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Understanding HD

Your comprehensive guide to

High Definition on a budget

Part One
Understanding HD with Avid 1

Chapter 1

Video formats
and sampling
Video formats and sampling Understanding HD with Avid 2

Perhaps one of the most baffling areas of HD

and SD, is the shorthand jargon used to
describe sampling and colour space, such as
Line 1 • • • • • • • •
RGB 4:4:4, and Y,Cr,Cb 4:2:2. Also the video Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
formats such as 1080/24P sound strange until CrCb CrCb CrCb CrCb

you get to know them. For a quick initiation, or Line 2 • • • • • • • •

reminder, about sampling ratios, please read Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
CrCb CrCb CrCb CrCb
the piece directly below.

4:2:2 sampling of luminance and colour difference signals

4:2:2 etc (Chroma sub-sampling)

The sampling rates used in digital television are described 4:1:1, used in some DV formats and DVCAM, makes Cr and
by shorthand that has, in some ways, only a tenuous Cb samples at every fourth Y sample point on every line –
connection to what it is used to describe. The numbers but still carries more chrominance detail than PAL or NTSC.
denote ratios of sampling rates, not absolute numbers,
and they need a little interpretation to understand them
all. Sometimes these ratios are referred to as ‘chrominance Line 1 Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
CrCb CrCb
(chroma) sub-sampling’.
Line 2 Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
In most instances the first number refers to luminance (Y),
CrCb CrCb
the last two refer to chrominance – the exceptions are
4:4:4, or 4:4:4:4 (more later). The first number is nearly
4:1:1 sampling
always a 4 and that means that the luminance is sampled
once for every pixel produced in the image. There are a Then another argument says that if the chrominance is sub-
very few instances where a lower sample rate is used for sampled horizontally, as in 4:1:1, why not do the same vertically
luminance. An example is HDCAM, which is generally to give a more even distribution of colour information? So
considered to use 3:1:1 sampling. Sampling at a lower rate instead of sampling both Cr and Cb on every line, they are
than the final pixel rate is known as sub-sampling sampled on alternate lines, but more frequently on each
line (at every other Y). This is 4:2:0 sampling (4:2:0 on one
The second two numbers describe the sampling
line and 4:0:2 on the next) and it is used in MPEG-2 and
frequencies of the two pure colour digitised components
most common JPEG compression schemes.
of (Red-Y) and (Blue-Y), called Cr and Cb. In line with
television’s practise of taking advantage of our eye’s
response which is more acute for luminance than for pure Line 1 Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
colour, cuts to reduce data tend to be made in the Cr Cr Cr Cr Cr
chrominance sampling rather than luminance. The most Line 2 Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
common studio sampling system is 4:2:2 where each of the Cb Cb Cb Cb Cb
two colour components is sampled coincidently with every
second luminance sample along every line. 4:2:0 provides equal colour resolution vertically
and horizontally if using square pixels
Video formats and sampling Understanding HD with Avid 3

In many cases it is very useful to have a key (or alpha) what is now the ITU-R BT.601 standard for SD sampling.
signal associated with the pictures. A key is essentially a ‘601’ defines luminance sampling at 13.5MHz (giving 720
full image but in luminance only. So then it is logical to pixels per active line) and each of the colour difference
add a fourth number 4, as in 4:2:2:4. signals at half that rate – 6.75MHz.
Technically 4:4:4 can denote full sampling of RGB or Y, Cr, The final twist in this tale is that someone then noticed
Cb component signals – but it is rarely used for the latter. that 13.5MHz was nearly the same as 14.3MHz that was 4 x
RGB may have an associated key channel, making 4:4:4:4. NTSC subcarrier. Had he looked a little further he might
have seen a much nearer relationship to 3 x PAL SC and a
Occasionally people go off-menu and do something else –
whole swathe of today’s terminology would be that much
like over-sampling which, with good processing can
different! But so it was that the number that might have
improve picture quality. In this case you might see
been 3 and should have been 1, became 4.
something like 8:8:8 mentioned. That would be making
two samples per pixel for RGB. As HD sampling rates are 5.5 times faster than those for
SD, the commonly used studio 4:2:2 sampling actually
This sampling ratio system is used for both SD and HD.
represents 74.25MHz for Y and 37.125MHz for Cr and Cb.
Even though the sampling is generally 5.5 times bigger,
4:2:2 sampling is the standard for HD studios.
Why 4? 1080I
Logic would dictate that the first number, representing a 1:1
Short for 1080 lines, interlace scan. This is the very widely
relationship with the pixels, should be 1 but, for many good
used HD line format which is defined as 1080 lines, 1920
(and some not so good) reasons, television standards are
pixels per line, interlace scan. The 1080I statement alone
steeped in legacy. Historically, in the early 1970s, the first
does not specify the frame rate which, as defined by
television signals to be digitised were coded NTSC and
SMPTE and ITU, can be 25 and 30Hz.
PAL. In both cases it was necessary to lock the sampling
frequency to that of the colour subcarrier (SC), which itself See also: Common Image Format, Interlace, ITU-R.BT 709, Table 3

has a fixed relationship to line and frame frequencies. NTSC

subcarrier is 3.579545MHz and PAL-I’s is 4.43361875MHz 1080P
and the digital systems typically sampled at 4 x NTSC SC
TV image size of 1080 lines by 1920, progressively scanned.
or 3 x PAL SC, making 14.3 and 13.3MHz respectively.
Frame rates can be as for 1080I (25 and 30Hz) as well as 24,
Then came the step to use component video Y, B-Y and R- 50, 60Hz.
Y (luminance and two pure colour components – known as
See also: Common Image Format, Progressive, ITU-R.BT 709, Table 3
colour difference signals) that is much easier to process for
re-sizing, smooth positioning, standards conversion,
compression and all the other 1001 operations that can be
applied to pictures today. When a standard was developed Sampling frequency used in the 601 digital coding of SD
for sampling this component video it followed some of the video. The frequency was chosen to be a whole multiple of
same logic as before, but this time also sort commonality the 525 and 625-line television system frequencies to
between the two SD scanning systems used around the create some compatibility between the digital systems.
world: 525/60I and 625/50I. Putting all that together led to The sampling is fast enough to faithfully portray the
Video formats and sampling Understanding HD with Avid 4

highest frequency, 5.5MHz, luminance detail information The images are a pure electronic equivalent of a film shoot
present in SD images. Digital sampling of most HD and telecine transfer – except the video recorder operates
standards samples luminance at 74.25MHz, which is 5.5 at film rate (24 fps), not at television rates. The footage has
times 13.5MHz. more of a filmic look but with the low frame rate,
movement portrayal can be poor.
See also: 2.25MHz, ITU-R BT.601
25PsF and 30PsF rates are also included in the ITU-R BT.
2.25MHz 709-4 recommendation.
See also: ITU-R BT. 709
This is the lowest common multiple of the 525/59.94 and
625/50 television line frequencies, being 15.734265kHz and
15.625kHz respectively. Although seldom mentioned, its
importance is great as it is the basis for all digital See ITU-R BT. 601
component sampling frequencies both at SD and HD.
See also: 13.5MHz 709
See ITU-R BT. 709
Short for 24 frames, progressive scan. In most cases this 720P
refers to the HD picture format with 1080 lines and 1920
Short for 720 lines, progressive scan. Defined in SMPTE
pixels per line (1080 x 1920/24P). The frame rate is also
296M and a part of both ATSC and DVB television standards,
used for SD at 480 and 576 lines with 720 pixels per line.
the full format is 1280 pixels per line, 720 lines and 60
This is often as an offline for an HD 24P edit, or to create a
progressively scanned pictures per second. It is mainly the
pan-and-scan version of an HD down-conversion. Displays
particular broadcasters who transmit 720P that use it. Its 60
working at 24P usually use the double shuttering technique
progressive scanned pictures per second offers the benefits
– like film projectors – to show each image twice and
of progressive scan at a high enough picture refresh rate to
reduce flicker when viewing this low rate of images.
portray action well. It has advantages for sporting events,
smoother slow motion replays etc.
24P Segmented Frame. This blurs some of the boundaries 74.25MHz
between film/video as video is captured in a film-like way,
The sampling frequency commonly used for luminance (Y)
formatted for digital recording and can pass through
or RGB values of HD video. Being 33 x 2.25MHz, the
existing HD video infrastructure. Like film, entire images
frequency is a part of the hierarchical structure used for SD
are captured at one instant rather than by the usual line-
and HD. It is a part of SMPTE 274M and ITU-R BT.709.
by-line TV scans down the image that means the bottom
can be scanned 1/24 of a second after the top. The images See also: 2.25MHz

are then recorded to tape as two temporally coherent

fields (segments), one with odd lines and the other with
even lines, that are well suited to TV recorders.
Video formats and sampling Understanding HD with Avid 5

Active picture Anamorphic

The part of the picture that contains the image. With the This generally describes cases where vertical and
analogue 625 and 525-line systems only 575 and 487 lines horizontal magnification is not equal. The mechanical
actually contain the picture. Similarly, the total time per anamorphic process uses an additional lens to compress
line is 64 and 63.5µS but only around 52 and 53.3µS contain the image by some added amount, often on the horizontal
picture information. As the signal is continuous the extra axis. In this way a 1.85:1 or a 2.35:1 aspect ratio can be
time allows for picture scans to reset to the top of the squeezed horizontally into a 1.33:1 (4:3) aspect film frame.
frame and the beginning of the line. When the anamorphic film is projected it passes through
another anamorphic lens to stretch the image back to the
Digitally sampled SD formats contain 576 lines and 720
wider aspect ratio. This is often used with SD widescreen
pixels per line (625-line system), and 480 lines and 720 pixels
images which keep to the normal 720 pixel count but
per line (525-line system) but only 702 contain picture
stretch them over a 33-percent wider display. It can also
information. The 720 pixels are equivalent to 53.3µS.
apply to camera lenses used to shoot 16:9 widescreen
The sampling process begins during line blanking of the where the CCD chips are 4:3 aspect ratio.
analogue signal, just before the left edge of active picture,
See also: Aspect ratio
and ends after the active analogue picture returns to
blanking level. Thus, the digitised image includes the left
and right frame boundaries as part of the digital scan line. Anti-aliasing
This allows a gentle roll-on and roll-off the between the
Attempts to reduce the visible effects of aliasing. This is
blanking (black) and active picture.
particularly the case with spatial anti-aliasing that typically
HD systems are usually quoted just by their active line uses filtering processes to smooth the effects of aliasing
count, so a 1080-line system has 1080 lines of active video, which may be noticeable as jaggedness on diagonal lines,
each of 1920 samples. This may be mapped onto a larger or ‘twinkling’ on areas of fine detail. A better solution is to
frame, such as 1125 lines, to fit with analogue connections. improve the original sampling and processing and avoid
aliasing in the first place.
Aliasing See also: Aliasing

Artefacts created as a result of inadequate or poor video

sampling or processing. Spatial aliasing results from the Aspect Ratio
pixel-based nature of digital images and leads to the
For pictures, this refers to the ratio of picture width to
classic ‘jagged edge’ (a.k.a. ‘jaggies’) appearance of
height. HD pictures use a 16:9 aspect ratio, which also may
curved and diagonal detail and twinkling on detail. This
be noted as 1.77:1. This is a third wider than the traditional
results from sampling rates or processing accuracy too low
4:3 television aspect ratio (1.33:1) and is claimed to
for the detail. Temporal aliasing occurs where the speed of
enhance the viewing experience as it retains more of our
the action is too fast for the frame rate, the classic
concentration by offering a wider field of view.
example being wagon wheels that appear to rotate the
wrong way. Pixel aspect ratio refers to the length versus height for a
pixel in an image. HD always uses square pixels as do
See also: Anti-aliasing
most computer applications. SD does not. The matter is
Video formats and sampling Understanding HD with Avid 6

further complicated by SD using 4:3 and 16:9 (widescreen) maintain the dynamic range. For example, if the YCrCb
images which all use the same pixel and line counts. Care colour space video is 8 bits per component then the RGB
is needed to alter pixel aspect ratio when moving between colour space video will need to be 10 bits.
systems using different pixel aspect ratios so that objects
retain their correct shape.
Component video
With both 4:3 and 16:9 images and displays in use, some
Most traditional digital television equipment handles video
thought is needed to ensure a shoot will suit its target
in the component form: as a combination of pure luminance
displays. All HD, and an increasing proportion of SD,
Y, and the pure colour information carried in the two colour
shoots are 16:9 but many SD displays are 4:3. As most HD
difference signals R-Y and B-Y (analogue) or Cr, Cb (digital).
productions will also be viewed on SD, clearly keeping the
The components are derived from the RGB delivered by
main action in the middle ‘4:3’ safe area would be a good
imaging devices, cameras, telecines, computers etc.
idea – unless the display is letterboxed.
Part of the reasoning for using components is that it allows
See also: ARC
colour pictures to be compressed. The human eye can see
much more detail in luminance than in the colour information
Chrominance (or Chroma) (chrominance). The simple task of converting RGB to Y, (R-

sub-sampling Y) and (B-Y) allows exclusive access to the chrominance

only, so its bandwidth can be reduced with negligible impact
See 4:2:2 etc. on the viewed pictures. This is used in PAL and NTSC
colour coding systems and has been carried through to
CIF component digital signals both at SD and HD.

Common Image Format. An image format that is widely For the professional digital video applications, the colour
used and denoted ‘Common Image Format’ by the ITU. difference signals are usually sampled at half the frequency
The idea is to promote the easy exchange of image of the luminance - as in 4:2:2 sampling. There are also other
information nationally and internationally. types of component digital sampling such as 4:1:1 with less
colour detail (used in DV), and 4:2:0 used in MPEG-2.

Co-sited sampling
Colour space
Where samples of luminance and chrominance are all
The space encompassed by a colour system. Examples taken at the same instant. This is designed so that the
are: RGB, YCrCb, HSL (hue, saturation and luminance) for relative timing (phase) of all signal components is
video, CMYK for print and XYZ for film. Moving between symmetrical and not skewed by the sampling system.
media, platforms or applications can require a change of Sampling is usually co-sited but there is a case of 4:2:0
colour space. This involves complex image processing so sampling being interstitial – with chrominance samples
care is needed to get the right result. Also, repeated made between the luminance samples.
changes of colour space can lead to colours drifting off.
See also: 4:2:2 etc.
It is important to note that when converting from YCrCb to
RGB more bits are required in the RGB colour space to
Video formats and sampling Understanding HD with Avid 7

DTV As HD’s 1080 x 1920 image size is close to the 2K used for
film, there is a crossover between film and television. This
Digital Television. This is a general term that covers both is even more the case if using a 16:9 window of 2K as here
SD and HD digital formats. there is very little difference in size. It is generally agreed
that any format containing at least twice the standard
Gamut (colour) definition format on both H and V axes is high definition.

