Comparison between standard-definition & hi-definition film scan of 16mm film

About This Item

This clip offers a comparison in picture quality between a standard-definition, interlaced film scan (at 720x480 pixel resolution) and a hi-definition, progressive film scan (at 2048x1556 pixel resolution). The same KPIX-TV 16mm positive reversal newsfilm footage from December 22nd 1971 was used for this demonstration, featuring sequences from the premiere of Dirty Harry at Loews Theater in San Francisco.

The screen has been split, with the left hand side featuring a Standard-definition (SD), interlaced capture and the right hand side featuring a Hi-definition (HD), progressive capture. Opening graphic designed by Carrie Hawks.

Type of material
archival newsfilm
16mm color, co-magnetic sound film
Rights for this video belong to
Date aired
Originally aired on

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Hues can be modified at any resolution. And the notion that SD could be even considered superior to HD is absurd.

This and the next SD-HD comparison really ought to vanquish the notion that SD transfers are in any way superior to HD.  The increased clarity of detail is exceptional.  A near-plastic Eastwood forehead in SD reveals its oncoming wrinkles in HD, et al.  Of course, poorly rendered H.264 output can reduce the finest detail to mush, but does anyone seriously argue that greater resolution in transfers is not a wonderful thing? 

Great side by side example. There were times when I felt like the SD was preferable due to the hues. It seemed more authentic 70s. The HD version comes off as cold. 

I am bookmarking this to share with students in my summer film classes

Monaco's Quadra is a machine made by the company now known as DFT, not Rank Cintel. The Quadra was the last of DFT's standard definition telecines. They now produce the Spirit and the Scanity. While the hi def transfer has more resolution, the Quadra footage holds up quite well in a full screen comparison.

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