TV is the child of cinema. The basic formats of moving pictures broadcast through the air have always followed in the footsteps of those made and screened in cinemas. This is particularly clear if you look at the evolving shape of the TV set, going from a 4:3 box to the 16:9 window I’m looking at now – and, though they never caught on, there have been a number of 21:9 sets too. These echo closely the academy, widescreen and cinemascope aspect ratios of the movie house – Casablanca, Bonnie and Clyde and Return of the King, say.
But maybe this chain is about to be broken. Maybe TV is about to go somewhere cinema hasn’t.
A true innovation of TV design is coming up with a unprecedented new TV shape and timeless design.
What does that mean?
Well, looking at the image, I think it’s reasonable to assume they’re going to be offering a portrait set, taller than it is wide rather than the standard other way around. They’ll literally beupending the classic design.
As for “timeless” – well, perhaps there’s a hint here that the set will actually be transparent. This is perhaps borne out by the design of the image above.
And there’s nothing more timeless than no date-able, identifying stylings at all.
Transparency makes sense for a few reasons. First of all, Samsung have shown off transparent LCD screens before, so we know they have the tech.
Secondly, this will disguise the fact that the screen is only fractionally in use when watching conventional, wider-than-tall movie content – and a pretty small fraction, too, when you’re looking at a cinemascope movie, running across the middle of the screen like a belt.
But why go portrait in the first place?
I immediately thought of the 9:16 film festival of a few years a go, where entrants uploaded their portrait-shaped films to Vimeo as part of the application process. The reason there was simple – people were starting to make a lot of video on their phones, and a lot of the time, it was shot with the phone “upright.”
Now we’re generating so much content ourself, and it’s so easy for us to produce 9:16 rather than 16:9 video, it maybe wouldn’t be so hard to find lots of portrait content for this new screen.
But not professionally produced stuff.
And films, I’d argue, benefit from landscape aspect ratios. That’s closer to how we see the world, after all – my eyes are side by side, not stacked one above the other.
Imagine every ‘conversation scene’ you’ve ever watched in the movies now reconfigured to work in portrait images. Either everything would be done in ‘singles,’ one actor at a time; or there’d be a lot of headroom or legroom; or whole sets of conventional camera angles would have to be scrapped and replaced.
I actually planned a film for the 9:16 film festival but never made it. Perhaps I will now. Perhaps I’ll donate it to Samsung. It was a formally interesting thing, but it just felt too conceited to sweat it too much over what seemed essentially to be a gimmick.
I can only guess that Samsung don’t have conventional uses in mind for their screen. I am reminded of Back to the Future 2‘s video windows – but that makes me wonder, actually, if the inspiration for this radical redesign is still cinema after all – just the content now, and not the form.
Or maybe the idea is for this screen to house several other ‘screens,’ rectangles arranged on its taller, wall-hanging face?
The set, whatever it ends up being, will be unveiled at the CES next week. I can’t wait to find out more.