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Does HD On a PC Screen Matter?

[qi:032] YouTube co-founder Steve Chen during an onstage chat at our NewTeeVee Live conference responded to our questions about video quality by saying that YouTube will boost the quality of the videos, but not at the expense of user experience. Buffering and video playback delays were an anathema to the popular destination site, and YouTube would be careful about how it tackled the issue of video quality.

The company was experimenting with ways to gauge the speed of broadband connections and improve the video quality accordingly, he said. He told C/Net WebWare that this technology would be available widely over the next three months. Somehow it all got misconstrued into YouTube offering high-definition videos on their site, an erroneous message that was repeated quite a few times, and eventually settling into a debate about high-definition vs. high-quality videos.

What matters more? It all depends on the screen the video is destined for, opined panelists on my Network Makeover panel preceding our conversation with Steve. They were almost unanimous in pointing out that that HD video on a PC screen doesn’t matter.

Verizon’s Jeff Harris summed it up best when he said that resolution is dependent on the destination screen. A big plasma screen should get HD video, but most laptop screens don’t need HD and you can’t really tell the difference between higher quality and HD videos on, say, a 14- or 15-inch screen. Cisco’s Kip Compton rightfully pointed out that the trend is towards higher quality. I think that is something we can all agree upon.

What do you think? What is the minimum acceptable quality you want from your web video?

Related Posts:

* Does HD Online Matter? AOL and CBS Say No.
* Akamai’s new HD strategy: Show, Don’t Tell
* Is web video ready for an HD upgrade?

18 Responses to “Does HD On a PC Screen Matter?”

  1. Our users and the studios we work with tell us it depends on the length of engagement with the content. It’s ok to watch a 90 second clip in blurry, SD or below quality.
    For feature length movies, whether experienced on a laptop or whilst connected to a plasma, however HD is important. In the same way gaming resolution has become higher why would you accept anything less when you lean back and enjoy the movies?

  2. Quality will matter more and more as Mainstream Mom (and Dad) start watching Web Video. Right now, your average 18-25 year-old is OK with YouTube quality. Your 45-year-old who has his/her computer hooked up to a LCD monitor or HDTV will care — a lot.

    We are already seeing an interesting trend – while the 18-24 year-old crowd still is the majority of viewers, we have seen a recent surge in 35-54 year-olds. They are watching shows such as “Beautiful Places in HD” and “National Geographic HD”:

    (BTW, if you use Miro – you should really stick that channel’s RSS feed in Miro – just be sure to turn autodownload off and pick and choose the ones you want to download – amazing!)

  3. Absolutely it matters, for free video perhaps not so much, but the resolution of pc screens is high enough that the difference is resolution between 320×240 video and hi def video is really massive whereas on tv screens the difference is not as noticable.

  4. Pete…I used an old country adage in my comments on the panel. “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” No matter what YT does, they can’t flip a switch and make every video HD, even if they had the bandwidth to serve it up. To deliver HD, they’d have to start with HD source. How many people have HD camcorders? Now count how many of them would contribute to YT. No one is suggesting that YT needs “fixing” so they can deliver in HD. They could do so right now, but you have to deal with the source. Jaman delivers high quality because they start with HQ source, shot & lit professionally. YT can’t do any better than the source they get: cell phones, DV camcorders, digicams acting as camcorders, 2nd-gen rips from TV. All less than HD, some less than SD. The bottom line: quality is the measure. My 2 cents. Spend it wisely. :)

  5. I’d rather watch Stage6 because of reasons 1080p has stated. It’s no use trying to figure out how to ‘fix’ YouTube so that it seems hi-def, whether it be going big screen and just moving yourself back or whatever. Honestly I think YouTube would skyrocket even more if they could find a way to HD every video, seems impossible doesn’t it?

  6. Compare Stage6 to YouTube. Most PC and laptop screens are capable of much more than 720p. And 720p is far beyond YouTube. HD may not matter to the PC because the PC is capable of much more. Until we define “high-quality”, HD is our only barometer.
    We watch internet video on our best screen (1080p,42″) all the time, as well as surf, read/write email, &IM. There is noticeable difference between YT, upscaled DVDs, and HD. We you think of the PC as intermediary and not an endpoint, you will see the need for 720 or better. BTW, when not connected to the TV, my laptop res is 1680×1050.

