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SD still?

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Mark AlexanderSD still?
by on Jul 9, 2009 at 9:21:46 pm

Ok, I'm ready to take the heat so here goes...

I'm still working in (gasp!) SD. Why? Because so far my clients (albeit too few to begin with!) and many of the "corporate" videographers I've spoken with, are still shooting/editing/delivering SD. A fair number of them own HD gear but report that a large part of their client base just hasn't been demanding it, or aren't willing to ante up the increased cost of HD production. ROI on HD for these guys seems negligible in many cases.

Understandably, nobody writes about SD anymore in the trades and most equipment vendors have just a little bit of SD gear that they will sell. I totally "get it" that SD is dying (at least in the press) but based on my unscientific survey of real world producers it isn't quite dead yet.

So I thought I'd bring the question here to this board: Do you have clients who seem willing to stay with SD for awhile longer?


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Mike CohenSD is Dead...Long Live SD
by on Jul 9, 2009 at 9:43:44 pm

The Real World

SD is far from dead. In the broadcasting world is one thing. But in the corporate world we have a way to go. Corporations cannot upgrade 2000 computers every two years.

I have had clients, first ask me the difference between a DVD and a CD, and then wonder why their laptops could not play a DVD - no DVD drive. This was less than a year ago. This is not a criticism or a sign of ignorance - it is a sign that the consumer world and the corporate world run at different speeds.

Our final product is a SD DVD. We sell a lot of SD DVD's of our products and a good number of MPEG-1 based CD-ROMs.

Our more recent CD-ROMs use F4V Flash video, but alas it is still 720x480.

We see some HD in the convention industry, but often a SD DVD is simply being blown up on a 70" LCD monitor. The only times HD is shown at a trade show there is usually an XDCAM deck or hard drive playback involved - rarely.


We try to shoot in HD as often as possible, because the resulting SD image looks better IMHO, and when a client says "hey, can we get this on Blu-Ray?" we'll be ready. Also the video stills from HD are pretty nice.

Let your market demand the format. Just because you never see non-Blu-Ray DVD players advertised in your Sunday newspaper anymore doesn't mean there are 100 million players out there. But that is the consumer world. Aside from weddings and mass market video content, a lot of video production (non-broadcast) is geared toward the user base of SD players.

What Does the End User Want?

Most video content we produce is likely played on a computer - so there you are relying upon drive speed, video card, monitor, screen savers, and background processes. I know you can play a pretty sharp DIVX file off a CD, but your average corporate user does not necessarily have the latest up to date computer or video player, and certainly no Blu-Ray compatible drive.

Thus, I for one will not give you any heat for admitting to using SD to conduct your business. If you are shooting docs for national networks, then...well obviously you are not since you would be doing that in HD.
Obviously for your business at this point in time, SD makes sense.

I always say "if the client is happy, I'm happy." My clients usually don't care about what technology we use, as long as they get the final product they want.

Keep the end in mind and you can't go wrong.

Mike Cohen

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Nick GriffinRe: SD is Dead...Long Live SD
by on Jul 9, 2009 at 10:01:26 pm

I wrote about this in an article here on the COW about the hows and whys of making the transition to XDCam and Media 100HD. (Click my head above and scroll down to the article.)

We were going along fine with everything SD and then one day last year our biggest client announced that going forward all of their stuff was to be HD. Period.

Many others, especially those where projection is involved, still insist on SD, but other clients, once offered the option, like the idea of shooting HD even if the delivery is intended for a computer screen.

The truly surprising thing was, when all was said and done, including the recent purchase of an HD wide angle lens, that the costs to go HD were far less than I had been imagining. For many of us this is not the year for any scale of capital outlay, but if the work is there HD is quite approachable. Now if only I had some idea what to do with an essentially worthless SD camera and field monitor.

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walter biscardiRe: SD is Dead...Long Live SD
by on Jul 9, 2009 at 10:23:36 pm

[Mike Cohen] "SD is far from dead. In the broadcasting world is one thing."

