Let's make no bones about it, 720p is a lovely HD standard to 'do business' with. Progressive frames and 60 of them per second to boot. I built Digital Foundry HD around this standard because it produces great results and is manageable from a bandwidth perspective - ie in terms of streaming gigs of data across a motherboard and bunging it on a hard disk. It's also uniformly supported as a standard across both next gen consoles and is easy to configure on PC to boot. All good.
Once you enter the realms of 1080 lines, things get iffy. 1080i genuinely works well on most HDTVs, but personally I can't stand it for the provison of HD assets - interlacing knackers any chance of extracting specific shots and it's harder to compress. 1080p solves those problems except bandwidth over 720p more than doubles. This then, is what is officially referred to amongst those in the know as 'a pain in the arse'.
Digital Foundry HD of course supports 1080p - indeed it's probably the only bespoke system you can directly connect to a PS3, 360 or PC to 'get' 1080p. But it is limited in terms of frame rate (typically 15fps max - fine for screens, not for vids).
So today, prompted by a request from Gametrailers, I got to work in making 1080p/30 and 1080p/60 video from DFHD a workable proposition. To my knowledge direct connection to the source and on the fly video capture at this level has never been done before, so achieving this would be a big breakthrough.
Achieve it, I did. There's the odd bit of technical sleight of hand going on (essentially we're capturing 1440x1080 and using anamorphic pixels on the encoding of the final deliverable asset) but crucially, it works and it looks great. And you can check it out yourself by clicking here to download a 1080p/30 capture from the portable DFHD unit, or here for a full-on 1080p/60 video courtesy of the monstrous desktop rendition of the hardware. Unzip and copy onto a decent USB stick and check it out on the Xbox 360's video player - which surprisingly has more horsepower for WMV playback than even some of the most powerful PCs here at Digital Foundry HQ.
The 30fps vid gives some small idea of the clarity of the original CineForm HD capture, but I'm going to have to research more to get 1080p/60 looking great on 360 and PS3 as a final deliverable asset. The 1080p/60 file here is a tantalising taster, but I'm sure I can get closer to the quality of the raw capture.
In the meantime, work continues behind the scenes at Digital Foundry for full raster 1920x1080 60fps capture from any HDMI, DVI or VGA source. Now this truly will be a world first, especially in the creation of assets that can be used nativel on Premiere Pro, Vegas and of course Final Cut Pro. Expect updates in the near future.
PlayStation 3 Ridge Racer 7 in all its majesty. Namco's insane drifting arcade meisterwerks never disappoint, and always provide welcome demo material for HD specialists requiring a 60fps source to muck about with.