  7. While I agree with the basic premise that “Quality Matters on Broadband” (and not so much HD), it really hits home when you consider the screen. Small pixels hide a lot of sins, and most people can’t see the difference on a 20″ screen. Take the same video, blow it up to 50″ and the quality matters a whole lot more. As I said on the panel, when someone plumbs internet video to the best screen in your house, then HD on broadband will matter a whole lot. We are a ways away from that, no matter what people think. It’s not easy…yet. :)

  8. It totally doesn’t matter 480p widescreen up-scaled will look great on any laptop screen on the market. Want proof? Just pop in your creaky old Matrix DVD into any MacBook Pro. If you can imagine that it could somehow look even better, maybe you need HD on your PC. The rest of us don’t.

    Counterintuitively, however, I think people are hungrier for higher-resolution interfaces on their computers, as websites take up more screen real estate and so on, but it doesn’t have an impact on their video preferences. Youtube already looks OK at full screen. If they could make the artifacting less obvious, I’m happy.

  9. tonyleachsf

    A growing number of people are watching full TV episodes online (hence the writers strike). The exact figure I’ve seen thrown around was 17% of all households have watched a full-length TV show online, or something like that.

    So I think HD is not only a big deal, but the future. As content delivery moves away from cable and physical media like CD’s/DVD’s/Bluray/HD-DVD and towards service like iTunes and Netflix, people will demand higher and higher quality. So we’ll be able to stream HD movies and television (and you-tube, I suppose) to our computers, hooked up to our 50″ plasmas.

  10. monkeypox

    those guys are insane. of course HD on a pc matters. not only do modern monitors have much higher pixel densities (thus magnifying any compression artifacts), they also generally run at higher resolutions, especially with so many widescreen displays flooding the market.

    even a jump to 480p as a standard would be a huge improvement. take a look at some of the trailers on apple’s HD quicktime site for an example.

  11. I think to be clear, you have to look at the difference between encoding quality and resolution. YouTube could push out 720p video (lowest level of HD), but if the compression is cranked up so much that artifacts are pervasive, is it really HD? It really comes down to the level of quality. Look at all the complaints about some providers not providing a “full HD” experience. It’s not a question of resolution or compression level alone. It’s the balance of both. Let’s face it, the standard we have been used to for years is 480i on small CRTs. Now we have progressive video on displays capable of showing every blemish in a video signal. Unless you have a 1280×720 screen or greater on a PC, HD really doesn’t matter much. If you have a clean image, and it’s encoded properly, you’ll get a fabulous picture on any modern display, HD or not.

  12. i think this is inherently unfair to compare HD video vs. ‘higher quality’ video on PC. HD standards, although not crystal clear, recognizes certain level of base requirements in resolution and bit rate. but the so called ‘higher quality’ has nothing to measure up to. youtube video is high(er) quality than even lower quality videos. HD is low(er) quality than the new ‘red one’ technology. comparing ANYTHING to ‘higher quality’ video does not mean anything until someone can explain to me what the definition of higer quality is.

  13. Quality on web material does not matter so much when viewing on a small screen such as a mobile phone terminal, but I view a lot of things from my computer on a 40″ LCD meaning quality is a big issue. When upload/download speeds increase we will probably also see that the quality will improve too. Now it just takes too long time uploading HD material to various sites (if even allowed).

  14. Yeah, your panel was smoking something. Many HDTVs don’t support anything better than 720p, higher resolutions which many more computer monitors and laptop LCDs support. The biggest problem with HD is that you need a pretty recent processor to decode them and older screens of any type are less likely to support them.

  15. HD video on a PC screen does matter very much.

    Compare a crappy Youtube Video to a DVD that you see on your PC screen! It’s such a difference.

    Many of my younger friends just don’t have a TV set anymore. They enjoy digital television via IP or DVB-T on their computers and notice a big difference between the normal TV program and DVDs in HD.

    A laptop screen has much more dots per inch than a TV set.