It's long from dead in the broadcast world too. We deliver SD masters to major networks and broadcasters every month. Good old BetaSP.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author.
Credits include multiple Emmy, Telly, Aurora and Peabody Awards.
Biscardi Creative Media

Creative Cow Forum Host:
Apple Final Cut Pro, Apple Motion, Apple Color, AJA Kona, Business & Marketing, Maxx Digital.

Read my Blog!

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walter biscardiRe: SD still?
by on Jul 9, 2009 at 10:25:50 pm

[Mark Alexander] "So I thought I'd bring the question here to this board: Do you have clients who seem willing to stay with SD for awhile longer? "

Many. Be even if they request delivery in SD, I always suggest they shoot in HD. One to make their footage more useable in the future and because you generally get a better looking SD product from HD originals.

We don't charge any different price whether it's SD or HD so it makes no difference to us what they bring to the shop. For the most part, clients are going ahead and at least shooting in HDV so they have better footage for the future.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author.
Credits include multiple Emmy, Telly, Aurora and Peabody Awards.
Biscardi Creative Media

Creative Cow Forum Host:
Apple Final Cut Pro, Apple Motion, Apple Color, AJA Kona, Business & Marketing, Maxx Digital.

Read my Blog!

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Mark SuszkoRe: SD still?
by on Jul 9, 2009 at 11:25:30 pm

"It's not dead, it just smells funny"

Call me a luddite, but I feel personally that there is plenty of stuff that is still just fine to shoot in SD, long as it is shot well. Its always about what the client wants and what formats they can afford and handle.

I shoot news events all the time in SD and I am constantly asking the news station people about them taking HD. They have budget limitations in their industry and their shops, and don't all have a standardized way to take HD material in yet. But the thing about news is, timeliness beats format choice, every time. When news happens, they will take the footage any way you can give it, and Standard def DV is the closest thing to a lingua franca since betacamSP. The fact that it is 3x4 is no big deal when it is commonly run in a PIP with lower thirds and etc. happening anyhow. And you can shoot SD anamorphic as well. The dirty truth of TV stations in smaller markets is, they keep their SD infrastructure as-is as long as they can, because its paid for, so to become "HD" they run their SD product thru a black box up-converter just ahead of the transmitter. It will be years yet before every station is truly HD all the way thru. By then we may be recording on cubes of quantum foam or something.

I agree with Cohen's approach of shooting HD source footage and down-converting to SD, just to "future-proof" the footage, but my opinion is that not everything is *worthy* of HD origination, particularly ephemera with short designed shelf-life. For me, HD workflow represents a significant increase in time and money to perform, and a lot of projects I work on are not made any better from HD origination. Just more expensive.

Finally, we're still seeing a lot of churn in the technology, and I am thus reticent to commit to formats until somebody else absorbs all the costs of development and testing. I remember our office dodging a bullet by not signing on to the M2 format early, we waited a decade to see if BetacamSP was going to hold up. We went for DVCPro at the time because Sony's version of DV wasn't quite ready yet and the Panasonic product could play all three existing DV25 flavors, including Sony's, so we felt protected there. We're cautious like that. Lots of people love HDV but lots more still don't; frankly for now, I'm agin' it. While I love the quality of h.264 as a delivery format, I think it sucks as an editing format. I'm excited by BluRay because in it I see the same multiple platform support we saw with DVCPro and DV25. But Apple is dragging its feet. Very frustrating.

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grinner hesterRe: SD still?
by on Jul 9, 2009 at 11:41:56 pm

All of my clients are in SD land.
All of em.

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Mark AlexanderRe: SD still?
by on Jul 9, 2009 at 11:58:39 pm

Thank you to all you heavy hitters in this field and on these boards. Your thoughts, writings and opinions are always top notch and with these replies, I know that I'm "ok" for now.

Later on this year or next I might be taking on some doc projects and that will be a game changer for sure as far as HD. But for now I can feel more confident in talking with new corporate prospects about their projects and not feel like I'm way behind the times.

Thanks much.