The range of possible colours available in an imaging After some initial debate about the formats available to
system. The red, blue and green phosphors on television prospective HD producers and television stations, the
screens and the RGB colour pick-up CCDs or CMOS chips acceptance of 1080-HD video at various frame rates, as a
in cameras, define the limits of the colours that can be common image format by the ITU, has made matters far
displayed – the colour gamut. Between the camera and more straightforward. While television stations may have
viewer’s screen there are many processes, many using some latitude in their choice of format, translating, if
component 4:2:2 video. However, not all component value required, from the common image formats should be
combinations relate to valid RGB colours (for example, routine and give high quality results.
combinations where Y is zero). Equipment that generates
images directly in component colour space, such as some
graphics machines, can produce colours within the 2K Film
component range but that are invalid in RGB, which can
also exceed the limits allowed for PAL and NTSC.
There is potential for overloading equipment – especially
transmitters which may cut out to avoid damage! There is 1080-HD
equipment that clearly shows many areas of out-of-gamut

pictures, so that they can be adjusted before they cause 1280

problems. 720 720-HD

HD &


High Definition Television. This has been defined in the
USA by the ATSC and others as having a resolution of
approximately twice that of conventional television (meaning
analogue NTSC – implying 486 visible lines) both horizontally 2K, HD and SD images sizes

and vertically, a picture aspect ratio of 16:9 and a frame rate

See also: Common Image Format, Interlace Factor
of 24fps and higher. This is not quite straightforward as the
720-line x 1280 pixels per line, progressive scan format is
well accepted as HD. This is partly explained by the better
vertical resolution of its progressive scanning. Apart from
the video format, another HD variation on SD is a slightly
different colorimetry where, for once the world agrees on a
common standard.
Video formats and sampling Understanding HD with Avid 8


PAL and NTSC do not exist in HD. They do not exist in Red, Green and Blue. Cameras, telecines and most
modern SD digital television either – although it was computer equipment originate images in this colour
digitised in early digital VTR formats. PAL, means Phase space. For digital sampling, all three colours are sampled
Alternating Line and is an analogue system for coding in the same way at full bandwidth – hence 4:4:4. images
colour that is still widely in use. Similarly NTSC (National may offer better source material for the most critical
Television Standards Committee) describes an analogue chroma keying, but they occupy 50 percent more data
system. Confusingly PAL and NTSC are still used to space than 4:2:2 and as no VTRs record 4:4:4, data
describe frame rates and formats that relate in some way recorders or disks must be used to store them. Also, there
with their analogue world. So 1080 PAL might be 1080/50I. are no television means to connect them, so IT-based
networking technology is used.

Quantization Often 4:4:4 is only used in post production areas and is

converted to 4:2:2 when material is more widely distributed.
Quantization refers to sampling: the number of bits used in
See also: 4:4:4, Gamut
making digital samples of a signal. For video, 8 bits is
quite common in consumer and prosumer products such
as DV. HDV also uses 8 bits. Note that the 8 bits can define
28 or 256 numbers or levels that, for converting analogue
Segmented Frame
video into digits, are assigned to levels of image brightness. See: 24PsF

For more accuracy and to withstand multiple levels of complex

post production processing, studio video applications Square pixels
often use 10-bit sampling – providing 1024 levels.
Square pixels are the pixel aspect ratio where the pixels
Usually the distribution of the levels between brightest and describe a square area of the displayed image. This is the
darkest is linear (even) but in the case of scanning film case with HD broadcast standards, as the picture formats
negative for input to a digital intermediate chain, then a describe line length (number of pixels per line) and
logarithmic distribution is often used that progressively number of lines, in exact 16:9 ratios – which is also the
squashes the levels into the darker areas of picture. This is display aspect ratio of the pictures.
because film negative has to carry a very wide range of
There are places in HD where pixels are not square. The
contrast information from the original scene, and the levels
very widely used HDCAM sub-samples the 1920-pixel HD
in the dark/shadow areas are more significant and visible
line lengths with 1440 luminance samples. This is only an
than those in bright areas. The ‘log’ sampling suitably
internal function of the recorder; the inputs and outputs
redistributes the available digital levels – hence 10-bit log.
use square pixels. In a similar way the 1080I HDV(2) format
This is considered to be as useful as 13-bit linear quantization.
also uses 1440 samples per line.
NB: Quantization has another meaning.
Generally, computers generate images with square pixels
See section: Video Compression 1
but digital SD television images are not square. This
means that any applications or equipment used needs to
Video formats and sampling Understanding HD with Avid 9

take this into account when transferring between applications,

or performing image manipulations to maintain correct
Table 3
image aspect ratios (so circles remain circular). The video formats allowed for broadcast in the ATSC DTV
standard are listed in Table 3 of document Doc. A/53A.
See also: Anamorphic, Aspect ratio
Table 3 Compression Format Constraints
Vertical_ Horizontal_ aspect_ frame_ progressive_
Sub-sampling size_

In a digital sampling system, taking fewer samples of an

1080 1920 1,3 1,2,4,5 1
analogue signal than the number of pixels in the digital 4,5 0
image is called sub-sampling. Generally sub-sampling is 720 1280 1,3 1,2,4,5,7,8 1
used to reduce the amount of data used for an image. In 1,2,4,5,7,8 1
the widely used 4:2:2 sampling system for studio quality 480 704 2,3 4,5 0
video, each luminance sample corresponds to one pixel – 640 1,2 1,2,4,5,7,8 1
denoted by the ‘4’. The two chrominance signals are each 4,5 0
sampled at half the rate, making one per two pixels. This is
known as chrominance sub-sampling – a term that is
sometimes more generally ascribed to the sampling ratios Legend for MPEG-2 coded values in Table 3
– such as 4:2:2, 4:1:1, etc. aspect_ratio_information 1 = square samples 2 = 4:3 display aspect ratio 3 = 16:9 display aspect ratio

Frame_rate_code 1 = 23.976 Hz 2 = 24 Hz 4 = 29.97 Hz 5 = 30 Hz 7 = 59.94 Hz 8 = 60 Hz

See also: 4:2:2 etc
Progressive_sequence 0 = interlaced scan 1 = progressive scan

System nomenclature This table lists no fewer than 18 DTV formats for SD and HD.
Initially, this led to some confusion about which should be
A term used to describe television standards. The
adopted for whatever circumstances. Now most HD
standards are mostly written in a self-explanatory form but
production and operation is centred on the 1080-line formats
there is room for confusion concerning vertical scanning
either with 24P, 25P or 60I vertical scanning, and 720-line
rates. For example, 1080/60I implies there are 60 interlaced
formats at 50P and 60P.
fields per second that make up 30 frames. Then 1080/30P
describes 30 frames per second, progressively scanned.
The general rule appears to be that the final figure always
indicates the number of vertical refreshes per second.
However, Table 3 (below) uses a different method. It defines
frame rates (numbers of complete frames) and then defines
whether they are interlaced or progressive. So here the ‘frame
rate code 5’ is 30Hz which produces 30 vertical refreshes
when progressive, and 60 when interlaced. Be careful!
See also: Interlace, Progressive
Video formats and sampling Understanding HD with Avid 10

Truncation (a.k.a. Rounding) Universal Format

Reducing the number of bits used to describe a value. This is 1080/24P is sometimes referred to as the Universal Format for
everyday practice; we may say 1,000 instead of 1024 in the television. The reason is its suitability for translation into all
same way we leave off the cents/pence when talking about other formats to produce high quality results in all cases.
money. There is also the need to truncate the digits used in
See also: HD-CIF, Universal Master
digital video systems. With due care, this can be invisible,
without it degradation becomes visible.
Decimal: 186 x 203 = 37758 Universal Master
Binary: 10111010 x 11001011 = 1001001101111110 The 1080/24P format has well defined and efficient paths to all
It is the nature of binary mathematics that multiplication, which major television formats and is capable of delivering high
is commonplace in video processing (e.g. mixing pictures), quality results to all. An edited master tape in this format is
produces words of a length equal to the sum of the two sometimes referred to as a Universal Master.
numbers. For instance, multiplying two 8-bit video values See also: HD-CIF
produces a 16-bit result – which will grow again if another
process is applied. Although hiways within equipment may
carry this, ultimately the result will have to be truncated to fit Y, Cr, Cb
the outside world which, for HD, may be a 10-bit HD-SDI
This signifies video components in the digital form. Y, Cr, Cb is
interface or 8-bit MPEG-2 encoder.
the digitised form of Y, R-Y, B-Y.
In the example, truncating by dropping the lower eight bits
lowers its value by 01111110, or 126. Depending on video
content, and any onward processing where the error is Y, R-Y, B-Y
compounded, this may, or may not be visible. Typically, flat (no See component video
detail) areas of low brightness are prone to showing this type
of discrepancy as banding. This is, for example, sometimes
visible from computer generated images. YUV
Inside equipment, it is a matter of design quality to truncate De-facto shorthand for any standard involving component
numbers in an intelligent way that will not produce visible video. This has been frequently, and incorrectly, used as
errors – even after further processing. Outside, plugging 10-bit shorthand for SD analogue component video – Y, R-Y, B-Y. Y is
equipment into 8-bit needs care. Intelligent truncation is correct, but U and V are axes of the PAL colour subcarrier
referred to as Rounding. which are modulated by scaled and filtered versions of B-Y
and R-Y respectively. Strangely, the term is still used to
describe component analogue HD. This is double folly.
Although Y is still correct, all HD coding is digital and has
nothing to do with subcarriers or their axes. So forget it!
Understanding HD with Avid 11

Chapter 2

Video Compression:
Video Compression: Concepts Understanding HD with Avid 12

Video compression reduces the amount of data the digital video compression schemes in use today
or bandwidth used to describe moving pictures. including AVR, DV, HDV, JPEG (but not JPEG2000) and the
I frames of MPEG-1, 2 and 4, and Windows Media 9. A
Digital video needs vast amounts of data to
further reduction is made using Huffman coding, a purely
describe it and there have long been various
mathematical process that reduces repeated data.
methods used to reduce this for SD. And as HD
MPEG-2 and the more recent MPEG-4 add another layer
has up to a six times bigger requirement of
of compression by analysing what changes form frame to
1.2Gb/s and requiring 560GB per hour of storage,
frame by analysing the movement of 16 x 16-pixel macro
the need for compression is even more pressing. blocks of the pictures. Then it can send just the movement
information, called motion vectors, that make up predictive
(B and P) frames and contain much less data than I frames,
Intro Compression – General for much of the time. Whole pictures (I frames, more data)
are sent only a few times a second. MPEG-2 compression
Exactly which type and how much compression is used
is used in all forms of digital transmission and DVDs as well
depends on the application. Consumer delivery (DVD,
as for HDV. The more refined and efficient MPEG-4 is now
transmission, etc) typically uses very high compression (low
being introduced for some HD services, and is set to
data rates) as the bandwidth of the channels is quite small.
become widely used for new television services.
For production and online editing use much lighter
compression (higher data rates) are used as good picture Each of these techniques does a useful job but needs to
quality needs to be maintained though all the stages be applied with some care when used in the production
leading to the final edited master. chain. Multiple compression (compress/de-compress)
cycles may occur while moving along the chain, causing a
Video compression methods are all based on the principle
build-up of compression errors. Also, as many compression
of removing information that we are least likely to miss –
schemes are designed around what looks good to us, they
so-called ‘redundant’ picture detail. This applied to still
may not be so good in production, post production and
images as well as video and cinema footage. This takes the
editing. This particularly applies in processes, such as
form of several techniques that may be used together.
keying and colour correction, that depend on greater
Digital technology has allowed the use of very complex
image fidelity than we can see, so disappointing results
methods which have been built into low cost mass
may ensue from otherwise good-looking compressed
produced chips.
First, our perception of colour (chroma) is not as sharp as it
See also: AVR, Component video, DV, DNxHD, Huffman coding, JPEG,
is for black and white (luminance), so the colour resolution
JPEG2000, MPEG-2, MPEG-4
is reduced to half that of luminance (as in 4:2:2). This is used
in colour television (NTSC, PAL and digital). Similarly, fine
detail with little contrast is less noticeable than bigger
objects with higher contrast. To access these a process
called DCT resolves 8 x 8 pixel blocks of digital images into See DCT

frequencies and amplitudes to make it possible to scale

(down), or ‘quantize’, the DCT coefficients (frequencies and
amplitudes) and so reduce the data. This applies most of
Video Compression: Concepts Understanding HD with Avid 13

