17 Sep 2008 7:20 am   //   Filed under: Technology

Soon we’ll all be in HD

I’ve been watching the new cameras come out. The HD video revolution that we’ve been predicting is almost here.

What am I talking about? The experience of sitting in front of a computer screen, putting on headphones, and watching a crystal-clear high-def video is dazzling. It is not just an incremental upgrade, it is a whole new way of communicating. A news report, an entertainment clip, a video blog or a family movie becomes a rich, immersive experience when presented in a super-sharp motion picture. It’s also (and this is key) fun and satisfying to shoot and share videos. But until recently, the technology to create good videos was prohibitively expensive. No more. The next good camera you buy will probably be capable of shooting digital video as good as or better than the programs you watch on TV. No tapes, no DVDs, just a chip. Computer hardware is catching up fast to process and store all this video. And broadband speeds are nearly fast enough to deliver HD video in real time over the Internet.

What are the last pieces to fall into place?

First, file formats are a mess. You camera, your video editing software, and your Web browser all speak in different formats, and each time you convert from on to the other, you waste time and suffer a loss in quality. Somebody has to fix this. Also, audio is still too hard.

Second, there’s no easy way to store and share HD video online. If you have server space, you’re halfway there. But since most consumers don’t, we’re going to need an HD YouTube, or a Flickr with a serious video capability, or some new service out there in The Cloud.

Third, will our Internet have the capacity to handle all this extra traffic? Probably. All previous predictions that new demands would slow down or crash the Internet have been wrong. Of greater concern is that people are taking a jump backwards in speed, accessing the Internet through 3G cell phones or WiFi access when they travel. Wireless speeds are still too slow to deliver high-quality video. And Web sites are being designed accordingly. We may see everything split neatly into two content streams – one for broadband, one for wireless.

I think we’ll have solved all these problems in about four years. Then things will start to get amazing. Get ready. If I ran a media company, I would start building a super-awesome platform for delivering video reports, and training every journalist to shoot and edit HD video. (Hint: You’re going to want a tripod.)