The Day After Tomorrow: E Ink and the Blurring Line Between Video and Print
I love bookstores. Especially the giant mega-store types stocked with the books we all claim to have read but probably never will. I get sucked in every time. Before you know it, I’m listening to nauseatingly hip music while wading through piles of mostly useless information in a caffeine-induced trance.
So a couple of months back, when my wife and I were visiting our local Borders bookstore, I headed to the magazine section to begin with some light reading before delving into heavier, more academic material like discovering who’s playing Doctor Manhattan in the upcoming Watchmen superhero flick. (It’s Billy Crudup by the way).
That’s when I saw it for the first time: the October cover of Esquire magazine. Normally, I don’t pay attention to Esquire, but on this occasion I couldn’t help reaching for it with trembling hands. I was speechless with the realization that I was holding the world’s first ever E Ink magazine cover. It was yet another step towards Star Trek coming true. I quietly wept.
Pulling myself together, I hurried to tell my wife the exciting news. She met my enthusiasm with a blank stare. Obviously she had no idea what E Ink was, so I explained. I told her that E Ink is this cool new display technology that is similar to LCD but has the advantage of being extremely flexible and thin like paper. Instead of using a backlight like LCD, it uses reflected light so the experience is very much like reading a book! Bored, my wife returned to her People, but as a die-hard motion graphics and video fan, I knew I was looking at the print piece of tomorrow.
Right now E Ink is young and like most technologies in their infancy, it will only get better. Currently, we see it utilized mostly in electronic readers like the Amazon Kindle, but this is just the beginning. As it improves and becomes more accessible, E Ink will likely become a technology that will give LCD a serious run for its money. Already Sony has developed a similar thin, flexible display technology called OLED capable of high quality video on a paper-thin surface.
Some predict that because of its flexibility, this and similar technologies will have unique applications in the years to come. Some examples include T-shirts fully equipped with animated graphics, laptop and cell phone displays made out of fabric, entire walls of mass transit centers used as informational displays with full video advertisements. Just imagine opening the Chicago Tribune to discover a looping video segment accompanying the main feature story, printed right on the newsprint. With E Ink, none of these ideas are all that far-fetched and many may be just around the corner.
For video professionals like me, this is wonderful news. These new technologies will open up a variety of new platforms for video and motion graphics content, which means increased demand. In the near future, instead of being limited to the standard video applications (TV and web), motion graphics artists may also be preparing video content for brochures, billboards, restaurant menus, glass storefronts and domestic wallpaper. Already we are seeing this sort of application in big cities where wealthy companies are utilizing expensive LCD technology on custom billboards, but the flexibility and low cost of E Ink and similar technologies could bring customized video displays of any shape and size into the reach of mom and pop businesses everywhere.
At Villing & Company, we’re excited to see where the future leads us. We are always enthusiastic about adapting to new technologies and figuring out new ways to share our clients' stories with the world.
Ten years from now, someone may be congratulating you for the wonderful video advertisement they saw coming to life along the entire surface of a city bus. It won’t be science fiction any longer; it will just be your moving message, loud and clear, without limitations.
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