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Wheel/Jeopardy HD Transition

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Sony and King World have made a $4 million investment and are recording two hugely successful game shows in HD: Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune.The two shows, both originally creations of Merv Griffin, are the first in syndication to be entirely transitioned to16:9 ratio HD format. According to Phil Squyres, senior VP of technical operations for Sony Pictures Television, “It went relatively smoothly, without any major problems in the process.”Sony uses the 1080i HD standard, so stations broadcasting in 720p—like many ABC stations that air the two shows—will have to transcode. “It was a shot headache, initially” said Wheel of Fortune director Mark Corwin. “The stage had to be made wider to accommodate the new ratio, and the cyc line [had to be adjusted].“This is a high-end show, everything is first-class, and we have very little turnover with our key department heads, so the usual problems associated with HD we haven’t been experiencing,” continued Corwin. “Our makeup isn’t an issue, the artists all learned a new airbrushing technique and lighting has been adjusted.”The stars of the shows, Alex Trebek, Pat Sajak and Vanna White, were present at a recent celebration of the Sony HD launch. As were White’s Wheel of Fortune stylist Roberta Wagner, the show’s best boy grip Rick Johnson and electronics supervisor Bill Monk.Stylist Wagner said “Dressing Vanna is really like doing a major awards show, as if she is going to the Emmy awards for every single show.”A mind-boggling five shows a day are taped, two days a week, with outfits for each host needing to be shopped for at the beginning of each season and completely organized and arranged in time for each week’s tapings.“Vanna updates her look each season, and selects her shoes as well—she does a lot of walking on these shows, so the shoes have to fit right and be comfortable,” said Wagner.According to best boy grip Rick Johnson, Wheel of Fortune is a difficult show to produce. “It’s a prizes-oriented show, so there’s a lot of work for the crew. It’s more involved with lots of set changes, and location and remote shoots too.”“Six miles of new cable have been installed for an entirely new tech area, and plasma screens were integrated on the set,” said electronics supervisor Monk.

Written by April MacIntyre

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