Advances in Color Rendering for LCD Displays

At a time when LCD screen sizes seem to be struggling to set a reasonable minimum, maturing technologies are providing much better color depth for greater realism. For a long time, the "True Color" standard has been 24-bit with 256 shades each of red, green, and blue, producing about 16 million distinct shades. The RGB color picker in Photoshop defaults to this format.

The eye can distinguish a much greater range than this, and in 2008 Hewlett-Packard introduced its 30-bit DreamColor LCD display, developed with DreamWorks, that could show more than a billion tints. It was expensive, and used primarily in graphics and video studios. The newest version of this monitor is the z27x LED, which is dramatically lower in cost and may appeal to a wider audience.

The effect of this great increase is primarily apparent in the shadows, transparencies and gradients that come with very high resolution images and videos. With graphics chips as powerful as they have become, such added realism can be viewed without flicker or artifacts, as long as sufficient bandwidth is there to stream the file.

There is a new format coming for TV: Ultra HD 4K, which supports 32-bit color and  a native resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels. This is the standard for movies these days, meant to be seen in theaters from special high-definition projectors. The transition of this standard to your personal screen depends on sufficient bandwidth for streaming or broadcasting, and would require technology to upsample the 24-bit BluRay DVD to the higher resolution. But the technology is certainly ready for the hardware right now, whether or not you can provide the signal.

On the smaller end of the scale, thinner and flexible LCD screens seem to be making a commercial presence, resulting in thinner screens that may even fold or roll up. These are being developed for portable devices and the issue of resolution would seem to be moot, except that truly tiny, high-res screens that can cast an image directly on the retina of the eye may have an important place in the immediate future. LCD displays are getting larger and smaller at the same time, and there is a wide range of intermediate sizes—between mini tablets and desktop computer monitors—that continue to reap the benefits of the developing technology.

So the immediate future will be rich in colorful images as these new technologies are brought together.