Monday, September 04, 2006

Consumer electronics and lo-rez Kung Fu

One of the most fundamental questions about consumer electronics sometimes gets lost in the shuffle: “What are you going to use this for?”

And it’s an important question. Do you need an 80GB MP3 player if you only have 200-300 songs you like? Do you need a surround sound system if you only watch network television? Consumer electronics are continually advancing and offering more features and options, but the bottom line should always be this: does this help me enjoy my electronic entertainment more?

I was thinking of this as I spent the weekend savoring the latest batch of video podcasts from Clash TV sends out a bunch of cult films once a month as video podcasts. While fun to watch, they do have their drawbacks (and I’m not just talking about the acting). The movies come in at 64 Kbps, which is extremely low resolution. There’s a lot of chucky pixilation, especially when there’s lots of fast motion.

This month, it’s a selection of Kung Fu films, so image breakup is particularly bad. A 60” flat-screen TV would be useless for viewing these films. It would be virtually impossible to make out anything that was going on. Ditto for that great surround sound system — the soundtracks have serious quality issues, as so much of the sonic information is missing.

On an iPod, though they look fine — not great, but fine. And really, given the quality of these films, that’s OK. The sound through earbuds is tolerable. I can make out the dialog, and that’s about all I want. Once I’ve finished watching these movies, I’ll delete them off my hard drive. This is disposable entertainment for sure.

For image and sound quality, as well as content, these video podcasts from Clash TV are perfect iPod fodder. And it’s a good example of what I’m mean by matching content to device. I’ll not be viewing “Ten Fingers of Death” or “King of the Zombies” on a high-end home-theater system, but as a way to pass some time with my iPod, it can’t be beat.
- Ralph

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