Surround Yourself With Shortland Street

TV2 will screen Shortland Street in 5.1 Dolby Digital for the first time next month.

The hour-long seasonal finale on December 11 will give viewers a taste of what they can expect when the serial broadcasts permanently in surround sound from January 2014.

The South Pacific Pictures perennial has led the way with other small-screen innovations, being one of the first local productions to transition from 4:3 to 14:9 to 16:9, and from SD to HD.

It won’t be the first SPP commission to be mixed in 5.1: Go Girls blazed this path, but only for its first season – and that was broadcast in stereo (subsequent series had stereo-only mixes).

“At this stage it is unlikely we will deliver Step Dave in 5.1 as we haven’t budgeted the post production that way,” SPP publicity chief Tamar Munch says of the company’s latest production, “but that’s not to say we have ruled it out for future television projects.”

Shortland Street’s postproduction supervisor Dylan Reeve says the 5.1 mix’s extra audio dimension will enhance the impact of the still under-wraps Christmas cliffhanger.

“The year’s final episode always has a lot of drama and excitement, and there will be lots of new things to hear and experience.”

shortland-street---first-episode-1992.vertical-badgeA serial like Shortland Street may not seem a natural for 5.1 given most episodes have a limited number of locations and aren’t action-driven.

“But there will be a lot more separation of sound, with cleaner dialogue and more environmental and atmospheric background noises,” Reeve says.

“It will create more depth and help to make the setting feel ‘larger’ than it really is.”

The centre speaker will be almost entirely dialogue, the surround speakers will be for atmosphere and the rear speakers for reverberation.

“Once we have set up our 5.1 ‘style’, it will be a relatively easy process to keep using it,” Reeve says.

Surround sound wasn’t implemented as part of Shortland Street’s HD conversion three years ago for budgetary and practical reasons.

Since then the hardware and software needed to mix in 5.1 have become more affordable, and SPP is now using digital files instead of costly HDCAM SR tapes.

Historically, the serial was mastered on HDCAM tape for delivery to TVNZ, distributor Fremantle and the TVNZ Archive.

Switching to 5.1 in 2010 would have required upgrading to the three-times more expensive HDCAM SR, as it was the only medium with enough storage for the extra channels of audio (which TVNZ Blacksand will mix).

But being able to deliver Shortland Street digitally to TVNZ and Fremantle means SPP now needs only one HDCAM SR master while the archive will continue to receive a stereo mix on HDCAM.

Reeve says while it helps overseas sales to be able to deliver a programme in 5.1, “there’s not much money to be made off it. It’s more an artistic decision.”

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4 Responses to “Surround Yourself With Shortland Street”

  1. TV3 are wonderful with their proper HD and 5.1 surround sound 🙂

  2. December 11 is a Wednesday, are you sure the final episode is then?

  3. It does seem odd but that’s as I understand it.

  4. I agree, Trevor. The sound on TV3 leaves both TVNZ channels for dead.

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