Understanding the HD-SDI format

Understanding HD-SDI technology

HD-SDI or “High Definition – Serial Digital Interface” is a technology wave that started a few years ago and hit the Asian import market by storm.   HD-SDI brings amazingly clear full HD (1920x1080P) resolution pictures with the ease of installation and operation of a traditional CCTV system. In fact, the HD-SDI DVRs look and operate just like your old unit. Although it may look similar, it uses an entirely different type of signal and therefore, the cameras are different. Traditional analog cameras will not work with a HD-SDI DVR. Conversely, HD-SDI cameras will not work with a conventional DVR. Here are the pros and cons to consider when looking at this high def system.


  1. Easy to install – the HD-SDI system uses common coax cable. That’s good news if you are replacing and existing system.   You don’t have to install new wire!!!     Well maybe… The HD-SDI is particular about the cable type. If you have RG-59 coax with a 95% copper braided shield, you are in luck. HD-SDI will work for you if your cable runs are about 450 feet or less. You do not even need to change the connectors.   This new system uses BNC connectors just like your old system. Obviously, if this is not a concern with a new install.

If you have the thinner pre-made cables or cable TV coax cable (identifiable by the aluminum foil shield and the silver braid), the signal will be rejected by the DVR. Don’t even try it!

  1. Easy to understand – The DVR looks and programs like any conventional DVR.   Your learning curve is pretty small.   If you want to view images over a network, the same level of networking knowledge is required for the HD-SDI as it is for any other traditional DVR on the market.
  2. Reasonably priced – The current wave of DVRS (such as our Prime XVST-MAGIC-U16M  16 channel DVR) is priced between the lower cost analog CCTV equipment and the higher priced IP camera NVR systems. The price bracket for the cameras are even lower considering the advancing technology. A nice quality outdoor IR camera (such as our XIR-2142FV is priced under $200 ea.).
  3. Beautiful picture for the price – During the day or in locations with good lighting, the picture is stunning. If you have a low light application, be sure to use an IR camera (such as our XIR-2282FV). The infrared will give you a reasonably good picture up to about 80 feet away.   Beyond that (as all IR cameras do) the picture quality will degrade to that of analog video due to the lack of sensitivity of the CMOS chip used in most HD-SDI cameras and the increase in picture noise (typical of import cameras but less of a problem with name brand cameras).


  1. Recording speed limitations – The older systems had a maximum recording speed of 7 images per second, per camera at full resolution. Personally, I don’t think this is a problem but some people may. For me, I’d rather have quality than quantity any day. Remember, the faster you run your recorder, the faster it will fill up the hard drive(s) = less storage time.  Processor improvements on new models have mostly solved this issue.
  2. Unproven reliability – HD-SDI is a technology offering on the market by “Asian import companies”. Only what we would call “import (off) brands are manufacturing these. With a brand name such as Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, Pelco or Axis you have more consistent reliability and warranty service.
  3. GUI lacks polish – The GUIs (graphical User Interface) for system programming, network viewing and mobile viewing just aren’t as seamless as those from Exacq, ONSSI, Panasonic etc.   Do they work – yes, but they could be better. They lack some functionality that I feel they should have but all of the basic needs are there. Once this technology takes a stronger hold, we should see improvements in this area.
  4. Cable requirements – As mentioned before, you must use proper coax cable and with it, you have a distance limitation of around 450 feet. Not a problem for most applications but something to be aware of if you have a huge warehouse.

In conclusion, would I give this technology a try? – heck yes.  So far, so good. Yes, it costs a little more than analog but you get full high def imaging.   Leaps and bounds sharper than standard definition. This will make getting those details for the police from the playback video when you need them a reality.

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Author: dlwyatt1

dlwyatt1 is a 35 year industry professional with a degree in low voltage systems engineering. He has designed multi-million dollar projects for fortune 100 companies and founded Pro Security Warehouse and Integrated Security Solutions 20 years ago.

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