Does size matter?

18 May 2017

Does size matter?

It must have been around 1982 when my father brought the first television into the house. Before then, though rarely, to watch anything, we used to go to the cinema. Residues of the excitement of going to a drive-in in Swaziland still linger whenever I think back to that time. The transition from the very big screen to a smaller one was made easier by the convenience and novelty of watching pictures from the comfort of the couch.

As I grew older, the television became the space around which we would all gather. There was nothing like curling up on the couch to watch Steve Austin: The Man of Steel, or in later years, the variety show Lapologa and The Cosby Show, which was usually accompanied by life lessons from my father.

Our first video machine was a Sony Betamax, bought in the US, that I had to carry as hand luggage, wrapped in brown paper to look like a light box because we had a bit too much luggage. This opened up my world even more, although my older sister spent so much time watching Dallas and Dynasty, I think it opened worlds that I would rather have had stay closed.

At the same time, I was still an avid cinema goer. I wholeheartedly bought into the idea that “it is always better on the big screen” and that is not because, in Maseru where I grew up, you could also buy alcohol at the snack bar. There was nothing like being totally submerged in an action movie with the sound of cars crashing, guns shooting and explosions all around you. But, over the last few years, life, and children, have taken over and I am no longer able to go to the cinema as much as I’d like. Plus, the snacks are much better in my living room.

I wholeheartedly bought into the idea that “it is always better on the big screen”

With young children, it becomes harder to watch what I want to watch, when I want to watch it. Even if I do have the time, I don’t necessarily want to expose my children to some of the series and films that I would want to watch. This has driven me to smaller screens as mobile technology has improved from a processing and display perspective, and as connectivity has become easier, with ADSL and fibre.

Whether it is on a smartphone, phablet, tablet or laptop, the experience of watching series or movies has become even more convenient, while the quality has improved exponentially. Couple this with greater access to video online through platforms like the DStv app, iTunes Movies and Showmax, and I find that I now probably watch more on smaller screens than I do at the cinema or on my television. Being able to download movies to my iPad or tablet when travelling often means better quality of image and a more intimate relationship with what I am watching. Being able to watch what I want to watch in my own time also means I watch way more than I would if I had to wait for it to be screened on telly.

We are living in a time when scheduled programming is falling by the wayside. You can watch movies when you are in the mood. How often do you switch something off because it didn’t quite grab you, only to get into it later when you are in a different frame of mind? It’s like watching the trailer for a movie repeatedly and then, one day, you suddenly want to watch it, even though it didn’t interest you the previous 20 times you saw it. Happens to me all the time. Which is why, increasingly, for me, screen size has started mattering less and less.

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