Mike Grossman, WWE’s Senior Vice President for Television Operations, will be watching every moment of WWE’s week-long debut in high-definition with anticipation and some nervousness. Those new HD cameras cost a pretty penny, and if, say, WWE Champion Randy Orton grabs one to clock Jeff Hardy with a high-def cranium shot, Grossman might just grit his teeth a little as the high-tech device gets swung.
“That could be a problem,” Grossman replied with a cautious chuckle. “Let’s hope not.”
WWE’s switch to HD required a complete renovation of WWE’s production equipment, from the cameras and microphones at ringside to the production truck parked out back. It also necessitated re-creating WWE’s production processes from the standard-definition age.
"We went from doing the show the same way for a number of years, in the same truck, to having to reinvent everything," said Duncan Leslie, WWE Vice-President, Technical Events Operations. "All the infrastructure had to change. It’s sort of like going from black & white to color."
Such a radical transformation meant not only new HD video cameras, but more powerful and colorful lighting elements. The result? A view of WWE that, until now, you could only get live in the arena, in a front-row seat a view that has technical crews extremely aware of the tiniest elements.
"There’s nowhere to hide," Leslie explained. "Every T-shirt in the audience can be read. Every bead of sweat, every scratch on the canvas is seen. What you see through the HD lens, you’d see with your eyes live."
The crowning jewels of the high-definition renovation are two new state-of-the-art production trucks. WWE worked with NEP Supershooters of Pittsburgh, Pa., to design and build the trucks that replaced the standard-definition vehicle, and will lease a custom truck designed for HD transmission.
Leslie said the new trucks feature miles of cable and more than 100,000 buttons, as well as a massive monitor wall to display the numerous camera feeds. "We’re a sporting event, we’re a concert” he said. “What we make these trucks do is totally unique [in the industry]."
"Reset" for the set and more
Say goodbye to the iconic Raw TitanTron, as well as the SmackDown fist and mirrors. They’ve seen their last television tapings.
To take full advantage of the high-definition platform, a radically redesigned entrance set will be shared by all three of WWE’s signature shows. Exact details regarding the set will remain top-secret until Raw’s is unveiled Monday night. However, a shoot in Florida last November brought all the Superstars together to record the new show openings in HD. Additionally, new intros and graphics for Raw, SmackDown, ECW and pay-per-view events are rumored to feature some 3-D elements.
"There will be several video elements that will be pretty slick,” Grossman asserted. "It will be a whole new show. It’s going to be spectacular."
After the show, then…
Another reason to make the leap to WWE HD, notes Duncan Leslie, is post-broadcast potential.
"What we do today, we also use tomorrow," he explained. "We want to be able to repurpose these events that we produce and tape. Going forward, it’s going to be an HD world, so we should have HD content that we can make DVDs out of, and use this material for the future."
According to Mike Grossman, WWE has yet to decide whether to distribute its high-definition pay-per-view events on HD-DVD or Blu-Ray format discs. Either way, the shift to HD programming will open the eyes of our fans worldwide.
“The move to high-definition programming is another step in WWE’s ongoing mission to provide our fans with the most engaging, exciting product possible," Grossman said. “This upgrade will be the first of many technological advances for our brand in 2008.”