Making Oscar Perfectly Clear

Mar 17, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Special to TelevisionWeek
This is the 75th anniversary of the Academy Awards and the 50th year that the Oscars have been presented on a live television broadcast. It is also the first year winners (and losers) won’t be able to hide teary eyes and smudged makeup. For the first time the ceremony is being simultaneously broadcast in both standard analog and crystal-clear high-definition TV.
The use of HDTV has the production team rethinking the way the show is shot. Michael Seligman, associate producer of the Oscar telecast for the past 26 years, said he’s been working with high-definition cameras since last July and has an HDTV in his home viewing room, which he said he loves. But he still can’t get used to producing for wide screen. “I’m going to have an HDTV implanted in my forehead to remind me to think about the 16 by 9 ratio,” he said.
Conventional TV screens are nearly square, while the aspect ratio of a high-definition screen is long and narrow. “Our director is faced with the challenge of satisfying both standard definition and high definition, so we’re going to have to do both a center cut and a wide cut,” Mr. Seligman said.
This is not the first major awards in HD. The Grammys and the Super Bowl, which were also televised in HD for the first time this year, relied on two separate trucks and separate picture feeds. In the case of the Super Bowl, there were eight cameras for high definition and 25 for standard definition.
That separation will not exist for the Oscars. People watching in about 150 countries-41.7 million people last year-will get the same essential shots. Mr. Seligman said they will use only one control-room truck and 22 high-definition cameras. The show will be sent out to high-definition viewers in 720p, the ABC standard for HDTV.
Mr. Seligman specializes in live broadcasts. Most recently he served as supervising producer for The Primetime Emmy Awards and as co-producer of Rockin’ for the USA: A National Salute to the U.S. Military. “Michael knows every bolt and nut of the inner workings of this show,” said Oscar producer Gilbert Cates, “and that makes him a right arm holding a very heavy-duty wrench.”