Saturday, January 15, 2005

Reality HD

by Marc Loftus

This month, Post features coverage of facilities that are posting reality TV shows. This genre has undoubtedly become the fastest growing niche on TV and lures people in with its unscripted, unpredictable, anything-can-happen format, making subjects from motorcycle building to home improvement to globe-trotting competitions interesting to a mass audience.

The cameras are always rolling and footage quickly piles up, making an editor's job a real challenge when it comes to finding compelling storylines. Many of the shows are being captured on standard definition digital video formats--DV, DVCAM, IMX or even Sony's new disc-based XDCAM--but HD is making inroads. Last year, Mark Burnett Productions produced and posted The Casino, a reality show shot in 720p on Panasonic Varicam HD cameras. Fifteen Avid Media Composer systems, sharing 8TB of storage, were used to cut the show, which was finished on a DS Nitris at LA Digital. The Benefactor, starring billionaire Mark Cuban, was shot on I080i HDCAM and edited on Media Composers. Online took place at LA's Matchframe Video, where DS Nitris operators color corrected episodes and created masters.

Randall Dark, a principal at HD Vision Studios in Studio City, CA, has been working in HD since its infancy and sees The Casino and The Benefactor as just the beginning of an HD reality TV trend.

"The future of reality TV will be HD--period," states Dark, adding that the sale of so many HDTVs over the holidays will further increase demand for content. Shows like Survivor, says Dark, with its exotic locations and good-looking contestants, are well suited for the format. And HD, he believes, can breathe new life into shows that may be losing their initial appeal.

The cost of producing HD content is a popular question, one that often draws vague answers. For a show like Survivor, Dark says, the crew is already in place, as are the locations and other logistics. "How much more, incrementally, could it cost to go HD?"

HD Vision produced a series of 15 European travelogues for Wealth TV. Aside from the 30-minute shows, they also built an impressive HD stock library, some of which has already been licensed. New HDV cameras are expected to help in lowering the cost of HD production. Can they make reality programming even more interesting is another question.

from Post