Getting started in HD video, part 1

Everything you always wanted to know about HD video (but were afraid to ask).

Guide to HD.

Guide to HD.

HD vs. SD. Note the image noise and dank colours in the standard-def image.

The advantage of high-definition video over SD should be immediately obvious. It offers clearer pictures, more vibrant colours, superior sound quality and features unique to the HD format. Indeed, so sharp is the picture quality that it initially sent shockwaves through the porn industry, due to the crystal-clear depictions of shaving rashes, surgery scars and cellulite. Of course, the upside to all this gritty realism is that your videos will look as true-to-life as possible.

Guide to HD.

Jenna Jameson in standard-def: still frightening, but considerably less so.

While previously very expensive, it is now possible to own an entry-level HD camcorder for around $1000. Some models, such as the Samsung VP-HMX10 (XSA), are actually cheaper than top-of-the-range standard-def camcorders. With prices continually dropping there has never been a better time to invest in the HD boom.


Currently, there are two main high-definition video formats vying for space in the HD consumer market. These are HDV — which came out in 2004 and uses the same MiniDV tapes as its standard-def predecessor — and AVCHD (Advanced Video Codec High Definition), a newer format that comes in a variety of recording formats, including DVD, hard disk and removable flash memory.

Guide to HD.

AVCHD is an advanced MPEG-4 based video codec originally developed by Sony. It is more efficient at storing high-def video than HDV, thanks to its higher compression rates. This also makes it significantly faster at transferring data from your camcorder to a computer. While once considered a nightmare to edit with, AVCHD now offers a considerably smoother ride thanks to advancements in computer technology and increased software support. Currently, all major camcorder manufactures support some form of AVCHD technology, including Sony, Panasonic, Canon, Sharp, Samsung and JVC. AVCHD will appeal to casual users and those who prefer the convenience of inbuilt hard drives and/or flash memory.

Guide to HD.

HDV is an older MPEG2-based codec developed by Sony and JVC. Designed to offer existing video users a cost-effective upgrade path, it uses similar technology to standard-def MiniDV camcorders (including an identical tape format). Having been around for several generations, HDV has had plenty of time to improve and be refined. Consequently, it is generally considered to offer superior picture quality over its AVCHD rival. (Though the latest generation of AVHC camcorders have somewhat lessened the gap.) HDV will mainly appeal to existing videographers who feel more comfortable with the MiniDV tape format.

What about ‘Full HD’?

Some of the latest high-def camcorders offer a 1080 ‘progressive’ mode, otherwise known as Full HD. This is basically a marketing term used to differentiate it from lesser HD modes. Instead of using an interlaced signal, which divides each frame into two fields, 1080p records video as an entire frame.

Guide to HD.

Products that offer a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels commonly display a ‘Full HD’ sticker.

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Chris Jager

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