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'Big Brother' finally converting to HDTV for its sixteenth season this summer

By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 06/06/2014 

Big Brother will finally be converting to HDTV when it premieres its sixteenth season on Wednesday, June 25 at 8PM ET/PT on CBS.

Big Brother was the only primetime network reality show still shown in standard definition.

"We've all wanted to go digital," Big Brother executive producer Allison Grodner told New York Magazine's Vulture website, adding that it just hasn't happened yet because the upgrade is a very complicated process and a costly effort.

The show's production entails dozens of cameras -- both fixed and robotic, inside and outside of the house -- which record thousands of hours of footage each week.

"It's not just about swapping out cameras," fellow executive producer Rich Meehan told Vulture. "Everything had to be changed... and we couldn't do anything that would jeopardize production of the series."

"With our schedule, you can't risk [glitches]. All of us wanted this to happen, but it had to happen right," added Grodner.

CBS and Big Brother producers reportedly decided to feature the reality series in HD over three years ago but the changes had to be made slowly in waves. According to Vulture, a new digital post-production system had to be installed and tested, which included 14 miles of new HD cables and new cameras.

"We've added 11 new cameras in the house for better coverage," Meehan explained. "We've also lowered some of the cameras so viewers are in the action more."

The transformation will reportedly allow viewers to watch Big Brother's contestants from more angles and locations.

"You can now see from the kitchen area to the bedroom in one shot," Meehan added. "It changes the whole look of the house."

"We only had six months at a time to do [all that work]," said Big Brother's engineering-operations supervisor David Crivelli. "We had to do a heart transplant" even while the series had been airing broadcasts each summer.

Producers reportedly needed to make sure everything worked perfectly before making the official switch and they had an enormous amount of footage -- which became data once the footage became digital -- to process.
"We're getting this firehose of video. We're looking at 75 billion bits of information each second coming in for 24 hours over 100 days," Crivelli explained. "You need to be prepared to collect all of that. Because if you don't know where it all is and how to get to it, then it's of no use."

Grodner told Vulture she's excited to try out the new "high-performance machine," and now that the visual quality of the broadcasts will be much brighter and sharper, they'll also be tweaking the Big Brother set.

"We're mindful of color and texture more," Grodner said. "We're making sure there are layers and dimension to the house."

Viewers who subscribe to the 24/7 live feed will also reportedly benefit from the standard definition-to-HD conversion.

"It'll be a noticeable improvement for the Internet viewers," Crivelli told the website.

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