June 1st, 2012

Why do better images look worse?

Why is it that higher-quality video sometimes looks inferior to people? My theory is that when improvements in quality (resolution or framerate, for example) are incremental, your brain compares the new, upgraded image against the previous iteration, comparing like to like. But when there's a sudden, dramatic jump in the quality of the image, your brain discards the old standard of comparison, and instead judges the image against reality, or against imagination, and the image inevitably suffers.

OTOH, there's also the element that higher-quality images make defects more visible, and any change in the medium requires artists (e.g. video directors and editors) to adjust.

I'm a layperson with no particular expertise in video or digital imaging, but this sort of question intrigues me. Thoughts?