iTMS Video Experience
So you can now buy videos from Apple in iTunes. When I first heard the news I thought two things, first, how much? and second, what about the quality, will I be able to watch a film or TV show in comfort without worrying about the resolution and H.264 compression? As I have just recently dumped my Sony TV in favour of a 20' iMac with EyeTV 200 I figured that perhaps I was in an ideal situation to be able to answer the second question. Here are my conclusions.
It's all about context.
The Powerbook Experience
Not acceptable. Unfortunately while the H.264 compression is very effective, the 320 x 240 pixels resolution blown up to 1280 pixels wide makes the Powerbook viewing experience frustrating. It seems that the tipping point where resolution becomes noticeable seems to be around 440 to 480 pixels wide. Playing back home encoded video at 480 wide produces very nice results for the most part.
The iMac Experience
A very mixed bag, due mostly to context. If I watch the video whilst sitting on the sofa, around a distance of 9 feet then it really is hard to spot the difference between the iTMS video and a standard SKY TV broadcast at PAL resolution. Up close, the results are much the same as on the Powerbook.
The iPod Experience
I don't have one so I would know. :( My guess is that they look and play back in splendid fashion. As an interesting side note I've also read that although Apple state the max resolution for iPod playback to be 480 pixels wide, some have managed 720 wide with little or no problem, a hint at future video downloads perhaps?