High Quality Isn't the Same as High Res

I’ve mentioned many times how much Merlin Mann and John Roderick are helping people with their podcast. This week, starting 32 minutes in, they’ve summed up a point I’ve been trying to put into words for several months. All these new ways to consume content are distracting us from how shitty most of the content is. The consumer electronics companies and Hollywood also seem to think bells and whistles like 3D and HD (or the new 4K/Ultra HD format) can convince us something awful is actually great.

I was reviewing plans for rearranging the living room with my wife late last year when I surprised her by suggesting we remove the surround speakers to give us more options. After more than 10 years living together it was the first time I’d ever suggested reducing the quality of our home theater. When she asked if I was sure about it, I answered with a question.

Is Fletch funnier in surround sound?

For me, the answer is a resounding no, and I think Dr. Rosenpenis would agree. The quality of the content has nothing to do with the number of audio channels or even the screen resolution. The Wire is one of the best shows ever and you can’t watch it in high def because it was made in 4:3 SD.

And that's okay.

Jaws was shot with Mono sound. Quality is about the perfect camera move and the look on Roy Scheider's face when he sees the shark for the first time. Quality is not about how many pixels that shot is made of or the number of surround speakers playing the music cue.