Infomercial in HD?
I realize this post borderlines on being too "techy" for this forum, but I ask the question as an owner of a small prod. company. I've just been hired to produce an infomercial. My big question, is it worth the extra effort, expense, render time, etc to shoot in HD? After all, this is an infomercial.
Along the same line, as production companies, how many of you have made the permanent shift to "All HD, All the Time" in the jobs you take-on? I know one day it will be the standard, but SD is like an old shoe...comfortable, soft and warm. And, yes, "stinky" when compared to HD.
[jumpcuts] "My big question, is it worth the extra effort, expense, render time, etc to shoot in HD? After all, this is an infomercial."
If your shop is set up correctly, it won't be any different than cutting SD. We cut 80% HD and 20% SD in our shop and they're interchangeable at this point. I've been cutting HD projects almost four years now and our shop is all set up for realtime Up/Down/Cross conversion with a ton of storage and fast computers. We encourage all of our clients to shoot HD now, even for one-off presentation videos. The quality is just so incredible compared to SD.
[jumpcuts] "Along the same line, as production companies, how many of you have made the permanent shift to "All HD, All the Time" in the jobs you take-on? I know one day it will be the standard, but SD is like an old shoe...comfortable, soft and warm. And, yes, "stinky" when compared to HD."
I've been "HD-Ready" since 2001 and just waited until the client needs drove me to push HD to the front. That happened in 2003 and we added our first HD deck. Now we have two of them and three HD suites.
But the suites are fully capable of all Post work from DV to 2K. Heck we still lay off about 100 BetaSP masters per year so that format isn't going anywhere.
One thing you don't do is purchase HD gear just to say you can do HD. You let the client need drive your purchases for HD. You can always rent gear on short notice.
Walter Biscardi, Jr.
HD Editorial & Animation for Broadcast and independent productions.
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That all depends on whether or not your setup is up to the task. If it takes you twice as long to complete in HD, clearly it may not be worth it. This doesn't just rely on having good gear, but the work-flow and knowledge needed to work with the HD material.
Provided you have the gear and skill needed to efficiently pull off HD post, it may still not be worth the quality gains because you will almost definitely be delivering SD (and surely not in 16:9) in the end. If this is the case, it may make more sense to use Digital Beta, film or some other high-end medium that will give you 4:4:4 footage to work with, look great and fit a standard SD work-flow.
Part of the equation depends on how long you want the infomercial to run. The longer "shelf-life" they want it to have, the more I'd be inclined to shoot in HD.
It would probably be worth your time to work up the costs for each production path, present the pros and cons of both options to the client, then let them decide which way to go. I've found that my clients value the preproduction discussions and education they get regarding HD vs. SD.
I started working in HD about seven years ago, but true HD production only became "the standard" for our scripted productions in early 2004 - AFTER we got high-quality HD scopes and monitors. Now the only thing we shoot or post in SD is "quick turnaround" events like press conferences.
The camera (and lens!)and first HD decks cost a lot, but the hardest cost to bear for us was upgrading our routing infrastructure, scopes and monitors. We absolutely had to do that in order to give our clients the quality and turnaround time that they had come to expect with SD material.
On today's computers, the render time actually doesn't bother me so much anymore. Using so much hard drive space for the media still bothers me a little, but at least that space doesn't cost anything near what it did a few years ago.
I'm working on the issue after-next of the Cow magazine, and there's going to be an article on infomercial production. The writer does pretty much noting but infomercials, and says that while they're still doing some SD work, they're increasingly going HD.
Even for SD masters, they're delivering widescreen more often than not. Thanks to letterboxing, people are used to letterboxing....
...and as you can imagine, nobody is more aware of or responsive to an informercial production than a company whose operators are standing by. The results are very easy to track.
Futureproofing is less a big deal for informercials than narrative programming or especially documentaries I think, but -- all kidding aside -- higher quality images pay off.
Shooting HD for SD delivery is no different from shooting BetaSP for VHS delivery when that was the delivery format, or working at high data rates for DVD delivery today. Good stuff in, good stuff out.
You'll never regret working with the best images you can afford to produce.
I agree with all of these points on the quality issue and down-converting to SD, but I think people tend to assume it will look better just because it's HD (i.e. bigger). That isn't necessarily true.
For example, footage shot on digiBeta with a 2/3" chip and a quality set of primes will not only look better, but it will hold up better to color correction, greenscreen extraction etc. than footage shot in HD with the 1/3" chip, fixed lens HVX200 or any other prosumer-grade HD camera.
HD is a format, not a quality indicator. I'm sure we've all seen horrid footage from pro level HD cameras and simply amazing SD footage, so the solution is not to just shoot bigger frames. It starts with better lenses, bigger CCDs, higher sampling, better lighting, better art direction etc.