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Video Resolution - Everything You Need To Know

Video Resolution - Everything You Need To Know

December 2, 20236 min read


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Video resolution is the measurement of the total number of pixels contained within each frame of a video, determining its sharpness and detail. It is quantified by the count of pixels arranged horizontally and vertically on a screen, such as in 720p or 1080p, where 'p' denotes the number of pixels along the vertical axis. This resolution operates within a defined aspect ratio, commonly 16:9 for TVs and computer monitors, shaping the overall display and contributing to the video's visual realism and clarity.

What does it really mean?

Think of video resolution like a book's print quality. Each pixel in a video is akin to a dot of ink in a printed image. A high-resolution video, such as 4K, is like a high-quality print where the dots of ink are so small and numerous that the image is extremely clear and detailed, much like a finely printed, high-resolution photograph.

On the other hand, a lower resolution video, like 480p, resembles a picture in a newspaper comic strip, where the dots of ink are larger and fewer, making the image less sharp and the individual dots more discernible. Just as the clarity of a printed image depends on the density and size of the ink dots, the clarity and detail of a video depend on its resolution, or the number and size of its pixels.

History of Video Resolution

The history of video resolution is a narrative of technological progress in television and digital media, beginning in the 1930s with the development of the first electronic television systems. These early systems, primarily monochrome, offered very low resolutions, roughly equivalent to 240 lines. As color television emerged in the 1960s, standard definition (SD) became established, with North America's NTSC standard using 480 interlaced lines (480i) and Europe's PAL and SECAM standards adopting 576 interlaced lines (576i). This period marked the global proliferation of television, setting these resolutions as the benchmark for broadcast and home video for decades.

The transition to digital broadcasting in the late 1990s heralded the era of high definition (HD), with 720p (progressive) and 1080i (interlaced) resolutions offering a substantial improvement over SD. The widespread adoption of Blu-ray and HD DVD formats, along with HD cable and satellite broadcasts, popularized 1080p (Full HD), which provided a significantly higher quality viewing experience.

Entering the 2010s, ultra high definition (UHD) revolutionized resolution quality with the introduction of 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels), boasting four times the pixel count of 1080p. This resolution rapidly gained traction in consumer electronics, streaming services, and film production. Meanwhile, the development of 8K resolution (7680 x 4320 pixels) stands at the forefront of ultra-high-definition video, though it remains limited in terms of content availability and device support.

Parallel to these developments, the rise of the internet and streaming platforms has led to a diverse range of resolutions, from 360p to 4K, catering to different internet speeds and device capabilities. Looking forward, video resolution evolution is poised to transcend mere pixel counts, venturing into enhancements in high dynamic range (HDR), color gamuts, and frame rates. Additionally, emerging fields like virtual reality are pushing the demand for even higher resolutions to achieve realistic and immersive experiences.

Common Video Resolutions

Let's explore common video resolutions in more depth, focusing on their pixel dimensions, typical uses, and the viewing experiences they offer:

360p (640 x 360 pixels):

  • Usage: Often utilized for online videos, particularly on platforms where bandwidth or data usage is a concern, such as mobile streaming or in regions with limited internet access.
  • Characteristics: Lower in quality, but sufficient for small screens like smartphones or when streaming under constrained bandwidth conditions.
  • Viewing Experience: While not providing high clarity, it allows for accessible video streaming, especially in areas with slower internet speeds.

Standard Definition (SD) - 480p (720 x 480 pixels):

  • Usage: Predominantly used in standard television broadcasts and DVD formats.
  • Characteristics: Offers minimal quality, suitable for smaller screens. This resolution was standard before the advent of HD technology.
  • Viewing Experience: Images appear less sharp, especially on larger screens, making it less ideal for modern viewing expectations.

