Turning standard definition into HD with Panasonic’s upscaling algorithm

Panasonic Avionics< Panasonic Avionics
06/29/23 3 MIN READ

Want your in-flight entertainment system to boast 4K image quality while still maintaining a cost effective media spend?

We’ve got you. Panasonic’s new Astrova IFE system has the capacity to transform any video content to 4K quality — the highest resolution currently available in commercial seatback monitors. That means giving your passengers a 4K OLED experience while maintaining efficiency on media spend.

Let’s dig in to the world of upscaling.

How upscaling works

PC Magazine defines upscaling like so:

“The function in a 4K TV that increases the incoming resolution to render on the 4K screen. Because a 4K TV has four times as many pixels on the screen as a 2K 1080p TV, it analyzes the incoming signal and ‘fills in the blanks’ for non-4K content.”

At Panasonic Avionics, we’ve developed an upscaling algorithm for our Astrova IFE system that automatically enhances the viewing experience on our seatback screens, transforming 480p, 720p, and 1080p to 4K with little to no discernible impact to picture quality for passengers.

Can passengers tell the difference?

In a word, no. Here’s why.

If you’ve ever been to an optometrist’s office, you are familiar with the Snellen Chart, that set of letters stuck to the wall that you have to read by covering one eye at a time. This is a visual acuity test.

The human eye does not see a fixed resolution. Rather, human vision is based on angular resolution — that is, how far apart two objects need to be to be able to distinguish between them at a set distance. Angular resolution is a function of humans’ visual acuity, and it is that visual acuity that we take advantage of when upscaling content.

In an aircraft cabin, a few things determine visual acuity and the ability to perceive resolution differences:
• The size of the monitor
• The resolution of the monitor and the distances between individual pixels in the display
• Passenger’s actual vision acuity, e.g. 20/20 vision
• Passenger’s distance from seatback screen

What this all adds up to is that even with 20/20 vision it is virtually impossible for a passenger sitting in Economy class to detect differences in upscaled vs. native resolution on a 13-inch monitor. Even when moving to Business or First Class, where an IFE monitor might be bigger or further away, the perceived differences in native and 4K content are minute. This is because the bigger the screen, the further away a person can sit and still enjoy the higher resolution.

With this knowledge in hand, airlines can decide what level of passenger experience they want to deliver based on their unique brand promises: by choosing efficiency in media spend by upscaling standard definition content, or by choosing native 4K content and taking full advantage of Astrova’s 4K OLED displays and their outstanding color accuracy and perfect black contrast.

What’s the market standard?

Right now, most people view content—games, videos, films, phone graphics—in 720p or 1080p, even if their device is 4K-capable. This is largely due to the bandwidth demands of 4K content when viewing on phones, tablets, and connected televisions.

Because 4K content is very taxing on a network, many providers throttle service when watching on their devices. It’s very common that people don’t actually view things in the full resolution they think they are.

Upscaling in the cabin environment

The combination of a 4K picture with perfect black contrast and the cinema-quality color of OLED displays delivers a premium viewing experience—regardless of whether that content was native 4K or upscaled 4K. This entices passengers to make use of your IFEC offerings delivering deeper, more robust passenger experiences.

It also gives airlines like yours an opportunity to maximize your IFE investment dollars while remaining ahead of the curve when it comes to the world of 4K content. You get the best of both worlds: 4K content and an efficient media spend.

Learn more about your upscaling options by reaching out to Panasonic Avionics.

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