Viewers’ eyes are more forgiving than you think. Most of the time, viewers just want to see video of what happened as soon as possible without regard to resolution. Notice how more big stories, like the Iranian election protest are being captured with lower resolution devices.
The secret is not getting the highest quality video, but getting the most compelling video. And getting the most compelling video often means getting to the scene of a news event first.
Viewers expect feature stories like hot air balloon races in New Mexico to be in high definition. Viewers are more forgiving with crime scene and natural disaster coverage, so they will settle for any resolution.
Recently, viewers were engrossed by grainy, cell phone video from Iranian election protests. I heard lots of viewers talking about the dying woman in the video, but none of them complained that it was not in HD or not in focus. Nor did I hear complaints about the length of the video or that there were no reporters doing interviews from the scene.
Of course, most viewers, myself included, prefer HD, but I’ll take any resolution in a pinch.
Today’s viewers spend much of their day navigating between high and low resolution video on television, YouTube, computer games and cell phones. Even toddlers can recognize the most minute detail from pixilated video that used to take experts to decipher.
The human eye sees about 10 million bits of information per second. About 40 bits per second reaches us on a conscious level.
As media professionals, we should focus on making the 40 bits more memorable instead of stressing over the 9,999,960 that we so often cannot control.
Instead of disqualifying streaming video-over-IP solutions based on resolution issues, most media outlets should embrace compact, streaming solutions for their ability to get to the scene first.
A satellite trucks may give you the 9,999,960 bits of information when they arrive at a breaking news story, but a photographers with a mobile streaming-over-IP solution will already be streaming the most compelling 40 bits of information.
And isn’t getting to the scene first the highest priority most of the time?