The decades-old debate about whether vinyl LPs sound better than CDs was rekindled recently when
Wired magazine ran an article on the subject (see Audio myth: Vinyl better than CD?). I think a similar temporal quality anomaly exists today with video: In many respects, I believe, VHS video was better than today's digital formats, including even DVDs.
Of course, in terms of picture detail and signal-to-noise ratio, there's no question DVD beats VHS. But other aspects of the viewing experience are equally, if not more important.
Synchronization between picture and sound is crucial to video enjoyment, yet it's one area where most digital video formats are weaker than VHS. Digital cable and satellite TV are both notorious for sync problems with their MPEG streams, and even DVD players mess up on this front.
Beyond the issue of "correct sync," there's also the issue of what I'd call "varying sync." We've all had the experience of seeing a movie in a theater or on TV that was out of sync by a few frames, and after a while you get used to it. Your eye-ear-brain system learns to compensate. But what's particularly annoying about today's decoder technology is the way the amount of sync error can vary constantly, as picture and sound slip in and out of perfect sync. This never happened with VHS.
It never happened with the Mini-DV/DV format, either, for that matter, because each frame of video is recorded completely as a separate I-frame. This "inefficiency" has its advantages.
Next: Why analog looks better than fixed-pixel digital.