Vector-based video could kill off pixels in five years

Most things that we see are made of shapes. You can think of shapes as made up of either a whole bunch of pixels in a grid, or as a few lines and curves. The former is what most digital images are stored as, but the latter is a much better way to go. A new video codec that relies on vector-based images might be killing off the pixel completely in five years.

An easy way to visualize the difference between vector imagery and pixel imagery is to consider a very simple case, like drawing a line. With pixels, you draw a line by starting with one pixel, and then turning on pixel after pixel until you get to the end. A line that's twice as long requires twice as many pixels to describe it. With vectors, though, all you have to do is to tell your computer what the equation for the line is, a much simpler thing. Besides taking up a lot less bandwidth, using equations allows you to perform all sorts of mathematical tricks, like changing resolutions without any loss in quality.

Vector-based compression has been used in static image files and flash animations for years, but it's never been implemented in video before. The University of Bath (in jolly ol' England) and partners have developed a sophisticated video codec that's able to ingest high definition video of anything you want, and spit out a heavily compressed (but effectively lossless) vector stream. The issue with vectors has always been finding ways to encode the data (like colors) that you find between easily encodable lines and shapes, and the fact that this new codec can do it is, according to the people who developed it, at least, "a significant breakthrough which will revolutionize the way visual media is produced."

This revolution will reportedly take about five years, but we wouldn't recommend holding your breath, because "five years" seems to be the number that people like to throw around when it's not going to be soon, but probably won't be absolutely forever, and either way they really have no idea what the exact time frame is going to be.

To see the codec in action, you can download a *.mov sample file at this website.

University of Bath, via PopSci

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