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'ET,' 'Insider' Go HD

CBS' Entertainment Tonight and The Insider will make the leap to high-definition come September, making them the first two entertainment newsmagazines to announce such a move.

“We know from watching sports that high-definition really enhances the moment,” says Terry Wood, president of creative affairs and development at CBS Television Distribution. “When you watch a football game or any sport in hi-def, you feel like you are there. Making the viewers who tune in to what we do every day feel like they are on the red carpet or at the Oscars with us is a really important experience for them.

“When you have brands like ET and The Insider, they really deserve a big canvas,” Wood adds. “High-definition is going to give us that next step.”

“Everything is so much bigger and brighter and jumps off the screen in high-definition,” says Linda Bell Blue, executive producer of both shows. “Everything from the colors of the actresses' dresses on the Oscar red carpet to the facets of the diamonds in their rings and necklaces will be more brilliant.”

Syndicated shows have trailed primetime, sports and even local news in switching to hi-def, but they are coming around. CBS' The Oprah Winfrey Show, produced by Winfrey's Harpo Productions, last week said it would start broadcasting in high-definition this fall. Last fall, CBS' Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, produced by Sony Pictures Television, became the first two syndicated first-run shows to jump to HD. This fall, Disney-ABC's Wizard's First Rule, a weekly first-run fantasy hour, also will appear in HD.

Making the move has been in the works for the past year and a half at CBS, and involves migrating the entire production of both shows from the company's historic Paramount lot near Los Angeles' Hancock Park neighborhood to the brand-new CBS Studio Center on Radford Avenue in Studio City, Calif. Production staff will begin moving over to the new studio this summer, with rehearsals starting in August. Both ET and The Insider will offer their entire shows in hi-def come Sept. 8, Bell Blue says; that's the day ET premieres its 28th season.

Producers won't flip the switch for months, but both shows have begun producing HD pieces in preparation. Bell Blue says the first such segment will feature Manhattan-based host Lara Spencer reporting on location from Barney's department store, which producer Jerry Bruckheimer took over to shoot his new movie Confessions of a Shopaholic, opening next February. That shoot was the first time The Insider broke out its new Sony XD hi-def cameras, which will be used to gather video in the field.

The shows' producers will join forces in a newsroom that is three times bigger than the space in its current headquarters, so both staffs can more easily collaborate. ET and The Insider will each get new sets, designed by Steve Bass, who also creates the sets used by the Emmy and Grammy awards. And design firm Rezn8 is adding a new high-definition graphic look, using Apple-based software and computers.

Both shows will use Avid's Interplay non-linear workflow production system, the next generation of Avid's iNews, to cut and design video packages from the desktops, according to Bell Blue. Miles of cable have already been laid, with all-new digital master control rooms constructed to serve both shows. And some 28 edit bays will be available to the shows' producers, who will continue the 24/7 work of getting ever-breaking entertainment news out the door—only now in HD.

“Hi-def is a whole new ball game,” Bell Blue says. “The makeup is different, the lighting is different, even the way we shoot is different. We really are blazing a trail here.”