In the world of production there is a difference between quality and resolution. Unless you are doing edge-blending or broadcasting, resolution isn’t necessary for simple IMAG production. I have worked on shows with screens 20 feet wide running composite and it looks great! Our culture is so used to watching Standard definition content on HD TV’s and we get it in our mind that just because it looks bad at home means it looks bad everywhere. Remember your TV was made for HD, not SD therefore your signal is going to look bad because that is not what it is made to show. In production, projectors are forgiving, if you plug in a composite feed it will look great, if you plug in a High rez computer signal it will look great as well. The key is to have all the equipment on the same standard, once you start converting is when you will begin to have quality issues unless you have really high end converters. Let me emphasize, a well maintained and tuned composite system/ signal looks great, not just any composite signal looks good.
So back to quality vs. resolution. There are HD cameras out there that cost as much as an SD camera brand new. Both have studio configuration, are genlockable and are large body cameras that have some weight for smooth camera operation. What most people don’t realize is that the chip set says it all. With a 3CCD or 3CMOS camera there are different size chips: 1/3, ½, and 2/3 inch. You can go online and watch footage on youtube or vimeo and see great footage from every size of chip. But you should know the difference. Without getting into too much technical jargon, the CCD’s/ CMOS chips interpret the light from the lens into electronic information. The bigger the chip the more light in can take in and interpret. When shooting outdoors or in controlled studio environments most of the time any of these cameras will look great! But when you have lots of the same color, such as shooting football and the green grass, there is too much green for the camera to interpret, therefore, the cameras naturally de-saturate and/ or get grainy in order reproduce enough green for the entire picture. Another example would be any time theatrical lighting is used. When shooting at a stage and there is a background that is entirely light using color, this color is too intense for the camera’s to interpret and again has this de-saturation/ grainy effecting the overall quality of the image. Bigger 2/3 inch chip cameras interpret these oversaturation environments much better than cameras with smaller chips.
The cameras I have mentioned earlier are on opposite ends of the chip size spectrum. The HD camera is 1/3 inch and the SD camera is 2/3 inch. You get a lot more quality for the same price and in an IMAG environment, quality is more important, in my opinion, than resolution. Most people think that resolution equals quality but I challenge you differently. Quality is quality and resolution is resolution. I challenge you, if you don’t believe me, compare them side by side. I know I have and I have seen the difference first hand.
Also, SD cameras are leaving many studios for HD upgrades. You can find many good deals on used SD Broadcast quality cameras and save a lot of money. However, make sure the manufactures are still supporting camera repairs before purchasing and build in a little extra money in case repairs are needed and even then you will still save some cash.
-Note: it you get widescreen cameras most people won’t even notice, sure if they think to themselves, is this HD or not, they will figure it out, but most people won’t notice and if the quality is good, they won’t mind.