Video Size Differences – 480p, 720p & 1080p

Sacramento Ad & PR Guru David Ligon

David Ligon, Creative Principal, Sacramento

September 09, 2016

Sometimes I talk to my clients about footage and video size differences, such as Standard Definition, 720p and 1080p (we often don’t get into the 4K discussion, but that’s coming).  Usually this is because they have footage they want to incorporate into something Ligon Media is shooting. A lot of times this is old footage and I need to explain to them the difference in video sizes.  For those of you not aware what these sizes are, I put together this little graphic to illustrate the size difference in the 3 most common formats.  I typically shoot video in 1080p (which is Blu Ray quality) and will either output the video to 1080p or 720p (which is what HD television is mostly broadcast in).  I find both of these formats are good for the internet and modern projectors.  Standard definition is what our old, non-flat screen TVs broadcast in and is much smaller and not nearly as sharp.  So when we receive footage that is in Standard definition it will take up only a fraction of the screen.

  • 1080p = 1920 pixels (wide) by 1080 pixels (high)
  • 720p = 1280 pixels (wide) by 720 pixels (high)
  • Standard Def = 720 pixels (wide) by 480 pixels (high)

“Standard definition is what our old, non-flat screen TVs broadcast in and is much smaller and not nearly as sharp. ”

If I’m doing a video that is 1080p and the client gives me old footage that is smaller, then I have to stretch the video to match the size, which usually will end up with it being very pixelated. 10 years ago we shot video that was 4 x 3; today most video is 16 x 9. So if you give me a standard definition clip that is 4 x 3, then I have to stretch it both horizontally and vertically (or use bars on the side and just fill it vertically).

My solution is to reshoot the footage when possible. It’ll look better.

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