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What is HDV? What’s the Difference Between HDV and DV?

HDV Format Explained

Last updated on March 12th, 2024 at 03:28 am

HDV stands for High-Definition Video. It should not be confused with HD video.

HDV is the high-definition version as applied to the DV magnetic tape format. One of its selling points is HD video can be recorded on an inexpensive DV cassette tape.

HDV Logo

HDV is a video format developed jointly by JVC, Sharp Canon, and Sony and was announced on September 30, 2003, in Japan.

Companies that expressed support for the format included :

  • Adobe Systems Incorporated
  • Canopus Co., Ltd.
  • KDDI R&D Laboratories
  • Sony Pictures Digital Networks
  • Ulead Systems, Inc.

HDV History

Back in 2002, Sony and JVC, understanding the limitations of MiniDV’s standard definition, collaborated to create a high-definition (HD) tape format. Their goal? To bring affordable HD recording to the consumer market.

HDV utilized the existing MiniDV tape infrastructure but employed MPEG-2 compression and FireWire connectivity to squeeze high-resolution 720p and 1080i video onto those tiny cassettes.

Overcoming hurdles like compression artifacts and ensuring compatibility with editing software, HDV was born in 2003, ready to revolutionize home movies.

2004 to 2008 could be considered the Golden Age of HDV.

Camcorder manufacturers jumped on the HDV bandwagon, churning out various models at various price points.

Hungry for sharper video detail, consumers jumped on board, making HDV the dominant format for amateur videographers.

Advantages galore: Compared to MiniDV, HDV offered stunningly clearer picture quality, smoother motion (thanks to progressive scan), and even 5.1 surround sound options. These features, once reserved for professionals, were now accessible to anyone.

Boosting Creativity: HDV’s popularity fueled a wave of video-sharing platforms like YouTube, opening new avenues for amateur filmmakers and birthing a generation of online content creators.

Cracks in the HD Facade

Storage Limitations: While MiniDV tapes fit comfortably in pockets, HDV’s larger files demanded bigger and more expensive storage solutions. This, coupled with the limited editing power of early computers, became a stumbling block for some users.

Compression Cost: HDV’s complex compression, though efficient, introduced unwanted artifacts, particularly in fast-moving scenes. This trade-off, while acceptable for most, wasn’t perfect.

The Evolving Landscape: As technology galloped forward, the rise of solid-state storage and flash-based camcorders with superior image quality began to chip away at HDV’s market share.

The Fall of a King:

Mid-2000s: The emergence of more compact and user-friendly HD camcorders with built-in hard drives or flash memory further eroded HDV’s appeal.

2010s: The Final Nail: By the 2010s, advancements in image stabilization, 4K resolution, and smartphone videography rendered HDV obsolete. Manufacturers phased out production, marking the format’s final curtain call.

Legacy of a Pioneer:

Though short-lived, HDV’s impact is undeniable. It made high-definition video accessible to the masses, democratizing content creation and paving the way for the explosion of online video. Its demise wasn’t a failure but a natural evolution in the ever-evolving world of digital media.

HDV may be a relic of the past, but its story reminds us of the constant push for better visual experiences and the ever-changing landscape of technology. As we continue to capture and share our lives in ever-higher resolutions, it’s worth remembering the humble tape format that once fueled our digital dreams.

HDV Encoding

HDV is encoded in MPEG-2 (MP@H14 for video) and is recorded on a mini-DV tape or a standard DV tape. The aspect ratio supported is 16:9. Video resolution is available in 1080i and 720p.

Although it is recorded in higher quality, you get the same tape run time. This is because the video bitrate is set at that of DV. As such, you can capture HDV through a Firewire connection into a video editor.

HDV was meant as a replacement for DV. It allowed amateurs and pros to shoot video at a higher quality, affordably using the same mini-DV tape. Recording, as mentioned earlier, can also be done on a standard DV tape.

That said, there are differences in the HDV format

Different Types of HDV

There are three HDV formats, each manufacturer has its own standard.

HDV 720p

JVC’s version of the format is called HDV1. Video is recorded at a data rate of 19Mbps. Resolution is 720p (1280 x 720), namely 720/60p, 720/30p,
720/50p and 720/25p

There’s an option to record at 720/24p.

HDV 1080i

Sony’s HDV format is called HDV2. So, is Canon’s. Video is recorded at a bit rate of 25Mbps. Resolution is 1920 x 1080 in interlaced mode (1080i) at 50 and 60 frames per second (fps)-1080i/60, 1080i/50.

There’s an option to record at 1080/30p, 1080/25p and 1080/24p

Color Sampling

Color sampling for both HDV 720p and HDV1080i is set at 4:2:0.

HDV 720p and HDV 1080i Audio

For audio compression, MPEG1 Audio Layer II is used. Sampling Frequency is set at 48kHz.

Quantization is at 16 bits. The bit rate after compression is 384kbps.

Audio Mode is Stereo (2 channels).

For HDV 720p, there’s an option to record with MPEG1 Audio Layer II 2 channels and in PCM (2 channels or 4 channels) simultaneously.

