Shooting SD or HD for the Web

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the March, 2009, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]

Jennifer Koreny, of Cal State Sacramento, has a great question:

What are the benefits, if any, using High Def cameras for video that will end up on the web? We are looking to purchase a few cameras for staff to capture events around campus. It’s not something we intend to invest a lot of money in (I’m sure you’ve heard about Cal’s budget issues) but is something we’d like to expand on our website. We will probably make a few DVD’s of lectures as well.

Larry replies: Jennifer, this is an easy question to ask, and very hard to answer.

The short answer is that there isn’t a LOT of benefit if all you are doing is creating web videos at 400 x 300. That’s well below the resolution of standard-def, much less high-def.

Almost all DVDs, too, are standard-def.

However, since there are very, very few SD cameras being sold today, you’ll probably buy high-def.

My feeling is that if you want the best pictures for the web with the least hassle, shoot 720p HD — JVC or Panasonic make good cameras for this.

Others, I am SURE will have their own opinions – which I am happy to share. But, if it were my money, that’s what I’d buy.

UPDATE – April 2, 2009

Steven Ludlow, from Cessna Aricraft, adds:

Regarding shooting HD or SD for the web… I don’t pretend to understand all that happens to downconverted footage, but I know from just looking that I get a better image for the web when my source is HD than I do when it is SD. I realize pixels are pixels…but there is something about the original crispness and detail of HD that still looks noticeably better when downcoverted for the web.


For instance – – I shot this with a combination of an EX3 and a small Canon HG10)

Larry replies: Thanks for the comment, Steven.

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One Response to Shooting SD or HD for the Web

  1. Brian Barnes says:

    Regarding how the quality “migrates” down it isn’t just about the pixel count, it is also about the “depth” of colour in the pixels captured and the amount of compression.
    Even though Digibeta was the same size as DV the data rate was 270mb/s compared with 25mb/s and the colour depth was 422 rather than 420. So Digibeta was always looking better than DV especially when blown up.
    For more involved productions you still want to be able to crop out booms and maybe reframe or stabilize the odd shot that has been creatively compromised in camera so for me the 1920×1080 will always come in handy. 720P HD should be ok too for an end resolution of 400×300 (or 400×225 16×9) but bear in mind how your needs may grow. Future proofing is an old phrase now but as my mother says,”What will do a lot, will do a little!”. As I get older I realise that my mother is on the mark more times than I gave her credit for when I was young…

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