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4K Interlaced vs. Progressive: Which Offers Better Video Clarity

4K Interlaced vs. Progressive: Which Offers Better Video Clarity

What To Know

  • Interlaced scanning transmits frames in odd and even lines quickly, but can cause “combing” effects, and is less suited for high-resolution content like 4K.
  • Progressive scanning transmits entire frames at once, producing smoother and more realistic images, and is the preferred method for high-quality content, including 4K.
  • While interlaced scanning is cost-effective and still used in some broadcasting, progressive scanning offers clearer and uninterrupted images, making it the superior choice for modern high-resolution content.

In this article, I’ll simplify the concepts of 4K interlaced and progressive scanning methods, explaining their differences and which one enhances your 4K viewing experience.

Let’s delve into the world of 4K and understand what makes it so visually stunning.

What is “Interlaced”?

Interlaced scans transmit and display frames in odd and even lines for 1/60 of a second. Because the transmissions are so quick, it’s difficult or near impossible for the human eye to register them. To the naked eye, the screen just looks like one complete frame. 

Combing effect on TV screen

Sometimes, interlaced scanning can cause a “combing” effect on the screen. This looks like jagged lines across the screen, usually associated with older TVs. 

Luckily, many contemporary systems use a deinterlacing technique to stop or minimize the “combing” effect. 

Typically, interlaced scanning is used for cable and television. It is useful when conserving bandwidth, so it’s not associated with high-resolution content, especially 4K content. 

The European Broadcasting Union is against continuing to use interlaced scanning as it limits the resolution that can be broadcasted. It’s argued that despite how developed deinterlacing techniques are, there will always be some form of imperfection when using interlaced scanning. 

What is “Progressive”?

Progressive scanning doesn’t break up and transmit the frame into lines as interlaced scanning does. Instead, the entire frame is transmitted in one go. This minimized the risk of choppy images or “combing”. 

Progressive images typically look smoother and more realistic than their interlaced counterparts. 

One drawback of using progressive scanning is that it can be quite expensive. However, independent filmmakers generally prefer to use it because it looks similar to a film camera. 

Progressive video is usually used in “CRTs, HDTV displays, and computer monitors.” It’s strongly associated with a clear and uninterrupted image, something all computer users expect from their technology today. 

However, progressive scanning can only be used if the display and the source are both progressive-compatible. Because the technology became popular in the early 21st century, it’s unlikely that a 30-year-old television is going to use progressive scanning to display a Blu-Ray DVD. 

If you’ve ever watched Netflix or YouTube, you’ve experienced the wonders of progressive video firsthand. 

Is 4K Interlaced or Progressive?

The 4K video is incredibly high-quality. The color is clearer, there isn’t the graininess that’s heavily associated with low-resolution content, and it’s consistently progressive.

You will never watch any 4K video that uses interlaced scanning. Many people consider interlaced scanning to be a thing of the past. Chopping up a frame into even and odd lines is unnecessary and only risks distorting the image or introducing unwanted movement into the screen. 

The broadcasting and film industry has been strongly hinting that they are ready to see interlaced scanning and video as an ancient technology that doesn’t deserve modern-day use. The introduction and wild success of 4K as an exclusively progressive technology cements interlaced scanning and video as a thing of the past. 

If 4K used interlaced scanning, it would not be 4K. Think about how difficult it would be to transmit and preserve video that’s four times clearer than 1080p if the frames had to be diced up and displayed intermittently. How clear could that image really be?

Is Interlaced Better than Progressive?

Interlaced has and still does serve a purpose to an extent. It’s easier and cheaper to broadcast interlaced video. In an ideal world, everything would be 4K, but that’s just not realistic. 

At the same time, progressive video is objectively clearer. No filmmaker or broadcaster would choose interlaced over progressive if money wasn’t a factor. The image is consistently crisp and uninterrupted. 

More likely than not, if you’re watching traditional television, you’re probably experiencing interlaced scanning and video. It’s more practical. But we wouldn’t say it’s better. 

Wrapping Things Up 

Knowing about the difference between interlaced and progressive video isn’t going to change your viewing experience with 4K, but it may help you appreciate how you’re able to watch the content you love. 

Picture what television looked like 40 years ago. It wasn’t uncommon for the image to be streaky and flickering. While you could still enjoy your shows back then, you were berated with unwanted light flashes, discoloring, and visual interruptions. 

Interlaced technology has come a long way since then, but it simply cannot compete with the smoothness of progressive video. Therefore, it only makes sense that 4K video is exclusively progressive. 

So, remember to thank progressive video the next time you watch a crystal clear YouTube video or stream your favorite show on Netflix. 

Are you an interlaced or a progressive fan? Let us know why in the comments below!

Good luck! 

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