Codec Compression-friendly
Codec is short for coder/decoder – usually referring to a Material that looks good after compression is sometimes
compression engine. Confusingly, the term is often misused referred to as ‘compression friendly’. This can become
to describe just a coder or decoder. important in transmission where very limited data
bandwidth is available and high compression ratios have to
be used. Footage with large areas of flat colour, little detail
Compression ratio and little movement compress very well: for example,
This is the ratio of the uncompressed (video or audio) data cartoons, head-and-shoulder close-ups and some dramas.
to the compressed data. It does not define the resulting As, MPEG-2 compression looks at spatial detail as well as
picture or sound quality, as the effectiveness of the movement in pictures and an excess of both may show at
compression system needs to be taken into account. Even the output as poor picture quality. This often applies to
so, if used in studio applications, compression is usually fast-moving sports – for instance football.
between 2:1 and 7:1 for SD (and D1 and D5 uncompressed Poor technical quality can be compression unfriendly.
VTRs are also available), whereas compression for HD is Random noise will be interpreted as movement by an
currently approximately between 6:1 and 14:1 – as defined MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 encoder, so it wastes valuable data
by VTR formats, and is I-frame only. For transmission, the space conveying unwanted movement information.
actual values depend on the broadcaster’s use of the Movement portrayal can also be upset by poor quality
available bandwidth but around 40:1 is common for SD frame-rate conversions that produce judder on movement,
and somewhat higher, 50 or 60:1 for HD (also depending again increasing unwanted movement data to be
on format). These use both I-frames and the predictive transmitted at the expense of spatial detail. Such
frames to give the greater compression. circumstances also increase the chance of movement
HDV records data to tape at 19-25 Mb/s – a rate going wrong – producing ‘blocking’ in the pictures.
comparable with HD transmission and a compression ratio Errors can be avoided by the use of good quality
of around 40:1, depending on the standard used. equipment throughout the production chain. Also, the
Transmission and video recorders in general work at a choice of video format can help. For example, there is less
constant bit rate so, as the original pictures may include movement in using 25 progressively scanned images than
varying amounts of detail, the quality of the compressed in 50 interlaced fields, so the former compress more easily.
images varies. DVDs usually work on a constant The efficiency increase is typically 15-20 percent.
quality/variable bit rate principle. So the compression ratio
slides up and down according to the demands of the
material, to give consistent results. This is part of the
reason why DVDs can look so good while only averaging Discrete Cosine Transform is used as a first stage of many
quite low bit rates – around 4 Mb/s. digital video compression schemes including JPEG and
MPEG-2 and –4. It converts 8 x 8 pixel blocks of pictures to
express them as frequencies and amplitudes. This may not
reduce the data but it does arrange the image information
so that it can. As the high frequency, low amplitude detail
is least noticeable their coefficients are progressively
Video Compression: Concepts Understanding HD with Avid 14

reduced, some often to zero, to fit the required file size Studio applications of MPEG-2 have very short GOPs,
per picture (constant bit rate) or to achieve a specified Betacam SX has a GOP of 2, IMX has 1, (i.e. I-frame only –
quality level. It is this reduction process, known as no predictive frames) which means cutting at any frame is
quantization, which actually reduces the data. straightforward. Other formats such as DV, DVCPRO HD
and HDCAM, D5-HD do not use MPEG but are also I-
For VTR applications the file size is fixed and the
frame only.
compression scheme’s efficiency is shown in its ability to
use all the file space without overflowing it. This is one See also: MPEG-2, MPEG-4
reason why a quoted compression ratio is not a complete
measure of picture quality.
DCT takes place within a single picture and so is intra-
I-frame only (aka I-frame)
frame (I-frame) compression. It is a part of the currently Short for intra-frame only.
most widely used compression in television.
See also: AVR, Compression ratio, DV, JPEG, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 Inter-frame compression
Video compression that uses information from several
GOP successive video frames to make up the data for its
compressed ‘predictive’ frames. The most common
Group Of Pictures – as in MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 video
example is MPEG-2 with a GOP greater than 1. Such an
compression. This is the number of frames to each integral
MPEG-2 stream contains a mix of both I-frames and
I-frame: the frames between being predictive (types B and
predictive B and P (Bi-directional predictive and Predictive)
P). ‘Long GOP’ usually refers to MPEG-2 and 4 coding. For
frames. Predictive frames cannot be decoded in isolation
transmission the GOP is often as long as half a second, 13,
from those in the rest of the GOP so the whole GOP must
or 15 frames (25 or 30fps), which helps to achieve the
be decoded. This is an efficient coding system that is good
required very high compression ratios.
for transmission but it does not offer the flexibility needed
for accurate editing as it can only be cut at the GOP
boundaries. It also requires estimation of the movement
from picture to picture, which is complex and not always
I B B P B B P B B P B B I accurate – leading to ‘blockiness’.
See also: GOP, MPEG-2, MPEG-4

A typical group of pictures

Cutting long GOP MPEG is not straightforward as its

accuracy is limited to the GOP length unless further A method of ordering the lines of scanned images as two
processing is applied – typically decoding. HDV uses long (or more) interlaced fields per frame. Most television uses
GOP MPEG-2 of 6 or 15 frames for HDV1 or HDV2 2:1 interlacing; alternate fields of odd lines 1,3,5, etc.,
respectively making it editable at 1/4 or 1/2 second followed by a field of even lines 2, 4, 6, etc. This doubles
intervals. A GOP of 1 indicates ‘I-frame only’ video, which the vertical refresh rate as there are twice as many
can be cut at every frame without need of processing. interlaced fields as there would be whole frames. The
Video Compression: Concepts Understanding HD with Avid 15

result is better portrayal of movement and reduction of

flicker without increasing the number of full frames or
required signal bandwidth. There is an impact on vertical A 16 x 16 pixel block, comprising four adjacent DCT blocks
resolution and care is needed in image processing. – macroblocks are used to generate motion vectors in
MPEG-2 coding. Most coders use a ‘block matching’
See also: Interlace factor, Progressive
technique to establish where the block has moved and so
generate motion vectors to describe the movement. This
Interlace Factor works most of the time but also has its well-known
moments of failure. For example, slow fades to black tend
Use of interlaced, rather than progressive, scans has no to defeat the technique, making the resulting misplaced
effect on the vertical resolution of still images. However, if blocks quite visible. Better technologies are available for
anything in the image moves the resolution is reduced by use in movement estimation, such as phase correlation.
the Interlace Factor, which may be 0.7 or less. This is due
to the time displacement between the two fields of
interlace which will produce detail that is jagged, line-by- Motion Vectors
line, during the movement and it appears as an overall
Used in MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 compression systems, motion
slight softening of vertical resolution.
vectors describe the direction and distance that macroblocks
(16 x 16 pixels) move between frames. Sending this
movement information requires much less data than sending
Intra-frame compression an I frame, and so further reduces the video data.
(a.k.a. I-frame compression)
Video compression which takes information from one
video frame only. This way, all the information to re-create
Progressive (scan)
the frame is contained within its own compressed data and Sequence for scanning an image where the vertical scan
is not dependent on other adjacent frames. This means progresses from line 1 to the end in one sweep. In HDTV
that I-frame compressed video is easily edited as it can there are a number of progressive vertical frame (refresh)
simply be cut at any picture boundary without the need for rates allowed and used. 24Hz is popular for its
any decoding and recoding. I-frame only video can be compatibility with motion pictures and its ability to be
edited and the result output as first generation material. easily translated into all of the world’s television formats.
Any other operations such as wipes, dissolves, mixes, DVE 25 and 30Hz correspond with existing SD frame rates
moves etc., can only be performed on the baseband (although they use interlaced scans). 50 and 60Hz are also
signal, requiring that the video is first decompressed. allowed for, but, due to bandwidth restrictions, these are
limited in picture size, e.g. 720/60P and 720/50P.
See also: AVR, DV, JPEG, MPEG-2,
Today, progressive scanning is most commonly found in
computer displays and all the modern panel TV displays are
progressive. Progressive images are rock steady making the
detail easy to see. For the equipment designer progressive
images are easier process as there is no difference between
the two fields of a frame to contend with.
Video Compression: Concepts Understanding HD with Avid 16

Progressive scans have the disadvantage of a slow vertical

refresh rate. Thus, for the lower rates of 24, 25 and 30Hz,
which can be used in HD television with the larger 1080-
line formats, there would be considerable flicker on
displays, unless there were some processing to show each
picture twice (as in double shuttering in cinema projectors).
Besides flicker, the other potential problem area is that of
fast action or pans, as the lower refresh rate means that
movement will tend to stutter. Interlace, with its two
vertical refreshes per frame, has advantages here.
See also: 24PsF, Interlace

Quantizing is the process used in DCT-based compression
schemes, including AVC, JPEG, MPEG-2 and MPEG-4, to
reduce the video data in an I frame. DCT allows quantizing
to selectively reduce the DCT coefficients that represent
the highest frequencies and lowest amplitudes that make
up the least noticeable elements of the image. As many
are reduced to zero significant data reduction is realised.
Using a fixed quantizing level will produce a constant
quality of output with a data rate that varies according to
the amount of detail in the images. Alternatively
quantizing can be varied to produce a constant data rate,
but variable quality, images. This is useful where the data
must be fitted into a defined size of store or data channel
– such as a VTR or a transmission channel. The success in
nearly filling, but never overflowing, the storage is one
measure of the efficiency of DCT compression schemes.
NB: Quantization has a second meaning.
See Video Formats section
Understanding HD with Avid 17

Chapter 3

Video Compression:
Video Compression: Formats Understanding HD with Avid 18

DVC is the compression used in DV equipment that is
standardised in IEC 61834. It is a DCT-based, intra-frame
scheme achieving 5:1 compression so that 8-bit video
This is the practical side of compression showing sampling of 720 x 480 at 4:1:1 (NTSC) or 720 x 576 4:2:0
the systems and formats that are used. Some are (PAL) produces a 25 Mb/s video data rate. The same is
proprietary, in which case the company involved used for DV, DVCAM, Digital8 and DVCPRO (where PAL is
is mentioned. PAL 4:1:1). It achieves good compression efficiency by
applying several quantizers at the same time, selecting the
nearest result below 25Mb/s for recording to tape.

Avid DNxHD encoding is designed to offer quality at
significantly reduced data rate and file size and it is
AVR supported by the family of Avid editing systems.
AVR is a range of Motion-JPEG video compression Engineered for editing, it allows any HD material to be
schemes devised by Avid Technology for use in its ABVB handled on SD-original Avid systems. Any HD format can
hardware-based non-linear systems. An AVR is referred to be encoded edited, effects added, colour corrected and
as a constant quality M-JPEG resolution since the same the project finished.
quantization table (of coefficients) is applied to each frame
There is a choice of compression image formats to suit
of a video clip during digitization. For any given AVR, the
requirements. Some of the formats are:
actual compressed data rate will increase as the
complexity of the imagery increases. For example, a head
shot typically results in a low data rate while a crowd shot 220x 185x 185 145 120
from a sporting event will yield a high data rate. To avoid Bit depth 10 bit 10 bit 8 bit 8 bit 8 bit
system bandwidth problems, AVRs utilize a mode of rate Frame rate 29.92 fps 25 fps 25 fps 25 fps 25 fps
control called rollback which prevents the compressed Data rate 220 Mb/s 184 Mb/s 184 Mb/s 135 Mb/s 220 Mb/s
data rate from increasing beyond a preset limit for a
sustained period. So, when the data rate exceeds the Avid DNxHD maintains the full raster, is sampled at 4:2:2
rollback limit on a given frame, high spatial frequency and uses highly optimised coding and decoding
information is simply discarded from subsequent frames techniques, so image quality is maintained over multiple
until the rate returns to a tolerable level. generations and processes. When you’re ready, master to
See also: DCT, JPEG any format you need.
DNxHD efficiency enables collaborative HD workflow using
networks and storage designed to handle SD media. So,
for example, Avid Unity shared media networks are HD-
ready today! Cost-effective, real-time HD workflows can be
Video Compression: Formats Understanding HD with Avid 19

designed with Media Composer Adrenaline HD and Avid

DS Nitris systems. You can even edit HD on a laptop.
Joint (ISO and ITU-T) Photographic Experts Group; JPEG is
For more information see
a standard for compressing still picture data. It offers
compression ratios of between two and 100 times and
H.264 there are three levels of processing available: baseline,
extended and lossless encoding.
See MPEG-4
JPEG baseline coding, which is the most common for
television and computer applications, starts by applying
Huffman coding DCT to 8 x 8 pixel blocks of the picture, transforming them
into frequency and amplitude data. This itself may not
A method of compressing data by recognizing repeated
reduce data but then the generally less visible high
patterns and assigning short codes to those that occur
frequencies can be divided by a high quantizing factor
frequently, and longer codes to those that are less
(reducing many to zero), and the more visible low
frequent. The codes are assigned according to a Huffman
frequencies by a lower factor. The quantizing factor can be
Table. Sending the codes rather than all the original data
set according to data size (for constant bit rate) or picture
can achieve as much as a 2:1 lossless compression and the
quality (constant quality) requirements – effectively
method is often used as a part of video compression
adjusting the compression ratio. The final stage is Huffman
schemes such as JPEG and MPEG.
coding which is a lossless mathematical treatment that can
further reduce data by 2:1 or more.
JFIF Baseline JPEG coding creates .jpg files and is very similar
to the I-frames of MPEG-1, -2 and -4, the main difference
JPEG File Interchange Format – a compression scheme
being they use slightly different Huffman tables.
used by Avid Technology in its Meridien hardware-based
non-linear systems. A JFIF M-JPEG resolution is termed See also: Compression, Compression ratio, DCT, DV, Huffman coding,
constant rate since compressing clips of varying JFIF, M-JPEG,
complexity results in a fixed data rate. Each JFIF resolution
is defined by a target data rate and a base quantization
table. When digitizing, the quantization table is linearly www

scaled (known as rolling Q) to conform the actual

compressed data rate to the target rate. Due to the
flexibility of this approach, imagery compressed by a JFIF
JPEG 2000
resolution generally looks better than that compressed by JPEG 2000 is an advanced image coding (compression)
an AVR of comparable average data rate. system from the Joint Photographic Experts Group. Like
‘normal’ JPEG, this is intra-frame compression and it is
suitable for a wide range of uses from portable digital
cameras, to scientific and industrial applications.
Video Compression: Formats Understanding HD with Avid 20

Rather than using the established DCT, it employs state-of-

the-art techniques based on wavelet technology. Requiring
more processing than MPEG, JPEG 2000 has, until recently Moving Pictures Expert Group. A group of industry experts
been too costly for wide use in television applications. involved with setting standards for moving pictures and
Now new chips have lowered the price barriers and JPEG sound. These are not only those for the compression of
2000’s use in TV and D-cinema is expected to rapidly video and audio (such as MPEG-2 and MP3) but also
expand as it has distinct advantages for the high quality include standards for indexing, filing and labelling material.
large images. It is already recommended for D-cinema and
Grass Valley have adopted it for HD compression in their
new Infinity range of cameras. www

As it does not analyse images block-by-block but in a

circular area-by-area pattern, there are no ‘blocky’
artefacts, instead problem areas tend to become a little
softer – which is much less noticeable. JPEG 2000 ISO/IEC 13818-1. This is a video compression system
continues to improve as more bits are used for the images. primarily designed for use in the transmission of digital
As a result, at high bit rates of 200-300Mb/s HD and D- video and audio to viewers by use of very high compression
cinema images are displayed with ‘visually lossess’ quality. ratios. Its importance is huge as it is currently used for
It is also scalable, so image sizes different to the encoded nearly all DTV transmissions worldwide, SD and HD, as well
size, can be extracted directly without decoding. as for DVDs and many other applications where high video
compression ratios are needed.
The Profiles and Levels table (below) shows that it is not a
single standard but a whole family which uses similar tools
in different combinations for various applications. Although
all profile and level combinations use MPEG-2, moving
M-JPEG from one part of the table to another may be impossible
Motion JPEG refers to JPEG compression applied to without decoding to baseband video and recoding.
moving pictures. As the detail contained within each frame
varies, so some decision is required as to whether to use a Profile Simple Main 422P SNR* Spatial* High
4:2:0 4:2:0 4:2:2 4:2:0 4:2:0 4:2:0,4:2:2
constant bitrate scheme or constant quality. Level I, B I, B, P I, B, P I, B, P I, B, P I, B, P
High 1920x1152 1920x1152
See also: AVR, JPEG 80 Mb/s 100 Mb/s
High-1440 1440x1152 1440x1152 1440x1152
60 Mb/s 60 Mb/s 80 Mb/s