For HDV 1080i, there’s an option to record in MPEG2 Audio Layer II or MP2 (4 channels).

Limitations and Incompatibility

HDV’s promise of quality aside, there is a serious format limitation you should take note of.

You can’t play a JVC HDV tape or transfer through FIrewire on a Sony HDV deck or video camera. Similarly, JVC HDV will not support a Sony HDV tape.

Canon, for example, won’t play JVC and Sony HDV tapes.

Video Editing

If you’re editing on Premiere Pro, for instance, and are capturing video into the program, you’ll be asked whether you are capturing DV or HDV.

You have to select one of these modes for the Firewire capture device to understand the type of video format it will be handling – DV or HDV?

HDV vs DV: Difference Between HDV and DV

Here are the main differences between HDV and DV

Compression Method

With DV, compression is in the intraframe mode. Each frame is compressed independently of the other frames.

HDV uses MPEG-2 compression. With MPEG-2, intraframe and interframe compression is possible.

Interframe compression is undertaken within a Group of Pictures (GOP). Basically, the compression of a frame is dependent on the frame that comes before it. Repeated information (if there’s no change in movement) is discarded.

The disadvantage of the MPEG-2 compression is a single dropped frame affects the GOP. Experts recommend the use of DV tapes made specially for the HDV format.

Also, an hour of DV footage consumes around 13GB of hard disk space. HDV (native format) takes up around 11GB.

The MPEG-2 compression offers quality video but it requires a more powerful video editing computer.


HDV is a high-definition tape format that offers 1080i resolution at 30 frames per second NTSC and 25 frames per second for PAL.

This is just one of the resolutions available. On the other hand, DV offers a standard definition resolution of 480i at 60 frames per second.

In other words, HDV 1080i offers at least 4 times the image area of standard definition (SD) DV.

HDV vs DV Table Summary

Check out the table below to quickly learn the difference between the HDV and DV formats.

Year Introduced20031995
Format DeveloperSony, JVC, CanonPanasonic, Sony
Resolution720p (1280×720)Standard Definition (various)
Video formatHigh DefinitionStandard Definition
Tape formatMiniDVMiniDV
Cost (at launch)More expensiveLess expensive
Editing demandsHigher computer resourcesLower computer resources
Year Fell Out of PopularityMid-2010sEarly 2010s
Current UseObsoleteObsolete

HDV Camcorders

JVC released the first HDV camcorder (handheld) GR-HD1 in 2003. Sony’s first HDV camcorder was the  HDR-FX1 (1080i) released in September 2004. Canon’s  Canon XL H1 made its debut in September 2005.

By 2010, the production of HDV camcorders had ceased.

Still, you may find used models online, though.

Sony HVR-Z5P Professional HDV PAL Camcorder.

HDV Portable Video Recorder

Sony gv-hd700 HDV portable recorder

The Sony GVHD700 is used to review HDV tapes after shooting.

HDV Tapes

Tapes specially made for HDV shooting are available online. These tapes will help you avoid incidences of dropped frames.

HDV Tape

Check out the following:

PHDVM-63DM DigitalMaster DV/HDV/DVCAM Tape.

HDV Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is an HDV camcorder?
    An HDV camcorder is a portable video recorder that uses MiniDV tapes to record High Definition (HD) video. They were popular in the early 2000s.
  2. What are the advantages of HDV camcorders?
    HDV offered a more affordable way to shoot HD video compared to professional HD cameras at the time. They were also relatively compact and familiar to users of standard definition MiniDV camcorders.
  3. What are the disadvantages of HDV camcorders?
    HDV used compression, which could slightly reduce image quality compared to uncompressed formats. Editing HDV footage could also be demanding for older computers.
  4. What kind of tapes do HDV camcorders use?
    HDV camcorders use standard MiniDV tapes, but the format for recording the video data is different from standard DV tapes. Regular DV tapes won’t work in an HDV camcorder.
  5. Where can I find new HDV tapes?
    New HDV tapes are becoming increasingly difficult to find as the format is obsolete. You might have better luck with online retailers or used equipment stores.
  6. Can I play back HDV footage on a regular TV?
    Most modern TVs won’t have a direct connection for HDV playback. You might need a computer with compatible software or a device with an i.LINK (IEEE 1394) port and a FireWire adapter.
  7. How can I transfer HDV footage to my computer?
    Most HDV camcorders have an i.LINK (FireWire) port for connecting to a computer. You’ll need compatible video editing software to capture the footage.
  8. What video editing software works with HDV?
    Modern video editing software can typically handle HDV footage, but check the software’s specifications for compatibility.
  9. Is HDV a good format for recording video today?
    No, HDV is an outdated format. Modern camcorders and even smartphones record in HD or higher resolutions with better quality and easier workflow.
  10. What are some alternatives to HDV?
    Popular options include AVCHD, XAVC S, or even raw formats for professional use. These offer higher resolutions, better compression, and wider compatibility.


HDV Info Website

HDV: What You NEED to Know! The Complete Guide 

How to Shoot, Edit and Distribute HDV: The Complete, Up-to-date Guide to Working with the HDV Format 

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