Saturday, December 13, 2008

Quality Dichotomy

I'm in a quandary about quality. On the one hand we don't seem to mind watching millions of videos a day in terrible, jerky, pixelated quality via youtube and its ilk; we also don't seem to mind compressed images or audio files as in jpegs or mp3s. We watch downloaded films and TV shows where the sound isn't synced and the action stutters. We squint to watch programmes or films 6x5" on youtube, on our iPods and our phones. Photos that should last for generations are taken on a phone and are so low-res they can't be blown up to 6x4 without distortion. This is all seems fine – because the image is so temporary. Delete and move on.

On the other hand we all must have the latest HD digital television set (with surround sound speakers) broadcasting HD digital TV programmes – even when, say, watching Freeview on them is often pixelated and jerky. DVDs (and now Blu-Ray – do we care it's four times better quality than DVD? In my book it's already an obsolete format) are meant to be high quality but the discs are of lower quality than CDs and more prone to scratching, jumping and skipping due to dust or fingerprints. Look closely at these TVs and see the dancing pixels. We then watch terrible quality pirate DVDs (complete with moving audience heads) on these high quality HD TVs and don't see a contradiction.

These two extremes – although there is overlap – seem to be co-existing. I've never been too fussed about the quality of the image, as long as the quality of the content is good (it usually isn't of course – and HD is only going to exacerbate the ugly soap characters, their bad acting, the cliched and recycled scripts, the over-lit interiors). But has, to quote Marshall McLuhan, the medium become the (somewhat pixelated, out of focus) message? We shall see – or not.

No comments :