Whereas more speed will always be a good thing when it comes to computer performance and processing power, certain aspects of digital audiovisual contents need to be properly sized — not too big, not too small — for optimum use. With such contents, more is not always necessarily better. Unfortunately proper sizing is easier said than done for users who aren't particularly technically-minded; that is for the vast majority.
It is in the inherent properties of digital photography and music that the higher the resolution and the better the quality. Music recorded at 96KHz and 24-bit sounds absolutely amazing. This is significantly better than industrial CD quality (44KHz/16-bit) and much, much better than the best MP3 you can get. However, such files will also take proportionally larger space to store, be it on hard disk, in the cloud or in the memory, or on the cards of portable devices of all kinds. A four-minute song at 96KHz/24-bit would be a whopping 130MB file, whereas at the other extreme, as an MP3 file, the same song would be some humble 10MB big.
Photos and videos follow the same logic. With smartphones sporting unbelievable megapixel count, images are getting bigger and bigger all the time, though quality is not necessarily always improved proportionally because of the still small lenses fitted in smartphones.
So where do we go from here?
Some would argue that since digital storage media today, in all its forms (hard disks, memory cards, etc.), has become truly inexpensive and can hold gigabytes and even terabytes of data, in very little physical space and weight, therefore storing huge audiovisual files should not be an issue at all.
This is partly true but not entirely. There are still issues. Storage of huge files may have become inexpensive and largely available, but saving, copying and transferring files between devices would still take longer when the files are larger — this is plain logic. Try to back up a collection of music and photos that is for example 300GB big — a very common size for personal digital collections nowadays. It still takes time to do it. Count three to four hours with good, typical computers and disks. A first conclusion would be "don't go too large without a good reason."
Proper sizing, however, is critical to be able to exchange digital contents and to view or listen to them. The basic rule is to go for a compromise between size and quality. Since you are most likely to send photos and music to your friends electronically, to stream them over the web or over a wireless home network, to "push" them to other devices via various channels like for instance Bluetooth, to upload them to Youtube, and so forth, common sense would tell you to keep everything "average", size and quality alike.
Music and still photos are relatively easier to handle than video. Keeping music as 320Kbps MP3 is good and would work in most cases, without altering quality in any noticeable manner, except perhaps for those golden ears... Besides, wireless media networkable applications like J R River Media Centre automatically reduce the size and the quality of music and photo files when they stream them over wireless DLNA networks, for faster sharing and viewing.
Photos can be saved as high-quality JPG while preserving reasonably good quality and maintaining file size under say 1MB per photo, a size that virtually all devices, networks and e-mail systems can cope with. Other than that, with uncompressed formats like TIFF and with high megapixel count, it is easy to find yourself having to deal with photos that are 20, 40 or even 80MB each! Definitely not the kind you'd like to attach to an e-mail message.
Video is more complex and trickier, for it involves several parameters to adjust so as to obtain the file size and the quality you want in the end. Unless you happen to be a pro or know a friend who is and who could help you do the required tweaking, just trust your smartphone or what your video editing application recommends, and follow.
Tech-savvy, demanding users and purists can work differently. To get the best of both worlds they would usually keep two copies of each digital audiovisual file: an original, high-resolution uncompressed one, however big it may a be, and a second copy at a much reduced file size. The first is kept for maximum enjoyment, for the ultimate satisfaction of the ears and the eyes, and also to have as a "master" you can always get back to, just in case. The second is for casual use, to exchange with friends and family, to store on your smartphone, etc.
This two-copy system requires a sound file and folders organisation and some extra work, but in most cases it is worth it. To alleviate the pain, many applications, like Photoshop for example, come with built-in functions that allow you to batch process large numbers of photos in one go. It's usually called a script. Just specify a folder on your hard disk, indicate the conversion you want to perform, like from TIFF to JPEG for instance, and Photoshop will do it automatically for you, even if that folder contains thousands of pictures. J River Media Centre can do the same kind of conversion for music files (WAV to MP3, etc.).
In the realm of digital high-tech and computers what is true today may be void tomorrow. One day when all networks are much faster, attaching very large, high-definition audiovisual files or streaming them wirelessly will go without saying. For now we just have to do with a compromise.
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