And if you consider 819-lines interlaced HDTV - then the French were using that back in 1949 in B&W. (In modern parlance it was 737i) The BBC described the 1936 all-electronic 405 line (aka 377i) as "High definition" in 1936, as it was considered massively better than than the early 32-240 line mechanical TV that it replaced. http://www.currybet.net/images/blog2...bbc-plaque.jpg
has an image of the plaque proclaiming the launch of the service as "High Definition"
I'm sure that the fact that 819 was just a little bit more than twice 405 had nothing to do with the French adopting it. (Anglo-French rivalry is legendary!) As with the UK 405 line system, 819 line production stopped as soon as regular 625 line productions started (the second French channel was 625, just as BBC Two was) and by the time the 405 and 819 line services were ceased in the mid-80s all production was 625 and then converted to 405/819 for transmission.
As for early HDTV recordings as we know them, there were quite a few productions in the 80s shot on the Japanese NHK HiVision system (MUSE was the broadcast system rather than the production system), and in the late 80s/early 90s some shows were also shot on the European Eureka 1250 system (both 1992 Olympic Games in Albertville and Barcelona, as well as Wimbledon for a number of years - initially with BTS KCH1000s and Thomson cameras, then the early 1" LDK CCD cameras)
Originally analogue 1" reel-to-reel Videotape machines were used to record HDTV. There were some digital 1" open reel designs, and in Europe a lot of recording was made to D1 SD VTRs (which launched around 1987) either using 4 decks to record losslessly (the image was split into 1440x1152 and groups of 4 pixels were split to create 4 parallel 720x576 feeds which allowed editing in the SD domain followed by an autoconform for the other three recordings) Eventually a low-latency compression system was used (which also allowed a visible SD 720x576 image of limited bit depth) to allow recording onto a single D1 deck. Similar techniques were used to convert SD D5 decks to HD D5. For portable recording the Japanese HiVision system included a Betacam SP/MII-like format called UniHi. It was analogue component, and not quite as high quality as the 1" analogue recorders, but it could be used for recording in planes, helicopters or for single-camera recording.
The BBC and NHK co-produced a drama in 1989 on the HiVision system called "The Ginger Tree". http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096595/
This was shot on location but using a small van with the 1" VTR and remote camera "racks" (aka "shading") in the style that was common for location single-camera video shooting at the BBC (and I guess NHK) in the 80s. Unfortunately there was no 1125 to 625 converter available back then, so UK viewers saw an 1152 to 525 to 625 double conversion, so didn't get the benefits of higher resolution. I'd love to see this drama released on Blu-ray... (And it would be interesting to see the Barcelona and Albertville 1992 stuff in HD - I only watched the HD-MAC broadcasts in SD)
Sky Arts in the UK recently broadcast the Montreux Jazz Festival from the late 80s in HD. Obviously shot on tubed cameras by the amount of comet tailing in specular highlights. When I saw HDTV demos at IBC in Brighton in the late 80s/early 90s, there was often footage shot on HiVision gear from the 1984 Olympics in LA (including the bloke with the jet pack). If it hadn't been for the US boycott of the Moscow 1980 games (and the tech embargo) NHK have said they would have shot stuff at the 1980 games.
This website is interesting. It appears that Peter Wilson worked on the Montreux, Genesis and Ginger Tree early HD productions! http://www.hddc.co.uk/principal.html