Shoot in SD or HD….

Using my Canon HXA1 I have the option to shoot in HD or SD. I edit in SD. Is it going to give me better quality to shoot HD and Down Convert in the camera to SD on play out to my editor. Or if I shoot SD in the first place will get the same results

Written by:

David Cooperstone is the owner of the Studio Video Facilities. He is currently the President of the BCPVA.

  • I'm going to skirt the question a bit and give you an advantage of shooting HD when you know your output won't be more than SD. With HD you have the ability to crop, pan, or zoom in on the image without losing quality, if your plan is to deliver a SD image. This means that you can reframe an image or you can add motion to it.

    As for the down conversion, I'm going to leave this to somoene else to answer.

  • Smelvin

    Yes the detail will be improved by shooting in HD and downconverting through the firewire port on the camcorder to SD video. The difference is amazing. you'll never want to shoot in SD again.

    Stephen Melvin

  • We often shoot HD for the benefits that Greg mentioned – the ability to crop/pan/zoom. It's a great idea to shoot 1080p and master 720p, which gives you the ability to have both a wide and CU shot in one take.

    Resolution aside, in terms of whether you'll see improvements in quality after down-converting, this may depend on the camera being used. For instance, the Canon 5D and 7D offer huge benefits in terms of dynamic range, so it's much easier to properly expose in tricky lighting conditions (

    But I would argue that a well-lit, properly exposed image, shot long-lens if possible to achieve a shallow DOF, on a large-format DVCAM camera (eg. 2/3″ chips), can look better when compared to a down-converted image shot with less care on a prosumer level HDV camera.

  • Don Greening


    Roger Husband (who has the same camera as you) says that you can shoot HD but output an SD stream when it's time to capture. He said the downconvert looks pretty good. If you're going to edit in SD anyway then let the camera do it because it's a whole lot of work and time to transcode your HD to SD during the edit process AND make it look good at the same time. My .02