The HD Revolution
High Definition is the catchphrase of the decade, from HD TVs to HD recordings ala Blu-Ray to HD camcorders, high definition products are everywhere. With the demand for the format rising, prices have dropped immensely and the technology is becoming ubiquitous. Perhaps now’s the time to purchase your first HD camcorder?
Just about every camera manufacturer offers an HD camera, at a variety of price points with features to suit both the novice and the professional, so it is easy to get lost in the myriad of options. The first thing you need to identify is your reason for upgrading to HD and what use you plan for your camera? Is it home movie making, are you a semi professional who likes to make short films on the side or are you a professional that needs to shoot broadcast standard footage? If you’re a pro user, you will already be privy to the pros and cons of the format, so we’ll assume for this article that you’re new to HD… First up a lesson in the format…
WHAT IS HD?
‘HD’ stands for high definition. It is a recording format that captures and plays back images in high definition (provided you have an HD TV to display your masterpiece). First developed in 1993 by an alliance of consumer tech companies and technical institutions including General Instruments, Philips and MIT; the alliance was formed under the auspices of the FCC and was asked to produce a single set of standards that would allow HDTV transmission to be phased into use in the United States. The first HD sets went on sale in 1998 but it wasn’t until the past five years that HD products have come into their own.
HD upgrades standard definition from 480p (the number of pixels from top to bottom of the screen) to 1080p. The more pixels, the better clarity of vision and the less blocky the display when it is enlarged.
HD camcorders record high definition footage. There are two formats that record HD footage – High Definition Video (HDV) and Advanced Video Codec High- Definition (AVCHD). So what’s the difference?
HDV records to MiniDV tapes at a resolution of 1440x1080p. Full HD is actually 1920x1080p so strictly this isn’t HD but it was the first foray into the format and still supplied high quality HD vision. The tapes record up to one hour of footage. AVCHD does not record to tape but instead offers a number of different options for storage of your footage depending upon the camera manufacturer. You can either save your footage to a built in hard drive or onto SDHC memory cards or flash drives. When choosing your camera, you should consider these storage options, paying particular attention to how you plan to use your camera and how much storage you require.
HARD DRIVE OR MEMORY CARDS?
Higher definition recordings take up a LOT more space than standard video recordings. Consider this: 1.5 GB of storage holds approximately an hour of standard definition footage compared to 8-10 minutes of HD… Storage becomes an all important factor to consider.
Most camera manufacturers offer internal hard drives on their HD cameras, taking the problem out of carrying around extra memory cards but always (where budget allows) opt for the largest hard drive on offer when choosing between similar featured cameras as you’ll be grateful of the extra space. Alternately look for a camera that has both HD and memory card options so you can supplement your memory as required.
When it comes to watching your latest HD masterpiece you will need a HD TV to actually display your footage in all its glory. For instant playback, connect your camera to the TV but make sure to use an HDMI cable rather than the S video input as this will squash your footage to suit the signal – degrading your film.
Since HD takes up so much space, though, you’ll need to dump your footage as soon as possible. There are a number of great professional video editing programs available from Adobe Premier to Final Cut Pro that will make cutting your video together a breeze and most cameras will come bundled with an editing program of some kind to get you started.
Once you’ve edited together your masterpiece all that’s left to do is put the popcorn in the microwave, assemble together your family and friends and get ready for the applause. Next stop? Hollywood of course!