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General HD (720 / 1080) Acquisition
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Old September 17th, 2008, 10:43 PM   #1
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SD or HD pro camera for filming infomercial on national cable?

This has probably been talked about before, but if it was, I don't know how to find the thread. If someone was to produce an infomercial for airing on national cable channels, would you recommend using an HD camera and then downconverting to SD when necessary? Is downconverting to 3:4 from a high-end, pro HD camera a good way to go if the majority of channels still use SD or would a high quality, "SD only" camera be better? Thanks in advance for the help! This is my first post :)
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Old September 19th, 2008, 01:15 PM   #2
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Welcome Paul.

I've decided to go the route of HD acquisition for all my projects from June of this year forward, even if I know they are destined for SD broadcast. I own 2 JVC GY-HD200U camcorders, recording 720P at 60 fps in 16:9.

If I KNOW I need to compose for 4:3, I ensure I'm within the 4:3 markers with anything vital, although I routinely shoot 16:9 safe, place the 16:9 media into a 4:3 timeline, move it up slightly and use the blank space at the bottom for client contact information and stuff like that. Works well for me and I do about 10 commercials a year for a local service club. They love it and the broadcaster is thrilled with the quality of their PSAs. Good luck and again, welcome!
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Old September 19th, 2008, 02:56 PM   #3
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Thanks for the answer, Shaun!

So if we were to shoot something in HD and then give it to a channel that still airs in SD, do they just put bars at the top and bottom or is the picture just "chopped off" at the left and right side of the image to make it fit in 4:3?

Other than just making sure anything important is within the 4:3 (titling, etc), is there any reason not to deliver everything in HD because even if it's aired as SD or if viewers are viewing on regular 4:3 sets, the quality should if anything be better compared with if we had shot in SD in the first place?

Hopefully that made sense :)
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Old September 19th, 2008, 02:58 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Arndt View Post
Is downconverting to 3:4 from a high-end, pro HD camera a good way to go if the majority of channels still use SD or would a high quality, "SD only" camera be better?
The simple answer is that if you only want SD, a high quality SD only camera will be better. The fine detail that the HD camera resolves is actually a problem, not a blessing, when you come to downconvert, as it can give rise to aliasing if not accurately filtered off. And aliasing can be not very noticeable on straightforward viewing, but cause compression problems if the final output is more heavily compressed for transmission.

That's the theory. In practice, you may want SD for now, HD for archive. You may only want one camera - so it's obviously better to get an HD model, and downconvert for SD. There's quite a lot of practical reasons for going an HD route, even if most current work is SD.

But if you already own a high quality SD camera, and only SD is wanted, stick with it.
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Old September 19th, 2008, 03:35 PM   #5
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Thanks, David. So have you found the aliasing to be a big hassle to deal with or is something pretty minor that can be adjusted if something arises? The show we are doing is kind of a reality-style show that we will film, edit, and then air for 13 weeks on various time blocks before putting together a new one. So basically, it's not like we will have to deal with whatever issues on an everyday basis, you know?

Up to this point, we have been using the Sony PD150s for things here in St. Louis, but I would like us to upgrade to something with 2/3" chips. I was thinking maybe HD would be the way to go while we are upgrading anyway.

What did you mean by "a lot of practical reason to go the HD route"? Just curious! Thanks!
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Old September 19th, 2008, 04:02 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Paul Arndt View Post
Thanks for the answer, Shaun!

So if we were to shoot something in HD and then give it to a channel that still airs in SD, do they just put bars at the top and bottom or is the picture just "chopped off" at the left and right side of the image to make it fit in 4:3?

Other than just making sure anything important is within the 4:3 (titling, etc), is there any reason not to deliver everything in HD because even if it's aired as SD or if viewers are viewing on regular 4:3 sets, the quality should if anything be better compared with if we had shot in SD in the first place?

Hopefully that made sense :)
If you try to deliver to an SD only station in HD, you may be told to bring back an SD Master, in which case, it's really up to you to figure out whether to letterbox 16:9 for 4:3 of crop for 4:3, realizing that MAJORLY affects text on screen as well as shot composition. Better to talk to the broadcaster about what they can/will accept.

My workflow is to shoot HD (in my case, as mentioned HDV at 720P60), edit in FCP using ProRes in HD, create an HD Master with font and (if needed) an SD master with font, letterboxed or cropped as appropriate.

As a former PD150 owner I can tell you that any reasonably pro HD camera (1/3, 1/2 OR 2/3") is going to look better than the 150, which I've shot documentaries abroad with as well as local and regional TV spots. Yes, anti-aliasing CAN be a concern (I haven't had an issue yet - bigger problems with DVD compression PERIOD, regardless of source material) but my clients, the broadcaster and I have been VERY pleased with what we have been able to produce. Again, it should be noted that we make no claims of Gold or Silver level equipment and have only delivered in SD for broadcast but I've never (knock on wood) had a master sent back or questioned.
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