This January, the Nat Geo Channel launched an HD service in both the US and UK. In Britain, NGC HD initiated a soft launch with Sky broadcasting’s HDTV service, comprised of a four-hour block of popular NGC programs. A standard sked is anticipated by its official spring launch. In the US, Nat Geo Channel HD launched as a simulcast of the channel, with a full sked. While NGC is received by 57-plus million viewers, the primary viewership for NGC HD will initially be comprised of subscribers to Verizon’s Fi OS TV service. Full cable and satellite coverage is likely to be announced soon.
Acquisitions and commissions are now almost exclusively in HD, noted John Ford, NGC’s EVP of programming, at this year’s Realscreen Summit: ‘We expect everything we commission now to be shot and delivered in HD.’ However, he qualified that 16mm film still has a key role to play, primarily as an archival format and in special circumstances where a film camera is clearly the better option, such as in certain climates or field conditions, as well as for slow motion.
He also left the door slightly ajar for HDV use. ‘For programs where cameras may take a beating,’ he observed, ‘we’d prefer you use a $5,000 camera rather than a $100,000 one.’ However, he suggested producers not inter-cut HD and HDV footage, but instead flag HDV as such so viewers know it’s not being represented as HD. Noted Ford, ‘Our HD channel has to stand above the crowd, so HDV can’t be the backbone of a show.’ Carl Mrozek