It’s closing in on a year since WABC/Channel 7 moved to new studios at the other side of its Upper West Side building. FishbowlNY was granted access recently to tour the operation with video and photos.
Regular viewers already know the new look is fan-friendly. Taking a page from the network morning news’ playbook, the studio is at street level on the corner of Columbus Avenue and West 66th Street. A window gives passersby a look of the studio, even when live on-air. The talent can also see foot and vehicular traffic. When needed, though, the black curtain can be drawn for intimacy.
But wanting the daytime, New York City feel during the live newscast was a key ingredient to breaking ground. Therefore, at times, sunlight reflects directly onto the anchors. The veteran anchors, though, have not been distracted as they keep their focus on the camera and teleprompter. While locked into the live newscast, that doesn’t mean they loosen the occasional knot in the tie. For example, a couple of months ago a touch of Hollywood came to WABC, and lead anchor Bill Ritter tweeted his followers.
‘Woody Harrelson just came by our studio window to wave hello. C’mon… how cool is that?’
What is not seen by the viewers on a nightly basis is how expansive the digs are, and the process that was involved to create them.
Complicating the work project was the complete overhaul of that area. The closest that location ever came to being a studio was as office space for the syndicated Tony Danza Show from 2004 to 2006. Before that, it was a Disney store. The former Eyewitness News set has been consolidated into a larger Live! studio.
The ribbon was cut on the state-of-the-art studios Sept. 24, 2011. It’s was not only constructed in HD quality, but the lightning was upgraded with LED or fluorescent bulbs, making them more energy efficient. Unlike days of old, these lights burn much cooler.
As for the cameras, they remain robotic. Some stations use robotic cameras with moving pedestals. Each one is completely stationery. The station says its philosophy was to have more cameras in places where they can cross shoot. Channel 7 will still use a “flash camera” from the newsroom, and another in place at the weather office upstairs.
The sleek looking anchor desk has a large video wall in the background. At this point, the station has no plans to use those screens beyond the skyline shot. A secondary “stand-up” area does have several working video screens.
WABC made it in vogue to create a new studio. A month after Channel 7 showed off its new location, WCBS/Channel 2 had its own revamped studio. WNBC and WPIX joined the party this year.