Fletcher supplies cameras for new ESPN-HD cable

For more than five years, Tom Fletcher has tirelessly promoted high definition and watched the market for the high-end digital technology expand, albeit, more slowly than originally expected.

But now, as of March 30, HD takes a quantum leap forward?like an overnight sensation who’s been honing his chops for years?when ESPN, the mother of all sports outlets, launches its all-HD cable outlet.

“ESPN-HD is the biggest thing to happen in HD,” said Fletcher, whose Fletcher Chicago is a main camera supplier to ESPN. “A year ago it wasn’t even on the map. Now HD is going to be on cable?that’s a major breakthrough, especially since the cable industry wanted to reserve its bandwidths for local phone service.”

Fletcher said ESPN will use an increased number of cameras on its coverage of basketball, baseball and hockey games to preserve quality. Of the 18 cameras to be used, Fletcher will provide 15 newly purchased Panasonic AK-HD900s; a 720P block camera that captures 60 frames per second.

With its commitment to HD, ESPN will deliver HD shows at its sports bars “and they plan to put sets into train stations and airports and common areas like that,” Fletcher said. “So when HD sports shows are on the air, ESPN wants people everywhere to see it.”

ESPN-HD undoubtedly will help boost HD camera sales and rentals locally, and in the three outpost cities where Fletcher, a national sales company for Sony and one of a handful dealers that can sell 24P nationally, has rental partnerships with key players.

Fletcher provides a complete camera package (cost: $92,000) consisting of a camera body, prime lenses, a selection of three different cine and video style lenses, filters, color and extended viewfinders and all other accessories. Fletcher sets the suggested rental price for each market and rental fees are split between the two entities.

Cineworks of Miami is the latest, an alliance “that raised eyebrows because it’s the main film processing lab there,” he said. “But Cineworks knows the reality of 24P and they’ll invest on the post side.”

Grace & Wild of Detroit was the first to partner with a Fletcher camera package two years ago, and Mills-James is Fletcher’s partner in Columbus. The Minneapolis outlet was recently sold and Fletcher is talking to several companies there for another alliance. When business gets stronger in Kansas City, RSVP will be ready to take on a Fletcher HD package.

Tom Fletcher has been on the road almost continually providing HD educational seminars in one market to the next. Next up is a post-NAB tour of 11 cities at Avid’s request, where he’ll deliver an HD introduction to Avid’s HD Digital Studio (HDDS) editor.

While Detroit has 12 of these new systems, Fletcher noted, HD post is just starting up in Chicago. Post Effects was the first in HD editing, its specialty, and Optimus has now geared up.

Phone, 312/226-2223. See www.fletch.com.