Switch to 16:9 format, HDTV producers advise

Originally published in Current, July 7, 1997

Producers who have been shooting high-definition video for years recommended in a Dallas session that pubcasters begin making programs as soon as possible in the 16:9 aspect ratio, on film or tape that captures as much resolution as they can afford.

"Sixteen by nine is the critical event," said Barry Rebo, a New York producer who has been shooting HDTV since 1986. For programs with potential for rebroadcast on DTV, Rebo recommended shooting with at least Super 16mm film or 16:9 digital Betacam tape.

Super 16mm is "kind of adequate," commented Randall Dark, whose Dallas-area firm, HDVision, has done broadway shows and rock concerts on high-def. If you can't shoot high-def, he advised, some other 16:9 format is "the next best thing."

Steve Welsh, who heads HDTV production at public TV station KCTS in Seattle, gave a testimonial for equipment insurance. While KCTS was shooting one of its aerial travelogues, the helicopter hit a wire and had to land in a river--ruining a $350,000 Sony camera hanging below the copter. The insurance company bought KCTS a new camera.

The new Sony bought by KCTS is not quite as spectacular, but its price was down to $150,000, Welsh noted, and newer camcorders are now available for $90,000 without lens.

Welsh screened clips from "Chihuly Over Venice," a grand tour of international glass-blowing, which KCTS taped in high-def--and PBS will distribute (not in high-def) this fall. Elsewhere at the conference, WETA was showing off its HDTV documentary "Impressionists on the Seine," scheduled to air locally in Washington, Aug. 14.



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