Standard Definition Versus High Definition Video Formats

Motion is extremely flexible and can work with both highly compressed and uncompressed video.

Standard Definition Video

Despite having differing frame sizes, NTSC and PAL standard definition video share certain characteristics.

  • Both signals are interlaced, although the field order depends on the video capture device used.

  • Both signals have a 4:3 aspect ratio, but a 16:9 aspect ratio can be accommodated either anamorphically or by using letterboxing.

  • Both use nonsquare pixels to display the picture.

Analog standard definition formats include S-VHS, Hi-8, and Beta SP.

Standard
Frame size
Frame rates
Scanning method
NTSC
720 x 486
29.97
Interlaced
PAL
720 x 576
25
Interlaced

Digital standard definition formats include Digital Betacam and the D-1 through D-5 formats. Due to the wide variety of compression ratios and types in the different digital standards, the table below presents more information on these formats.

Digital format
Maker
Color sampling
Compression ratio
Compression type
Recorded bit rate
Digital Betacam
Sony
4:2:2
2.3:1
DCT
11.9 MB/sec.
D-1
Sony
4:2:2
Uncompressed
None
21.5 MB/sec.
D-2
Ampex
4fsc
Uncompressed
None
11.75 MB/sec.
D-5
Matsushita
4:2:2
Uncompressed
None
27.5 MB/sec.

Standard Definition DV

The frame sizes of NTSC DV and NTSC analog video differ. NTSC and PAL standard definition DV video signals are both interlaced, and share a 4:3 aspect ratio using nonsquare pixels.

Standard
Frame size
Frame rates
Scanning method
NTSC
720 x 480
29.97
Interlaced
PAL
720 x 576
25
Interlaced

Standard definition DV formats include DV, DVCAM, DVCPRO25, and DVCPRO50.

Digital format
Maker
Color sampling
Compression ratio
Compression type
Recorded bit rate
DV
Sony
4:1:1
5:1
DV
3.6 MB/sec.
DVCAM
Sony
4:1:1
5:1
DV
3.6 MB/sec.
DVCPRO 25
Panasonic
4:1:1 (NTSC)
4:2:0 (PAL)
5:1
DV
3.6 MB/sec.
DVCPRO 50
Panasonic
4:2:2
3.3:1
DV
7 MB/sec.

High Definition Video

All high definition formats use a nonanamorphic, 16:9 aspect ratio using square pixels, just like a computer display. Despite these similarities, there are many high definition video formats.

Standard
Frame size
Frame rates
Scanning method
720p
1280 x 720
23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 59.94, 60
Progressive
1080p
1920 x 1080
23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 59.94, 60
Progressive
1080i
1920 x 1080
25, 29.97, 59.94, 60
Interlaced

The different frame sizes, frame rates, and scanning methods serve different markets, both domestically and internationally. For example, the availability of the 720p format is a result of needing a lower-resolution format, so that current standard definition programming can be blown up more easily. It is also seen as a format suitable for programming that would not benefit from additional resolution, such as local news. For broadcast, bandwidth is a critical issue, and the larger resolution of 1080 video takes up valuable room on the broadcasting spectrum as well as on the available bandwidth of cable and satellite services.

As you can see in the previous table, each high definition standard supports numerous frame rates. These can be divided into two categories:

  • Frame rates for film production and post-production

  • Frame rates for broadcast video applications

Frame rates intended for broadcast video use can be interlaced, similar to standard definition video on a television, or progressive like a computer display.

Frame rate
Video format
23.98
A progressive frame rate intended for HD video transfer to film. 23.98 is rounded up from the actual frame rate of 23.976. This frame rate is useful in post-production since it can be converted easily by hardware to the interlaced 59.94 frame rate for video viewing purposes.
24
A progressive frame rate intended for HD video transfer to film
25
Matches the frame rate of PAL video, used for broadcast.
29.97
Matches the frame rate of NTSC video, used for broadcast. Some manufacturers that refer to a frame rate of 30 fps are actually referring to 29.97 fps.
50
Doubles the frame rate of PAL, a high-quality frame rate used for broadcast.
59.94
Doubles the frame rate of 29.97 video. It’s easier for broadcast equipment to down-convert from 59.94 to 29.97 for purposes of standard definition broadcasting.
60
Doubles the 30 fps (actually 29.97) frame rate corresponding to NTSC video; a higher quality frame rate used for high definition broadcast.