M-JPEG 2000 Main 720x570

15 Mb/s
15 Mb/s
50 Mb/s
15 Mb/s
20 Mb/s
JPEG 2000 used for moving pictures. Low 352x288 352x288
4 Mb/s 4 Mb/s

MPEG-2 profiles and levels

*SNR and Spatial are both scalable
Video Compression: Formats Understanding HD with Avid 21

Profiles outline the set of compression tools used. Levels

describe the picture format/quality from High Definition to
VHS. There is a bit rate defined for each allocated profile MPEG-4 (ISO/IEC 14496) was developed by MPEG (Moving
/level combination. In all cases, the levels and bit rates Picture Experts Group) and is a wide standard covering
quoted are maximums so lower values may be used. many subjects but its importance in television production
Combinations applicable to modern HD are highlighted. is mostly related to its video compression scheme. MPEG-
4 Part 10, AVC (Advanced Video Coding) and H.264 all
MPEG-2 is deliberately highly asymmetrical in that decoding
refer to the same compression system. This is another
is far simpler than the encoding – so millions of viewers
DCT-based system that builds on MPEG-2 to produce a
enjoy reasonable prices while a few broadcasters incur the
more efficient codec again using intra and inter-frame
higher unit costs. Coding has two parts. The first uses DCT-
techniques. Coding is more complex than MPEG-2 but it
based intra-frame (I-frame) compression and application of
can produce extra data savings of around 30 percent – or
quantizing, to reduce the data – almost identically to JPEG.
more. Some of the latest television services are planned to
The second involves inter-frame compression – calculating
use MPEG-4. This is especially true with HD where more
the movement of macroblocks and then substituting just
bandwidth is required. It will enable the delivery of better
that information for the pictures between successive I-
image quality to viewers, or more channels to be delivered
frames – making a GOP. The movement is conveyed as
within a given bandwidth. It is said to be similar to, but not
motion vectors, showing direction and distance, which
the same as, WM 9.
amounts to far less data than is needed for I-frames.
Motion vector calculation is not an exact science so there
can be huge difference in quality between different MPEG
compressors. Decompression is deterministic so all

decompressors (decoders) should be the same.

The encoding process necessarily needs to look at several
frames at once and so introduces a considerable delay. VC-1 is a video compression codec specification that is
Similarly, the decoder delays pictures. For transmissions this currently being standardised by SMPTE (SMPTE 421M) and
can add up to over a second. MPEG-2 is sometimes used on implemented by Microsoft as Windows Media Video
broadcast contribution circuits, this becomes noticeable (WMV) 9 Advanced Profile.
when news reporters appear to delay answering a question.
See: WMV 9
To fit HD video and audio down a transmission ‘data pipe’
requires very high compression. Uncompressed 10-bit HD
requires up to 1244Mb/s. But this is 10-bit data and WMV 9
sampled at 4:2:2. MPEG-2 is 8-bit sampled at 4:2:0 – Windows Media Video 9 is a video and audio compression
bringing the data down to 746Mb/s. However, the data system (codec) developed by Microsoft. It is said to be
pipes for ATSC (19.2Mb/s) or DVB (20Mb/s, depending on similar to MPEG-4 AVC and to have as good or slightly
channel width, parameters etc.) imply the need for around better performance giving lower data rates and claims to
40:1 compression. be a less complex process. It’s applications are seen as
See also: DCT, GOP, Intra-frame compression, Inter-frame compression. being for content delivery such as HD DVD.
Understanding HD with Avid 22

Chapter 4

HD formats
HD formats Understanding HD with Avid 23

Tape formats for high definition television now
The D6 tape format uses a 19mm ‘D-1 like’ cassette to
span a wide range of qualities and prices. These
record 64 minutes of uncompressed HD material in most
cater for the recording needs of digital of the current HDTV standards. The recording rate is up to
cinematography, mainstream broadcast and 1020 Mb/s and uses 10-bit luminance and 8-bit chrominance
programming and, most recently, the prosumer and records 12 channels of AES/EBU stereo digital audio.
market. The latter is addressed by HDV and has The only D6 VTR on the market is VooDoo from Thomson
enabled a huge expansion of HD use. and it has been used in film-to-tape applications.

This is an HD version of the D5 half-inch digital VTR format
from Panasonic and has been widely used for HD mastering.
It records on a standard D-5 cassette shell for over two hours DVCPRO HD (a.k.a. D7-HD
with a wide selection of video formats: 1080/60I, 1035/60I,
1080/24P, 720/60P, 1080/50I, 1080/25P and 480/60I. It can
and DVCPRO 100)
slew a 24Hz recording to use the material directly in 25/50Hz This is the HD version of Panasonic’s DVCPRO VTR
applications – useful for European replay of movies. There hierarchy. DV and DVCPRO record 25Mb/s; DVCPRO 50
are eight discrete channels of 24-bit 48kHz digital audio to records 50Mb/s; and DVCPRO HD records 100Mb/s. All
allow for 5.1 and stereo mixes. use the DVC intra-frame DCT-based digital compression
scheme and the 6.35mm (1/4-inch) DV tape cassette.
Panasonic uses a proprietary compression scheme to reduce
the raw HD-SDI 4:2:2 component digital video data rate of In the recording format, video sampling is 8-bit, 4:2:2 and
up to 1240Mb/s. The D5-HD compresses video 4:1 (8-bit 1080I as well as 720P formats are supported. There are
mode) and 5:1 (10-bit mode). eight 16-bit 48kHz audio channels. The recording data rate
means that considerable video compression must be used
to reduce around 1Gb/s video and audio data. Video
www compression of 6.7:1 is quoted.
A feature of DVCPRO HD camcorder range is the VariCam
Also see HD VCR formats at: that offers variable progressive frame rates for shooting
from 4-60Hz in one-frame increments.

HD formats Understanding HD with Avid 24

HDCAM in its pixel count (SD and HD), bit depth (10- or 12-bit), and
colour resolution (component or RGB). Its applications
Sony’s HD camcorder version of the popular Digital Betacam. include high end HD recording, editing and as a mastering
Introduced in 1997 at ‘near DigiBeta’ prices it was the first format. HDCAM SR is probably the highest quality HD tape
more affordable HD format. Now the expanded range includes recording system available. Practical recorders at any higher
still lower priced models. HDCAM defines a half-inch tape bit rate use hard discs or flash memory.
recording format. There is also a range of studio recorders
Besides working at the 440Mb/s rate, called the SQ mode,
and players as well as options for down conversion to SD.
HDCAM SR also offers an HQ mode with recording at
In the camcorder, the camera section includes 2/3-inch, 2.1 880Mb/s to offer lower compression 4:4:4 RGB or two
million pixel CCDs to capture 1080 x 1920 images. The 4:2:2 channels.
lenses have compatibility with Digital Betacam products as
well as accepting HD lenses for the highest picture quality.
The recorder offers up to 40-minutes’ time on a small HDV
cassette making the package suitable for a wide range of
HDV is a low cost system for shooting and recording HD. It
programme origination, including on location. A series of
defines video formats, a compression scheme and uses DV
steps, including 4.4:1 intra-frame compression, reduces the
recording and familiar DV, or MiniDV, cassettes. HDV is
baseband video data rate to 140Mb/s. The format supports
available in two standards HDV1 and HDV2 but, unlike DV,
four channels of AES/EBU audio and the total recording
they use MPEG-2 long GOP compression to squeeze the
rate to tape is 185Mb/s. HDCAM effectively samples video
HD video into DV-sized data. 4:2:0 colour 8-bit sampling is
at 3:1:1 with the horizontal resolution sub-sampled to 1440
common to both standards. The two channels of 16-
pixels. It fulfils many HD needs but is not an ideal medium
bit/48Hz audio are compressed (4:1) with MPEG-1 (Layer II)
for Blue Screen work.
to 384 kb/s.
Video formats supported by HDCAM are: 1080 x 1920
HDV1 is 1280x720 progressive scan format with frame rates
pixels at 24, 25 and 30 progressive fps and at 50 and 60Hz
of 60, 50, 30 and 25Hz. JVC’s ProHD adds a 24Hz frame
interlace. Material shot at 24P can be directly played back
rate. The luminance sampling rate is 74.25MHz. The video
into 50Hz or 60Hz environments. Also, the ability to
is compressed using MPEG-2 six-frame GOP compression
playback at different frame rates can be used to speed up
to produce a recording data rate of just 19 Mb/s. In this
or slow down the action.
standard a 63-minute MiniDV cassette records 63 minutes
See also: CineAlta of HDV and, with critical data interleaved over all the
recorded tracks, dropouts are minimised.

HDCAM SR HDV2 is a 1440x1080 interlaced scan format with frame

rates of 60 or 50Hz. The data rate is 25Mb/s after applying
HDCAM SR can record either 4:4:4 RGB or component MPEG-2 15-frame GOP compression. Note that the pixel
4:2:2 HD video at a net video rate of 440Mb/s. It uses mild count is not in the usual 16:9 pixel/line ratio, but the
MPEG-4 Studio Profile (ISO/IEC 14496-2:2001-1) ‘visually pictures themselves are. So here luminance sampling rate
lossless’ compression and records onto 1/2-inch tape is 55.7MHz and the pixels are not square but are stretched
cassettes. The Studio Profile addresses the need for high to an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. This is the same luminance
resolution; it is I-frame only and so easy to edit, and scalable sampling as is used in HDCAM.
HD formats Understanding HD with Avid 25

ProHD is JVC’s adaptation of the HDV 720P recording mode
that adds 24-frame progressive scan 24P – but not for the
1080-line format. This is useful of productions seeking a
film look or wishing to output to film or D-cinema as it
avoids the never-perfect process of deinterlacing. Apart
from adding 24P, ProHD uses the same compression and
bitstream format as HDV.

Sony’s XDCAM HD records 1080I 4:2:0 HD at bit rates of
18, 25 and 35Mb/s onto Professional Disc media (Blu-ray).
The 25Mb/s is a constant bit rate to give users a bridge to
HDV, and the other two rates are variable. 18Mb/s allows
for a recording time of two hours, and the other two allow
for 90 and 60 minutes. User can mix the different bit rate
on the same disc. As with HDV, long GOP MPEG-2
compression is used.
Understanding HD with Avid 26

Chapter 5

SD formats
SD formats Understanding HD with Avid 27

Standard definition has a wide variety of digital
Introduced by Panasonic in 1994 this records uncompressed
tape formats to suit everyone from consumers
625 and 525-line 4:2:2 10-bit component digital video onto
to broadcast professionals. Recent trends include the same half-inch cassettes as D3. Being component it uses
more compact formats and lower costs. Many in post production and, as it has lower costs than D1, is still
of the HD tape formats have their routes in SD in use today. The format also has provision for HDTV
including HDV that uses the widely used (SD) recording by use of about 4 or 5:1 compression (see HD-D5).
DV format.
Digital Betacam
D1 Launched in 1993, ‘Digibeta’ superseded the analogue
Betacam formats and costs much less D1. It provides good
Digital tape format to record SD uncompressed 4:2:2 video and audio quality and run time up to 124 minutes.
component digital 625 and 525-line video onto 19mm 720 x 576 or 720 x 480 4:2:2 component SD digital video is
(3/4-inch) cassettes. Introduced by Sony in 1987 it was DCT-compressed to a bitrate of 90 Mb/s (about 2:1
relatively expensive and used for high-end work where compression) plus 4 channels of uncompressed 48 kHz
multi-generation quality needed to be maintained. It is PCM audio.
not widely used today.

Launched in 1996, DV (IEC 61834) defines both the codec
Introduced in 1988 by Ampex, this records uncompressed (video compression system) and the tape format for the
digitised composite PAL or NTSC video onto 19mm first SD digital tape format for the consumer and prosumer
(3/4-inch) cassettes. Although it used less data, and so less markets. Features include intra-frame compression for
tape, than D1, and was good for analogue transmission straightforward editing, an IEEE 1394 interface for transfer
replay, the signal suffered from all the original restrictions of to non-linear editing systems, and good video quality
PAL and NTSC. It was little use in modern post production compared to consumer analogue formats.
and would have to be decoded for any digital transmission.
The format is little used today. Variants include the DVCPRO series and DVCAM. Also,
much of HDV has its roots in DV including the MiniDV
tape, but not HDV’s use of MPEG-2 compression.
Introduced by Panasonic D3 is similar to D2 in that it DVCAM
records composite PAL or NTSC video onto cassettes, the
D3 ones being 1/2-inch. As it has the same benefits and Introduced by Sony, DVCAM is a professional variant of the
drawbacks as D2 and is not widely used today. DV standard that uses the same cassettes as DV and MiniDV,
the same compression scheme, but runs the tape through
50 percent faster making it more robust with fewer
SD formats Understanding HD with Avid 28

DVCPRO (25 and 50) XDCAM

Panasonic created the DVCPRO range for professional Sony’s camcorder that uses Professional Disc media. It
applications of the root DV technology. Also known as records Sony’s MPEG IMX (MXF compatible) format, 8-bit
DVCPRO 25, DVCPRO is identical to the DV format for I-frame (only) MPEG-2 at 50, 40 or 30 Mb/s – claiming
recording, and uses a 25Mb/s recording stream. There are Digital Betacam quality with the highest bit rate. The rates
two tracks of 16-bit, 48kHz audio and video is sampled at give 45, 57, and 68 minutes recording time respectively.
4:1:1 for both the 576/50I and 480/60I versions. Some models can also record the 8-bit DVCAM format
with 5:1 compression and 4:1:1 sampling for the 480/60I
DVCPRO has a hierarchical structure that doubles the data
system (NTSC) and 4:2:0 for 576/50I (PAL) system. DVCAM
rate. The next step up is DVCPRO 50 with 50Mb/s from the
recording time is 85 minutes.
tape that allows reducing the video compression and the
use of 4:2:2 sampling to give the better image quality See also: MXF
required for studio production. Four 16-bit, 48kHz audio
tracks are provided.

