Hurray for Hollywood in HD
ET, Insider share a new facility and make the switch
By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable, 9/7/2008 8:00:00 PM
CBS's Entertainment Tonight and The Insider are ready for their close-ups. The two entertainment newsmagazines launch in high-definition on Sept, 8, joining just a handful of syndicated shows ready to take the technological plunge.
The staffs of both shows spent their summer making the move from the iconic Paramount Studio in Hollywood to CBS's brand-new digs in Studio City, Calif.
“We're set up for years to come in HD, with stages and newsrooms that are beyond anything we could have done here at Paramount,” says John Nogawski, president of CBS Television Distribution. “We started completely from scratch,” and that includes everything from the stage to the producers' computers to the miles of fiber-optic cable that connects everything.
At the start, fewer than 30 stations nationwide will air one or both shows in HD; it's still difficult for broadcasters to receive and air syndicated shows in HD. But that will change, and ET and The Insider will be that much ahead of the game.
Entertainment Tonight kicks off its new era with several stories that highlight the difference a hi-def picture can make. The show launches its 28th season with an exclusive on the filming of Dan Brown's best-selling novel Angels and Demons in Rome, a perfect location to show off ET's new technology, says Linda Bell Blue, executive producer of both shows.
“We followed [Angels and Demons] star Tom Hanks around the streets of Rome to see what [producers] Brian Grazer and Ron Howard have done to make this novel come to life,” says Bell Blue. ET also has an exclusive with singer Natalie Cole, who talks about being diagnosed with hepatitis C, and travels to Rwanda with anchor Mary Hart to check out endangered silverback gorillas.
“High-definition is so perfect for this content,” says Terry Wood, CBS Television Distribution's president of creative affairs and development. “You can see it literally jumping off the screen. Entertainment news really is about the image and the story that goes with it.”
To best showcase those carefully gathered images of celebrities, both shows redesigned their stages, adding tons of high-definition monitors and glitzy new sets. ET's set, designed by Emmy-award winner set designer Steve Bass, creates a “Hollywood event every night,” says Bell Blue. It's backed by four 103-inch and 13 60-inch Panasonic plasma screens, and even has its own red carpet.
“We're in the business of displaying creative information,” says Dan Henry, the executive in charge of production for both ET and The Insider. “Having multiple displays behind the sets allows us to be really creative.”
The set of The Insider is separated from ET by a tunnel, so that both shows' talent and crews can easily go back and forth. Lara Spencer, host of The Insider, who moved from New York to Los Angeles this summer, will stand atop an eight-foot high Plexiglas stage—called “the Insider bus”—that can be put on wheels and moved around the set.
The sets and newsrooms were built from the ground up, and everything is running across high-speed fiber optics on computers with high processing speeds. “Hi-def is definitely a bandwidth hog,” Henry says. “So we designed our facility with that in mind.”
Producers will work on Avid's Interplay system, allowing them to do much of their editing on desktops. When video arrives producers will be able to work with it first in low-resolution and several staffers can simultaneously view one piece of video—with a production assistant archiving it while other producers pull clips for stories, for example. When producers are ready, they can choose one of the 28 edit bays to finish the piece.
Says Bell Blue, “This really is the next generation of these shows.”
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