For those of you who have followed me you know I have operated on the opinion that HD isn’t necessary for an IMAG environment. Over the last year, though, I have started to change my tune. Although I still believe that a finely tuned SD system is still a great solution for IMAG, if you are in the situation to invest in some new gear, I now believe that HD should be the path to go down.
When I was working at Eagle Brook Church in Minnesota we were all SD across all 5 campuses, as I’m writing this EBC is still SD and looking to take their first campus HD within the next year. There were very few issues I ever had with SD. With our systems, nobody in the audience ever cared that we weren’t HD, SD was and still is great for IMAG.
So why the change of heart you may ask, the first reason is because of the offline/ post workflow. Most editors have migrated long ago to HD, even in our SD worlds our editors have made the switch. It is no secret that software and computers depreciate much faster than the rest of our Video gear. Not to mention Sony, Panasonic and all the DSLR manufactures have made it easy to get good-looking HD video at a low cost.
The Editing industry is ahead of us Live guys especially when it comes to codec’s. Most of the new fancy codecs for editing, archiving, streaming, and posting on the web are optimized for HD and leaves SD looking like crap! Our computer monitors now have a color range that is closer to HD. And even the best-looking SD video when viewed on the web or a computer of any kind just doesn’t look good. It sticks out like a sore thumb, because everything else in our world has now been optimized for HD, especially computers.
Most TV’s do a good job at making SD video look decent, same with projectors, but we are in the digital age and computers are taking over the world. Who isn’t posting video’s to the web and sharing things via Vimeo or You Tube? And in our church world that can be someone’s first impression of your facility and an outdated look doesn’t help any.
The second reason I have had a change of heart is because most gear now days has started to lack in it’s processing. Sure, you can still buy nice costly processors for up converting or down converting, but where I have really noticed it is in some of the new projection lines. Some of the single chip DLP lines just don’t do SD very well, you get a lot of blocking (Mpeggy look) and noise in the image. They have a hard time doing the up convert to look good. So the only way to avoid this is to up convert before you go to your projector. Nobody makes an SD projector anymore so we are kind of forced into using an HD projector even in an SD world.
The biggest reason I have always avoided pushing HD is the cost. In the last year and half there have been a lot of new products on the market that have made HD more affordable. Economic production devices have begun to flood the market such as: Ross Video’s Carbonite, Hitachi z-HD5000, Sony D70, AJA Ki Pro, BMD i/o cards and converters, Panasonic Projectors, and Ensemble Design Bright Eye Converters.
If that isn’t enough for you, you can’t really buy SD cameras any more. Most of the rest of the gear can do either SD or HD, but your biggest expense has always been cameras and manufactures aren’t selling SD cameras anymore. Sure, you can go used and get a good camera package but unless you are getting a great deal, I would just go HD. Something most people have already been doing. (I’m a little behind)
But with all that said, I have finally converted to a ProHD mindset. This last week I did a show using Sony D70 HD cameras (Not my favorite but decent cams). I did this show last year with SD cameras and we played back a clip from the year before. Last year, the show looked good! There was nothing wrong with it, but when you mix in SD with HD it really notices. I leaned over to my boss at that point and told him I wanted to be done with SD. I know we will still do shows in SD because of budgetary reasons, but we will be pushing more and more for HD because of all the reasons I just listed. We have already done more HD shows this year than last year.
SD was great, and still is on it’s own, but as technology has evolved it has kind of left SD in the dust. Viewing SD content online or on a site like Vimeo just leaves your video looking poor. New gear that is hitting the market is less and less forgiving towards the SD world; manufactures are making it almost more difficult to achieve quality SD than it is to achieve quality HD. The MPEG processing that has fueled our lives in both Live production content and postproduction content has dictated our quality and it has forgotten about SD. I feel as though the SD train has been retired and from here on out, it’s all about HD. Something I wouldn’t have been able to say a year ago, even knowing it was close, but feel confident in saying it now.