See Common Image Format

Solid-state recording system from Panasonic that records
DV, DVCPRO and DVCPRO HD video onto flash memory
to offer advantages of speed and reliability over tape, but
at a high cost and with shorter run times. Currently
available P2 cards offer up to 8GB storage – enough for
about 40 minutes of DV, 20 minutes of DVCPRO 50, and 10
minutes of DVCPRO HD. But the random access and ‘loop’
recording possibilities mean this space is more useful than
the equivalent length of tape. The workflow may include
in-camera shot selection and very fast data dumping to
hard disc storage for editing.
Understanding HD
Your comprehensive guide to
High Definition on a budget

Part Three
Understanding HD with Avid 29

Chapter 6

Digital Film
Digital film Understanding HD with Avid 30

In years gone by, many TV dramas, documentaries and So a television image and a film negative carry very
‘soaps’ were produced on film. Today, not only is that is different information. While 10 bits (linear) is usually plenty
becoming increasingly rare as HD and digital technology to smoothly resolve all the contrast levels in TV, a film
shows many benefits in these areas, but the movies
negative needs about 13 bits (linear). However as we can
themselves are going digital. Shoots and cinemas may still
use film but all the processes between increasingly are detect small brightness differences in darker areas and
digital. A number of movies have been shot on digital only larger ones in bright areas, assigning more digital
cameras, including blockbusters such as Sin City and the levels to low light, and fewer to the highlights is a more
later Star Wars episodes, and the installation of digital efficient way to use the available digital levels. This is what
cinemas is gathering pace. Digital film has many crossovers the ‘log’ sampling does.
with television as well as its own standards and terminology.
See also: Quantizing (Video formats, colour space and sampling)

10-bit log
Widely used for digitising film material, this usually refers
to 10-bit sampling of an image, that describes 210 or 1024 This is a picture format generally used with images
discrete numbers or brightness levels which have scanned from 35mm motion picture film, as well as a
logarithmic scaling – rather than the linear scale that is slightly different format for cinema exhibition. For the
always used in television. This highlights a major difference production side, it refers to 1536 lines each with 2048
in the way that film and television material is shot. In film, pixels and describes a 4 x 3 aspect ratio picture. The
the camera negative is designed to pick up as much detail sampling is 4:4:4 RGB with 10-bit log accuracy to carry the
as possible over a very wide brightness range of up to 11 full sharpness and contrast detail of 35mm negatives. This
stops – equivalent to a contrast ratio of over 2000:1 and is not a television format but 35mm film is commonly
capturing all detail from bright sunlit objects to down in scanned to this resolution for use as ‘digital film’ for effects
the shadows. This gives latitude for later adjustments and work and, increasingly, to input to DI for grading, cutting
grading before selecting the much more limited contrast and mastering.
range used for the release print that gives a punchy For publishing in television, a 16:9 (1080 x 1920), and a
presentation at the cinema. 4 x 3 aspect ratio window can be selected from the 2K
In television it is always possible to see exactly what the material for HD and SD distribution. The format is also
images look like and so any adjustments and selections suitable to support high quality transfers back to film or
are be made live while the camera is shooting. What you for direct D-cinema exhibition. Just as with film, not all
record is, essentially, what viewers see and this may be the original image is shown on the screen. For digital
8 stops – a contrast range of 256:1 – but it looks great projection 2K refers to a size or 2048 x 1080 lines, giving
at home. a wide aspect ratio display.
Digital film Understanding HD with Avid 31

4K D-cinema and E-cinema

This is a digital film production image format of 3072 D-cinema or Digital Cinema may involve the whole scene-
lines by 4096 pixels – four times the area of 2K. With each to-screen production chain but it is usually refers to the
image producing about 32MB of data it requires a distribution and exhibition of cinema material, movies, by
powerful workstation to play and process 4K footage in digital means. There are no hard-and-fast rules about what
real time. Also the storage requirement is massive. constitutes D or E-cinema but some say D-cinema, images
Despite the current technical challenges, a small but should be 2K size or bigger. Smaller HD or SD formats
increasing number prefer to work at 4K partly as it is seen then fall into the E-cinema category. Nonetheless
as more future proof than 2K. Also some effects shots that audiences have been generally impressed with the results
have to be seamlessly re-inserted back into a 2K movie from HD projections.
may be created at 4K. As the onward march of technology
Digital presentations lack film weave, scratches, sparkles
makes 4K easier and less costly to use, so it will become
etc., to deliver a new standard of technical excellence to
more widely used as a digital film mastering format
the cinema screen and, unlike film, quality is maintained
alongside 2K.
regardless of the number of replays. Digital movies are
distributed by disks or over networks rather than on 35mm
CineAlta film that costs around $1000-2000 per copy which lasts only
about 200 passes through the projector. Copying and
Sony’s name for its family of products that bridge distribution of film prints cost an estimated $800 million
cinematography and HDTV and includes HDCAM-based per year, spent by studios.
camcorders and studio VTRs as well as extending to whole
E-cinema is currently further developed than D-cinema and
production and post production systems. The more recent
already has proven viable in a support role to the main
HDCAM SR series offers a more refined cine package with
features. It allows low cost production of local advertising
higher recording data rates and direct access to the
and promotions as well as the flexibility to easily add any
original RGB images, rather than the ‘gamma corrected’
other TV-based content.
images used for television.
Among the necessary technologies, the recent rapid
See also: 24PsF
development of high-resolution, large screen digital
projectors has made digital cinema exhibition possible.
Dark chip These are based on three technologies: D-ILA, DLP
and SXRD.
See DLP Cinema
D-cinema standards have recently been recommended by
Digital Cinema Initiatives.
See also: DCI, DLP, D-ILA, SXRD
Digital film Understanding HD with Avid 32

DCI Digital Intermediate (DI)

Digital Cinema Initiatives was set up in 2002 by a group of Digital Intermediate is a digital alternative to the traditional
major Hollywood studios to establish an open digital photochemical process that accepts original camera
cinema set of standards that ensures a uniform high level negative (OCN) and produces the internegatives that make
of technical performance, reliability and quality control. the release prints of a movie. This has always included many
The standard was completed in 2005 and is being stages of colour grading to match up all the shots seen in
implemented by various suppliers. Among a host of detail the final release print. DI is increasingly accepted as the
including security, its recommendations include 2K and 4K preferable and path as, depending on the system used, it
image formats and JPEG 2000 compression. can be instant, interactive, presented on a big screen, can
have audio and allows any grading changes right up to the
outputting the internegative film from the graded and edited
www digital internegative. This way the grades are made on the
edited material, complete with all effects shots, rather than
looking at isolated individual shots. It is also possible to
Digital Cinematography output fully graded whole reels, rather than applying further
final when making the release prints.
Digital Cinematography refers to the use of electronic
cameras in shooting material for movies. A number of DI starts with scanning the 35mm film. This is usually made at
cameras have been designed specifically for this as 2K size using 10-bit log RGB (4:4:4) sampling to carry all the
alternatives to 35mm, including Viper (Thomson), CineAlta sharpness and contrast detail from highlights to deep
range (Sony) and DVCPRO HD (Panasonic). These produce shadows, from the film into the digits. The contrast latitude is
HD formats, can run at 24P, capture a wider contrast range needed to allow headroom for onward grading. If using
than TV cameras and do not use TV’s gamma correction footage from a digital cinematography camera, the scanning
curves. Origin (Dalsa) and D20 (ARRI) provide larger operation, which can be quite costly, is not needed.
D-cinema sized images: Origin offers up to 4K and D20 3018
x 2200 active pixels. The D20 also offers frame rates from 1-60
fps. These cameras are designed as an alternative to 35mm
movie cameras however any video camera could be used.
Digital film Understanding HD with Avid 33

Direct-Drive Image Light Amplifier. A technology that Digital Light Processing: Texas Instruments Inc digital
uses a liquid crystal reflective CMOS chip for light projection technology that involves the application of
modulation in a digital projector. In a drive for higher digital micromirror devices (DMD) for television, including
resolutions, the latest developments by JVC have HD, as well as cinema (see DLP cinema below). DMD chips
produced a 2K (2,048 x 1,536) array, which is said to have an array of minute mirrors which can be angled by +/-
meet the SMPTE DC 28.8 recommendation for 2000 lines 10 degrees so as to reflect projection lamp light through
of resolution for digital cinema. the projection lens, or not. Since mirror response time is
fast (~10 microseconds), rapidly varying the time of
The 1.3-inch diagonal, 3.1 million-pixel chip is addressed
through-the-lens reflection allows greyscales to be
digitally by the source signal. The tiny 13.5-micron pitch
perceived. For video, each video field is subdivided into
between pixels is intended to help eliminate stripe noise
time intervals, or bit times. So, for 8-bit video, 256 grey
to produce bright, clear, high-contrast images. This is an
levels are produced and, with suitable pre-processing,
efficient reflective structure, bouncing more than 93
digital images are directly projected.
percent (aperture) of the used light off the pixels.
The array, which is created by micomachining technology,
See also D-cinema
is built up over conventional CMOS SRAM address
circuitry. Array sizes for video started with 768 x 576 pixels

www – 442,368 mirrors, for SD. The later 1280 x 1024 DMD has
been widely seen in HD and D-cinema presentations. Most
agree it is at least as good as projected film. TI expect to
offer an ‘over 2000-pixel wide’ chip in the near future.
While much interest focuses on the DMD chips
themselves, some processing is required to drive the
chips. One aspect is ‘degamma’: the removal of gamma
correction from the signal to suit the linear nature of the
DMD-based display. Typically this involves a LUT (Look
Up Table) to convert one given range of signal values
to another.
See also: Gamma

Digital film Understanding HD with Avid 34

DLP cinema OCN

This refers to the application of Texas Instruments’ DLP Original Camera Negative has very high value and is
technology to the specific area of film exhibition. Here designed to hold a very wide contrast range. It is always
particular care is taken to achieve high contrast ratios and handled with great care and, to avoid damage, as little as
deliver high brightness to large screens. The development possible. The onward path toward making a programme
of ‘Dark chips’ has played an important part by very much involves either scanning the OCN and proceeding along
reducing spurious reflected light from the digital the DI route, or copying to make an interpositive film, and
micromirror devices. This has been achieved by making so on into the photochemical intermediate chain.
the chip’s substrate, and everything except the mirror
faces, non-reflective. In addition, the use of normal
projection lamp power produces up to 12 ft/l light level SXRD
on a 60-foot screen. Silicon X-tal Reflective Display (X-tal is short for crystal) is
See also: D-cinema, DLP digital projector display technology developed by Sony. Its
first claim to fame was that it provided the first viable 4K
(4096 x 2160 pixels) size as incorporated in Sony SXRD
HD RGB projectors. The design of this reflective liquid crystal
microdisplay is also aimed to provide for enhanced
Television usually uses 4:2:2 component video (Y,Cr,Cb).
contrast, speed allowing up to 200 fps and minimises
Slightly higher quality can be achieved through using RGB
image smear, and offering extended service life.
sampled at 4:4:4. Many of the digital cinematography
cameras offer this type of output that can use linear or log
sample scaling. The 1080 x 1920 HDTV image format is
very close to the 2K projected image size, so RGB HD can
be considered as a TV/film crossover format, able to take
advantage of many of the economies and speed of TV
equipment to produce ‘film’ quality results.

Understanding HD with Avid 35

Chapter 7

Post production
and editing
Post production and editing Understanding HD with Avid 36

Shot selection and editing for film and video are Blue screen
now undertaken using nonlinear editing systems.
Shooting items against a blue background or screen allows
Post production has grown immensely in
them to be cut out and keyed onto other backgrounds.
importance with the advent of highly-capable The blue is normally chosen as being unique in the picture
online digital equipment and nonlinear editing. and not present in the foreground item to be keyed. This
Now it is often cheaper to ‘fix it in post’ rather should enable easy and accurate derivation into a key
than spend extra time on another take on the set. signal used to cut out the object. Consideration may also
be given to the colour spill onto the object’s edges. So, for
example, if the object is set into a forest, maybe a green
screen would be preferred. Modern colour correction and
key processing allow a wider choice of colour and the
AAF possibility of correcting for less-than-perfect shoots.
Advanced Authoring Format. This is an industry-driven, However, this will increase post production time and effort.
open standard for the multimedia authoring and post
The accuracy of the key signal derived from blue screen
production industries which is supported by many
shots depends on the accuracy and resolution of colour
companies, including Avid. It is intended to enable content
information. Unlike SD, where the popular Digital Betacam
creators to easily exchange complete digital media –
or DVCPRO 50 records 4:2:2 sampled video using only 2:1
video, audio and metadata – across platforms and
or 3:1 compression, most HD recorders do not offer
between applications. It simplifies project management,
equivalent quality with the 100-140Mb/s camcorders,
saves time and preserves valuable metadata that was often
where restrictions in chrominance bandwidth can limit the
lost in the past during media transfers.
effectiveness of HD key. The notable exception is HDCAM
It is in editing and post production areas that the metadata SR, offering up to 440Mb/s with 10-bit 4:2:2 (4:4:4 possible
load is greatest and individual systems and applications too) sampling with ‘lossless’ compression.
have become isolated by incompatibilities,: so limiting
their interaction, interoperability and usefulness. Use of the
AAF file format allows the passage of full information Content
between AAF-enabled applications. Thus video, audio and Any material completed and ready for delivery to viewers.
metadata, with the decisions about how material has been Content is the product of applying metadata to essence
manipulated (cuts, DVE, colour correction etc.) and (for TV, video and audio).
assembled – a complete, modern-day EDL – can always be
See also: Metadata
available and, where needed accessed. The metadata also
passes on existing, original information such as timecode
or edgecode, ownership, previous editing etc. that helps
with any later archive retrieval and versioning.
See also: EDL, MXF, OMFI

Post production and editing Understanding HD with Avid 37

Chroma Keying CSO

The process of deriving and using a key signal formed Colour Separation Overlay. Another name for chroma
from areas of a particular colour in a picture (often blue, keying.
sometimes green).
See also: Keying
See also: Keying

