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  1. #1
    RetroSteve! My location

    Stephen Coates's Avatar
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    Are we going back in time?

    I was just reading an article on a web site about how alot of websites in the 1990s were badly designed, with things like spalsh pages, complicated background pictures, too much flash and numerous other things.

    As far as I can tell, this is mostly websites made by people who didn't really know what they were doing.

    Now I know that alots of sites around today do look alot better, and are easier to read etc, but has this problem really just moved over to Myspace? Rather than people creating bad personal websites, they are just creating bad MySpace (and similar) pages.

    However, the excessive flash usage doesn't seem to be restriced to myspace. I hardly seem to be able to go a couple of days without coming accross a site which has some unnecessary flash on it, be it something quite useless, or a video. Or multiple videos on the same page.

    Another thing which seems to be taking us back in time is video. In this age of High Definition television and things like digital TV and DVDs, theres seems to be an increasing amount of bad quality video appearing (both on the internet and the TV) from mobile telephones. Most of this is significantly worse quality than a video I made about 4 years back with a VHS-C camcorder (and later copied onto VHS). YouTube certainly arn't helping by making the quality of the videos on their site bad, even if the source was good. Since fast connections and enormous hard drives are quite readily avaliable these days to both consumers and the big companies like Google, there is no excuse for limiting the quality of videos. As far as I'm aware, the Flash video format isn't what limits the quality as I'm sure I have seen one or two good quality flash videos.

    Anotherexample is audio. Is it not clear to people that an old CD or an even older well looked after vinyl record will more than likely produce a better sound than a 128kbps MP3? And that headphones will produce better sound than a small speaker in a mobile phone?

  2. #2
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    Too much flash was a problem when web connections were very slow. In the broadband era, it's far less of a problem especially as Adobe have optimised the format and designers have learnt to hit the right balance between load times and style.

    The thing about Myspace and the like is that 90% of people aren't designers and don't know too much about making something look good. Does it bother me? Not really as the pages have nothing that interests me on them.

    Mobile phones (and standard digicams) do produce crap quality video, but in many cases the alternative is no video at all. How many people carry a video cam around with them? And how many a mobile phone? When an event occurs would you rather no video was created of it at all or some poor quality video?

    As for Youtube, well it's costs Google $1million a day for the bandwidth it uses - that's with the low-quality videos. However they are trialling "Watch in higher quality" on some videos (and you can default to this setting). These look a lot better. Your VHS-C video might have been better quality, but how did you show it to people? You would have had to make a VHS copy for each person, in real-time. People couldn't have just searched and found your video they would have had to known you and known about the video before they could see it.

    Most people are well aware that MP3's don't sound as good as CDs. I certainly am. But I still choose to listen to it in MP3 format. Why? Well because I can't really tell the difference (encoded at 320kbps VBR) and having thousands of songs a few keystrokes and a double-click away is mightly more convenient than finding and inserting a disk to hear one track.

    In nearly all the above cases, it's a compromise between quality and convenience.
    Last edited by AlexJ; 20th May 2008 at 16:23. Reason: Auto spellcheck got it wrong...

  3. #3
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    Some interesting points. I think on the whole we haven't gone backwards. Instead we haven't really moved forwards but instead have just moved sideways to other forms of multimedia delivery.

    128Kbps MP3s for example are more about a size to quality balance. Most people cannot really tell much difference between an Mp3 encoded at 128kbps and a CD. Those that are listening for the differences can, but the majority of people are not bothered. And this isn't really surprising when only 10 years ago most people were still happy listening to tapes in their cars and on their walkmans.

    Yes higher quality MP3s do sound better, but only to those who care. I always encode mine at a minimum of 192, but more often at 320 when needed. But most people are more concerned about fitting as many albums as possible onto their MP3 player.

    So in this regard the music listened to on most MP3 players isn't CD quality, and probably not much better than tape, but you can fit more onto an MP3 player, the devices are smaller, and it is easier to navigate between tracks. So there are advances in this regard.

    As for video. It's more about the content itself rather than the video quality. YouTube video isn't that great, and no one is going to deny it, but as a social video sharing site it is good enough. And video does use a lot of bandwidth and resources to stream. If you have higher quality video at larger resolutions it is going to eat up a lot more resources and create much bigger overheads. Consider how many videos must be streamed from youtube every day. That is a lot of bandwidth and continuous processing power needed.

    But also consider users connections. A lot of broadband connections can still only just cope with streaming the current sized YouTube videos, so if they were larger and higher quality it would put a lot of people off from using the service as the videos wouldn't stream smoothly.

