“When Apple Computer started offering short videos and TV show episodes for $1.99 through its iTunes Music Store late last year, I thought it was a good idea… The problem is, in the real world, these videos don’t represent a good deal at all. And now I’m beginning to rethink my opinion on downloadable digital video. In fact, it’s unclear to me why any individuals need to own this content at all,” Paul Thurrott writes for Connected Home Media. “My first glimpse into the problem came last October, when Apple released its video iPod and added the first round of videos to the iTunes Music Store. I immediately downloaded a small collection of test videos, including a few TV show episodes (the pilot episodes of Lost and Desperate Housewives) and a couple music videos. The quality wasn’t inspiring. Because the Apple downloads are matched to the capabilities of the iPod, they’re encoded at 320 x 240 and about 650Kbps. This resolution is lower than that of standard-definition TV. Put another way, it’s poorer quality than VHS, a technology that’s over 25 years old.”
“When you watch these videos on an iPod screen, they actually look startlingly good, thanks to the small size of the display,” Thurrott writes. “The quality problems are exacerbated when you try to watch these videos elsewhere. There are two logical alternatives: a notebook or desktop computer, or a TV set. As computer files, the videos you download from iTunes will work fine on any Windows PC or Macintosh, assuming that you’ve installed iTunes and authorized that device to play videos you’ve purchased. But the high-resolution screens of most PCs—my iMac runs at 1680 x 1050, for example—makes the tiny iTunes videos look like animated icons, they’re so small. And when you enlarge them, the low quality of the encoding becomes apparent, with banding, artifacting, and other visual errors. They look horrible.”
Full article here.
MacDailyNews Note: “They look horrible,” writes Paul Thurrott. Hmm, Thurrott… Now why does that name seem familiar? Oh yeah, Thurrott’s the same same guy who wrote for WinInfo on October 28, 2005, “I’ve been playing with a new iPod with video, the Apple Universal Dock, and the new Apple Remote for the past week, and I have two observations. First, despite years of experience with portable video, I’m super impressed with both the iPod video and the video formats (MPEG-4 and H.264) that it utilizes; even at 320 x 240 (or 480 x 270, as I’ve encoded my widescreen videos in), these movies look great blasted out to a large TV set, albeit with sub-DVD-style artifacts here and there. Second, I’m suddenly hooked on the TV show ‘Lost.’ I purchased the show’s premiere episode via iTunes to test the iPod, and now my wife and I are several episodes in and there’s no turning back.”
So, which is it, Paul? Apple has changed nothing regarding iTunes Store video quality between October and today. The canyon between “horrible” and “amazing” is just a tad too wide for us to get a good feel for what you really think. Or do you just scribble whatever you feel like based on whatever random whim strikes you?
Regardless of Thurrott’s strange about-face, yes, it would be nice if Apple could up the video quality (and the music quality) if the content owners (TV producers and music labels) would allow such increases (don’t hold your breath). And, yes — referring to another of Thurrott’s points in his full article — for video content, a subscription service for iTunes would be a welcome option; pay a monthly fee, watch TV, just like cable (or in place of cable).
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Thurrott: ‘I’m super impressed with Apple’s iPod video, looks great blasted out to large TV set’ – October 28, 2005