Is the pixel about to die?

Is the pixel about to die?
A new vector-based video codec developed at Bath may signal the death of the pixel.
(—Researchers launching a new vector-based video codec are claiming their work will lead to the death of the pixel within the next five years.

The team behind the project, consisting of the University, Root6 Technology, Smoke & Mirrors and Ovation Data Services – are now looking for industry buy-in to the research to expand its potential . The codec was launched at the CVMP 9th European Conference on Visual Media Production held at Vue Cinema in Leicester Square, London.

Digital pictures are built from a rectangular grid of coloured cells, or pixels. The smaller and closer the pixels are together, the better the quality of the image. So -based movies need huge amounts of data and have to be compressed, losing visual quality. They are also difficult to process.

The alternative, a vector-based format, presents the image using contoured colours. Until now there has not been a way to fill in between the colours at the quality needed for professional use. The Bath team has finally solved this problem.

A codec is a computer programme capable of encoding or decoding a digital video stream. The researchers at Bath have developed a new, highly sophisticated codec, which is able to fill between the contours, overcoming the problems previously preventing their widespread use. The result is a resolution-independent form of movie and image, capable of the highest visual but without a pixel in sight.

Professor Phil Willis, from the University's Department of Computer Science, said: "This is a significant breakthrough which will revolutionise the way visual media is produced.

"However, to accelerate this project we'll need companies from around the world to get involved. At the moment we're focusing on applications in post-production and we're working directly with leading companies in this area, however there are clear applications in web, tablets and mobile which we haven't explored in detail yet.

"Involvement from a greater variety of companies with different interests will extend the project in a variety of ways and increase the potential applications of this game-changing research."

Explore further

Panasonic, Sony Developed New HD Digital Video Camera Recorder Format

Provided by University of Bath
Citation: Is the pixel about to die? (2012, December 12) retrieved 25 April 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Dec 12, 2012
Pixel is not the correct term here. What they are looking to replace are called bitmaps. While a bitmap is essentially an array of pixels, and that blocky look they produce is call pixellated, to say that vector graphics eliminates pixels is a bit confusing. The display hardware will still be pixel based, even if the graphics are encoded as scalable vectors.

Dec 12, 2012
I'd add that this doesn't seem to apply to videogame graphics either, only images or video captured through a camera or pre-generated CG cutscenes. Really interesting development though.

Dec 12, 2012
Fractal Image Compression - old tech

Dec 13, 2012
The pixels don't actually exist with current video codecs either, because they basically represent the image by cosine functions.

It comes from the fact that any repeating continuous signal can be represented as a combination of sine (cosine) waves to any arbitrary precision by simply adding more of them.

What happens is, the pixels in an image are arranged into a line, and then smoothed into a continuous wave by finding a set of sinewaves that pass through the points defined by the pixel values. In this format the picture no longer contains pixels, and could contain however much detail you want to add.

The point is that you don't have to find the exact full set to get back to the same image, because when you sample the wave back at the same resolution and precision as the original, the values round up to what they're supposed to be. By allowing some errors, you can further reduce the set of sinewaves you need to represent the original data, and thus compress the image.

Dec 13, 2012
Of course, in reality the picture is broken up and transformed in smaller pieces because it would take a supercomputer to compute the discrete cosine transformation of a full video frame all at once. When people talk about pixelation, it's these pieces called macroblocks that they're actually seeing, because the loss of inforrmation makes them fit badly next to one another.

But fundamentally, you don't have to sample the signal back into pixels on the monitor at the same resolution it was made from. You can scale it up and down all you want without a pixel in sight.

Dec 17, 2012
Sounds computation-intensive.

But what really captures my interest is the question of intellectual property. The world does not need yet another proprietary video codec, thank you very much.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more