September 10, 2006
Who Isn't Going to HD? 'Rasslin' in High-Def

The latest announcement of high-definition testing has come from World Wrestling Entertainment this week, as the wrestling company has started tests for high-definition content, according to a story on their site Friday.

Tonight is WWE's first test, recording a Smackdown house show (meaning an untelevised event) at the Mohegan Sun Arena) completely in HD. While the company has toyed with HD technology in the past, their plan is to record this event, which will not be televised, to see what aesthetic changes need to be made in the show before the conversion to high-definition is made.

The article gives a good idea of the various factors a company that does live entertainment events that are taped, as is the case with the WWE, must consider in making the conversion to HD. This includes hiring a makeup artist that will use airbrushing techniques rather than traditional makeup to better be captures in high-definition, changes in lighting, how the WWE's usual pyro will translate into high-definition sound and picture, and the necessary changes in audio when switching to 5.1 surround sound rather than the current system in standard distribution.

The WWE predicts "tens of millions of dollars of upgrades in equipment and a minimum of three years" to completely transfer their system to high-definition.

WWE Vice President of Event Technical Operations was quoted as saying, "We can provide HD content, [but] our broadcast partners have not migrated to a true HD platform as of yet. The first way our fans could see our content in HD [might be] through home video on DVDs."

The quote brings up an interesting point, that ties into the argument over Star Trek in HD. With other CW Network shows being available in HD, WWE's claim is that, if it does HD, it will benefit them more in the home video market because CW affiliates are not yet ready truly ready to handle HD content.

As WWE goes through this conversion process, though, it will be interesting to see what tests they make, as they have already promised to push the envelope and create HD filming techniques that will be emulated by others. Usual wrestling hyperbole, maybe, but WWE likes to be known as innovators, even if they remain a product marginalized by many who consider themselves "more mainstream."