We present a framework, motivated by rate-distortion theory and the human visual system, for optimally representing the real world given limited video resolution. To provide users with high fidelity views, we built a hybrid video camera system that combines a fixed wide-field panoramic camera with a controllable pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) camera. In our framework, a video frame is viewed as a limited-frequency representation of some “true” image function. Our system combines outputs from both cameras to construct the highest fidelity views possible, and controls the PTZ camera to maximize information gain available from higher spatial frequencies. In operation, each remote viewer is presented with a small panoramic view of the entire scene, and a larger close-up view of a selected region. Users may select a region by marking the panoramic view. The system operates the PTZ camera to best satisfy requests from multiple users. When no regions are selected, the system automatically operates the PTZ camera to minimize predicted video distortion. High-resolution images are cached and sent if a previously recorded region has not changed and the PTZ camera is pointed elsewhere. We present experiments demonstrating that the panoramic image can effectively predict where to gain the most information, and also that the system provides better images to multiple users than conventional camera systems.