The answer is a resounding yes... and right now!
Open any technology magazine and you’ll see the words "high definition" just about everywhere, with experts proclaiming the superiority of HD in some form or another. The advent of HDTV, at every level of the market, has been welcomed with booming acceptance. But the move from SD to HD has caught some producers off-guard, leaving them in the worst possible position: They can’t make difficult decisions quickly when a potential HD job comes along.
Are you one of them? If you’re not already firmly committed to HD, you need to hitch on to the HD horse-powered wagon right now before you get swept aside. The broadcast and corporate video industry has already been transformed by HD. What are you waiting for?
For reasons without number, the most important is to stay alive- to be competitive and current over the long haul. Media is rarely used once and discarded; more often it becomes part and parcel of other projects. Shooting in HD today assures you and your clients access to quality media in the future.
What’s the Holdup?
All things considered, every shooter should jump immediately to HD. But there are many who haven’t yet made that leap. The reasons are long and varied, all playing parts in the upgrade consideration, and can include too many choices, confusing marketing messages, budget constraints, long-term growth decisions and even the oldest of excuses, "I’m waiting for the next format."
But consumers are now embracing HD faster than initially anticipated, fueled in part by heavy advertising from ESPN, HBO, Fox and other networks looking to capture greater market share. Content providers just can’t afford to wait any longer. HDNet, for example, is a hodgepodge of HD programming but is a heavily watched channel, simply because of the all-HD content and not loyalty to any one specific program. HD consumer camcorders were one of the hot-ticket items at the Christmas counter this past season, with savvy buyers finally understanding HD’s considerable value. After all, they are already embracing the significantly better images they’re now able to capture in a variety of formats.
2006 gave birth to a modified HDV format, a new AVCHD format, the announcement of the AVC-I format and nearly a dozen new HD/HDV camcorders in a variety of formats at virtually every price point. This year promises to be no different, especially as we head toward NAB.
Nonlinear editing developers have offered countless new HD-related features in the past year, further marking the acceleration of growth in an HD world.
HD is barely coming of age at the level of the masses and we’re already discussing products for UHDTV, or Ultra High Definition Television, which are coming to the market soon. If you’re still thinking that there’s always something better just around the corner, so why jump in, consider this: Content producers, by their vary professional nature, either have to join’em or leave’em.
Any Easy Transition?
Joining in the HD revolution doesn’t have to be difficult, just well thought out. The most challenging task may be choosing a format as the baseline for production. This is entirely dependent on budget.
HDV is the entry level for professionals, and right now, AVCHD falls somewhat behind the HDV point. AVCHD may catch up to HDV, but for producers living in the "now" versus in the "still-to-come," any flavor of AVC is still a future generation away, at least due to processing requirements. HDV has matured to the point that virtually all nonlinear editing systems, storage systems and delivery mechanisms and equipment are now compatible.
XDCAM HD has become the defacto standard amongst the ENG market, and has gained serious acceptance by the EFP crowd. Other relatively inexpensive, highly compressed formats are sure to debut during the next year in this market. The jump to VariCam and HDCAM products isn’t too far beyond, and costs of higher-end HD are coming down more quickly than ever.
Cost is a a major consideration in the transition to HD, obviously. But even if the main delivery platform is still SD, that shouldn’t be a compelling enough cause for staying in the SD acquisition world. Shooting HD for SD delivery simply promises for better SD product and lets producers shelve the HD content for either later use or re-delivery in HD for less time-sensitive use.
Timing is everything, of course, and the content producer that says, "I’m waiting for X to come" has already lost out, just as the shooter who’s been waiting for the next-generation HDV camcorder has lost two good years of productivity with this format. And think of how much more familiar with high definition you would be if you had already been toughening up the tremendously more demanding production chops it takes to shoot HD well.
Focus, framing, lighting and exposure are all different with HD, not to mention the potential for NLE and computer system upgrades. The benefit of moving to HD on the acquisition side means incremental upgrades versus a one-shot cost expenditure.
Decisions on HD upgrades should also be based on what can be monetized immediately and not on what potentially may be monetized in the future. Holding out for what "might be coming" is rarely a good practice. Camcorders might be announced at NAB in April, but not delivered until the following February. If your production group is waiting on that new camcorder, you need to ask how much revenue has been lost as a result? What other developments may have been taking place during that long wait?
HD is now for everyone at all price points. If you haven’t made the move yet, you should. The question isn’t one of "if" but rather one of "when." And, if the consumer index is any indication of timing, those of you who are not there yet have already missed the first boat.
Write Douglas at firstname.lastname@example.org