We spend a lot of time reading about the differences between display technologies like LCD and OLED, which, like all display technologies, are built to fool our eyes into seeing things that are only simulated, not real, like colors, or realistic movement. But it helps to see it in action.
A video from YouTube channel The Slow Mo Guys (originally reported on by Motherboard) vividly illustrates how CRT, LCD, and OLED displays work by either zooming in very close or by recording in insane frame rates at ultra slow motion.
You’ll still find enthusiasts who insist that it’s all been downhill since CRT monitors and TVs went sunset for most of the market. While this video doesn’t make much of a case for CRT’s relative quality, it does show that they were engineering marvels for their time.
When the capture frame rate hits 380,000 frames per second while recording Super Mario Bros. playing on an NES and a CRT TV, the video shows the image drawing not just vertically, one scan line at a time, but one pixel at a time as it builds out each scanline from left to right. It all happens so quickly that the naked eye can’t tell, even on that old hardware.
The video moves on from CRT to LCD to show (with a zoom lens) how the three colored subpixels work to simulate colors, or white. You might have seen that sort of examination before, but the video also does something you don’t see as often: it compares the subpixels on an LCD and OLED television to demonstrate the difference in black levels between the two competing technologies.
Another takeaway: while LCD TVs typically draw the image from top to bottom, watching a movie in landscape mode on an iPhone actually does the same thing. The iPhone works from side-to-side: it uses the user’s perspective, because the phone’s display always works as if it’s in portrait mode.
This won’t be new information to display-tech enthusiasts. But the video takes several of the most discussed concepts of display technology and plays them out for anyone to observe and intuitively understand. While consumers grapple between OLED and various LED, LCD-based technologies for both their TVs and phones (and soon, computer monitors), a little more understanding is always welcome.