DS Nitris
Colour correction DS Nitris is Avid Technology’s flagship effects and editing
Historically this is the process of adjusting the colours in a solution for HD and film resolutions. It was launched in
picture so that they match those from other shots or create September 2000 and based on the successful V4 release
a particular look. of DS (Digital Studio) code. The original version had no
hardware acceleration and was entirely software based
Colour correction in HD and SD television has become
with the exception of input/output operations, but the
highly sophisticated. This can include secondary colour
Nitris DNA hardware offers powerful hardware
correction that can be targeted at specific areas of pictures
acceleration, while still benefiting from the continuing
or ranges of colour. So, for example, a blue car in a
development of faster CPUs.
commercial can be changed to red. Depending on
equipment, operation can be real-time and interactive; The system is well supported by nearly all plug-in
enabling fine adjustments to achieve precise results in a manufacturers and is resolution-independent. It also
short time. supports the transparent import of multi-layered effect-
based OMF files from products such as Avid Media
Composer and Digidesign’s ProTools to provide an
Compositing efficient link between off-line and on-line operations.
(a.k.a. Vertical Editing)
The process of adding layers of moving (or still) video to DTF/DTF2
assemble a scene. This involves many tools such as DVE
Name for Sony’s half-inch Digital Tape Format which offers
(sizing and positioning), colour correction and keying. As the
high data storage capacity (up to 200GB) on half-inch tape
operation frequently entails adding many layers, the work is
cartridges. Such stores are often used for storing digital
best suited to nonlinear equipment using uncompressed
video – such as HD – in post production areas, where they
video to avoid generation losses. Techniques are now highly
may be available to clients on a network.
developed and are a key part of modern production for
both film and television – cutting production costs and
bringing new possibilities and new effects.
Post production and editing Understanding HD with Avid 38

EDL Gamma (correction)

Edit Decision List. This is data that describes how material is Gamma describes the difference in the brightness transfer
to be edited, e.g. from offline to online, or a record of what curve characteristics between video source devices, such
happened in the editing process. as the CCDs in cameras, and the response of the display
devices – usually considered to be cathode ray tubes.
EDLs were devised before the days of nonlinear editing and
Gamma correction is normally applied early to the source
were never updated to take on board any of the digital
video R, G, B signals as part of the processing in cameras.
enhancements such as DVEs and advanced colour correction
It is imposed here as it makes the video signal more
and keying. Even so, they remain in wide use as a well-
impervious to atmospheric noise during ‘over-the-air’
recognised means of conveying the more basic editing
analogue transmissions. However, the more recent use of
decisions, cuts, dissolves, wipes, slo-mo, etc. Popular formats
other display devices – plasmas, LCDs and DLPs – with
are CMX 3400 and 3600.
very different technologies and gammas means that they
More recently, new initiatives such as AAF and OMF offer the must again adjust gamma to match their transfer
far wider capabilities needed for today’s production needs. characteristics. For example, DLP technology uses Digital
OMF has become a de facto standard for transferring full Micromirror Devices (DMDs) – millions of mirrors that are
decision data between offline and online operations. actually time-modulated. The amount of light they reflect
See also: AAF, OMF onto the screen is a function of a duty cycle for time ‘on’.
Thus, DLP systems program the display gamma for any
given luminance level by adjusting the exposure time for
Essence that level through a Look Up Table (LUT).

Term used to describe essential material which, for Gamma corrected colours or components are annotated
television, is what appears on the screen and comes out with a prime, e.g., R´, G´, B´, and Y´, Cr´, Cb´. As virtually all
of the speakers – video, audio and text. Essence consists mentions in this document involve gamma corrected
of those recorded elements that may be incorporated by signals, the primes have not been included, for simplicity.
means of editing, mixing or effects compositing into a
See also: DLP
finished programme (content).
See also: Content, Metadata
Post production and editing Understanding HD with Avid 39

Grading key signal. Typically, objects are shot against a blue or green
screen and that colour then defines the key signal. In reality
Colour grading, also called colour correction, involves the key colour spills onto the object so de-spill techniques
adjusting the colour of recorded footage. This is highly are applied. The boundary between the object and
skilled work and depends on sensitive and very accurate background is often the subject of much effort. It is rarely
adjustments. Traditionally, television has not had a use for a hard cut (hard key), which tends to look jagged and false,
grading as all cameras are matched to make a TV but a carefully set up dissolve to render a smooth, natural-
programme, but when shooting over several days, with looking edge (shaped or linear key).
isolated (iso) cameras, or simply using footage from a
Further techniques are used to key semi-transparent material
number of sources, grading becomes necessary so that all
such as smoke, fog, and glass. Often this uses a non-additive
shots have the same colour look.
mix technique which apportions foreground and background
Primary grading is applied to whole frames. Secondary according to its luminance.
grading involves adjusting the colour of a specific area of a
The availability of highly developed digital keying techniques
picture. This could be to grade an object or to affect a
has been a large factor in swinging motion picture effects into
specified range of colours – perhaps to change seasons by
the digital domain. Their excellence and efficiency has
modifying the green leaves of spring to look like the hues
changed the way many are made, cutting costs by simplifying
tones of autumn. Defining the area to be changed may
the shoot and avoiding some expensive location work.
well involve using a key (see below)
In digital systems, the key is a full-bandwidth signal (like Y,
luminance), and is often associated with its foreground video
Keying when stored. Disk-based nonlinear systems can store and
A general term for the process of placing an object or replay this video-with-key combination in one operation,
section of picture over another – as in keying text over but it would take two VTRs.
video. This is a video version of matting in film but may See also: Blue Screen, 4:2:2:4, 4:4:4:4
use interactive tools and feature live operation.
Operation splits into two areas, deriving the key signal and
applying it to produce the keyed result. In HD’s high quality,
big picture environment it is essential that keyed results
are accurate and look convincing. Increasing use of
compositing to add scenery, objects and actors to make
footage that the camera never saw, requires excellence in
keying so that the keyed items look ‘photo-real’ – like a
part of the original image.
Keying tools have developed rapidly with the introduction
of digital technology and online nonlinear editing. If working
with electronically generated material, such as graphics or
captions, the key signal is supplied along with the video.
Otherwise sophisticated means are available to derive the
Post production and editing Understanding HD with Avid 40

Media Composer MXF

This series of non-linear editing systems has formed the Material eXchange Format is standardised in SMPTE 377M
core part of Avid’s business over recent years. There are and supported by the Pro-MPEG Forum. It is aimed at the
many permutations of hardware platforms, video cards and exchange of programme material between file servers,
breakout boxes on both Apple Mac and PC formats. Seen tape streamers and digital archives. It usually contains one
as the de facto standard in editing for both on-line and complete sequence but this may comprise a sequence of
off-line, Media Composer has tens of thousands of users clips and programme segments.
worldwide and touches the vast majority of mainstream
MXF is derived from the AAF data model, integrates
film and television production.
closely with its files and so bridges the worlds of file-based
See also: AVR and streaming transfers. It helps to move material between
AAF file-based post production and streaming programme
reply over standard networks. This set-up extends the
Metadata reliable essence and metadata pathways so that both
Metadata is data about data. Essence, or video and audio, formats together reach from content creation to playout.
is of little use without rights and editing details. This The MXF body carries content, which can include MPEG,
information also adds long-term value to archives. DV and uncompressed video, and contains an interleaved
Metadata is any information about the essence, for sequence of picture frames, each with audio and data
instance how, when (timecode) and where it was shot, essence, plus frame-based metadata.
who owns the rights, what processes it has been, or should
be, subjected to in post production and editing, and
where it should be sent next. Uses with audio alone www

include AES/EBU with metadata to describe sample rate,

also metadata in AC3 helps the management of low
frequencies and creating stereo down-mixes. Non-additive mix
Typically the audio and video essence is preserved as it See Keying
passes along a production chain, but the metadata is
often lost. Avid with OMF and the AAF Association have
both done much to rectify this for the area of editing and
post production.
See also: AAF, Essence, OMF
Post production and editing Understanding HD with Avid 41

OMFI Symphony
Open Media Framework (OMF) or Open Media Framework Avid’s Symphony is a pure editing and finishing tool with
Interchange (OMFI) is a platform-independent file format real-time effects processing which offers advanced primary
intended for transfer of digital media between different and secondary colour correction, captioning and titles.
software applications and equipment. Besides sending the Initially working only at SD, its universal mastering allows
video and audio, the transfers can include metadata about users to generate both 525/50 and 625/50 version of an
the content and what editing and other processes it has edit in real-time from a 24P master.
been through. It is used by Avid products, Final Cut Pro,
Symphony’s real-time uncompressed performance is
Pro Tools and others. It is the basis for the AAF.
extended to HD with Avid Nitris DNA hardware. Symphony
Nitris systems combine Symphony’s full finishing toolset to
Photo real provide real-time uncompressed HD and SD performance
using Avid Nitris DNA hardware.
Term to describe effects-generated material that looks as if
it originated from a camera. This may apply to computer-
generated objects or to items shot on camera and Timecode
composed into the picture. Here, attention to detail such
Timecode is a 24-hour frame-accurate reference of hours,
as shadows and reflections as well as keying are needed
minutes, seconds and frames and fields designed for
to maintain the illusion. Achieving such quality at HD and
television production use. For example 10:32:24:16
film resolutions is all the more demanding as their bigger,
sharper displays make detail, including errors, easier to see. Typically it is recorded with the video and is the first
reference when logging and editing. EDLs run on
See also: Keying
timecode. It is relatively straightforward in the 25/50Hz
frame-rate world but gets a lot more complicated in the
Plug-ins 30/60Hz world where, for historic reasons, the whole
number frame frequencies was offset by a factor of
A generic term for software applications that can be 1000/1001 – hence 29.97 and 59.94Hz. To make up the
added to existing applications to enhance their time to that of a whole 30 or 60Hz rate, one frame is
functionality. Nonlinear video and audio systems are often dropped in every 1000. This ‘drop-frame’ is accounted
expanded with new effects or functionality via plug-ins. for in drop-frame timecode.
The Lifecycle of a Project:
Shooting HD on a budget – in practice
Shooting HD on a budget The Lifecycle of a Project: Shooting 2

By Chris Jones So what are the pro’s and con’s of HDV? Firstly, the cameras
are newer technology, so it should be that little bit better.
HD is here. In fact, it’s been here for some time, in Everything from the audio encoding circuitry to the lens
various guises. But the big difference now is that quality is improved over older versions, not to mention
batteries being smaller and longer lasting. But what of the
it’s affordable, and the distribution technologies
image technology? HDV has a resolution of 1080 by 1920
(such as digital cinema and HD screens in the pixels, opposed to the SD PAL resolution of 768 by 576
home) are also appearing in the marketplace. So pixels. So you can see it produces roughly four times more
what does HD actually mean? What does it mean to image. That’s an awful lot more detail. And when you see it
you? How can you get the best balance between for the first time on an HD monitor, it’s quite staggering.
your needs and your cashflow? So the advantages are clear.
The disadvantages are less apparent though, and rumour
and myth don’t help either. Looking at the facts, HDV uses
Let’s look at formats first, as this is the first HD quagmire. the same data rate as DV; that’s 25 Mb per second. The
First off let’s be clear. HD is a video format. It’s just higher internal circuitry of the cameras have very fast processors
resolution than what we have previously been exposed to. that can handle that kind of data compression on the fly, and
The cameras are now starting to carry onboard processing it also reduces the amount of colour information in the signal.
that produce aesthetically pleasing images that are closer Most importantly it encodes using MPEG technology, which
to film, but it’s still different. At the higher end of the scale is something of a dark art as it doesn’t actually have defined
is HDCAM, which does not use a Firewire interface to get fields and frames like standard DV. This means that it’s
from the tape to an Avid Xpress Pro. So if you are on a slightly more complicated in postproduction, though Avid
budget, HDCAM is out of the equation. As we slide down now supports HDV even from frame-accurate edits.
the scale there is DVCProHD, an excellent format that sadly, Such high compression can cause problems when shooting.
has failed to capture the consumer’s eye, partly because of its It’s possible that when shooting material containing a lot of
price tag. As we slide even lower, we reach HDV. If there was detail and movement, for instance panning around a stadium
a prosumer HD format war, (between DVCProHD and HDV) full of cheering people, that you may see some image
then HDV has won, mainly due to Sony and its aggressive compression artefacts. It’s also possible that when panning
pricing. I just bought myself an HDV Camcorder for £900 - around quickly, due to the way MPEG works, you may get
now all my home movies are shot in HD! That is very cool. (In some kicks or juddering in the image. It’s also been said that
reality, DVCProHD is a much higher spec format that is more drop-out on the tape can be disastrous. This may be the
suited to higher end TV drama and low budget features). case, but if you take care of your tapes, and use only new
Given that HDV (HD) cameras can also shoot DV (SD, short tapes, then this is unlikely to happen. I come from the days
for standard definition, which for us is PAL), in my view buying of film when all sorts of problems could occur, so for every
a DV camera now is a bad idea. This stance is strengthened single shot we took, we would also do a second take, whether
when you consider that most cameras can shoot HDV and we needed it or not. We considered the job mission critical
then internally down-convert to DV when playing out. So and the technology NEVER 100% reliable. In fact, the more
shooting everything in HDV makes sense. I think about it, film and old TV cameras were extremely
restrictive and limited, and the complaints I hear about
Shooting HD on a budget The Lifecycle of a Project: Shooting 3

