The term 'HD' and LED screens
Updated: Mar 23
In this blog we are going to explore the term 'HD' (High Definition) and find out the benefits and if it's required for outdoor cinemas / drive-in cinemas.
High definition (HD) is a term used to describe a specific resolution of a image or display (TV, Monitor, Photograph, video etc).
To understand what HD is and how it effects image quality we first need to understand a few technical terms:
Pixels: All digital images (Photographs & videos) are made up of pixels and all displays (video screens) like your computer monitor or mobile phone screen use pixels to display images.
Resolution: Is the term used to describe how many pixels make up the image. The more pixels, the higher the resolution and the sharper / crisper the image will look. Low resolution images can look blurred to the human eye or lack detail. High resolution images look sharper and enable you to see more details within the image.
Resolution is expressed in a format like '1280 x 720'. The first number represents the number of pixels the image is made up of across the horizontal width. The second number represents the number of vertical pixels.
There are two industry standard resolutions that cover the term 'HD'. They are 720p (1280 x 720 pixels) and 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels). 1080p provides the higher resolution and has become the dominant standard across consumer TV's and is what most films are broadcast / streamed in.
Before HD was a thing we had SD (Standard definition). This was a lower resolution of 720 x 576 pixels and was the common resolution of our TV's at home. Then came HD in December 2005 which improved image quality and viewer experience.
We now have 4k displays on the market which increases the resolution of HD 2x to 3840 x 2160 pixels. However 4k is still in its infancy with the content available to display and arguably less of a benefit to the viewing experience than HD provided from SD.
So how does all this translate to LED video screens?
LED video screens work like all other digital displays (screens). The image we see is created using pixels. However unlike other types of displays the pixels are made up of physical individual LED lights. When all these LED lights display a precise colour and work in unison we see the image. If you stand close to a LED screen (2 meter or less) you can see all the individual LED lights (Pixels) and the image quality looks very poor. As you move back the image improves. The benefit of using LED lights is their high brightness and the ability to view them in bright daylight.
Unlike consumer TVs, LED screens are not quoted in terms such as HD or 4k. Normally they are quoted as 'Pixel Pitch'. When you hire a LED screen the main specification you will be provided with is the 'Pixel Pitch' by the supplier. Pixel pitch is the distance (in millimetres) each LED light (pixel) is spaced apart. The most common pixel pitches are 10mm, 8mm, 6mm, 5.9mm, 4.8mm and 3.9mm). If we take a 6mm pixel pitch screen as an example.... every LED light (pixel) will be spaced 6mm apart from each other.
The Lower the pixel pitch (less space between LEDs), the higher the resolution the LED screen will be and the sharper the image will look.
It is common for smaller LED screen sizes to be lower resolution as resolution increases with screen size.
Are all LED screens 'HD' resolution?
No! Due to the nature of LED screens and the distance between each LED light (pixel) many LED screens are NOT high enough resolution to be 'HD'. Most LED screens however will except a HD source from a blu-ray player or computer but will then down-scale (reduce) the image to a smaller resolution to match the physical LED screen resolution becoming a non HD image. This can cause confusion and the misuse of the term 'HD' in relation the LED video screens.
'HD' has become a buzz word in TV's and displays and is often used incorrectly to help advertise and gain sales. Some rental companies throw the term 'HD' around in their marketing material however their screens don't meet the required resolution.
With recent developments in LED screen technology 'HD' screens are becoming more common so it's not to say they can't be HD. When hiring your LED screen for your drive-in cinema or outdoor cinema we recommend asking the supplier for the total resolution of the screen as this is the only way you can tell if its truly HD or not.
Here at Shine Cinema we use the latest in LED screen technology offering high resolutions using 3.9mm pixel pitch screens. We are transparent about screen resolutions and only advertise as HD when they truly are. Below are our most popular screen sizes and their true resolutions.
3.5m by 2m Screen Size = 896 x 500 pixels (SD)
5m by 3m Screen Size = 1280 x 768 pixels (720p HD)
7.5m by 4m Screen Size = 1920 x 1024 pixels (within 5% of 1080p HD)
9m by 4.5m Screen Size = 2304 x 1152 pixels (Exceeds 1080p HD)
Do I need high definition (HD) for my outdoor cinema / drive-in cinema?
Technically NO..... Your audience can still watch a film on a screen with a resolution less than the HD standard. However image quality is vital when screening films to a paying audience and we would always recommend investing in the highest resolution screen possible to ensure everyone has an enjoyable experience and you receive no complaints about image quality.
The term 'HD' is often thrown around as a marketing tool however when it comes to LED screens this may not always be accurate. When collecting quotes to hire a drive-in or outdoor cinema ask the supplier for both the pixel pitch of the LED screen and the actual screen resolution. Although HD is not essential for screening films we strongly recommend using the highest resolution LED screen possible when screening films to a paying audience who will expect a quality and enjoyable experience in return for their hard earned cash.
If you would like advise about LED screen resolutions and hardware please get in touch. We are happy to help.