Discovery Channel embraces HD format

Actors and actresses may not be so keen on seeing every wrinkle and pore magnified in hi-def, but it’s precisely that amount of detail that has helped turn events such as Discovery Channel’s “Planet Earth” into smash hits on TV, in DVD sales and even on the kudo circuit — including now the Peabody.

“Both ‘Planet Earth’ and (Discovery’s new program) ‘When We Left Earth’ are significantly stronger in HD than they would be in standard definition,” says Discovery Channel prexy John Ford. “On ‘Planet Earth,’ you literally see things you wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s the closest thing to being there.”

Ford says HD has been a priority at Discovery and also at his former home, the National Geographic Channel, because the format lends itself to outdoor and nature programming in particular, bringing new excitement to images that people have otherwise seen on the smallscreen countless times.

“The biggest beneficiary of HD in nonfiction is probably natural history programming,” Ford says. “The clarity and richness is there, and the grand sweep is easier to depict in that 16-by-9 picture.”

But Ford says the cabler’s regular series also benefit from the form, as action shows including “Deadliest Catch” also shoot in HD.

“HD is so important to us that we produce all of our programming in it,” he adds.

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