There have been major changes in the quality of televisions and filming equipment, from the days of grainy footage to the now, ultra-clear high definition footage we’ve come to expect from most broadcasts. Here are some basic facts about the different quality types you might find in media, both old and new, and the options you have for upgrading old tapes.

Standard definition (SD) is the most basic type of quality and high definition (HD) is media in a higher resolution and quality. SD is a standard 480p, which is used by older televisions and video cameras from the 1990s-2000s. HD is now the standard for broadcast, which started at 720p and was later replaced by 1080p. When transferring media, you can sometimes make the decision to upres, therefore increasing the quality of the final product. Upressing is the process of taking standard definition footage and transcoding it to HD or higher quality.

There are a few ways to take your standard definition footage and upconvert to HD or higher quality. The most practical way is to use “TERENEX” by blackmagic design which provides you the best picture quality conversion. The next best option is to upconvert by buying a KONA card by AJA. You can also use After Effects, Compressor, or FCP which can produce good results but you need a third party app such as Boris or Digital Anarchy. With each process, be prepared for very long render times.

SD is your most common type of quality for hi8 footage, VHS footage and some DVD’s. HD comes in 720p, 1080p, and 2k resolution and will be your standard quality for DVD movies or anything shot with a prosumer camera. The next revolution in quality will be the transition from 1080p to 4k. While a 4k, a 6k and even an 8k resolution already exists, the technology to play back in those resolutions isn’t that common yet, but is just around the corner.