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Seeing through the Retina Ready Marketing Speak for Video Production

Have you been asked for Retina Ready Video yet?

A client recently requested that we make sure that the video we produced for him was ‘Retina Ready’. I commented, with tongue in cheek, that all of our video productions can be seen with the human eye. It did however prompt me to find out a little more about Apple’s trademarked Retina display system.

This is an attempt by Apple to make images and text on their iPhone, iPad, and MacBook screens appear solid with no visible pixels resulting in a sharper, crisper image quality – not such a bad thing!

How does Retina Ready work?

It works on the premise that the closer you are to the image the more pixels you need to make the image appear sharper. So the typical viewing distance for an iPhone is 20cm requiring about 160 pixels per centimeter (ppcm). The further away you are then fewer pixels are required to make the image appear solid so with an iPad the viewing distance is probably about 40cm requiring about 105 ppcm. It uses a similar principle to that of newspaper print; if you look at a newspaper the print appears solid however if you bring the print closer you will start to see all the dots that make up the image, so more dots would be needed to make the image appear solid if read at closer distances.

In practice this works just fine, the problem is that every Apple device requires a different optimal ppcm e.g. Apple Watch 38mm requires 114ppcm, whereas an Apple Watch 42mm needs 119ppcm,an iPhone 6 uses 128ppcm and the iPhone 6 Plus requires 157ppcm. The practicality of producing video for just the variety of Apple devices alone makes this a total nonsense, and then what about other Smartphones? Oh, and did I not mention the Apple iMac with Retina 5K display????
Where did 5K come from? Most other devices accept 4K (or eventually 8K). Apple had to go 1K better than 4K!

My opinion is that Retina display is purely a marketing hype used by Apple to help sell their products and serves no other practical purpose. So don’t be fooled by the marketing speak, do what I did and produce the video in 1920×1080 pixels and let the marketeers’ sort out the hype-speak.


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