720p or 1080i?


720p or 1080i?


Brian Pfeiffer


Is anyone thinking of buying a new Camcorder?  As my mini-dv camcorder is showing its age I’ve been thinking about replacing it with an HD device.  So I’ve been searching the ‘net and magazines for useful information and likely models.  Obviously there are many things to consider: I’d want a view finder; an external mike socket; good optical zoom; image stabilizer etc but perhaps the most important for me is to be able to get the best quality images possible.  So I began to think about what I call the filming format.  Based on information gleaned from conversations, I had thought I should go for 1080i.

 BUT then I watched an article (http://www.petapixel.com/2012/05/09/hd-video-explained-why-720p-is-better-than-1080i/) which expounded the virtues of ‘Progressive’ as opposed to ‘Interlaced’.  This stated that 720p will give a better resolution on screen that 1080i and that 1080p is the very best and gave good explanations as to why this is so; it’s worth viewing.

So I’m leaning towards 720p or even 1080p if the cost is reasonable.  But I need to know what overheads there might be for filming in ‘Progressive’ e.g. storage requirements both in the camcorder and when the data is captured for editing.  And what impact on the editing process too?  And other things such as: Do I need HD specific SD cards for filming? or HD quality DVDs for the outputIf I record in HD can I view the edited output on a non-HD TV?

As you can see I am a more than a bit confused, so I wondered if this might be a worthwhile topic to open up for discussion one Club evening when there are 10 minutes or so to spare as perhaps others might be in a similar position.

Brian Pfeiffer

4 Replies to “720p or 1080i?”

  1. The joys of HD Brian! I am not an expert but here are my thoughts – 1080p is the best way to go if you can but, as you say, there are consequences.

    Camera : You will need high speed SD or Compact Flash cards if your new camera uses them. These are not that cheap – hunt around on the internet for the best deals and I would only recommend buying well known brand names like San Disk. You might need a few as the file sizes generated for each clip by your camera can be quite large – gigabytes rather than megabytes if using the highest setting.

    Editing: You need to make sure your software supports HD and the format your camera produces. If not you will be converting each clip before you can edit. If your software supports HD then you will be able to view your HD footage on your computer – however, to view it at full HD quality on an external monitor or TV while you edit you will need to make sure your computer and software supports this feature (you may need to add an HD video card if not) and you have either an HD monitor or HD TV – you cannot view full HD on a non HD TV. Once finished editing you then come to the output.

    Currently the only way to view full HD quality on a HD TV or HD projector is to produce a Blu-Ray disc and play it on a Blu-ray Player (HD DVD’s have died a death like BetaMax did). You can produce hybrid HD discs (HD content on standard DVD’s) but they aren’t full HD quality – they are better than DVD’s though. You can produce HD computer files and then play those through your HD TV etc via several devices like an AppleTV for example.

    And so it goes on …. As your video explained, broadcasters like the BBC are not able currently to broadcast what some people call full HD 1080p – most is all 720p which is still much better than standard definition. ‘The industry’ itself is producing cameras capable of 2k, 4k and soon 8k resolution – the latter being over 8 times better quality than current HD … From what I have read even 2k causes big headaches over workflow due to files sizes so heaven knows what 8k produces !! They are saying though that the big production companies will not be bothering with 4K and will wait for 8k as this surpasses good old film in resolution and quality.

    One last thing to bear in mind with progressive – you may need to change the way you film – there are lots of sites on the internet dedicated to this so have a read. Basically, shooting progressive is like shooting film – you have to be really careful with any camera panning/movement and such like to avoid things like strobing etc. It’s not a big deal – it does in fact teach you to set up shots better!

    I hope this helps a bit … have a feeling it probably makes things worse 🙁

  2. Many thanks Bob for this very comprehensive response. I’ll be digesting it over the next few weeks. However events have overtaken my query. I was browsing Camcorders in PC World and found that ALL of them were 1080p! So it looks as if my quandry of 720p vs 1080i vs 1080p has partially been resolved for me.


  3. If you want to share your videos on DVD then 720p will produce a better result than 1080p. The higher 1080p resolution footage needs to be downsamlpled to SD format which can create many problems including twittering of fine lines. Whereas 720p doesn’t need to be reduced by as much, therefore the twitter will be minimal. However, for maximum quality and Blu-Ray production, then 1080p is the way to go. As far as internterlaced and progressive is concerned, I always shoot progressive but it does require a different approach to shooting, especially with panning and fast moving subject matter.

    I did come along to a couple of meetings last year but due to other commitments was unable to attend the club again. However, I have more time now so I may join the club.

    Happy New Year to you all.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Vincent. From what you say it seems that 720p would be the best for me as I do not have Blueray capability. However, as I said in my response to Bob’s comments, events have overtaken my query. I was browsing Camcorders in PC World and found that ALL of them were 1080p! I wonder if I will be able to get one with 720p – will continue my search and pondering. Brian

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