Mobile Video Convenience versus Home Theater Quality

I’ve never bought entertainment software for convenience’s sake. If I try to purchase something I already own, Wife_o_Geek vetoes with, "Don’t you already have that? We need diapers." I can’t smell a dirty diaper while riding the train to work, watching Samurai Champloo on my PSP. We move out of electronics and into the baby aisle.

Why buy expensive UMDs and iPod TV Videos from the iTunes Music Store? You can rip and re-encode the DVDs you own, right? Not so fast, that’s illegal and you’ll get sued by the MPAA.

When dealing with electronic forms of entertainment you want your money to go toward improvements to the experience: higher resolutions, bigger screens, more surround sound channels, crisper and clearer, less noise, whatever. You may have a hard time paying for tiny resolution, formatted for a 2 inch screen, mono or stereo sound (Dolby Pro Logic II on headphones with some UMD titles), and compressed and noisy audio and video.

Convenience and a high quality home entertainment experience are opposing forces. The best audio and video presentations benefit from many discrete and separate components connected with expensive cables and only able to serve one source at a time. Every multi-disc carousel DVD player compromises audio, video and power supply electronics for the convenience of preloading five to 400 discs at a time.

My wife and I have been trying to find time to finish watching Lord of the Rings (just Return of the King left). If we want to only follow Aragorn’s destiny (Wife_o_Geek’s choice) in the Lord of the Rings trilogy we would have to skip all the other irrelevant chapters with our remote, get up off the couch, eject Fellowship of the Ring, turn on the lights and find the Two Towers and then stop again to switch to Return of the King. We could rip all three movies to our modded Xbox’s HDD and watch them all in a row, filtering the other storylines out, but that would be illegal wouldn’t it?

Convenience and quality are evenly weighted, one forsaking the other. Use the following as a rough guide:

  • Ultra convenient::Low Quality - Mobile audio and video like iPod, PSP and your fancy cell phone
  • Pretty Darn convenient::Medium Quality - MacBook Pro scaled video like MPEG-4 and DVDs.
  • On your home network convenient::Medium Quality - Video you can play on your home computers and video game consoles over a network again with the MPEG-4 and DVD and if your lucky time shifted SD and HD TV through Myth TV or Tivo.
  • Inconvenient::Highest quality in the home - dedicated home theater ordained by the MPAA with the use of commercial DVDs and real time HDTV played through expensive DVD players, AV processors, amps and as many big as a coffin loudspeakers you can cram in the room.
  • So terribly inconvenient most will avoid at all costs::Highest Quality (according to the begging of the MPAA and theater owners—YMMV) - You have to leave the safety and comfort of your home, hire a babysitter, gas up the SUV and sit beneath the left surround speaker while tolerating talking, cell phones ringing, babies crying and compromised audio and video quality because the theater manager forgets or refuses to turn off the lights all the way.

    Time and interest determine how you balance convenience against quality. You have a high interest in seeing Return of the King in HD on a 92" screen surrounded by loudspeakers and subwoofers blaring the roar of Middle Earth’s armies. You only have time to watch last night’s Desperate Housewives on your video iPod while commuting. Are you willing to pay for both these extremes again when the current season of Desparate Housewives is released on Blu-Ray and LOTR is offered on the rumored widescreen video iPod?

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