HDV are insignificant in comparison. All formats require care Remember, what you shoot on set is not how it will look
and attention when shooting, and HDV is no different. after you have edited and graded on Avid. The image can
be graded and colour corrected hugely, as long as what
All this brings me on to the primary problem with HDV. It’s
you shoot contains the visual information in the first place.
nothing to do with Avid, Sony, Panasonic, the format... It’s
the users. Years ago, film and TV was a very expensive and The next step is lighting and what you actually choose to
technical business. To be successful, film and programme shoot. If your frame contains very dark areas and very light
makers needed to be diligent, professional and educated. areas, you may start to have problems - after all, you want
Now, anyone can pick up an HDV camcorder and be shooting to keep the detail in the light areas and dark areas as well.
in moments, with quite good results. Switch everything to The upshot is that to shoot HDV properly takes more time
auto and point the camera. But this approach, for anything and experience than it does to shoot film! Exposure is
other than news coverage, can lead to disaster. In fact, the critical. It’s also best to avoiding shots where the contrast is
way the image is captured is less forgiving than film, and so too high. The nightmare situation is where an actor is in
even greater care and attention must be taken unless you shadow, but a light is pointing right into camera and burning
want your footage to look like corporate video, or worse, out to 100% white. The actor in shadow is so underexposed
home videos that when it’s pulled up in post, the image has horrible milky
blacks with image compression artefacts, and the whites look
Not all cameras are the same, either. The newer HDV and
electronic and harsh. In short, it looks awful. The biggest
DVCProHD cameras all have true 16:9 CCD’s (the chips that
giveaway to my eye is burnt out whites. So avoid bright
capture the light from the lens) which frankly, is about time!
skies, car headlights, film noir-like lighting (unless you can
So shooting SD footage in 16:9 is now better than ever.
achieve the look with less contrast) etc. Of course, this isn’t
However, there are a number of other issues that are less
always possible.
clear cut. First is progressive scan, or one of the aspects
that yields a ‘film look’. Some cameras can handle a true As the definition increased to HD, so did the need for higher
progressive scan, where others can’t. Ideally, if you want that quality lenses. The lens that comes with any HDV camera is
single frame (as opposed to dual field look), get a camera already pretty good, but you can make huge aesthetic
with true progressive scan. If not, you will need to shoot improvements by using high quality prime lenses hooked
interlaced and create the look in postproduction. up to a P + S Technic Mini 35 (of course you will need a
camera that you can actually change lenses with). The Mini
The second issue is the camera and how it is set up to
35 works by mimicking the depth of field look you get on
respond to light. Not all cameras have a great deal of control
35mm. Couple that with a prime lens that gives you a nice
over how they interpret light coming in through the lens -
long shot, and you can shoot quite startling images where
in general, the cheaper the camera, the less control it has.
the subject is beautifully cut out from a soft background.
The result is that, all too often, HDV tends to look a lot like
Very filmy and not at all like video. This look is one of the
hi-res news material, or at best a TV soap opera. Some
main differences between an amateur video look and pro
cameras do offer control over the image, and with these you
film look. Video tends to hold everything in focus, and it
need to apply a set-up that captures quite flat, low-contrast
can give a cluttered and unattractive image. The Mini 35
images. Detail in both the dark areas and the highlights are
goes some way to reducing this.
what will make your project look better once you get it into
post. You can always add contrast, but it’s hard to remove Another bizarre problem with HDV is that the cameras tend
it without seeing crushed blacks and burnt out whites. to be small, and some actors who see the ‘big camera’ as
Shooting HD on a budget The Lifecycle of a Project: Shooting 4

their audience can be put off. Or worse, without noticing, Don’t fall into the trap that somehow shooting HDV is as good
they may play the scene at a lower energy level. The same as, or the same as, film. It is not. It is different and requires
is true of the crew. Of course, everyone will deny this, but I a different way of working. It has many advantages over film
have seen it repeatedly. So get yourself some accessories - less noise (grain), immediate playback, cheap running costs,
such as a big tripod and head, a big matte box and follow sync sound, stable and sharp image (over Super 16mm) and
focus, so that your small camera looks worthy of the effort so on - but on the downside, it has less latitude (that is the
of the cast and crew. amount information between absolute black and absolute
white), it does not have the same aesthetic as film (though
A component of the project that is often forgotten is the
this can be mimicked to some degree in post), and most
sound. The capabilities of the digital audio tracks on an HDV
subtly, it often does not command the same ‘presence’ on set.
camera are impressive. The problem isn’t the format, it’s the
microphone (mic): how you choose to mic up for sound, One last point about grading: To view HD properly, certainly
and who is in charge of monitoring levels. You will need a for grading the image, you need an HD monitor capable
camera with manual control over the recording level, then of displaying exactly what you are getting in the image. Of
ideally (for drama) an external mixer like an SQN, calibrated course, most people cannot afford one, nor the hardware
to the levels on the camera, so that a separate sound interface to drive it. Some people choose to hook up a 16:9
recordist and boom swinger can take care of sound without TFT monitor, such as the Apple Cinema display, but this
interfering with the camera department. Of course this will doesn’t give a true and exact representation of the image
mean your camera is permanently and umbilically connected in terms of colour, hues and contrast. You would be better
to the sound recordist, but this is the most cost effective way advised to down-convert all your material to SD on the fly
of doing it. Your choice of mic is vital, as the mic on the (for example using the Avid Mojo DNA box), hooking up a
camera should only really be used for grabbing guide tracks. graded monitor and doing all your grading in that
It is not good enough to capture good dialogue unless the environment. Viewing SD while working in HD: It’s clear
person is speaking directly to camera and projecting their that ‘offline’ and ‘online’ is becoming a thing of the past!
voice. So while your camera can quite easily record excellent
sound, getting that excellent sound to the camera in the
first place is a much bigger job than you would imagine.
Of all the things that are overlooked, sound is the biggest.
Considering all the work that goes into a film project - the
planning, the script writing, the casting etc - it’s astonishing
to see filmmakers just throw around the tapes onto which
EVERYTHING is committed! Tapes are not indestructible.
Treat them with care and attention and label them clearly.
Ideally make a backup of every tape on the day that you
shoot (ideally in the cutting room every night). It will only
take one tape to get trodden on, dropped in coffee, get
damp, left in the sun on a dashboard etc., to spell complete Chris Jones is a director/producer and co-founder of Living Spirit
Pictures Ltd, a UK-based film company which produces commercial
disaster. Make backups, and store those backups somewhere feature films for the international market place, writes the Guerilla
else, so that if your building burns down you still have Film Makers series of books, and runs courses for film makers.
your movie.
The Lifecycle of a Project:
The Camera
Shooting HD on a budget
Shooting HD on a budget The Lifecycle of a Project: The Camera 2

By Christina Fox and David Fox either 1080 lines at 50i (Sony and Canon), or 720 lines at
24/25 or 30p (JVC). Both 1080i and 720p are being used for
HDV is to HDTV what DV is to Standard HD transmission by broadcasters; so all HD equipment
Definition – the cheapest way to produce should cope with either, although most HDTV-ready sets
will initially be 720 native rather than 1080.
reasonably high-quality pictures. If you use DV
already, and want to move to high definition,
HDV is the obvious upgrade path (there is an HDV (and its problems) explained
alternative, as we'll mention later). HDV is an HD version of DV, but uses a different form of
compression. In DV, each frame is individually compressed,
making it easy to edit. To fit more picture information onto
Even if you don't expect to need HD soon or are using an the same miniDV tape, HDV uses MPEG-2 long GoP
older SD format, such as one of the Betacam variants, if encoding. This means that the camera does not record every
you need a new camera then HDV is worth a look. The frame of video as a full frame. It records occasional key frames
cameras are widescreen native (16:9) and can record very and just enough other information to enable it to recreate
good pictures in SD, to DV or DVCAM (or downconvert the rest. The video between one key frame and the next is
HDV to SD), so there is no need for anamorphic adapters called a Group of Pictures (or GoP), which consists of three
or aspect ratio converters. types of frames - the I-frame, P-frame and B-frame (Intra
frame, predictive frame and backwardly predictive frame).
There are essentially three professional three-chip HDV
camcorders: the JVC GY-HD100/101, the Sony HVR-Z1 and A typical HDV GoP of 12 frames will be: I B B P B B P B B P
Canon's XLH1. There are also a few single-chip HDV B B, where only the I-frame holds the full picture information.
models worth considering (especially as a back-up camera In DV, a speck of dirt on the heads when recording could
that can also be used as a low-cost play-in deck beside result in dropout problems on a single frame only. With
your editing system). HDV, dirt causing dropout on an I-frame could affect half a
second of video, ie the whole GoP. To counter this, either
There are also two varieties of HDV: interlaced or
use fresh, new tapes (particularly the higher quality tapes
progressive, with 1080 or 720 lines. Interlaced is the
sold for HDV), or buy second-hand tapes from somewhere
traditional way of scanning video (it is how cathode ray
that cleans and assesses each one. We buy used tapes for
tube TV sets work), which displays each TV frame as two
about £1.50 for a 60-minute DV tape that has been erased,
fields made up of the odd-numbered and even-numbered
cleaned (removing any loose iron oxide) and evaluated for
lines. Repeating an image 50 times per second, or 50i,
defects, including a printout of where they are – almost
gives a very natural-looking motion blur, because that is
invariably within the first or last minute, as that is where
close to how the eye works. PAL is 576 active lines at 50i,
tapes are fixed to the spool, so, whatever tape you buy,
while NTSC is 480/60i. Progressive displays a full frame at a
don't record anything valuable at the beginning or end.
time, like film, and is how LCD screens work. If you want to
make your video look like film, then cameras that can do Long GoP was designed for transmission rather than
24p or 25p will have an advantage. The ideal, and what editing, so it is not easy to edit it frame accurately.
European broadcasters want for HD, is 50p, but this isn't Fortunately the latest software, such as Avid Xpress Pro
part of the HDV standard. With HDV you currently get and Avid Liquid, can now edit natively in HDV with frame
Shooting HD on a budget The Lifecycle of a Project: The Camera 3

accurate edits. HDV also has a further problem, in that it The two versions of HDV also differ: HDV1's 720 lines
isn't great at dealing with fast-moving detail where every record at 19Megabits per second, while HDV2's 1080 lines
pixel can change from frame to frame. This can result in record at 25Mbps. Both are 4:2:0, which means that there
visible artefacts around the fine detail (typically blockiness). isn't as much colour information as some other formats.
If the camera and/or the fine detail is moving, this can be For comparison, DV, DVCAM and DVCPRO 25 record at
lost in the motion blur, and might look OK. 25Mbps in 4:2:0 (or 4:1:1 for DVCPRO), DVCPRO 50 at
50Mbps 4:2:2, and DVCPRO HD at 100Mbps 4:2:2.
We haven’t noticed any nasty artefacts on anything we've
shot on our Z1 or the other cameras we've used, and there The HDV image is 1440x1080 pixels (the same as the CCDs
are a few techniques to avoid them: used in many other HD cameras), but the pixels are
rectangular with an aspect ratio of 1.333:1, which makes
1. Keep your lens angle wide if going handheld, because
the 1440 equivalent to 1920 so you get 16:9 output.
tight angles accentuate any shakes, provoking artefacts.
Otherwise use a tripod, monopod, Steadicam or other
camera support.
The contenders
2. Limit depth of field to throw the background out of
Let’s look at the three main cameras in the professional HDV
focus (so there is less detail for the compression to deal
range. They cost from approximately £3,000 to almost £6,000
with). To do this, you might need to invest in some
each, although extras such as batteries will increase this.
external neutral density filters and/or graduated filters
(alongside the camera's built-in filters), to reduce the
light entering the lens so that you can widen the iris
JVC was first to bring
and increase the depth of field. Cameras with small
out an HDV camcorder,
CCDs (these all have one-third inch chips), deliver more
releasing its single-chip
depth of field than those with large CCDs or 35mm
JY-HD10 in 2004. It
film, so defocusing the background may require moving
found favour with some
closer to the subject, where a wide-angle adapter may
corporate producers
also prove useful. Documentary evidence:
Sony's HVR-Z1 camcorder wanting to display
3. Do any important camera moves at several speeds, to material on a large screen, but it wasn't until the end of
see which delivers the best results. Or do moves 2004 that Sony brought out the first 3CCD model, the
against less detailed backgrounds, such as blue skies or HDR-FX1. It delivers excellent pictures, but lacks the XLR
painted walls, so that the compression has fewer sockets required of a professional camcorder, and is
moving details changing between each frame. relatively light on features. If you shoot sync sound on an
external recording device, it will save a few hundred
4. Shoot more cutaways, so you have room to manoeuvre
pounds compared to Sony's XLR-equipped model, the
in the edit suite.
HVR-Z1. Since shipping in Spring 2005, it has become the
5. The various "film" modes (especially that on the Z1) most popular HDV camcorder, and is now widely used by
seem to exacerbate any artefacts, so don't use them - the BBC (although mainly as a widescreen DV camcorder).
particularly if you are not shooting true film style (all
long, slow, fairly static shots).
Shooting HD on a budget The Lifecycle of a Project: The Camera 4

Anyone who has used a PD150 or PD170 will find the Z1 to

be a natural progression. This is primarily a documentary
maker's camera and records in HDV (1080i), DVCAM and
DV formats.
Pros: Very nice lens, with good wide angle (4.5mm); ability
to creatively manipulate white balance; easily
switched from PAL to NTSC, useful if you have
clients all over the world; and very good battery life. Getting the cine look: HD100 with cine lens and matte box

Cons: No variable shutter, only stepped; can’t display will help balance things out. If you are used to ENG-style
peaking and zebra simultaneously; expanded focus cameras like the DSR500/570 then you'll feel at home with
only works in standby, not in record mode; not as this camera and its lenses.
good in low light as PD150/170 was; not designed
Pros: Ergonomic; good for the film look (as the CCDs are
for use on your shoulder; and no interchangeable
progressive); lots of lens options; and you can store
lenses - although Italian producer/cinematographer,
your menu settings on an SD card. For better quality
Matteo Ricchetti (, bravely
you can access the camera's analogue HD
dismantled his FX1 to fit a universal lens mount, so it
component 720p output signal, but need to put this
can be overcome. It's not worth using its CineFrame
through an analogue HD to HD-SDI converter (which
film-look mode as you can probably achieve better
costs from around £750 to £2,000).
results in post.
Cons: Standard (Fujinon16x) lens (5.5mm) not as wide
angle as Z1 and exhibits some colour aberrations at
JVC GY-HD100/101 the edge of the frame; needs an upgraded battery
JVC's 3CCD HDV camera, the as the standard battery lasts only about an hour.
GY-HD100 went on sale in
August 2005. The European
version, the GY-HD101, is
slightly more expensive
because it has full FireWire
i/o which attracts an EU levy.
However, it is worth paying
A Mini35 adapter can allow the HD100 (or the other
low-budget HD cameras) to work with 35mm lenses. the extra if you also want to
use the camera as an editing deck. The HD100 and 101 take
interchangeable lenses, a desirable addition - assuming
there is money left in the budget to buy them.
It is made from die cast aluminium and is pretty robust.
Uniquely in this group, it has a proper adjustable shoulder
mount, so, from a handling point of view, it should be
more comfortable to operate. It can be a bit front-heavy,
but if you opt for an IDX or Anton/Bauer battery option, it Steady state: JVC's HD100 in use on a Sachtler Artemis stabilisation system
Shooting HD on a budget The Lifecycle of a Project: The Camera 5

Canon XLH1 Pros: PAL/NTSC switchable (via option, which also gives
Canon's XLH1 would be an ideal choice for anyone 60i, 24f and 30f); can shoot (and save on SD card)
equipping an HD studio or OB on a budget, as it is the 1920x1080 still images; very good standard 20x lens;
lowest cost way of getting full 1080i HD-SDI 4:2:2 output. lots of other lenses available; reportedly good in low
This bypasses the HDV compression, and can be plugged light; useful black stretch function compared to
straight into an HD vision mixer. It also does SDI (Serial XL1/2 (although that can be done in post); creative
Digital Interface) for SD. It will deliver high quality pictures white balance; four audio channels. It can also
for live big screen presentations at concerts or deliver 24 or 25 frames per second images, although
conferences. The H1 can also be genlocked and have its isn't true progressive - this is why it is called 24f
timecode synched with other cameras, so it should behave or 25f as it uses a Frame mode that, in the case of
nicely in multicamera set ups. 24f, runs the CCDs at 48Hz, then de-interlaces using
Canon's own method. From the few examples we've
Its other big attraction is its interchangeable lens (although
seen, it is certainly better than Sony's CineFrame,
very few XL1/XL2 owners ever took advantage of that
but may need further post-processing to achieve a
previously). It started shipping late 2005 in the US, and is
film look.
due to arrive in Europe in early 2006.
Cons: Has a 2.4-inch LCD combining the job of viewfinder
and LCD screen - not as easy to see as its two rivals
when handholding camera; doesn't sit particularly
well on the shoulder (front heavy); standard lens only
marginally wider (5.4mm) than standard HD101 lens;
and the 24/25f images will only playback properly
from the H1. A good deal more expensive than Z1.

