Modern video codecs rely on pixels to represent moving pictures. That method works well enough, but there are some inherent problems. Lower-resolution videos can’t be scaled up without a noticeable loss in image quality, for example. While using a higher resolution alleviates that issue, it increases the file size substantially. Now, researchers at the University of Bath, United Kingdom, have developed a new video codec that replaces pixels with vectors.
Vector-based formats store data about the contours of shapes in a given scene. Filling in those shapes accurately has always been problematic, but the researchers claim to have a solution that offers the "highest visual quality." They’ve also posted a video of their work in action. The one-minute clip has a 512×288 resolution, so it’s hard to tell how well the codec scales content. That said, the quality looks decent to me. I just wish there were a side-by-side comparison with a pixel-based codec instead of the constant flipping between contours and the full picture.
The research team is already working with several companies, and it’s encouraging others to get involved. Right now, the focus seems to be on post-production applications. Web, tablet, and mobile applications are mentioned explicitly, though, and the group expects its work will lead to "the death of the pixel within the next five years." That sounds a tad optimistic, but vector-based formats certainly seem to have a lot of potential.