Showtime Keeps Rolling

Showtime Networks must be on an HDTV roll. On the heels of its recent announcement about adding its high definition offerings to the DirecTV service, the premium channel broadcaster announced more HDTV programming this week, along with an audio upgrade.

Showtime, which began adding Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound to its HDTV signals in 2000, says it has now brought the audio technology to every one of its standard definition and HDTV channels throughout all time zones. The result is 32 Dolby Digital 5.1 enabled channels, which the company boasts is triple the number of Dolby Digital 5.1 enabled channels of all other premium networks combined.

According to Dolby Laboratories, more than 10 million households have set-top boxes capable of outputting Dolby Digital 5.1 via DBS and/or digital cable. Showtime says, "The numbers suggest a strong consumer interest in seeking out sources for higher quality sound in their television entertainment, so Showtime Networks has continued to pioneer the use of Dolby Digital 5.1 on its HDTV and standard definition channels."

The programmer also announced last week that it has teamed with Columbia Tri Star Domestic Television (CTDTV) to produce its newest Sci-Fi series, Odyssey 5, in high definition. Showtime reports that the two-hour premiere, which is slated for June, was shot in 24p HDcam with a 16:9 aspect ratio. All 18 episodes are slated to be shot in 24p when the show goes into production.

Showtime claims that this collaboration makes it the first premium cable network to create a series with complete end-to-end HDTV production. CTDTV, which is producing the series for Showtime, says it is using the 24p HDW-F900 camcorder manufactured by its parent company, Sony.

According to Showtime, "Odyssey 5's subject matter and visual–effects heavy plot lines made it a perfect candidate for this new technology. Not only does the 24p video resolution make adding effects to live action almost seamless, it will also deliver a high quality picture, enabling the viewer to see even the tiniest details of the effects as they unfold on screen. In the opening episode, viewers will feel as if they are in the US space shuttle as the astronauts witness the destruction of Earth from space."