High Definition or Standard Definition for Your Marketing Video? - dummies

High Definition or Standard Definition for Your Marketing Video?

By Kevin Daum, Bettina Hein, Matt Scott, Andreas Goeldi

Digital cameras let you watch your video marketing footage immediately to ensure that you got a good take or even to delete mistakes or unwanted footage. When choosing a digital camera for your shoot, you must decide between high and standard definition.

High definition (HD) is an eye (and ear) catching buzzword to describe a certain type of electronics product. People who hear this term feel assured that whatever piece of equipment it represents must be part of the cutting edge, whether it’s a big-screen TV or a toaster. (Okay, not yet, but someday.) What exactly does HD mean?

Whether you’re capturing a recorded image on a camera or watching it on a screen, its resolution (how much detail the image can hold) becomes important. In digital media, the resolution is measured in pixels, the smallest unit of measurement used for the information in a digital picture.

Definition describes the amount of resolution in an image, in terms of aspect ratio, or the size and shape of the collected pixels in an image. Until the first few years of the 21st century, digital camcorders recorded in standard definition, which generally has an aspect ratio of 720 x 480, or 720 horizontal pixels by 480 vertical pixels.

High-definition (or high-def or HD) cameras capture footage at a higher resolution than do standard-definition cameras, at either 1280 x 720 (commonly referred to as “720p”) or 1920 x 1080 (either “1080p” or “1080i”), which is the highest resolution available in modern camcorders.

The i in 1080i signifies the interlaced scan, a technique in which a camera records alternating lines of video resolution to create a single image; the p in 720p and 1080p represents the progressive scan, in which a camera records every line of video resolution without alternating.

Both techniques are available in video camcorders. Progressive scan, a more modern technique, looks better than interlaced scanning when displaying fast movement, such as the kind found in sporting events.

HD cameras have more pixels on the screen than standard definition does, and they therefore add more information to your picture, which produces crisper images that have vibrant colors and fine detail. The term full HD describes the highest possible resolution — 1920 x 1080. When you watch a football game on an HDTV and think you can almost touch the Astroturf, you know that you’re looking at full HD.

If the camera you use offers the option to shoot in either high definition or standard definition, shoot in high-def.

Bear in mind these two statements when shooting in HD:

  • HD video consumes lots of storage space. Producing more pixels per image requires more bytes of storage, so don’t be surprised when you fill your media storage quickly. The general rule of thumb is that one hour of shooting in 1080i (or 2 hours in 720p) equals 8GB of storage.

  • You don’t always need all available pixels. There’s a big difference in resolution between a 52-inch HDTV and a 15-inch laptop screen. Shooting in 1080p or 1080i definitely displays more pixels onscreen, but the pixels are intended for the larger TV or monitor.

    The human eye, including those of your potential audience, can’t detect the difference between 1080p, 1080i, or 720p on a computer monitor. If you’re aiming for an Internet market and you’re looking to minimize storage space, you can scale down the resolution a notch and still produce great-looking HD footage.