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Quality vs. On Demand

Bike accident

As I was heading home from work, I was caught behind a long line of cars. Up ahead were flashing lights and emergency people clearing a path. As I inched closer, I pulled out my cell phone and snapped this shot as I slowly past the accident. The shot provided enough details about a man who was on a motor-cycle that was involved in an accident. The individual sustain injuries that required medical assistance. The bike provided some indication of the direction and force. Thankfully it was not a fatality.

What was the first thing I did after I took the picture? I sent a txt msg to Keyla with the image. The process got me thinking about the need of photo journalist or professionals in the media arts in this modern age. In the past (recent past), photo journalists would head to hotspots with hopes of capturing “the decisive moment”. News agencies are willing to pay top dollar for such images. Now we see more videos and photos of terrible quality broadcast on major news networks on a more regular basis. Why? Because one, a photojournalist cannot be at every breaking news story and two, as a society we come to accept diminished quality for the sake of up to the minute news with images. With cellphones, everyone is capable of capturing video like the Rodney King beating and upload it seconds after the act is over. Do you think the news agencies care? With up to the minute images and videos and simple releases for such media, many news agencies are reaching out to the common folk. Take for instance i-caught from ABC News. It is a site dedicated to the user community not too far from the gold standard of YouTube. But if you read the Terms of Use, you will find the following with regards to submissions:

You hereby appoint us as your agent with full power to enter into and execute any document and/or do any act we may consider appropriate to confirm the grant of rights, consents, agreements, assignments and waivers set forth in these terms of use.

You agree that any Submissions you make are not being made in confidence or trust and that no confidential or fiduciary relationship is intended or created between you and us in any way. To the extent any “moral rights,” “ancillary rights,” or similar rights in or to the Submissions exist and are not exclusively owned by us, you agree not to enforce any such rights as to us or our licensees, distributors, agents, representatives and other authorized users, and you shall procure the same agreement not to enforce from any others who may possess such rights.

Good stuff but let’s get back to my original point which is on demand vs. quality. As a society, we are no longer critical about possessing the highest quality with regards to goods or services. You do not agree? Well think about it, you look at compress images (jpg) that you paid for or took from your camera (hey I love RAW but I too shoot in jpg for the sake of speed), you listen to music on your mp3 player or stream from the web that is of a lower quality than the CD rip, you watch “High Definition” television from a compressed source (cable or satellite) and now you watch video coming from a device with a lens smaller than your nail. Why? Because quality takes too many resources, one of which is time. This does not mean those who strive quality will not get it. Of all the items described above, you can get almost all of them in the highest form for a cost. So a market does exist for those who seek quality, it is just sad that those who do are in such a minority.

But what about on demand? This is what drives quality. For the sake of having it now, we forgo all standards we hold high (image, audio, hell even a professional behind the camera). It is a perpetual cycle of sorts that even I get caught up in. I too look for images of an event that just occurred in hopes to establish a level of realism not captured in text. We cannot stop this demand, what we can do is rely on the one source that encourages this behavior in the first place, technology. As we move forward, hand held devices will advance enough to give us near HD-quality that can be transmitted quickly as it is done today. We as consumers must encourage this by demanding only the best. I mean come-on, how long do we all must stick with 1.3 or 2.0 mpix cameras on our phones? Companies will give us what we are willing to buy. So I say if you want better video, better audio, be prepared to pay for it! Maybe I’m old-school but I would rather have my breath taken away from an amazing high quality image than gasp at a blury image of someone attacking another.

There is much more that could be said on this topic. I could go on, but…for the sake of time and deminish quality, I’ll post what I have. Here ya go! 🙂

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