This is nuts!

Looking back on the old days of shooting standard-definition video… Life was easy, we only had two video formats — NTSC and PAL. Everything worked. No one complained.  (OK, so maybe there’s a rose-colored-glasses effect involved here. Stay with me.)

In today’s world of high-definition, depending upon how you count, we have over 400 different flavors of  HD — most of them incompatible with each other.  That’s about 399 too many, from my perspective.  

This was reinforced yesterday with a series of emails with “Fred.”  He wrote:

I’m on a project where the producer has hired two shooters, me and another guy. I have a Sony V1-U and will shoot Sony HDV 1080i. The other guy has an Canon XL2 with Canon-flavored HDV and will shoot HDV 720p… Is this just insane or is there a work around? This producer doesn’t want to recognize he has a post problem.

I immediately wrote him back saying:

This is beyond insane – this is about to be a crisis. At a minimum, your image sizes must match – or one camera will always look soft.

Fred wrote back this morning with an update:

Thanks Larry, I used the old “lets make a test” to force some reality on these people and voila, the Canon got dropped and another Sony HDV was inserted into the mix… We now have a chance at something we can edit. Problem was the other camera man was content to tell everyone it could work because he was afraid he was going to lose his job. I’m loaning him my second camera and he is now happy.


There are several lessons here:

1. Not all HDV is the same — TEST YOUR WORKFLOW before production begins, HD formats can not be mixed and matched as easily as SD formats.

2. Not all producers are fully clued in technically!  (For instance, the Canon XL-2 doesn’t shoot HDV, its an SD camera!)

3. Not all things can be fixed later in post.

4. 1080i is not necessarily better than 720p. In fact, both have distinct advantages. The key is to shoot all your video at the same size for the same project.

All’s well that end’s well — but I thought you’d like the story.

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