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Should I Convert My SD Videos to HD?

I hear this question quite often, and the answer is, “It depends.” You might have a large collection of videos that you have shot over the years in standard definition that will be viewed on a new HD display. Would those videos benefit from an upconversion to HD, perhaps on Blu-ray disc?

Probably not. Most new DVD players have special HD upconvert hardware built in that will make standard DVDs look as good as they can on your HD display, so the best bet for archiving and viewing with the least trouble and expense is by simply converting the footage to high-quality DVD.

However, there are other instances where upconverting your footage to HD will be needed or advantageous. For example, when working on projects where SD and HD footage must be combined for HD delivery, you want to get the best possible quality from the older videos so they more closely match the HD clips they will be mixed with.

Your nonlinear editing software will probably handle the conversion automatically by scaling the SD video up to the HD project resolution, but the results are usually not so great. The two SD video clips below were upconverted to HD using Adobe Motion’s Scale to Frame feature. The clips are simply “blown up” without any special processing, resulting in a soft overall appearance, while having jagged edges at the same time.

In response to this need, vendors have developed software specifically for upconverting video with the best possible quality. Sophisticated algorithms are applied to analyze and process the video, enhancing the detail and sharpness for a much better looking result after conversion to HD.

I recently tried the Boris Effects Continuum UpRez plugin for Premiere Pro CS3 and After Effects (also available for Final Cut). I brought some DV clips into an HDV project in CS3, and applied the UpRez effect from the Effects folder. The results are markedly better, as you can see here.

The Continuum Uprez controls are pretty basic and simple to use, allowing the user to “dial in” the settings that work best for each particular clip.

As expected for this type of processor-intensive work, rendering was not terribly fast, but the results were far superior to using Premiere alone to scale my SD clips up to HD resolution. Sharpness and detail were increased, while scaling artifacts and softness were virtually eliminated when comparing both methods using a split-screen output to an HD display.

I own 2 HDV cameras and often use a third DV camera for additional B-roll coverage of weddings and events. For $99, the Continuum Unit UpRez plug-in can extend the useful life of that DV camera, allowing me to mix in those DV clips for Blu-ray delivery.

Continuum Unit UpRez is available for free trial download from the Boris site, and well worth trying for yourself to see if it suits your needs. The demo sold me on it and I purchased a copy for Digital Vision Productions.

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Should I Convert My SD Videos to HD?