This fall, CBS's Dr. Phil will join the ranks of syndicated shows that are switching to high-definition.
The addition of Dr. Phil will bring the total number of first-run and off-net syndicated strips airing in high definition this fall to eight. The CBS-distributed and Sony-produced Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! already have been airing in high definition for nearly two years, after both shows launched in the new format on Sept. 11, 2006. Warner Bros.' Two and a Half Men last fall premiered in high-definition, which wasn't as a big a leap because it's produced in HD for CBS. And in March, CBS started distributing Everybody Loves Raymond in high-definition, remastering the show's first three seasons so that all nine would be available to TV stations.
On Sept. 8, Phil will join CBS's Entertainment Tonight and The Insider, Warner Bros.' The Ellen DeGeneres Show and the Harpo-produced and CBS-distributed The Oprah Winfrey Show on the high-definition stage. Unlike ET, Insider and Ellen—all of which are moving to brand-new studios—Phil won't move off its Stage 29 set, which is located on the historic Paramount lot just south of Hollywood. It will, however, get a complete upgrade before the show premieres for its seventh season.
Dr. Phil's host and executive producer Phil McGraw “wants to be able to give his audience the best viewing experience he possibly can,” says Rich de Michele, the show's executive in charge.
Terry Wood, president, creative affairs and development for CBS Television Distribution says, “Many TV stations bought Dr. Phil as a cornerstone for their schedule. So we think it's important to lead the way with HD both locally and nationally.”
The studio will be rewired and re-outfitted, from the set to the edit bays and control room.
Dr. Phil, like Oprah, plans to use Sony HDC-1500 multi-format HD cameras in the studio. The on-stage monitors used on the set will be “very large Panasonic monitors with rear-screen projection,” de Michele says, although the show's producers have yet to settle on whether to use plasma, LCD or LED monitors in the control room and around the set.
“We are just evaluating these ourselves to come up with the best picture possible,” de Michele says.
In the control room, Dr. Phil is going with Thomson Grass Valley's Kalypso HD switcher, which supports either high- or standard-definition programming, either the 1080i or 720p HD format and 2-, 3- and 4 mix/effects versions.
The show will also upgrade its graphics packages, with Los Angeles-based creative solutions agency 3 Ring Circus handling the design work. Dr. Phil's workflow and graphics systems will continue to be provided by Avid.
“We are analyzing which Avid system we're going to continue to work with,” says de Michele. “Even though we're not certain which one, we're definitely going to stick with Avid. We have long experience with them.”
The show will also upgrade its 18 edit bays, although it doesn't plan to go to tapeless production.
“We don't feel it's the best system for us to work with right now,” says de Michele. “There is too much that needs to be done with the tapes before that. We have lots of footage shot in the field and sent to us and then it all has to go through a transcription and logging process. Tapeless works really well for news, but not as well for storytelling.”
Graphics-wise, Dr. Phil will use Avid's HD Deko 3000, which can provide HD 3D graphics, powered by the Avid Thunder 2-channel HD video server.
Beyond the technical upgrades the switch requires, Dr. Phil's set will be redesigned to be a “little more intimate,” says de Michele, although he prefers to save the details so the viewers will be surprised this fall.
Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.
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