    And in reality YouTube Video isn't actually much worse quality than VHS tape! In fact it might actually contain more lines of data! (average VHS contains around 220 lines, compared to YouTube video having a vertical resolution of 240 pixels).

    As for your final point about home made websites and myspace. You are right. Before services like MySpace existed people would knock up a horrible looking website in Word, or in the free web design package they got on a coverdisk and stick it online. They all looked horrible as the average internet users has no idea about colour or design, or in fact why they actually need a website in the first place.

    At least now with MySpace and similar services it has centralised all of these horrible design disasters into one place to keep them away from us. Everyone seems to want their own website or webpage, so at least now with these services they are given this without disrupting the rest of the internet. And most of these users are only really creating a webpage to share things with their friends, so these pages are of no interest to the wider world.

    If you haven't played a classic game in years, it's never too late to start!


  4. #4
    RetroSteve! My location

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    And in reality YouTube Video isn't actually much worse quality than VHS tape! In fact it might actually contain more lines of data! (average VHS contains around 220 lines, compared to YouTube video having a vertical resolution of 240 pixels).
    Is that the maximum resolution of a YouTube video? If so, most of the videos I have seen are actually lower resolution than that of the Video player and are just scaled up to fit. And regardless of the resolution, the compression doesn't make the video any better.

    At least now with MySpace and similar services it has centralised all of these horrible design disasters into one place to keep them away from us. Everyone seems to want their own website or webpage, so at least now with these services they are given this without disrupting the rest of the internet. And most of these users are only really creating a webpage to share things with their friends, so these pages are of no interest to the wider world.
    That is a good point. At least if we see a website has myspace.com in the address, we know not to click on it.

    Although I have seen a few well designed myspace pages, and one was very good. I can't remember the link, but I think this person was either a web designer or a photographer (can't remember) and his page was a completely different layout to most myspace pages and looked really good.

    Too much flash was a problem when web connections were very slow. In the broadband era, it's far less of a problem especially as Adobe have optimised the format and designers have learnt to hit the right balance between load times and style.
    I don't see what connection speed has to do with it. OK, speed can affect it, but regardless of the connection speed, having too much flash, especially having a video pop up out of nowhere can be very irritating. I'm not sure I understand what you mean by optimised? Flash now seems slower than it ever was (depending on the content).

    Your VHS-C video might have been better quality, but how did you show it to people?
    I pushed a big trolley (containing a TV and a VCR) from the library to the classroom, plugged it in, put the video on and let everyone watch the same (big) TV for 10 minutes. I then removed the video and took it home with me.

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    Therefore your video was available to a very specific limited audience. YouTube is the complete opposite market. A worldwide audience, but not aimed at a specific audience or group of people.

    If you haven't played a classic game in years, it's never too late to start!


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    I pushed a big trolley (containing a TV and a VCR) from the library to the classroom, plugged it in, put the video on and let everyone watch the same (big) TV for 10 minutes. I then removed the video and took it home with me.
    So an audience of ~30 people had one opportunity to view the video for a set 10 minute period. Quality might have been higher, but convenience is definitely missing compared to Youtube.

  7. #7
    RetroSteve! My location

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    You make it sound like the idea was for people to be able to watch it in their own time. It was a school project. And other people did posters and leaflets which were only shown during the class and were never (to my knowledge) avaliable on the internet.

    However, if I had wanted it to be shown on the internet, I would have put it in Windows Media and QuickTime formats, in a higher quality, which people can download to their own computers to watch in their own time (I don't see why people should be forced to watch it streaming in a browser when there are no copyright issues).
    I would of course given them the link, as i would do if it were on youtube (it's no good just telling people to search for it).

    This would have been the only option though as it was in June 2004 and YouTube didn't really come into existance until early 2005.

  8. #8
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    It was a bad example to use as you couldn't really compare a standalone video tape to the youtube service. They are completely different. One is standalone. The other is networked distribution.

    If you haven't played a classic game in years, it's never too late to start!


  9. #9
    RetroSteve! My location

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    I was on about the quality of it, not the usage.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harrison View Post
    It was a bad example to use as you couldn't really compare a standalone video tape to the youtube service. They are completely different. One is standalone. The other is networked distribution.
    Fair point, but let's assume the video Steve made intended for a wide audience.

    The linking method requires someone to be given the link rather than just being able to come across it by a search. Streaming is also (for most users) more convenient than downloading - put this way, my parents can use Youtube fine but struggle with downloads (how do I know it's not a virus etc.?)

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