Video quality less important when you're enjoying what you're watching

Aug 12, 2010

Research from Rice University's Department of Psychology finds that if you like what you're watching, you're less likely to notice the difference in video quality of the TV show, Internet video or mobile movie clip.

The findings come from the recently released study "The Effect of Content Desirability on Subjective Video Quality Ratings" authored by Philip Kortum, Rice professor-in-the-practice and faculty fellow. The study appears in the journal Human Factors.

"Research has been done asking if people can detect video quality differences," Kortum said. "What we were looking at was how video quality affects viewers in a real way."

Using four studies, Kortum, along with co-author Marc Sullivan of AT&T Labs, showed 100 study participants 180 movie clips encoded at nine different levels, from 550 kilobits per second up to DVD quality. Participants viewed the two-minute clips and then were asked about the video quality of the clips and desirability of the movie content.

Kortum found a strong correlation between the desirability of movie content and subjective ratings of video quality.

"At first we were really surprised by the data," Kortum said. "We were seeing that low- quality movies were being rated higher in quality than some of the high-quality videos. But after we started analyzing the data, we determined what was driving this was the actual desirability of the content.

"If you're at home watching and enjoying a movie, we found that you're probably not going to notice or even concern yourself with how many pixels the video is or if the data is being compressed," Kortum said. "This strong relationship holds across a wide range of encoding levels and movie content when that content is viewed under longer and more naturalistic viewing conditions."

The findings run counter to the popular belief that Americans are striving for and must have the best video quality at their fingertips all the time.

The importance of the research could be far-reaching in the way cable companies, online video and news providers shave megabits of compression to save on the ever-growing need for bandwidth.

"With these new delivery platforms comes the concern about how to adequately address the trade-off between the bandwidth of the delivery channel and the resulting video quality," Kortum said. "This trade-off is a concern not only for PCs and mobile devices but for mainstream content providers in the television arena as they move to deliver high-quality over limited broadband delivery channels."

Explore further: BMW to reveal driverless innovations that allow for 360- degree collision avoidance and valet parking

Related Stories

The Ultimate Home Cinematic 21:9 Viewing Experience

Jan 20, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Imagine yourself, watching true Cinema 21:9 LCD TV in the privacy of your own home! Philips is the first to come out with Cinema 21:9, as other manufactures are sure to follow in their footsteps. ...

Congress Stares Down YouTube, HDNet

May 11, 2007

Members of Congress on Thursday tangled with leading video providers over how to preserve the open architecture of the Internet while improving its quality and protecting intellectual property rights.

Recommended for you

Cheaper, more powerful VR system for engineers

20 hours ago

It's like a scene from a gamer's wildest dreams: 12 high-definition, 55-inch 3D televisions all connected to a computer capable of supporting high-end, graphics-intensive gaming.

Nokia HERE prepares maps for autonomous cars

22 hours ago

Autonomous cars will need a new kind of map, a crucial element that until now has been given a back seat to the more popularly discussed issues of sensors and legal questions. Senior Writer Greg Miller in ...

Dutch launch 'intelligent bicycle' that warns of danger

Dec 15, 2014

The Netherlands on Monday launched its first-ever "intelligent bicycle", fitted with an array of electronic devices to help bring down the high accident rate among elderly cyclists in the bicycle-mad country.

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Jimbaloid
5 / 5 (1) Aug 12, 2010
Think of enjoying a nature documentary - doesn't work does it?!
panorama
not rated yet Aug 12, 2010
I agree with Jimbaloid. If I'm watching a documentary on Giant Sea Jellies or something like that, I want to see it in the highest possible definition. But if I'm watching old episodes of "Get a Life", one; I know I won't be able to get much better quality because of it's age; and two; I wouldn't care because I love the material so much that it doesn't matter. It's a very subjective topic it seems.
moj85
not rated yet Aug 12, 2010
This makes sense, up to a point. Obviously if there are huge blocks of compression jags, its going to detract from the movie/show experience. If its smooth and so forth, it could be watchable. As always, moderation is key
yyz
not rated yet Aug 12, 2010
"At first we were really surprised by the data,"

Ever watch porn? ;)
DamienS
not rated yet Aug 12, 2010
This isn't that surprising to me. If you're absorbed in the content/narrative then that's where your attention lies and picture quality isn't much of an issue (up to a point - if it's truly horrible, then yes, it will be an issue).
It's ironic that all the big screen TV peddlers are marketing extreme picture quality of their sets at the same time as traditional TV viewing is in decline, as is the quality of the content itself.
Another related factor is that many people now download content from the net or watch online streaming content which is typically of inferior quality and so they learn to accept it.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.