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Thread: 1080, 720 and all that jazz

  1. Default 1080, 720 and all that jazz

    Newbie question I'm sure however.....

    So my camcorder can shoot in various HD modes 1080 50 (PAL), 720 50 and 720 25

    As I have no blu ray right now, there's not much point in me shooting in 1080 (is there?), but what about the 720 50 and 720 25, what are the benefits, advantages and disadvantages between the 50 and 25 and when/how would I know when it is correct to use one or the other

    I have a feeling this is going to be one of "those" questions but all input welcome

  2. #2


    Well, this is a bit of an open question, so the answers may or may not be what you are looking for.

    Both 1080 and 720 are Blu-ray standards, so you 'could' shoot either for Blu-ray. Clearly most people expect 1080p for Blu-ray but that does not always have to be the case.

    What is your expected output medium? DVD, the Web? Future cinema screenings? If you are shooting for DVD then 720p is generally fine, and makes editing a little easier, especially if you are adding effects and colour grading. Rendering for 1080p takes a lot longer than 720p.

    The main reason to use 720/50p over 25p is in order to capture more action. This could be for several reasons, including sports, or could be because you know you want to slow the footage down in post-production later. Shooting at 50 frames per second and showing at 25 frames per second (fps) gives you an instant halving of speed (slo-mo) which is quite usable. Shooting at 25p then slowing by 50% means a frame rate of 12.5 fps which in my opinion is nasty. 15 fps should be considered the minimum you can get away if the footage is great, and 24/25 fps if the footage is just 'ok'.

    Depending on your model of camera, it's likely to be shooting in what is known as 4:2:0, which means you are not getting full colour information or each pixel. The colour information is being shared between adjacent pixels to save space in the compression system. If you are shooting green screen the you really want all the colour information you can get, so in this case it's often worth shooting in 1080p and then resizing to 720p in post. This gives you more colour information per pixel when trying to key the footage.

    It's also possible that the codec your camera is using is squeezing both 1080p and 720p in to the same amount of data in the compression algorithm. That means that 1080 has to be compressed 'more' to fit in the space, or to put it another way, 720p is compressed 'less'. This means that 1080 can sometimes have compression artifacts that are not there when shooting 720p. Artifacts mean noise at the end of the day.

    In low light, you may choose to shoot 25p over 50p so that you can reduce your shutter speed to allow more light in - but in this case you need to be careful about wanting to slo-mo any of the footage later. Shooting 50p with a shutter speed of 1/50 (1/60) will required twice as much light as shooting 25p with a shutter speed of 1/25 at the same aperture and gain settings.

    Hope that's a good start. With all this said.... it's probably easier if you have specific questions rather than me keep waffling on .....

  3. #3


    One thing Dave didn't mention in his knowledgeable answer was, when you say 1080 50 is that 50i (interlaced) or 50p (progressive). Some cameras like mine will only shoot 1080i but will shoot 720p.

    Just something else to add into the mix.

  4. #4


    Quote Originally Posted by Midnight Blue View Post
    One thing Dave didn't mention in his knowledgeable answer was, when you say 1080 50 is that 50i (interlaced) or 50p (progressive). Some cameras like mine will only shoot 1080i but will shoot 720p.

    Just something else to add into the mix.

    Oops, sorry!

    OK - the skinny on the 50i bit is a little different. If you are shooting for an interlaced target (e.g. PAL DVD) the by all means shoot and edit in an interlaced workflow.

    If you are targeting a progressive media type, e.g. computer / web etc then you really should be shooting in progressive if it's available to you in the resolution (e.g. 1080/720) and frame rate (e.g. 50p/25p) that you need.

    If you shoot using interlaced then convert to progressive in post-production there can be some undesired side effects. If you convert 1080/50i to a 50p timeline you will effectively halve your resolution (540) because interlaced only stores half the information (every other line) per frame. If you take 50i footage and convert it to 25p then you can get the nasty comb effects on the side of anything that moves, and once it's there you really can't remove it - you are stuck with it.

    so, unless you know you need interlaced footage as an end product, shooting progressive will generally give you more options. Unless you are targeting the highest resolution possible (i.e. 1080p for Blu-ray or Cinema) then my recommendation is to start shooting 720/50p (or 720/25p in low light) and only deviate from this when you know why you are doing it. 720p will be much easier on your CPU for effects and editing and also use less hard disk space to store. A good 720p can be played back full screen on most computers and look very good (even stunning) whereas a bad 1080 can look really bad.

    Of course an excellent 1080 kicks everyone's butt except 2K and 4K footage, which most of us simply don't have access to anyway.

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