Why is HD Better (for dummies)?
I work for a company that produces news segments for television broadcast, as well as online videos and corporate videos. Most of the footage is shot in SD but we do offer clients an HD option, we just charge significantly more.
Being the video editor, I know why HD is better in the editing process (better keying, better colour correction, etc.) The company has asked me to come up with a brief explanation of why HD is better so they can provide it to clients, but I'm having trouble trying to explain it in a way that clients would actually care about. I'm fairly new to the industry so to be honest, I don't know a lot about HD since I have not worked on many HD projects.
So, simply put, why is HD better? What else can you say to the average person, who knows nothing about keying, colour correction, or picture resolution, other than 'well, it looks a lot better'?
Tell them that a lot of their viewers have HD tvs and would prefer to tune into an HD channel over an SD one.
[Chris Tarroza] "So, simply put, why is HD better?"
Simply put back... HD has about five times the resolution of standard def.
Watch enough HD footage and when you go back to standard def it's like watching TV while wearing glasses smeared with Vaseline.
That, plus it is simply the "wave of the future." We tout our HD productions now... but in not too long it will simply be the norm and nothing to brag about. When I was a kid, you'd hear "The following program is brought to you in living color" before a show. No one says that any more, because color is the norm, not the exception. Same with audio... only a few years ago you'd see the "Stereo" bug graphic at the beginning of many network shows. You don't see that any more, because stereo is the norm and nothing special.
But again, mostly, it's a resoltuion thing. That super-sharp HD picture has more than two million pixels making up the image. That soft standard def image is just a few hundred thousand.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Hi guys, thanks for the posts.
I'm aware of the fundamental reason why HD is better (higher resolution than SD), but I'm wondering if there's anything else more... concrete... when explaining to clients.
So you tell the average joe, "Well, HD has a much higher resolution. The follow up question would be, "Why is a higher resolution better?"
As people in the industry, we know the reason why. As an editor, I have experienced the pain of trying to key DV footage and the ease of keying HD footage. But clients don't care about the workflow and 1080p is just a number with a letter at the end of it. Even if you were to get into the detail of lines and pixels, it holds a lot of value for us, but not to the average person, especially clients who are concerned about money.
I suppose it is a "See it to believe it" kind of thing. Trying to explain why HD is better in words is like trying to explain why stereo is better than mono in words.
Then, in the most rudimentary and simplest terms... "The picture is five times sharper."
Most people can comprehend that sharper is better.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Sometimes (blasphemy) HD is not "better". Like when it accentuates every crag, wrinkle, and pimple in a close-up of the age-conscious CEO. Or makes a set look tired and flawed.
A lot of consumers equate a wide screen picture with HD, even when it is an SD picture in a letterbox. They have been conditioned thru years of watching movies in the wider aspect ratio to equate the wider frame with cinematic visuals and the assumed higher production values and budgets behind those cinema movies. I think more than half the cachet of HD is not in the resolution (which can often be quite crappy anyway, due to compression it gets thru satellites and cable) but the wide screen aspect ratio. This is perhaps the kind of thing you were wanting to say in your "explanations" of why HD is "better". The psychological aspect, the semiotic subtext is that the wide frame connotes a higher-end product. If you want to sell the CEO as advanced and modern and high-end, psychologically, the wide frame helps that.
As far as compatibility it has already been stated that HD wide screen is the evolving standard, so to keep your SD4x3 footage from getting stretched and squashed and mis-framed as inexperienced users try to shoehorn it into their wide screen programs and TV sets, you might as well skip the damage and play along with what everyone else is doing, and go wide screen too.
One last selling point of shooting HD is that if you take it into an SD edit, you have the ability to pan and zoom a bit and re-frame your shotsd and add motion effects with ease. So shooting HD can make a better-looking SD in post. Which is fine if your end user is still SD.
My second blasphemy is that, when only shooting talking heads, the wider frame is generally "wasted" to an extent, at least by less-experienced shooters, and especially in documentary interview footage, where you don't have other compositional elements to play with in the frame and background. If you frame to protect a "center-punch" version of such video, for the 4x3 SD TV frame, you've compromised your composition for the 16.9 frame. If you frame just for 16x9, any SD cut-down of the footage will either be a pan-and-scan job, re-aligned in post, or will unnaturally cut the face shot off in a place you didn't intend when you shot it. Framing occupies a lot of my thinking here. I hate it when faces are framed dead-center in talking head videos, I always offset it a little bit to make the composition a little more dynamic. If a dead center frame talking head is boring, a dead center framed talking head with 2-3 head's worth of dead, unused space to either side of it is worse, IMO.
I had some choices about shooting a series of oral history recordings and I chose not to shoot 16x9 SD or HD but to compose and shoot 4x3 SD. My logic in choosing this, under the particular circumstances, was A: to save the client a lot of money and time, but also B: I wanted to frame these locked-down face shots in a particular way, and it would have meant that I was "wasting" a lot of space in the frame to shoot a wide screen frame, where the negative or white space was empty of anything I would want to use. Sometimes you want a lot of that space, to connote certain mental states or story points, particulalrly in dramatic work. In my case, those were not a consideration for what we needed to say, and would have hurt the work, IMO. I wanted to fill my frame with just the person, and compositionally I liked the narrower frame over the wide one, which would have caused me to crop the shot more, and in a different way, than I wanted to.
Another consideration is screen size. And there's more variables regarding what signal is being sent to the screen, and what signal the screen can resolve.
Having said that, HD signal to an HD screen looks prettier than anything else (expect maybe film projection). The bigger the HD screen (60" for example) and the further folks sit from that screen, the more important HD resolution is. It would be a questionable move, for example, to screen an SD image on an HD screen in a presentation hall, where the stockholders are watching (if that makes sense).
You can boil this down into a nice quip: Big screens need big resolution.
[Chris Tarroza] "As an editor, I have experienced the pain of trying to key DV footage and the ease of keying HD footage."
Not going to argue any of the points made here, I absolutely agree that HD looks nice.
But that said; Isn't it a bit unfair to base the comparison between SD and HD on DV? SD can be so much better than that. :-)
We shoot everything in HD (for 3 years now) and don't charge more for it. All corporate work so far has been released in SD. But the big advantage is down the road when everyone is viewing HD, our clients will have HD archives.
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Explain to you company that consumers know the difference and should not be patronized or offended by getting treated like blind old ladies.