Friday, August 13, 2010

Two concepts of quality

Researchers from Rice University's Department of Luddite Apologetics have found experimental evidence for what many of us have long suspected: that video content is more important than quality. If you're enjoying the movie, you won't notice that it's grainy, scratchy, blocky or even black-and-white. Conversely, if the movie is in super-high-resolution, that won't make you enjoy it any more.

Not surprising, perhaps. We know the brain is very good at filling in detail and smoothing over cracks. That's the whole principle on which movies work in the first place - if you show a series of still images quickly enough, the brain stitches them together into a single "moving" picture.

But it's always nice to have one's prejudices confirmed.

This should be terrible news for Sony, which has staked pretty much its entire product line on the assumption that we'll mortgage our firstborn to get higher-resolution video. Conversely, great news for TV viewers: you don't have to buy that HD screen and Blu-Ray player, it won't improve your enjoyment: good movies are good without it, and crappy ones will still be crappy even with it.

Unfortunately, Sony wouldn't be Sony if its plans were based on anything as fickle as "what we want". The poor old consumer is routinely stitched up with products that they either didn't ask for, or actually begged not to get - cellphone cameras, rolling news, American Idol, movie sequels (and prequels, and remakes, and Jar-Jar), cover versions, deep-ocean oil rigs, wars, Windows upgrades...

And HDTV is one of these. We're already being forced to accept "digital TV", on the laughable pretext that it will simultaneously allow more channels and better quality (which is a bit like wiring up your aircon so that it will only work when your heating is on maximum). Within ten years, I confidently predict, non-HD TVs will be hard to buy, ruinously expensive to service or repair, and incapable of receiving anything other than rolling news and reality TV. Thus requiring more movies and programs to be remade, to meet our higher expectations.

Consumerism. Gotta love it. After all, what choice do we have?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Vote with our feet, it is sometimes possible. Here in the UK Mr what´s his name, Clegg of our new shiny coalition government had a bright idea. He invited Joe Public to tell him, and the government, what proposed legislation/measures were most disliked. Guess what - the winner by a mile, was the proposal for an early turnoff of FM radio, forcing everybody to acquire digital radio sets. The resistance is really widespread, and I for one will not buy new radios but make use of existing technology to listen to radio, either through the television set or via the internet. Haha! I don´t know if the public response is going to have results; maybe there are too many vested interests, Mumsie