There are two options available for shooting high definition video:

  • Sony’s HDCAM format supports 29.97i and 60i. Sony also has a 24p format.

  • Panasonic’s high definition format, DVCPRO HD. Don’t confuse this format with DVCPRO 25 and DVCPRO 50, which are both standard definition formats. Panasonic also has a 24p format that offers variable speed using a variable frame rate technology.

Both of these acquisition formats have color sampling of 8 bits per channel. High definition tape decks also exist with color sampling of 16 bits per channel, for film scanning, mastering, and archival purposes.

Digital format
Maker
Color sampling
Compression ratio
Compression type
Recorded bit rate
HDCAM
Sony
3:1:1
7.1:1
DCT
17.5 MB/sec.
DVCPRO HD
Panasonic
4:2:2
1.7:1
DCT
12.5 MB/sec.

Supported DVCPRO HD Formats

Motion natively supports the following DVCPRO HD formats.

Format
MotionEasy Setup
Dimensions
Scanning method
1080i60
DVCPRO HD - 1080i60
1920 x 1080
Interlaced
720p60
DVCPRO HD - 720p60
1280 x 720
Progressive
720p30
DVCPRO HD - 720p30
1280 x 720
Progressive
720p24
DVCPRO HD - 720p24
1280 x 720
Progressive
Format
Timebase (on tape)
Timebase (in Motion)
Source timecode (in Motion)
1080i60
29.97 fps(59.94 fields per second)
29.97 fps
30 fps
720p60
59.94 fps
59.94 fps
30 fps
720p30
59.94 fps(flagged as 29.97)
29.97 fps
30 fps
720p24
59.94 fps(flagged as 23.976)
23.98 fps
30 fps

Note: Motion also supports additional uncompressed high definition formats using third-party PCI cards. The table above shows only DVCPRO HD formats currently supported by Motion.

Data Rates of Common High Definition and Standard Definition Formats

The table below shows the relative data rates of some commonly used high definition formats. These data rates can be used as a reference for deciding how much hard drive space you may need for the media you want to use in your project.

Format
Bits per second (video only)
Bytes per second
DVCPRO HD, 1080i60
100 Mbps
11.75 MB/sec.
DVCPRO HD, 1080i50
100 Mbps
11.75 MB/sec.
DVCPRO HD, 720p60
100 Mbps
11.75 MB/sec.
DVCPRO HD, 720p30
50 Mbps
11.75 MB/sec.
DVCPRO HD, 720p24
40 Mbps
11.75 MB/sec.
D-5 HD
210 Mbps
26.25 MB/sec.
DV
25 Mbps
3.6 MB/sec.
DVCAM
25 Mbps
3.6 MB/sec.
DVCPRO(25)
25 Mbps
3.6 MB/sec.
DVCPRO 50
50 Mbps
6.25 MB/sec.
Digital Betacam
95.2 Mbps
11.9 MB/sec.
D-1
172 Mbps
21.5 MB/sec.

Choosing a Frame Rate

Most DVCPRO HD cameras and decks allow two types of video frame rates:

  • Integer frame rates such as 60, 30, and 24 fps

  • NTSC-related frame rate variants such as 59.94, 29.97, and 23.98 fps

Note: If you are outputting via Final Cut Pro, Motion only supports NTSC-related timebases such as 59.94, 29.97, and 23.98 fps when transferring video between a computer and a DVCPRO HD device via FireWire. Using tapes recorded with whole-number frame rates such as 60 fps or 30 fps is not supported in Motion.