Slow-mo Footage Reveals the Unique Way Plasma TVs Displayed a Single Frame of Video

As fun as it is to watch things go boom in slow motion, high-speed cameras are more useful as educational and research tools, revealing phenomena that are otherwise imperceptible to the naked human eye, like the weird way old plasma TVs would display a single frame of video by flashing various parts of the image in multiple passes.

Advertisement

This isn’t the first time The Slow Mo Guys have pointed their high-speed cameras at a TV screen. In a video from 2018, they compared how modern LCD and OLED TVs display video—drawing images from the top of a screen to the bottom—to how old CRTs would generate each frame by drawing images line-by-line and pixel-by-pixel while relying on human persistence of vision to create a full image in our minds.

Somewhere between those technologies, we got TVs featuring plasma display panels which offered a lot of the same benefits that modern OLED screens do over LCDs. The on-screen pixels were made up of tiny cells filled with an ionized gas that self-illuminated when electricity was applied. As a result, plasma TVs didn’t need backlights nor suffer from issues like light leak, resulting in excellent contrast ratios and black levels that were darker than LCD TVs could muster. But plasma TVs actually worked a lot differently when generating images than LCDs, OLEDs, and even CRTs do, as The Slow Mo Guys discovered in their latest video that uses high-speed photography to reveal how 3D TVs functioned.

Instead of turning on every self-emissive pixel at the same time—which would be blinding—plasma display panels would instead illuminate different areas of the screen in fast pulses, up to 10 times for each frame, to quickly build up what the human brain would perceive as a single solid image. In the case of the plasma TV The Slow Mo Guys photographed, it was marketed as a 480Hz display which meant that while it actually operated at 60Hz, every frame generated was made up of eight shorter pulses.

Unlike with an LCD or OLED TV, at no point does slow-mo footage of a plasma display reveal an entire frame, but it’s the only way to see how this unique technology actually worked. As much as home theater enthusiasts loved plasma TVs, which were some of the first big-screen flat sets available, they’re a technology that’s no longer available thanks to improvements in LCD TVs, but mostly because OLED screens offer the same benefits with less power usage, slimmer profiles, and lighter sets that are much easier to hang on a wall.

This $400,000 Folding 165-Inch MicroLED TV Disappears Into Your Floor

For Netflix binge-watchers who may be concerned that a giant TV would overwhelm their living room’s vibe, fear not: The 165-inch C SEED M1 is a massive folding display that completely disappears into the floor when not in use. Unfortunately, installation looks like a giant pain—and that’s assuming you survive the sticker shock.

Unlike companies like LG, which have used flexible OLED screen technology to deliver giant TVs that can discreetly disappear into an unassuming box when not in use, C SEED instead uses microLEDs. MicroLEDs, which many consider to be the future of screen technology, combine the best features of the current leading screen technologies with self-illuminated RGB pixels that don’t require a backlight, and without the degrading organic compounds that are used to manufacture OLED displays. The new screen tech is also more energy efficient, allows for slimmer screens, and can produce whites and blacks that rival the best TVs currently on the market.

Advertisement

The only downside is that microLED displays can’t fold like OLEDs can—at least yet. So to make a 165-inch TV disappear into the floor, C SEED has instead designed the M1 to first separate into five separate panels that fold into each other like a giant fan. That’s the other advantage of microLED screen technology: It allows much larger TVs to be assembled from smaller panels while perfectly hiding all the seams, so the final result looks like one giant uniform display.

Illustration for article titled This $400,000 Folding 165-Inch MicroLED TV Disappears Into Your Floor

Illustration: C SEED

We’ve all seen “jumbotron” screens criss-crossed with black lines where smaller panels didn’t quite align perfectly, but C SEED promises that’s not an issue with the M1 thanks to a feature called Adaptive Gap Calibration, which senses when panels have slight offsets and automatically adjusts the brightness of edge pixels to hide any shadows that create those unsightly seam lines.

The C SEED M1, available in gold, black, or titanium finishes, can be yours for $400,000, but that doesn’t include the renovations needed to make a room ready for its installation. If you want the full effect of a giant TV screen that disappears into your floor, you’re going to have to get a contractor to ensure that it’s even possible for a room—and then there’s the room below it to consider if you live in a multi-floor home. If you live in an apartment or a condo in a tower, you’ll have to instead settle for other installation options, which include a giant box sitting on the floor for the M1 to collapse into, or matching decorative furniture for it to hide inside.

Advertisement

That sounds like a lot of work just to disguise a TV, but watching the C SEED M1 slowly rise up out of the floor and then unfold like the solar panels of a satellite that’s just reached orbit is mesmerizing. It almost makes having to wait a couple of minutes before you can actually watch TV seem not as inconvenient as it really is. Getting there is half the fun with the M1.