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June 25, 2008

New look at WAVE-TV

When WAVE-TV airs its first newscast in HD Monday, everything from the curls in Carrie Weil’s hair to the lines on Tom Wills’ face will be clearer. In fact, news director Lee Eldridge says the cameras pick up fingerprints on the news desk.

That doesn’t mean a radical change for the on-air personalities at WAVE, who will actually use less make-up. But the switch is a huge undertaking that other stations are likely to follow in coming months, or years. 

WAVE is the first of Louisville’s four major news broadcasters to invest in new HD equipment for local broadcasts of its daily news product. That means viewers with HD-Ready TVs will see images full-screen on WAVE’s newscasts, rather than the “wings” that some viewers are accustomed to seeing on either side of the image. 

WAVE G.M. Steve Langford estimates that 25 percent of the market’s TVs are already HD-ready, and that the multi-million dollar investment will be well worth the expense. And besides, he says, everyone’s going to do it eventually. He estimates the station will spend more than $2 million to update equipment, from studio cameras to field equipment and graphics. 

WAVE, which is owned by Raycom Media of Montgomery, Ala., isn’t the first in its owner’s network of stations to make the switch, but the timing is especially good: The station began planning long ago in hopes of being ready for NBC’s Olympics, expected to be a big ratings winner for local stations. The Games begin August 8.

The main place viewers will notice the difference is in the studio, but WAVE will operate field cameras in the 16:9 format, so that there will be no noticeable change when the station’s footage airs in the newscast. Archived footage, however, will not be in wide screen.