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Michael HancockRe: SD still?
by on Jul 10, 2009 at 2:56:12 am

We're entirely SD. There's only one station in our area that even accepts HD, and I don't know that anyone has ever actually submitted a spot to test whether or not it works. One station has changed to HVX200 cameras but shoot DV25 because the rest of their infrastructure isn't HD ready, and the economy has pushed those plans back by at least another year.

I know of three people in town with some form of HD cameras, but they master everything in SD. It's probably going to be at least a few more years before HD takes off at all here.


I'll be working late.

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Arnie SchlisselRe: SD still?
by on Jul 10, 2009 at 3:55:34 am

[Mark Alexander] "aren't willing to ante up the increased cost of HD production."

what increased cost? You can edit DVCPro HD, HDV, XDCam all off of firewire drives. Good quality cameras can be had for between $5k and $10k. HD capture cards start at $1k. The cost of working with uncompressed HD now is less than the cost of working with uncompressed SD was just 5 or 6 years ago.


Post production is not an afterthought!

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Scott CarnegieRe: SD still?
by on Jul 14, 2009 at 2:16:21 pm

For corporate vid I always shoot HD and edit 16x9 SD unless the client wants something different. I've only had one client that had an HD deliverable, I gave them 720p QT uncompressed and Flash vesions of the video.

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Todd TerryRe: SD still?
by on Jul 14, 2009 at 3:09:19 pm

We do mostly broadcast commercials... and virtually all of what we produced is delivered in SD. Like Walter, we go through boxes and boxes of good 'ol BetaSP.

While all six of the broadcast stations in our market are HD, all of them simply pass along the networks' HD signals, none of them originate any local HD programming nor can they accept commercials in HD. The last thing for broadcast that we delivered in HD was programming for the state's Public Television Network.

Although we work primarily in our own market, we do occasionally create commercials that air regionally, nationally, or locally in other markets around the country. Interestingly enough we got a message from a station in a tiny tiny market in another state about two years ago saying, "Hey, we can take your commercials in HD now." I was very surprised... as even the big stations in other large markets that we serve still typically ask for BetaSP delivery.

So far our HD work has been limited to things like corporate films, trade show presentations etc.

If we are shooting a commercial, for example, and I know that it's an SD project and there's not a snowball's chance that I will ever need the footage again, I'll shoot it in SD (i.e., someone on camera speaking about a specific event). It's just simpler, and I can use the footage in any of our decks in any of our suites (two of the suites are still SD only, the other two HD). If I think the footage has "legs," I'll shoot it in HD.

Sometimes we'll produce a commercial start-to-finish in HD (frankly, I do that when I think there's potential for keeping an extra-good spot on our reel for a while). In those instances, I'll plan ahead with our editor and decide on the exact "look" and framing before directing the shoot. If we decide we want a letterboxed SD version, then I don't do anything very different. But sometimes we know we will want a full-frame SD version... in those instances I just have to be a bit more mindful of the left and right frame edges... and not include any overly-important elements that would be lost when we do the 4:3 centerpunch version for SD.

SD is alive and well here.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Timothy J. AllenRe: SD still?
by on Jul 14, 2009 at 6:44:02 pm

The cost for us to upgrade to HD back in 2004 was pretty substantial - because we had to upgrade the fiber and switches between a few buildings - and because we needed vectorscopes to do it right.

In the past two years, it's become much more affordable. From 2004 to 2007, about 95% of my productions were shot and edited in HD, but the last two dozen videos I've done this year were all SD. Shooting in SD didn't really save us any money, but it did shave off some time since our interim product was going to folks who are still only set up to work in SD.

Like the others, I still prefer to acquire in HD. That doesn't meant that I always do.

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Mark AlexanderRe: SD still?
by on Jul 15, 2009 at 3:42:35 am

Thanks for the continued posts on this.


p.s. Tim can I come and work with you? You must have one the best job in media - at least as far as I can tell.


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Timothy J. AllenRe: SD still?
by on Jul 16, 2009 at 6:26:51 pm

The fact that you list playing guitar in your profile automatically ranks you up a few notches in my book, Mark. ;-)

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