Ellen Gray: Ex-'Race' contestants get another run - in HD

Father-daughter team Ron and Christina must sail a skiff and retrieve a clue from a buoy.
Father-daughter team Ron and Christina must sail a skiff and retrieve a clue from a buoy.
Posted: February 15, 2011


WHEN CBS' "The Amazing Race" returns for its 18th edition Sunday, a season it's calling "Unfinished Business," the second-chance contestants won't be the only ones trying to improve on past performances.

For the first time since its 2001 debut, the globe-trotting competition will be airing in HD.

And, yes, "Race" host Phil Keoghan knows fans have been waiting.

"A lot of people have said to me, 'I just don't understand. If there's any show that lends itself to being in HD, it's "The Amazing Race." Why aren't you guys in HD?' " Keoghan said yesterday, the morning after hosting a King of Prussia benefit performance of "The Ride," his documentary about his 2009 cycling trip across America to raise money for the National MS Society.

"The thing that everybody has to understand is that shooting a show like 'Amazing Race,' logistically," is nothing like shooting a show like "American Idol."

On a show based in Los Angeles, "if something breaks, somebody gets on the phone and they call over to somebody in the Valley and within 30 minutes, there's a replacement whatever-you-need," he said.

"We're in a place like Bangladesh. It's not like you can just go down to the local TV station and pick up a piece of equipment that will necessarily be, say, HD. The standard around the world is becoming more and more HD, but for a long time, it hasn't [been]," he said.

"I've been working with HD since 2003 on all other projects that I've been involved in outside 'The Amazing Race,' but none of them have had the same logistical challenges," he said.

The cameras bringing high-definition video to "Race" are Sony XDCAMs that record to Blu-ray disc, said Keoghan, who once worked as a camera operator.

"You literally can just plug the camera straight into a computer, download files," he said, then quickly upload a low-resolution copy of the video to editors back in the U.S. who can edit the footage and later use a program to swap it for the high-resolution copy when it arrives by courier.

Yes, courier.

"They are hand-carried back, because they are so valuable . . . That's always going to be done," Keoghan said.

What else hasn't changed: "You don't sacrifice story, but you will sacrifice, or make compromises, with equipment," he said.

This season, "they're all teams that are looking to redeem themselves. Teams that have been U-turned. A team, like Zev and Justin, who lost [a] passport. They went from last to first and back to last again. Kisha and Jen, who stopped for a very unfortunate pee break and lost out on the leg in Beijing, if you remember . . . They're all teams that people loved, but ultimately, it's like, 'All right, you know everybody deserves a second chance, you've got some unfinished business with the show. No more making excuses.' " *

Keoghan's "The Ride" is available for download from Amazon.com and starting today, from iTunes.

Send e-mail to graye@phillynews.com.

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