HD Formats

This post was published more than a few years ago (on 2009-11-23) and may contain inaccurate technical information, outmoded thoughts, or cringe takes. Proceed at your own risk.

I was just thinking about various consumer and pro HD formats now in common use for both production and delivery, and tried to rank them according to perceived quality (in terms of capacity to retain detail and color information). What other formats am I missing? What do you disagree with?

The notations in parentheses indicate what the format is capable of, not necessarily the most common usage.

For production:

  1. Cineon, EXR, TIFF (still image files, one per frame, as high resolution as needed)
  2. IMAX Film
  3. 70mm Film (which is hard to say is in “common usage” anymore)
  4. 35mm Film (at least 2K resolution, possibly 4K, depending on the stock)
  5. D5 (4:4:4 2048x1080, ~300 Mbit/s)
  6. HDCAM SR (4:2:2 or 4:4:4 1920x1080, 440 or 880 Mbit/s)
  7. HDCAM (3:1:1 1440x1080 144 Mbit/s)
  8. DVCPRO HD (4:2:2 1440x1080, 100 Mbit/s)
  9. HDV (1440x1080 MPEG-2 25 Mbit/s)
  10. AVCHD (1920x1080 H.264 up to 24 Mbit/s)

For distribution:

  1. Blu-ray (1920x1080 H.264 or SMPTE VC-1, up to 40 Mbit/s)
  2. Sony PS3 HD rental (1080p, compression and data rate unknown)
  3. tv/iTunes HD rental (1280x720, H.264, data rate unknown)
  4. Netflix on Sony PS3 (1080p, compression and data rate unknown) via
  5. Netflix on XBOX 360 (720p, compression and data rate unknown) via
  6. Netflix on Roku (some HD, but I haven’t dug up any details so far)

Obviously, I need to do some more research into the delivery methods. And perhaps this should become a handy-dandy table.

3 thoughts on “HD Formats”

  1. Are there different models of 360 that have different chips or something? Or does that just reflect system software updates for all of them?

  2. Colin Barrett

    There are different models of 360, but in a software update MS enabled 1080p out on all models. Most games don’t run at 1080p, but there’s the option.

Comments are closed.