What’s SD vs HDV vs HD? Some techno geek advice.

When meeting with potential or new clients a lot of them have questions regarding the myriad of video formats available.  So I thought I’d offer some friendly “techno geek” advice on deciding which video format is best for your project.  SDTV (or SD for short) and high definition television (HDTV) are the two categories of display formats for digital television or web video formats.  SD stands for “Standard Definition”.  Standard definition television (SDTV) is a digital television format that provides a picture quality similar to DVD.   While not as high-quality as HDTV, SDTV signals display clear pictures and sound without noise, ghosts, or interference.  Skillman Video Group shoots on high quality SD formats that delivers a clear picture and audio and is great for most web video productions or “talking head” video.  Here is an example of a “talking head” video shot using a professional SD camera.

High definition television (HDTV) is the highest form of digital television and has a couple of advantages over the old analog TV format  (or standard definition)  –  it’s wide screen and the resolution.   It has a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is similar in appearance to a movie theater screen.  The wide screen is good on our eyes — we see the rectangular wide screen images better than the old square format. Basically, our eyes see better from left/right compared to up/down.  Pretty cool right?  The wide screen will also let us see more of the on-screen scene, which is great for sports, movies, or for shooting outdoor scenery (panaramic views etc).

Resolution is undoubtedly HDTVs biggest selling point. HDTV’s resolutions are 720p, 1080i and 1080p — the number stands for the number of lines that create the image and the letter describes the type of scan used by the TV to display the picture.  Resolution matters because the more lines means a better picture. This is a similar concept to digital photos and how dpi determines print quality.  In comparison standard definition has a aspect ratio of only 4:3, and resolution of 480i.  That’s a big difference in picture quality!

Recently a 3rd video format has entered the video production arena, called  “HDV”.  HDV is a recording format that allows for HighDefinition (HD) footage to be recorded onto standard (SD) MiniDV cassettes. Instead of using DV compression, it uses “Long GOP MPEG2” which allows for the higher data compression that is needed to fit HDTV footage onto the same tape at the same data rates. There are currently two versions of HDV, 720P/30 (720 lines, 30 frames per second) and 1080i/60 (1080 lines/60fields per second). It also uses the same aspect ratio of 16:9 (widescreen) of Broadcast HDTV.  Skillman Video Group has the ability to shoot in either version of HDV (both in 16:9) for a superior picture quality over SD. Below is a sample video from our “Walden Pond” shoot for LiteraryTraveler.tv that was shot in HDV (still in production).  You can see the superior picture quality and difference in aspect ratio with this clip.  PLEASE NOTE that YouTube has a very poor flash codec so the video is not as crsip and clear as in its native state.

So what does all this mean  for you as a client?  Here is the bottom line: shooting in Broadcast HD is terrific for any broadcast TV shows, TV commercials or even DVD distribution.  Showing the video on a HD flatscreen TV at a tradeshow?  Then HD is probably the best format for you to use.  For those looking for simple “talking head” video for your web site, I think professional produced  SD video is the best deal on the market.   For those looking for product, training, marketing/promotional videos or for any outdoor shoot or  live event video that requires 16:9 (widescreen) aspect ratio with higher resolution (picture quality) I think HDV is a good alternative to HD – and it is far less expensive (which is a major pluss for our corpoarte clients).  The Producers and Photographers at Skillman Video Group are well versed in all available video formats and would be happy to discuss which product would best suite your needs.  Call today to learn more!