ITV Productions has taken a giant step towards going HD and tapeless with Emmerdale after splashing half a million pounds on new studio cameras and lenses.

Eight Ikegami HDK-79EXIII HD cameras with Canon HD lenses have been purchased and, working along a timeline that will run parallel to Coronation Street’s transition to HD, the production of the Yorkshire soap will be completely overhauled. All shooting and post will be done in HD, using a tapeless workflow, by 2011.

ITV Productions director of Northern Resources Paul Bennett told Broadcast: “As yet, the rest of the kit in Emmerdale is not HD, but we’re starting at the front end. Some of the kit will be on a natural replacement cycle.

“We are going to accelerate the cycle as we need to be high definition in the next couple of years. We’re not setting a fixed timescale but we are planning to see this [happen] within the next two to three years.”

The new camera kit, worth£560,000, will be delivered in April. Shooting will begin almost immediately and the first HD-acquired scenes will air approximately six weeks later.

“We’ll parallel run [with the SD cameras] for a bit as we check the cameras through and then we’ll do a straight change over and swap over across a weekend,” explained Bennett. “We want to go at the start of a new recording block so we don’t get odd scenes cropping up that are split between old technology and new technology.”

A number of different HD cameras and lenses were tested over a six-month period from June 2007. Different technologies from manufacturers were mixed and matched and trials were done using on-screen talent and the Emmerdale sets and involved the camera, grips and sound teams.

Coronation Street is currently being shot in SD but post-production is at a more advanced stage using the Avid Isis Media Network. On Emmerdale, the acquisition will now be HD but post-production switchover will come later.

“Currently everything is recorded onto Digibeta,” said Bennett. “The next stage will be to go fully server based. Coronation Street is now using Isis but we don’t have Airspeed, so we’re not recording straight into the server. That’ll be the next phase for Coronation Street. Emmerdale will upgrade to server-based technology and direct ingest as well.”

Bennett said that the move to HD was intrinsically linked to going tapeless. “If you want to take the advantages of tapeless you’re not going to invest in SD, so we’re doing the two things at the same time.”

To read the full Paul Bennett interview go here.