may soon meet its maker. Believe it or not, if a team of British are to be believed, the pixel, within five short years, will be replaced with vectors. If you know about computer graphics, or if you've ever edited or drawn an image on your computer, you know that there are two primary ways of storing image data: As a bitmap, or as vectors. A bitmap is quite simply a giant grid of pixels, with the arrangement and color of the pixels dictating what the image looks like. Vectors are an entirely different beast: In vector graphics, the image is described as a series of mathematical equations. To draw a bitmap shape you just color in a block of pixels; with vector graphics, you would describe the shape in terms of height, width, radius, and so on. At the moment, bitmaps are used almost exclusively in the realm of digital media — but that isn't to say they don't have their flaws. As display (and camera and cinema) resolution increases, so does the number of pixels. The obvious problem with this is that larger bitmaps are computationally more expensive to process, resulting in a slower (or more expensive) workflow. Pixel bitmaps don't scale very gracefully; reduction is okay, but enlargement is a no-no. There is always the issue of a master format, too: With pixel bitmaps, conversions from one format to another, or changing frame rates, is messy, lossy business. Which finally leads us back to the innovation at hand: Philip Willis and John Patterson of the University of Bath in England have devised a video codec that replaces pixel bitmaps with vectors (PDF)."
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Vector Vengeance: British Claim They Can Kill the Pixel Within Five Years

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  • Terrible summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @04:27PM (#42264837) Homepage

    They're not "getting rid of pixels," since you'll still have pixels on your monitor and your graphics card will still buffer what it's drawing to the screen.

    The paper sounds interesting enough, but the summary has essentially nothing to do with it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @04:41PM (#42264995)

    excuse my ignorance if I am off base but Isn't a vector just a different way of targeting your pixels on the screen? isn't this just a different way of describing which pixels to activate? and if so how does this remove the need for pixels?

    Assuming you're still using a raster display, yes. I mean, you can just fire up Inkscape or Illustrator and get a vector-based engine that renders to a raster display. Or just use KDE's Plasma widgets.

    Now, if you're on a vector display, THAT'S a different story. Then you get actual lines and curves and such. Such things existed back in The Day(tm). The arcade game Asteroids, in fact, was meant to be played on a vector display. Lunar Lander, Battlezone, the original Atari Star Wars tie-in, all of those were vector display screens.

    Of course, those displays had massive limitations, and that's why raster displays stomped all over them. One of which being a lack of solid colors using the technology of the time. Another being the fact that every game looked like a laser show (mostly because, in a way, that's effectively how it was displayed). And because of that, the increased cost of the display itself as you allowed more vectors on-screen at once, in addition to any added processor cost. They still have a very distinct, unique look to them, but ultimately, vector displays as general-purpose consumer monitors died horribly.

    What it looks like these people are doing, however, is mapping movie data to vectors. Or something. I think it's still going to be output onto a raster display, but it'll scale better? I guess we really DO need to count the pores on the actors' faces...

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @04:44PM (#42265039) Journal

    Probably what happened is someone came up with a good raster->vector converter that does some cool things in their lab

    Yeap, if you read the actual paper, that's exactly what happened. It's not obvious how it is particularly better than any other technique, either; the scaled images in the paper don't look much different than images scaled normally. Vector drawings give extra information on how to scale; information that you're not going to be able to derive from a photograph.

    It isn't the British tabloid journalist who is to blame for the sensationalism, though, because when they asked the Professor who wrote the paper, this is what he said:

    “This is a significant breakthrough which will revolutionise the way visual media is produced. To accelerate this project we’ll need companies from around the world to get involved...[and] increase the potential applications of this game-changing research.”

    The press is following his lead.

  • Not necessarily. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @05:37PM (#42265723)

    Infinitesimals added an infinite number of times add up to an undefined number. It may be infinite, it may be finite, but you can't say it is definitely one or the other unless you have already counted it up.

    See Zeno's Paradox.
    See also Atomic theory. At some level there is no more coastline, just a circle around an atom. Definitely smaller than norway's macro-scale accorded length of coastline.

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. -- John Keats