Before we continue, let’s discuss the term high-definition, the meaning of which may seem fluid. Not so long ago, the CIF standard ruled the industry, and CIF is only 288p. In comparison, standard television is 480p, which is far superior. Later, QCIF came, which is 576p, superior to standard television and CIF but not what we consider high-definition now. Next came 4CIF, which is 720p, the first of the true HD formats, and it revolutionized what we could see while videoconferencing.
When, as an industry, we upgraded to 4CIF, some of the big concerns were endpoint support and bandwidth. HD video conferencing (HDVC) require telepresence endpoints that support at least 720p, and the system requires bandwidth of at least 1Mbps. A 1080p system does require more bandwidth, but most of those telepresence endpoints for 720p HDVC also support 1080p or at least 1080i, so the costs of upgrading is not nearly as expensive as many expect based on past upgrade experiences.
In addition, although 720p is technically HD, it does not provide the image clarity that 1080p does. In fact, 1080p is a robust enough picture that it’s used to facilitate life-sized video conferencing. Life-sized is just want it sounds like, video conferencing on bust-sized screens or larger. Such technology truly immerses the participants, and that makes them more productive. It’s like actually being in the room with the other people and having a conventional conversation.
Life-sized video conferencing may be overkill for many businesses, but it does illustrate one of the great benefits of 1080p. Imagine a scenario where someone on the remote side of the meeting holds up a document. In a 720p or less environment, that document is unreadable, and there has to be another mechanism in place to distribute the document. In a 1080p setup, someone can hold up the document, and everyone on the viewing side can read it down to its finest details.
Many businesses that use video conferencing record their conferences, and they often transfer those videos to other mediums, for both internal and external use. One of the other great advantages of 1080p over 720p is the quality of the source. In other words, if you have to convert the video through a process that requires compression, which most video conversion process do, then the result of the conversion will be much higher quality using a 1080p rather than a 720p source.
It’s important to note that the point here isn’t to cast 720p in a negative light. Video conferencing with a 720p resolution is the de facto standard for the time being. Many businesses use it without issue. The point, however, is that there are a wide range of benefits to 1080p with very little additional cost. Even the needed bandwidth is becoming less of an issue as many businesses upgrade their networking infrastructures to take advantage of the newest technology.