This evening, we broaden our horizons, literally. Tonight's 'Nightly News' will be the first national evening newscast available in true, 16:9 wide screen, high definition.
So, what does that mean to you? If you own an HD set and are hooked up for HD reception you should see a picture as clear and crisp as we see in the Nightly control room. You should hear music and audio from the program in a fuller, richer way than you have heard it before. But, truth be told, tonight's broadcast will not be revolutionary. In fact if you're watching on your standard-definition television you should notice an improved picture, a few new graphics, and little else. What tonight's broadcast will be is a big step down a path of continuous evolution that will bring major changes to Nightly News in the weeks and months ahead.
I'll explain why I qualify things by saying "should" later, but first, a glimpse at a few of the changes you can expect in the future.
High Definition Newsgathering
NBC News field gear is gradually being upgraded to HD. As our camera crews and edit rooms are upgraded you will begin seeing reports from our correspondents with clearer, more detailed video.
John Williams has you Surrounded
Tonight we also begin broadcasting in 5.1 Surround Sound. In preparation for our move to HD, John Williams rerecorded NBC News' classic theme music "The Mission." It was recorded with an all-star, 99-piece orchestra on the same sound stage used for the Wizard of Oz and dozens of other classic films. It was masterfully mixed in 5.1 surround. Tonight you will hear an improvement, an interim step, but soon we will be able to blast you with the full production. I was in the room with the orchestra for some of the recording session. It was the most exhilarating musical experience of my life. Hearing "The Mission" in surround sound brings a lot of that experience back. (You can watch a video of Williams conducting the full piece -- albeit NOT in surround sound -- here).
We can't reveal all of our plans for competitive reasons, but suffice it to say that we are exploring new ways and new venues for the presentation of the broadcast. HD and 16:9 change present some great challenges and opportunities.
The move to 16:9 HD provides intriguing spaces on the edge of the screen that will be new to most viewers. We're looking at ways to use that space in news programming. (Don't worry, it wont say, "Eat at Joe's.")
Now, earlier I said you "should see" improvements instead of "will see" because, if you are like my friends and family there is a 50-50 shot that you went out, bought a fancy TV, brought it home and plugged it into the same cable or antenna you'd had before . You probably believe that the slight improvement you saw is true High Definition. It's probably not. I'm sorry that I can't make house calls like I do to my techno-challenged friends, but there are a lot good resources on the Web to help you understand HD and your connection better. I think one of the best is CNET's "HDTV World."
It is also important to note that most cable and satellite providers and even local stations air HDTV programming on a separate channel from the normal signal. Your station or cable/satellite company probably has this information on their Web site or will be glad to help you find it. (In the increasingly competitive landscape of television and video, even my personal nemesis Cablevision has become somewhat customer service oriented.)
Tonight is an important step and another first as we continue to grow and change "Nightly News." You can now find Brian and Nightly broadcast in SD and HD; online in streaming video on the Netcast or as an audio or video podcast. You can see us live and complete or condensed and delayed on your cell phone through "NBC Mobile" and "NBC News 2 Go". We're seen by audiences in over a hundred countries through CNBC's international networks and alliances, and you could even catch us if you happen to drop in on the International Space Station.
I hope you'll tune in and as always, send us your feedback, let us know how we're doing.