What is a "Broadcast Quality" HD Camera?

A job I wanted to bid on required "three "HD/SDI 1920X1080 Broadcast Quality Digital cameras". But, what really is "broadcast quality"? Even in the age of 4K, the answer is important because a videographer with one level of camera might cost $500 or less, while one with a much better camera could easly be >$1,000.

Broadcast HD Camera

A quick internet search was not helpful, so I put the question to TIVA-DC's iForum listserve. I knew many of TIVA's members would have direct experience. Especially helpful were the phone calls I received from Matt Altheim and Chad Moore.  This blog article summarizes the information everyone provided.

Broadcast quality HD is a somewhat subjective standard set primarily by major networks such as Discovery. Some commenters seemed to think there was a single standard, while at least one suggested different networks used slightly different standards.

Below are the attributes provided, in rough order of importance.

  1. Able to save a data stream at 50 m/bps or higher. In at least one person's experience, this did not necessarily need to be in-camera -- HD/SDI output to an external recorded was acceptable, and technically even a 1/3" chip camera recording externally via HD/SDI output would meet this standard.
  2. 3 chips, preferably 2/3", although some thought 1/2". 1/4 and 1/3" often deemed unacceptable. (Note that the new Super 35mm sensor cameras would be an exception to the 3 chip expectation.)
  3. 4:2:2 color space encoding
  4. 1920x1080, not HDV which is 1440x1080. At least one person thought 1280x720 might be acceptable, however. 

By these standards, the Sony EX-1/EX-3 level cameras are marginal, and probably the minimum (3 chip, 1/2" CCDs, recording at 1920x1080 at 35 M/bps). The Sony HXR-NX5U meets the 1920x1080 and HD/SDI out requirements, which were the most definitively stated requirements for my particular job, but otherwise would not be considered "broadcast quality" by most. (I apologize to the Panasonic fans out there. I'm only fluent in Sony.)

About the Author

Jacquie Greff

Jacquie Greff

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