Eastenders moves to HD on Christmas Day!

by Lisa McGarry

EastEnders will be broadcast in true HD (High Definition) for the first time on Christmas Day on the new BBC One HD channel. To mark the occasion, Press Information has pulled together some fascinating facts about making EastEnders in HD…

* Some beer labels have been redesigned as part of the HD revamp of the Queen Vic, along with beer mats and beer pump labels – though you will still see some of the old traditional names as well.

* Each year the crew have to put fake leaves on the trees as filming is done so far in advance that spring needs to be replicated. This year they may have to stop leafing the trees as the fake ones are easier to spot on HD…

* Approximately 15,000 square metres of bricks have had to be replaced for the launch of EastEnders in HD.

* As the technology to produce scenic brickwork has come on in leaps and bounds since the Eighties, a variety of materials can be used. The majority of the Victorian brickwork is an improved plaster brick which is then coloured to look like the real thing, but a new GRP (glass reinforced-plastic material) can be used for some modern brickwork in small areas. Of course, the best materials for HD work are always going to be the real ones so a team of builders is on site every week replacing fake materials with real wherever possible.

* The dramatic fire at the Queen Vic was staged for the departure of everyone’s favourite landlady, Peggy Mitchell – but also to ensure the Vic was ready for the move to HD. With many of the sets being 25 years old, HD was a great time for a reinvigoration of some of the older ones. The new-look Vic has a modern twist (Kat’s zebra-skin bar stools, for instance) while retaining the traditional look of an old Victorian pub.

* The exterior set for EastEnders is in constant use for filming, so it’s a balancing act to upgrade it for HD without disturbing that. A careful look at the background might reveal some renovation continuing for HD, such as the railway bridges.

* The arrival of Max’s new girlfriend, played by Zoe Lucker – who wanted to erase any trace of Max’s ex-wife – was the perfect excuse for his house to be updated for HD.

* Some changes to the set for HD needed to happen without making a big story point about it and without viewers noticing. This includes Pat Butcher’s home, which needed more wallpaper for the new HD set. The design team had to enlist the help of a specialist wallpaper expert as the original papers were discontinued, so as close a stylistic match as possible needed to be found… can you spot the difference?

* The Laundrette didn’t need any changes, as the industrial look of it worked perfectly for HD. However, the team did use the opportunity to build an extra room at the back so viewers will now be able to listen to some of the backroom gossip.

* Sometimes the move to HD is as simple as adding a pot plant or two to the set. For example, a winter jasmine was added to Ian’s back yard to help break up the large expanse of brickwork by the back door.

* Walford East’s tube station is made of real tiles; however, it looks too clean for HD, so we’ve had to make them look more dirty.

EastEnders is the latest BBC programme to be moved into HD, joining programmes such as The One Show, Wallace And Gromit’s World Of Invention, Nigel Slater’s Simple Suppers, Strictly Come Dancing, Children In Need, Antiques Roadshow, Countryfile, The Graham Norton Show and The Royal Variety Show.

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