Quick Video Resolution Guide

This post is really for my wife, who is helping to organize a conference. A number of presenters want to use media as part of their presentation. The problem is that everyone brings not only a range of equipment but also a range of expectations and knowledge about what it is they are doing and what can be done. I passed onto her a recent development in my own professional organization: in the last year, the [American Folklore Society][afs] has recently decided to standardize what audio-visual equipment it can afford to provide to its members at our annual meeting. The core of that equipment is an LCD projector with a VGA connector. (No resolution is provided, I suspect, because that would require more sophisticated conference/convention AV vendors than currently fill those ranks — feel free to correct me if you’re a vendor and you do provide resolutions: I’ll write about you and I’ll suggest we have a meeting in your town.)

In the particular case of this conference, they will be using two projectors that I know fairly well. Both of them are XGA resolution, or 1068 x 764. A quick run-down of 4:3 aspect ratio resolutions is as follows:

Name | Resolution (pixels)
VGA | 640 x 480
SVGA | 800 x 600
XGA | 1024 x 768
SXGA | 1280 x 1024

The 4:3 aspect ratio is the one we are all used to seeing everytime we look at a regular, old television — the resolution of which, in case you wanted to know, is something like 720 x 480, but what was actually viewable was something less — remember the black bars you would see when adjusting the *Vertical Hold* knob (usually awkwardly located on the back of the set)?

Now, as if all those acronyms aren’t bad enough, especially for people who still think PowerPoint presentations have to have bullet points, there is also the matter of how you connect your computer to the projector. Here’s the port that most Windows laptops have on them:

*Windows PC VGA Port*

The VGA port will carry all of the resolutions above, despite the fact that it seems like an acronym mismatch. My advice to her and the conference organizers was to say something like this to presenters:

> The conference will provide an LCD projector capable of 1024 x 768 resolution in the room in which you will present. The projector will be equipped with a VGA cord. Please plan accordingly.

So, presenters will have to determine two things:

1. Are my materials in a format that will view well at 1024 x 768? and
2. Do I have a way to connect by VGA?

If they have a port on their laptop like the one above, they’re in good shape. If they have any other kind of port, they are going to need to bring some sort of dongle.

Mac users, who have suffered the slings and arrows of Apple trying either (a) to advance video display technology and/or (b) look for ways to sell add-ons, are long used to the idea of dongles. My new MacBook comes with the new mini-DisplayPort port, which, with any luck, just might stick around and become a standard. For now, however, every time I travel to a conference, I have to carry around this dongle:

*My new conference companion: Apple’s Mini-DisplayPort to VGA adapter*

This conference attendees will need to make sure they are similarly equipped. Some new, higher-end laptops may very well not possess the blue VGA port above but may, instead have a white DVI port. They make converters — or, if they bring a cord, our LCD projectors also have a ***DVI In***.

*Good luck!*

[afs]: http://americanfolkloresociety.org/