About Standard and High Definition DVDs

Standard definition (SD) DVDs provided most viewers with their first digital video experience. The great video quality, interactive menus, and surround sound audio found on current DVDs set a high standard for viewer expectations. Meanwhile, the establishment of high definition (HD) video format standards and the increasing availability of HD broadcasts have led to more and more viewers having HD video monitors, and even higher expectations for DVDs.

These expectations, along with the development of improved compression technologies and a blue laser technology that greatly increases a disc’s storage capacity, have led to the ability of recording HD video onto a DVD.

But Aren’t DVDs Already High Definition?

In addition to traditional 4:3 aspect ratio video, traditional DVDs support widescreen 16:9 video, which is often mistaken for being high definition. The 16:9 video used on current DVDs, however, is the same resolution as the 4:3 video, which is the same as the standard NTSC and PAL broadcast resolutions. The 16:9 video must be anamorphic, which makes it appear horizontally squashed when viewed on a 4:3 monitor.

This leads to a logical next question—what constitutes high definition video? While most HD video formats use a 16:9 aspect ratio, what generally defines whether or not they are HD is the resolution.

Video resolutions that result in more pixels per frame than are used in SD-based DVDs are considered high definition. There are two common HD vertical resolutions: 720 lines and 1080 lines (used for both NTSC and PAL). These compare to NTSC’s 480 lines and PAL’s 576 lines for SD video.

As with SD-based DVDs, the scanning method used on HD-based DVDs can be interlaced, with a video frame containing one field with the odd lines and another field with the even lines, or progressive, where each frame is complete. Not all HD formats support progressive scanning, however. See Supported Video Resolutions for details on supported SD and HD video formats, including frame rates and scanning methods.

See About DVD Studio Pro and HD Resolution DVDs and HD Video Assets for more information about creating HD projects in DVD Studio Pro.