Reflections on High-Def Video

Posted on by Larry

I’ve been traveling around the country for the last two months, talking about the impact of tapeless and high-definition video on video editors.

Generally, I begin each session by talking about how “the world is moving to high-definition video” — except, after thinking and talking about this for a while, I no longer believe this is the best way to describe the environment that we are in. A better phrase is that video has become completely divergent. There is now a complete disconnect between how we capture our images (shooting) with how we distribute our images (viewing).

Here are three examples that illustrate our conundrum:

Yes, the camera manufacturers would like us all to buy new cameras – and the easiest way to get us to do that is to convince us that everything needs the vastly improved clarity of a high-defintion image.

But that misses the bigger point.

What is unique about the times we are in today, I think, is that the format that we use to shoot our images has almost nothing to do with the way we distribute them. There is now a total disconnect between acquisition and distribution.

Some of the most popular ways of distributing a video — YouTube, Google Video, cell phones, iPods — have images which are FAR smaller than even standard definition video.

Adding to the confusion, when we create our video, we now need to convert it into a myriad of different formats, sizes, and resolution for distribution.

Here’s what I think this means for the future:

The world is a different place today than ten years ago when our choices were essentially limited to broadcast, cable, and DVD. Today, we need to work backwards: pick our distribution format, then pick the format you want to edit, then pick the format you want to shoot.

And there seems to be a complete disconnect between each of those three stages.

Let me know what you think.

4 Responses to Reflections on High-Def Video

  1. Paul Delcour says:

    Hi Larry,

    couldn’t agree more. Also: in the end it’s the cameraoperator that creates the images, not the SD or HD or widescreen techniques. Also, I believe a good SD camera is as good as a simple HD camera, certainly where flexibility of operation is concerned.
    I only have a very modest single person operated CD & DVD production company and simply cannot afford to get two HD cameras with the specs I require. Recently people watched a wedding DVD I made and all were wildely enthusiastic. It was shot on SD 4:3. Need I say more.


    Paul Delcour

  2. Joey Burnham says:

    Hi Larry,
    You are spot on. I had to arrange and produce an HDCam shoot the other day for some DVD extras for some film. Client requested HDCam. I didn’t argue as it pays more. 🙂
    So when it comes time to send off for Blu-ray encoding I ask the client and get back the response, “Oh, it’s just going to regular dvd, it just had to be 16×9.”
    I smirked.

  3. Aussie Noel says:

    Hi Larry,
    In Australia, our Free to Air Commercial stations are slowly taking up HD mostly for News and Current Affairs through Sony XDCam (4:2:2 flavour). There are a couple of Content providers with HDCam for Drama, but generally they are happy to provide uprezed SD. The small Cable market. Fox especially is a mixed bag of all HD from Discovery (and its offshoots) and whatever from everyone else. We are just happy to have Digital TV.

    Consumers are diving into large HD LCD and Plasmas, but everyone I know just loves the SD DVD pictures uprezed and don’t want to pay for Bluray. SD 16:9 seems to be the target for consumers generally.

    Thanks for all your service to the industry

  4. Nicolai says:

    Very good points. It`s similar to the radio industry where people spend thousands of dollars on high end microphones yet most of the people talking on the air (callers) are using the cheapest microphone you can find, whatever is in their phone headset.

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