Gaming consoles are providing HD games; most of the public service broadcasters that include BBC, Channel 5, ITV and Channel 4 have dedicated HD channels while the streaming services like Prime Instant Video and Netflix play HD movies.

But a lot of people wonder, what on earth is High Definition video? HD actually refers to the screen resolution and offers a more detailed image. HD followed from the standard definition- the level of picture detail in the analog TVs which most of us grew up watching, and probably never thought until someone told us that it was just, well, blurry.

High Definition vs. Standard Definition

Basically, the main difference between standard definition and high definition video is the number of pixels present in the image that is on display. In comparison to standard definition videos, high definition images have more pixels per square inch.

hs vs sd

It means that high definition images can show much finer details than standard definition images. A simple analogy explains it all. Imagine we have a 3×5” drawing card, and we’ve been told to draw a picture of a rose on it. We are given a choice of two drawing tools: either a finely sharpened pencil or a preschooler-type thick crayon. If you draw with the thick crayon, the picture can’t ever include as much detail as one could draw with a pencil because the crayons draw much thicker lines and one’s limited to the size of 3×5” card. Similar is the difference between HD and SD: the high definition images show finer details because they “draw” the image with smaller, and more pixels than the SD images can.

HD Cheatsheet

This is what you clicked the article for, so here is a rundown for you:

  • HD Ready/HD = 1280×720 pixels
  • Full HD = 1280×720 pixels
  • 4K = 4096×2160 pixels
  • HDRip = copied from an HD video, may actually be SD
  • HD 60fps = HD video at 60 frames per second, the number of images displayed, starting to be more commonplace
  • Ugly HD = The website says HD, but you get a blurry image – either badly encoded video or not really HD

Are You A Videophile?

The video fanatics, who are the type of people who went drooling over the Laserdiscs back in the days and have set up an expensive home theater setup in their living rooms with equipment that looks like something from the labs at NASA, would assure you that not only is the superior quality of the HD images noticeable, it is pretty much critical to one’s enjoyment of a movie.

To such people, the difference in the quality of images is much noticeable. But to many, who just want to watch the TV shows and videos in pace with images that look clear, there may not be much of a difference, except that the HD tag on your TV has now become a status symbol(Who doesn’t want to feel special?).

The fact is that, for many of us over 40, who are already wearing reading glasses, Even the real world may not be HD anymore, so do we really need our videos to be?

I Have seen HD videos, They Look The Same!

Since HD tags have become a status symbols – many providers tout low-quality content as HD or even go as far as giving you SD content with an HD tag. Look at the image, is it more detailed? if not, it’s probably not really HD. Keep your eyes open.

Moreover, pixels-per-square-inch thing also comes into play on your device side. So even if one gets a stream of high-definition 1080p images on a device which can display only 720p, you won’t be able to see all the extra details. So if your TV isn’t capable of playing HD videos, then there is really no point in spending the extra money on subscribing to or buying the HD videos for it.

The extra pixels in the high definition images aren’t distinguishable by a human eye when the image is small. Most of us would’ve experienced the case where we see a thumbnail version of an image on a website and it looks pretty clear, but when we click on it for loading the full-size picture, the enlarged picture looks blurred. The image seems fine to our eyes when it is small, but it looks all fuzzy when enlarged. Our vision has it’s limitations – not every resolution change is even visible.

In the same way, the fine detail offered by the HD videos isn’t noticeable at all on the smaller screens. But one wonders, how big does the TV need to be to get the benefits of the HD video?

HD Videos Are For Bigger Screens

We’ve seen the HD and SD versions of the movie The Matrix, which had tons of digital special effects, on our HD Tablet’s seven-inch screen, and didn’t notice any sort of difference. We repeated the same experiment on our 37-inch high definition TV and again, and suddenly there was a difference. We aren’t in the days of old 19-inch televisions, and even phone screens are getting bigger. If your image is getting blurrier with your fancy new 50inch screen – it’s time to upgrade (:

 

Conclusion

HD is a nice term, and it gives us that warm, fuzzy feeling we like. Do we need it? maybe, but it’s not bad to have. With prices dropping, movies getting more detailed, and screens getting noticeably larger it’s nice to have.

On the other hand, if all you watch are 80s movies, and you don’t really care much about the quality, or you have a small TV screen – you can put your mind to rest. HD is just a resolution – nothing more, nothing less.