Choosing Between HD and SD Camcorders

The latest frenzy of making online home videos has everyone crazy about finding the best camcorders among the many models and brands out in the market today. Knowing the differences ensures that you get what you really want. Camcorders can be differentiated by the type of digital video formats they support. The general distinction is High Definition (HD) and Standard Definition (SD).

HD is the newer of the two formats and a camcorder that records in HD generally produces better quality videos than those that record in SD. This is mostly due to the fact that standard definition digital video is still closely tied to the parameters of analog video systems such as NTSC and PAL.

  • Resolution. A frame of digital image is made up of pixels (picture elements) and is often measured in terms of the frame's width and height. The more pixels there are that can be included in each frame, the clearer and sharper is the image. SD resolution is usually around 720x480 or 720x576 pixels. HD outpaces this with 1920x1080 pixels.
  • Frame rate. The motion that we experience in motion pictures are still frames rapidly displayed in series. Frame rate refers to the number of frames per second or fps. A higher frame rate results in a smoother video. SD's frame rate ranges only from 25 fps to 29.97 fps while HD ranges from 30 to 60 fps.
  • Bandwidth. This refers to the amount of digital information that can be transmitted or processed per unit of time. SD bandwidth ranges from 4 to 6 MHz (Mega Hertz) and one telling effect of this limited capacity to process digital information is that the recorded sound is less in quality to audio CDs (12-bit 44.1 KHz). If sound quality is important to you, a separate audio recorder might be necessary when using an SD camcorder with the audio edited in after shooting. HD camcorders on the other hand can record audio that is equal to audio CDs (16-bit 44.1 KHz ) and thus what is directly stored in the video camera could already usable.
  • Interlaced and Progressive. There are two ways that a frame is displayed in digital video: interlaced and progressive. Each frame has a line of visual information called scan lines. In an interlaced digital video, half the frame or the odd numbered scan lines are first shown and then is succeeded by the even numbered scan lines. This is done so quickly that the human eye does not perceive this slight time difference and sees only a full frame. Interlacing is a solution to limited bandwidth. If full frames were displayed in low bandwidth then the frame rate and resolution would lower considerably and this could result in blurry images or flickering and jerky motions. A progressive display in contrast presents a frame's scan lines in sequence and this method necessitates more bandwidth. SD camcorders' specifications in this aspect are usually 480i, meaning it interlaces (i) 480 vertical pixels or scan lines. HD however has 1080i and its progressive mode specs are 720p - 720 vertical pixels progressively (p) displayed. Furthermore HD in progressive mode has a resolution of 1260x720 which is still far sharper than SD.

HD outpaces SD in all aspects of video quality. Though HD camcorders are generally still more expensive than SD camcorders, the difference in quality is greater than the difference in price. Furthermore most multimedia platforms and applications support HD because it is now the new standard.


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