At one time there were two video formats VHS and Betamax, those days have gone forever. Now we have a plethora of format choices led by High Definition and they all have their uses.
Full – HD. – This is the largest frame size that most current HDSLR cameras offer, The frame size is 1920 x 1080 pixels, this produces stunning quality on large plasma and LCD screens. The downside is that this large size frame can make a lot of processing demands on your computer.
- HD – Still high definition but at a smaller frame size of 1280 x 720. Nikon digital cameras use this format and although smaller than Full-HD it still offers outstanding picture quality. If you intend to produce DVDs or want to upload to the web then the 1280 x 720 HD format is a good choice.
- HDV – High Definition Video, this format is mainly used on tape based camcorders. The format is 1440 x 1080 anamorphic. Once downloaded the frame expands to Full-HD (1920 x 1080), but because the frame is squeezed during capture it may lose some definition.
- SD – Standard Definition. This format conforms to the 720 x 480 (NTSC – North America) or 720 x 576 (PAL – Europe) formats. Almost all commercial DVDs are produced in Standard Definition. The image format can be either 4:3 (720×576) or 16:9,(1024×576) again the larger size is an anamorphic squeeze.
- VGA – Video Graphics Array, this is now a dated format of 640 x 480, which has its uses for web video and other presentation clips etc. Many digital cameras still have this as an option
- AVCHD – Advanced Video Codec High Definition, this is a system that supports tapeless recording media and has many options including 1080i, 1080p and 720p. AVCHD was originally conceived for the production of Blu-Ray discs.
Full-HD 1920 x 1080 format
HD 1280 x 720
SD 1024 x 576 (16:9)
SD 720 x 576 (4:3)
VGA 640 x 480
HDSLR cameras use high speed memory cards to store captured video, the two popular choices are SDHC and CompactFlash memory cards. High speed cards are essential as video requires fast data transfer, this can be any rate between 15 to 35 M/bs (mega bits per second). The higher data rate produces better video quality, think along the lines of JPEG compression and you are on the right track. Many of the consumer camcorders offer longer recording times by reducing the data transfer rate, typically these may vary between 10 to 24mbps. If you want high quality broadcast safe video then you should be looking for a minimum of 50mbs or ideally 100mbs. The real benefit of the higher speed codec can be seen on fast action and panning sequences. These will be very smooth and more detail will be visible.