About High Definition Video Formats

Digital high definition (HD) formats are defined by their vertical resolutions (number of lines), scanning methods (interlaced versus progressive), and frame or field rates. For example, the 1080i60 format has 1080 lines per frame, uses interlaced scanning (indicated by the i), and scans 59.94 fields per second. HD frame rates are compatible with NTSC video, PAL video, or film.

Note: For comparison to HD formats, standard definition (SD) video formats are now defined in similar terms. For example, 480i60 has 480 lines, interlaced scanning, and 59.94 fields per second (NTSC).

NTSC-Compatible HD Formats

The following table shows common NTSC-compatible HD formats.

Format
Description
1080i60
  • Has high-resolution frames, is able to capture fast movement, and has reduced vertical resolution due to interlacing.

  • Easily downconverts to NTSC.

1080p30
  • Has high-resolution frames.

  • Movement is less smooth but resolution is higher than interlaced formats in areas of movement.

720p60
  • Captures fast-action movement with clarity. However, still frames have lower resolution than 1080-line still frames.

  • Is ideal for sports videography and commercial television.

  • Easily downconverts to NTSC.

720p30
  • Is a variant of 720p60 with a lower frame rate.

PAL-Compatible HD Formats

The following table shows common PAL-compatible HD formats.

Format
Description
1080i50
  • Has high-resolution frames, is able to capture fast movement, and has reduced vertical resolution due to interlacing.

  • Easily downconverts to PAL.

1080p25
  • Has high-resolution frames.

  • Movement is less smooth but resolution is higher than interlaced formats in areas of movement.

720p50
  • Captures fast-action movement with clarity. However, still frames have lower resolution than 1080-line still frames.

  • Is ideal for sports videography and commercial television.

  • Easily downconverts to PAL.

720p25
  • Is a variant of 720p50 with a lower frame rate.

  • Can be slowed down to 24 fps for film transfers or downconverted to PAL.

Film-Compatible HD Formats

The following table shows common film-compatible HD formats.

Format
Description
1080p24
  • Has the resolution, scanning method, frame rate, and aspect ratio closest to film.

720p24
  • Is the same as 1080p24, but with lower resolution.

  • Is ideal for a “film transferred to video” look.