High Definition (HD) - 720p (1280 x 720 pixels):

  • Usage: Commonly found in early HD televisions, online video streaming platforms, and some digital broadcasting.
  • Characteristics: Marks a significant step up from SD, offering clearer images and better color representation.
  • Viewing Experience: Provides a decent quality on medium-sized screens, but may lack detail when viewed on larger displays.

Full High Definition (FHD) - 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels):

  • Usage: The standard for Blu-ray discs, many streaming services, gaming consoles, and HD television broadcasts.
  • Characteristics: Delivers clear, detailed images, with a noticeable improvement in color and clarity over 720p.
  • Viewing Experience: Offers a balanced quality for various screen sizes, from medium to large, and is widely accepted as the standard for home entertainment.

Ultra High Definition (UHD) - 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels):

  • Usage: Employed in high-end consumer televisions, professional video production, and increasingly in streaming services.
  • Characteristics: Provides exceptional detail and clarity, with four times the pixels of 1080p.
  • Viewing Experience: Ideal for large screens, enhancing the immersive experience, especially in cinematic and gaming contexts.

8K (7680 x 4320 pixels):

  • Usage: Still emerging, used in high-end, cutting-edge TVs and for professional film production.
  • Characteristics: Offers ultra-high resolution with a staggering amount of detail, beneficial for future-proofing content.
  • Viewing Experience: Best appreciated on very large screens or in professional settings where detail is paramount. However, content availability is currently limited.

Different Video Resolution

Progressive Scan vs. Interlaced Video: Understanding the Differences

Both methods are ways of displaying moving images on a screen, but they differ significantly in how they process and render these images.

Interlaced Video:

Interlaced video works by displaying every other line of pixels in each frame in two separate fields. In this system, a video frame comprises two fields: one for the odd lines and another for the even lines. Each field is refreshed alternately, so in a 60Hz interlaced system, you get 30 frames of odd lines and 30 frames of even lines per second. The primary advantage of interlacing is that it requires less bandwidth and processing power compared to progressive scan, which was particularly important in the early days of television. However, interlaced video can produce visual artifacts known as "interlacing effects," especially in scenes with rapid motion. These artifacts manifest as a sort of flickering or blurring, which can be distracting to viewers.

Progressive Scan:

Progressive scan, on the other hand, displays all lines of each frame in sequence. This means that every pixel in the image is refreshed with every frame. This method results in a smoother and clearer picture, especially for scenes with fast motion, as there are no interlacing effects. Progressive scan is generally considered superior in terms of image quality, but it requires more bandwidth and processing power than interlacing. With advancements in technology and the decreasing cost of data transmission and processing, progressive scan has become the standard, especially in high-definition and ultra-high-definition systems.

In summary, while interlaced video was once prevalent due to its efficiency in broadcasting, the superior image quality of progressive scan has made it the preferred choice in the modern era of digital video. This shift is especially evident in high-resolution formats where the clarity and smoothness of progressive scan significantly enhance the viewing experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the resolution of a 1920x1080 video?

The resolution of a 1920x1080 video is 1080p, also known as Full High Definition (FHD). This resolution consists of 1920 horizontal pixels and 1080 vertical pixels, totaling approximately 2.07 million pixels. It provides high-quality, detailed images on medium to large screens.

What is the best video resolution for videos?

The "best" video resolution depends on the specific use case and equipment. For general consumer use, 1080p (Full HD) offers a good balance of quality and compatibility, while 4K (Ultra HD) provides superior detail for high-end displays and professional use. Ultimately, the choice should consider factors like screen size, viewing distance, and available bandwidth.

Is 720p high quality?

720p, known as High Definition (HD), offers moderate quality. It's superior to Standard Definition but not as sharp as 1080p (Full HD) or 4K (Ultra HD). 720p is suitable for smaller screens or situations where higher resolutions are not critical.


  • https://www.adobe.com/au/creativecloud/video/discover/video-resolution.html
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Display_resolution
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_common_resolutions
  • https://www.descript.com/blog/article/video-resolution



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