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'NBC Nightly' Quietly Slips Into HD Mode

"NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams" began airing its evening newscasts in 1080i on Monday, March 26, expanding the reach of national news in HD. While NBC and ABC already present their morning news and feature segments in HD with the "Today" show and "Good Morning, America," respectively, NBC's evening entry is the first traditional half-hour newscast to make the HD leap (HD Notebook, March 21, 2007).

NBC News took the low-key approach in its HD premier this week with a quick graphic at the bottom of the screen at the beginning of the newscast indicating the HD format program was available, but anchorman Williams did not mention it until the last few seconds of the broadcast. Showing a 1965 New York Times article citing the fact that the Huntley-Brinkley Report was about to jump from black-and-white to color, Williams said, "We are in the detail business, after all, and now you can see every last detail" in 1080i. (He also suggested the jump to HD was not as momentous as the jump to color.)

The live studio segments at 30 Rock in Manhattan, and some Washington-based coverage, are being captured using Sony HDC-1500 cameras, which are also built for hand-held usage but are fixed onto pedestal sleds for the newscast. The cameras, which shoot 1080i and 720p, were first introduced at NAB2005.

For now, most professionally produced field reports for the newscast will continue to be shot in SD and upconverted--and given the nature of news and the ubiquity of consumer-owned phone and digital cameras that always seem to appear when news is made, it is unlikely that many newscasts at NBC or anywhere else will contain content that is totally HD.