EVIDENT THROUGH ITS PROGRAMming, the Discovery Networks — which encompasses channels such as Animal Planet, Travel Channel, Discovery HD, TLC and, of course, the Discovery Channel — prides itself on brilliant visuals and intense audio. To “sell” its lineup to potential advertisers, the network turned to DePalma Production, Inc. to create a captivating show in high definition.

The Discovery Networks, recognized for vivid cinematography and high-end production values, realized it had to deliver the highest quality show advertisers had ever seen during its Discovery Upfront tour. The tour hits all the advertising hot spots — markets with major ad agencies — and entices agencies to buy advertising time by giving them a taste of the upcoming season.

“We are always raising the bar and setting new standards,” says Jimmy DePalma, of DePalma Production. “Though we contemplated whether or not to use HD, it was a key decision and drove the success of the tour.”

The production company, based out of Mineola, NY, was up for the challenge and began preparations immediately. After working through the details and evaluating “wants versus needs,” DePalma categorizes high definition as a must to make the imagery “pop.” The next step? Working out the logistics to make the tour a reality.

Nuts and Bolts

Enter LMG, Inc., a national provider of video, audio, and lighting support. DePalma turned to LMG for its expertise in high definition solutions. LMG implemented their HD-1 system, which is custom designed and built around the Snell & Wilcox Kahuna switcher. The HD-1 system enables users to intermix high definition and standard definition sources within the same switching system. Rack layouts are designed to roll into place for ease of use for operators and installation. And to complement the switcher, all of the presentation equipment from projectors to cameras run at any resolution. Adding to the pageantry, LMG used HD cameras for image magnification to capture every minor detail on screen.

“With HD-1, we can integrate multiple media formats while simultaneously feeding the screens in HD and recording in standard definition,” explains Tim Wiley, vice president of show services, at LMG.

The two 14'×25', rear Stewart Lumiflex seamless screens with 16:9 aspect ratio and double-stacked HD projectors added to the “wow” factor. The projectors, Digital Projections Lightning 35 HD, were HD native and used the digital cinema DLP chip.

LMG supplied the audio complement as well. In addition to enhancing the sound production process, the PM5D Yamaha console — which is more compact and light-weight than analog consoles — was equipped with extensive recall capabilities. As a supplement to the console, the Whirlwind E Snake provided superior signal-to-noise performance when compared with traditional audio snakes. The setup time was also significantly reduced due to the lightweight fiber optics. “A digital console coupled with the E Snake allows us to deliver the highest sound quality available,” explained Kevin Bridges, audio services manager, LMG.

Have Show, Will Travel

Though the show remained virtually the same in all venues — with the same people and equipment — minor adjustments were made in each of the four cities during the two-week period. The Discovery Upfront tour kicked off in the Jazz at Lincoln Center's Rose Theater in New York City, which creates a unique sense of intimacy and involvement among the presenters and the 450-person audience.

Because the theatre was designed to support a show of this magnitude, the New York stop was a cross between a corporate and theatrical show with screens and flats flying in and out, designed by Mark Ravites and DePalma. The equipment also varied for the Rose Theater performance, because it was specifically built for acoustics. LMG used the house sound system — a JBL Vertex system — and added some L-Acoustics SB-218 subs to supplement the low end of the sound. The only catch? Load-in and load-out was hectic because the theatre is housed in the Time Warner building and shares a dock with Whole Foods and a mall. “It was definitely one of the more challenging venues to get equipment in and out of,” explained Bill Daner, a senior account executive with LMG who supported DePalma Production on the tour. “The staff at the Jazz Center was great to work with.”

After New York, the tour hit Chicago, Detroit, and Los Angeles, all of which LMG supported with its own sound system that consisted of PD5 and a small dV-dosc system. Due to the quick turnaround, all of the equipment was ground supported, not flown. In the smaller venues, ground support covered the audience and was more time efficient.

Though Discovery Networks flew in movie and television stars to attend shows throughout the Discovery Upfront tour, the real eye candy was revealed on the big screen — in HD. “We received rave reviews. Of the 2,000 people who experienced the tour, 110% recognized it as the best out there,” says DePalma. “No doubt the show was a grand slam.”

Goldberg is the president and CEO of LMG Show Technology in Orlando