One chip wonder

If you are on a more
restricted budget, Sony
has two smaller, single
CMOS chipped HDV
cameras, the
"professional" HVR-A1E
(with XLR inputs and
costing as little as £1,300
plus VAT) and the HDR-
Even lower budget HD:
Sony's single-chip HVR-A1E

Back in black: the XLH1 is the most stylish HDV camera HC1E (a consumer version, without XLRs). The A1 would
also be ideal as both a back-up camera and to use as an
edit deck as it costs less than dedicated HDV VTRs.
Single CCD (Charge Coupled Device) cameras are not
usually recommended for professional use because individual
Shooting HD on a budget The Lifecycle of a Project: The Camera 6

CCDs don't deal well with multiple colours. They are

designed to convert light into an electrical signal and you
ideally need three – one each for red, green and blue light
to give both good colour accuracy and high resolution.
However, CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor)
sensors work differently. They allow more individual light
sensors per square centimeter than CCD, and offer a wider
dynamic light range, for better detail in both shadows and
highlights, and are less susceptible to vertical smear. They
offer higher resolution (and good multi-resolution handling)
Card sharp: the HVX200 will record to P2 card, tape or add-on disk
at lower costs, which is why they have become the mainstay
of many high-resolution digital stills cameras, shooting at come down in price, and go up in capacity, this could be a
resolutions way above HDTV. In the A1, having a single chip very interesting camera. However, anyone using it seriously
removes the need for a bulky beam splitter (to split the light for HD should buy the upcoming Focus Enhancements'
into red, green and blue), enabling it to be a lot smaller FireStore FS-100 hard disk recorder, which clips on the
without compromising picture quality significantly. Certainly, back and has native Pinnacle AVI and Avid OMF support,
if you have a limited budget and had been considering so you can plug it straight into your editor and start
buying a second-hand DV camcorder, such as the Sony PD-150 editing. There is also an FS-4 Pro HD for HDV camcorders.
or 170, the A1 is a better option, as it is widescreen, can record
The HVX200 records 1080i and 720p (including, notably,
DV and DVCAM and produces surprisingly good results.
720/50p and 1080/25p). If it lives up to its promise, this will
However, even if you are on a tight budget, if you require an be a strong alternative to HDV. It will probably be March
HDV camera for a specific project you can save money by 2006, or later, before they go on sale - at least for the
buying a camera and then selling it upon completion; the European version.
depreciation of a Sony Z1, for instance, over two months will
Pros: DVCPRO HD is a more robust, less compressed
almost certainly be less than the cost of hiring it for the same
format than HDV, and gives a full 4:2:2 signal, so it
length of time (especially if you buy it on a 0% credit card).
records more colour information, making it easier to
use for effects work, such as bluescreen composites.
HD but not HDV The camera also promises the widest-angle standard
lens (4.2mm) and four-channel 16-bit PCM audio. It
A budget alternative to HDV is Panasonic's new AG-HVX200, also records DV to tape.
which is potentially better as it records using the DVCPRO
HD format (as well as in DVCPRO 25 and 50). Its other
Cons: As expensive as the XLH1 if you buy a bundle with
two 8GB P2 cards. Has only been seen as a
interesting feature is that it records onto P2 cards. These are
prototype so far.
removable flash memory - which makes for a quicker workflow
because there is no need to transfer from tape to computer
David Fox is a freelance journalist, scriptwriter, producer and director, and
hard drive for editing and they work very well with Avid. associate editor of TVB Europe magazine. Christina Fox is a broadcast
Unfortunately, P2 cards are very expensive (approx £1,000 for consultant and trainer, and maintains the website, which
an 8GB card compared to a £2.75 miniDV tape). As P2 cards has more information on buying a low-budget broadcast camera, as well
as a guide to all the other camera kit you might need to go with it.
The Lifecycle of a Project:
Editing with HDV
Shooting HD on a budget The Lifecycle of a Project: Editing with HDV 2

By Kevin Hilton (Sony/Cannon) and at 720p 30 (JVC ProHD). That means

real-time editing with no transcoding, real-time HD effects,
The fundamental form and principles of picture and real-time Avid multicamera editing in HD.
editing have remained pretty much the same since Working in native HDV avoids the need for lengthy
the technique was first developed during the early transcoding to intermediate formats, which takes up large
days of film. However material is cut, whether on amounts of disk space. It also means no rendering is
necessary, with editing, effects creation and compositing
film, linear video or a nonlinear digital system, the
being done in real-time.
narrative and artistic principle is the same. Footage
is assembled in order to tell the story, using Avid systems also allow HDV to be edited on the same
timeline with other video formats, both HD and non-HD.
specific cuts and devices for effect and to elicit
Again, there is no need for rendering or transcoding to get
an emotional response from the audience.
material into the system. Clips are dragged and dropped
onto the editing timeline in the usual way: it is possible to
have two kinds of HD, for example native HDV and DVCPro
Like any other new acquisition technology HDV, the high HD, in the same file and edit the footage together. It is also
definition format that is recorded onto mini digital video possible to combine multiple HDV sources without first
tapes, does not change the basic philosophy of editing converting material to a common format.
that was laid down in 1903 by Edwin Porter and was then
As ever, opinions differ as to the best way to deal with HDV,
built upon and turned into an art form by DW Griffith and
and which forms of the format give the best results for the
Eisenstein. What today's filmmakers and editors have to bear
different stages of the post-production process. A common
in mind is that a format such as HDV will cause problems in
view is that native HDV is fine for straightforward offline
the post-production process unless it is handled in a suitable
continuity editing, but when it comes to online functions
form and domain.
such as colour correction, other formats are better suited
HDV does not lend itself well to the post-production process to avoid generational loss.
due to the technology that has made it attractive to low
In such cases the commonly used argument is to convert
budget filmmakers, videographers, corporate productions
HDV and any other acquisition format being used, be it P2
and the education sector: the Long-GOP (Group of Pictures)
or HDCAM, to a common platform. Whatever the editing
MPEG2 compression that enables HD 24p pictures to get
format chosen, there are many in the business who feel that
on the DV tape in the first place. Multiple copying and
it should be uncompressed. Despite modern broadcast
compositing contribute to image degradation, thus damaging
and post-production being increasingly digital and moving
a major selling point of HDV, the quality of its images.
towards high definition, standard definition SDI is still
A long-term user of Avid editing systems is Swedish favoured as a solid platform on which to edit and finish
documentary maker Loui Bernal, who sums up HDV well: material drawn from different sources. Among the useful
"It doesn't have the clarity of other formats, but it does little boxes available for this conversion process is
have the detail." Avid has worked to make HDV a proper Convergent Design's HD-Connect LE unit. This takes HDV
post-production tool. The general opinion is that the best and converts it to SDI for use on any NLE editing system.
way to edit HDV material is in its native form. Avid editing
Avid's position is that the HDV format is fine for simple
systems support native HDV editing at 1080i 50/59,94
cutting, but the format can hinder efficient working due to
Shooting HD on a budget The Lifecycle of a Project: Editing with HDV 3

the Long-GOP compression used to reduce bandwidth on Both the corporate and commercials sectors are demanding
the tape. Because of this the intervals between individual higher quality and resolution, with the latest effects and
frames can be obscured, with the common problem of a processing. Baumber comments that the requirement is to
decrease in image quality over a number of generations. maintain as high a quality as possible; DigiBeta has been a
Avid DNxHD encoding has been developed to keep the favoured format and now Wailing Banshee is making a
image quality as it was shot, and can be used in those transition to HD and HDV. "Corporate clients are now
sections of the programme where the post-production beginning to hire cinemas for their presentations, it's not
process involves multi-layer and multiple generation always in a hotel function room these days," Baumber
compositing, titles and graphics. observes. "DigiBeta is good but higher resolution formats
are so much better, partly because it means we can use a
Mark Dyson, founder and head of factual programmes at
lot of chromakeying."
Creative Touch Films, is now shooting in HD and HDV to
satisfy the demands of American broadcasters. Creative In the relatively short time that Wailing Banshee has been
Touch Films produces documentary series in which travellers using HDV, Baumber says clients have been "amazed" at
and explorers journey to remote locations, very often the quality of the finished work. “When we put footage on
enduring extreme cold or heat. Dyson is a long-term user the internet it looks as though we went out with a 35mm
of Avid systems and now works on Avid Xpress Pro. "In the film camera," he comments. "The cameras are very flexible.
early days of HD and HDV I felt it was necessary to online We've been using the JVC, and for TV and presentations it
edit using Avid Media Composer Adrenaline," he says. looks like 16mm."
"Now the software for Xpress Pro HD has been finalised
Baumber trained at the BBC as an Avid editor and so has
the whole process can be kept within the desktop domain."
long experience of the business of editing and getting
Problems continue to exist, even though HD and HDV give material in a form that can be cut. For some time Baumber
the impression of being mature technologies. HDV is has worked with Avid Liquid Chrome, following it through
barely three years old and is continuing to develop from from its early days as a Pinnacle product to its present
its consumer/prosumer beginnings and offer an even more position as part of the Avid editing family. Material is fed
convincing high-end product. Monitoring of HD in general from the camcorder into Liquid Chrome through the TARGA
is a particular stumbling block, as Loui Bernal points out: 2000, and now the 3000, video capture card, using Motion
"We've been able to work online with other formats but with JPEG encoding.
HDV, nothing worked. When you're using high definition
In Baumber's experience, having the right interface to get
you can't watch it back, which is a problem when you're
material into the editing system is crucial. "Pinnacle had its
doing colour correction.”
own interface and it was nice but it was never quite right,"
Wailing Banshee is a UK production company that has been he comments. "But TARGA is so powerful and when Liquid
working with HDV for approximately eight months, and is Chrome was packaged with TARGA everything went to a
therefore familiar with all the arguments. Founded in 1997 new level. We're now using Chrome HD and in terms of the
by video producer and director David Baumber, Wailing graphical interface there's no difference between Chrome
Banshee specialises in digital production, with an animation and Chrome HD. We're using it for both offline and online,
division in New York. In the UK approximately 80 per cent of sometimes three to four projects at the same time."
the company's work is in corporate production for blue chip
Material is fed into the editing systems over FireWire links,
clients such as Unilever, Lipton and BT. The remaining 20 per
which Baumber sees as very easy to set up. "The nice thing
cent comprises commercials, largely for theatrical release.
Shooting HD on a budget The Lifecycle of a Project: Editing with HDV 4

about the Liquid interface is that it is self-explanatory about DigiBeta, DV, HDCAM or HDV. "We let Avid decide what
how to get things in and out of the system," he says. "From goes into the editing machine," he says. "What we and other
the control panel you can set up the disks to receive whatever users have to worry about is our own creativity." Where
input you're working with." As for loading in HDV Baumber Baumber sees the new HD formats as coming into their
says, "It's no different from any DVcam - there's nothing own is for the processes involved in online editing. "When
mysterious about it, although a lot more data is captured it comes to compositing, using HD technology for SD
at the same speed." production is a godsend - it's really beautiful at the moment"
he says. "Selfishly, I don't want anyone to buy HD televisions
When it comes to the edit Baumber also says there is very
because we will eventually lose the opportunity and ability
little difference between working with HDV and DV. "There
to use HD for SD, and we'll have to learn new tricks!"
are more megabits in the signal, so storage is something to
bear in mind, but there is no real difference in the editing," As new, faster and higher resolution film stock came into
he says. Wailing Banshee uses either eight Ultra 320 SCSI use, followed by the transition to video tape and then the
drives in an EonStor cabinet striped as a single drive, or eight successive development of analogue and digital formats, it
SATA drives. The eight Ultra 320s give 2TB of storage and are is likely that editors and directors over the years have had
used for commercials work as that demands uncompressed similar feelings - that their knowledge base will have to
video, while the SATAs give 250GB of space and tend to develop and change. HD transmission will bring an end to
be used more for corporate projects, where the use of some things, but the fundamentals remain and editing is
compressed DV is common and not as much an issue as in TV. one of them, regardless of format.
Baumber says that once the footage is in the system, HDV
gives "extra space to play with" if the final output is to be in
SD. "That's largely why we're using HD at the moment," he
explains. "It's not because we want to create HD projects but
because the technology gives us more flexibility for what we
do in SD. For example, a shot of a person might have been
framed from the waist up but in the edit we may want just
the face. With HDV we can zoom in and not lose definition."
Editing on HDV takes place in native format and Baumber
is looking ahead to working with it on a Media Composer
Adrenaline system. "As Media Composer Adrenaline is a
10-bit system we'll be able to get even better results,
particularly for our TV work." As for editing HDV in general,
Baumber observes, "It's a strange medium. The situation is
similar to when we moved from Betacam to Digicam. It's
better quality and because of that you have to cope with a
higher data rate and use high specification software for
editing and outputting."
Baumber agrees that the fundamental principles and forms
of editing remain the same whether material is on film, Contact Kevin Hilton at