Pimping HD

(a beginner’s guide to HD)


If you’re interested in making fan videos, you’re probably aware of the phenomenon on YouTube of saving your finished video as “HD.” For most vidders, this means that they edit clips from a DVD rip (or downloaded clips) and then size the finished video up to HD for display on YouTube. But this is not the HD that we’re talking about here.

We’re talking about REAL HD, as in the HD that comes from a Blu-Ray disk. Genuine High Definition. And there’s a huge difference between it and “editing in regular resolution and uploading to Youtube saved at HD settings.” A HUGE difference.

At the top of this page is a screenshot showing three images. One is captured from a video clip encoded at regular settings in DivX AVI (this is often the type of video used to edit fan videos). One image shows DVD quality. And the final image shows HD quality. Hopefully, most of you can see the difference. (Even if you can’t, most of your viewers or audience can.)

So how do you get this quality in your fan videos? Well, first you have to get your hands on HD quality video. This may come from a ripped Blu-Ray disk. (Don’t ask me how to do it, I haven’t tried yet—but this tutorial gives some tips for Windows users.) Or, often you’ll get HD clips from a friend (we in the Richard Armitage fan community have such a clip “angel” in the form of RichardArmitageNet), or you’ll *cough* get downloaded MKV files somewhere.

Then when you get the clips, you’ll want to convert them to a more “editing friendly” format for your editing software.

Why not just open the clips you download straight away in your editor? Well, nothing is stopping you from trying that, but you’re on your own if anything goes wrong. There are some profound reasons why trying to edit compressed HD files can cause problems.

“Compressed” video files mean that the video has been compressed down for distribution on the Internet. The quality and picture clarity of the compressed video may look great, but inside, there’s stuff missing that can make things more difficult for your editing software.

This tutorial shows what the insides of a “compressed” video clip looks like. In order to save disk space, some of the frames are incomplete. These incomplete frames rely on other information contained in the “Keyframe” or “i-frame.” (There’s about one keyframe or i-frame every 15 frames.) This saves a lot of space, but when it comes to editing, it requires that the editing software “re-arrange” everything on the fly so all the frames look complete again. Well, it’s a bit convoluted, but the bottom line is, it’s more taxing (and confusing) for editing software to try to edit in compressed formats, like DivX AVI, XviD AVI, MPEG, MPEG4, H.264, and other formats that you often download. Sometimes the editing software messes up when it’s trying to edit compressed and you can get error messages, bad quality, frames out of order, and other annoyances.

And this is made even worse when editing in HD, because everything’s BIGGER. So it’s important when you edit in HD to convert your clips to a format better for editing—a format which has each frame “complete” so that the software doesn’t have to work extra hard to get everything looking right again.

We’ve got tutorials here showing you how to do that. Once you convert your HD clips, it’s smooth sailing and you even can edit on an old slow computer if you want. (Which is just what I did, just to prove that it could be done—I made an HD video on a circa 2002 computer.)

This will require that you have more disk space, but that’s pretty cheap to come by these days. A 1 TB (that’s 1000 GB) external hard drive is under $100.

So don’t be afraid to get started! Here’s a tutorial with more information on HD and what it looks like, how to convert your clips and how to set up your specific software (either Mac or PC).