Monday, March 29, 2010

HD Video: The New Standard

By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner

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So, what is HD? To keep it simple, HD is just a designation for a higher resolution picture. Just as digital cameras offer higher mega pixel still images, video recording also offers a higher resolution format. It can get a little confusing when you hear about 720p, and 1080i, and 1080p. Which high definition is the high definition? To understand the differences, just remember two things: the number (720 or 1080), designates the lines of resolution in a frame, and the letter ( “i” or “p” ) specifies the type of frame. 1080p is the highest quality. It has 1080 horizontal lines of resolution, and the “p” designates a progressive frame rate. Progressive means that every frame you see, typically up to about 60 frames per second, is one solid frame. The “i” designation means each frame is interlaced, or a combination of two half-frames creating one frame. Progressive, or “p” is the best. Full HD video is almost 3 times more detailed than standard definition, which makes a huge difference in video quality.

So which cameras will give you good HD video? It is a feature now on many DSLR and point and shoot digital cameras, and has become the standard for today's camcorders. SLR cameras like the Nikon D90 and D5000, and the Canon Rebel T2i are mid-range models that offer HD recording. It is also becoming an almost standard feature on mid-range point and shoot cameras from almost every manufacturer. The differences are important. An SLR may offer interchangeable lenses, and more photographic control over things like exposure, and depth of field, but offer far shorter recording times, and a loss of auto-focus with most models. Point and shoot cameras with HD also offer shorter recording times, without much control over video settings, but can be the perfect all in one camera for the casual photographer who wants the option of video in something that will fit right in a pocket. Some shoot in full 1080p, while others may only record in 720p.

A camcorder will give you the best video quality, and longest recording time, and higher end models do offer lens options and advanced color, exposure, and focusing options. However even an entry level HD camcorder, like the popular Flip HD makes recording home videos in HD and transferring them to your computer simple and easy. Mid-range and high-end camcorders will offer longer recording times, most commonly to an internal hard drive or flash memory, as well as SD memory cards, which is what most DSLR's and point and shoot cameras will be using for storage. It is important that you use a high speed memory card for HD video, Class 6 speed is recommended for full HD (1080p) recording. Also be sure you have the correct cables for connecting to an HDTV for viewing your videos, since not all cameras that shoot video in HD come with an HDMI or a component video cable, which is required for playback.

The bottom line is, HD video is here to stay. If you love to record your family moments, your vacations, or if you just like to record everything in between, HD is a necessity. It doesn’t matter if you use a compact digital, an SLR, or a camcorder for your video, HD is available, and now is the time to take the plunge. Stay tuned for our HD buyer’s guide, which will go more in depth, covering the different models available, different HD formats, and software that will help you get the most out of your videos. Until then, get out there and start shooting!