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SD to HD Migration

When, Why, and How to Make the Move

It seems as if the world is moving to HD and it’s happening at a blistering pace. Organizations that are slow to migrate to a fully HD system may soon find that they aren’t communicating in their audience’s native tongue.

There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with not having an HD system — especially if it is working right now for you and for your organization. However what you may want to consider very soon is amassing parts of the signal chain that are scalable to HD, so that when the time is right, you can make the transition somewhat smoothly.

Start out with purchasing the right gear

Any gear you purchase today should be HD capable to future-proof your system. You will avoid wasting money on equipment that you won’t be able to use after the next five years. Buying HD gear from now on, even if you use the equipment in SD mode for the time being, will allow for more comfortable expansion in the future.

If you need to save some money, you can buy HD core components with SD price tags. For instance, you can purchase SD video switchers that have a software upgrade to HD. When you’re ready for HD functionally you get a software key that unlocks the HD operation, and you don’t have to replace the entire switcher.

Any gear you purchase today should be HD capable to future-proof your system.

What exactly needs an upgrade?

In short, almost everything.

Because HDTV is technically a different sized image, with more physical pixels than SDTV (this is why HD looks so good), it requires a mechanically different signal path that is verified and rated for HD transmission. Everything from the cameras, cabling, switcher, routing, and displays will need to be replaced to support HD bandwidth if these systems do not support HD. The irony is, if you don’t have any gear, your barrier for entry to HD is very small. It’s the facilities with massive SD infrastructure that will be disappointed to learn that all their gear needs to be replaced to duplicate existing functionality.

Migrate from SD to HD in 5 simple steps:

1. Make a Plan

Start with a plan. This may be a formal, bullet-points-with-timeline-poster, or it could just be grease pencil on a mirror that says “choose to go to HD”. Without a plan, you’ll never get there.

2. Watch HD

Buy a Blu-ray player and start watching HD for yourself. Invest in some great live concerts on Blu-ray and watch one a week. Take notes on how the camera frames the 16:9 shot, and then watch the concert again with the director’s commentary turned on to learn how others are exploiting HD technology. The act of being an HD student will get you in the HD habit.

3. Switch to 16:9

Even if you don’t have HD gear, make the transition to 16:9. Change your projector aspect ratio and force it to go wide, then mask off your current screens or buy new 16:9 screens. Tell your PowerPoint computer that you want to output WXGA. This will be a painful process as you experience the challenge of reformatting your content to make it fit on the screen correctly, but it will be worth it! Going 16:9 now, even if it is just SD, will save you so much time in the future as you learn the 16:9 workflow without the HD expense.

4. Only Buy HD

Only purchase equipment that is HD. When your SD camera flakes out, replace it with an HD camera that you can run in SD mode. This way over time you are building your HD arsenal. By upgrading one piece of gear at a time, some day in the future you will have more HD gear than SD gear and you can ‘flip the switch‘ and go all HD.

5. Build Your Team

Build a team and build consensus. Cultivate a group of people and share the dream you have to migrate to HD with them. Tell them why you should, tell them the plan and tell them how they can help. Watch HD concerts together as a team. Don’t try to do everything yourself, lead your team by pulling them together to carry out the HD migration plan.

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