How MSNBC is handling the shutdown of its main studio for the summer

As Studio 3A at Rockefeller Center undergoes major renovations after total gut work, many of MSNBC’s major programs have been moved.

MSNBC’s main studio emptied, a new set on the way

Prior to the pandemic and the renovation, many MSNBC shows had already switched to using the many video walls installed in Studio 3A and other studios at NBC News headquarters as the main backgrounds, so it’s relatively easy to recreate their appearance using even a single video panel and camera.

As the new studio, slated for its fall debut, is installed, MSNBC is making heavy use of the global media insertion studios that are part of Studio 6E at Rockefeller Center as well as its other studios around the building.

6E features several “news nooks,” as they are sometimes called, which include a desk or anchor table, chair, and a large video panel that talent or guests can sit in front of. There is usually a robotic camera locked to capture the action.

Using the video panel as the main background, any variety of branding or scenic images can be introduced into it, making spaces easy to customize for specific uses or shows.

Other networks have similar configurations around the world.

NBC has long used these setups as a way for New York-based presenters, reporters, guests, and analysts to appear on NBCU family shows, including CNBC and MSNBC, especially when the show is sourced from another NBCU facility. .



Other large NBC offices in Washington and Los Angeles also offer similar setups. Prior to the formal creation of video monitor-based setups, NBC, like other networks, had a variety of smaller sets with simple, often generic, physical backgrounds that could be used for reporting and reporting. remote interviews.

NBC, also like other broadcasters, ended up rolling out similar setups to presenters and correspondents’ homes during the coronavirus pandemic, allowing them to host programming entirely remotely.

Depending on the setup, the control room could sometimes change the image behind talent; other times it had to be done manually from the remote location.

Depending on the complexity of the installation, especially with the lighting and the means of transmitting video and audio, close inspection could reveal that the shading, quality, white balance or audio power were slightly “disabled” – although some very sophisticated remote studios were created. and connected via premium data lines which made it virtually indistinguishable whether the person was at home or, say, in a newspaper corner.

As NBC began to return to studios, Insert Studios proved to be useful in socially distancing guests from hosts and presenters, meaning they would sometimes be in the same building, but sitting a few floors apart. on the other or, in some cases, even on the same floor but “united together” using the familiar mutli-box arrangement. This practice was also not uncommon before the pandemic if producers or a host preferred the arrangement of multiple boxes or if the limitations of the ensemble or production did not accommodate guests well in the studio.

As an added bonus, spaces typically do not require a ground crew and most equipment, from lighting to audio to camera, can be remotely controlled or easily managed by talent or a single member of the team. team.

In many cases, during remote production of a pandemic, the network used fixed or video loops of the normal set of the broadcast or of the video wall background, creating the impression that the The show was still in the studio. In some cases, particularly for “MSNBC Live” and later “MSNBC Reports”, photos from real studios were used, with some elements digitally altered.

The network also created backgrounds that incorporated the look of various NBC studios, but were largely computer generated.

Meanwhile, many of these techniques are now being replicated while Studio 3A is being rebuilt.

  • “Far too early” Usually hails from Washington, DC since Kasie Hunt took over, so this morning show remains relatively unaffected unless some New York-based talent fills in or appears as a guest.
  • “Morning Joe”: After returning to the studio after more than a year of remote production from coronavirus, the show moved to Washington, DC for a few days once the demo began in 3A. As of June 28, 2021, the show appears to have reverted to remote production, which was common even before the coronavirus pandemic due to the unique living situation of the married co-hosts. It is not immediately clear whether the two are in the same place.
  • “Reports by Stéphanie Ruhle” comes from a single camera setup that appears to be in front of a TV monitor showing a digitally enhanced version of the “NBC Nightly News” set. Ruhle had used a similar setup during the pandemic. It’s unclear if it’s from a remote location or one of the network’s “news nooks” on the sixth floor of Rockefeller Center, but its sound and lighting seemed far from ideal on June 28.
  • “Craig Melvin Reports” used either Studio 4E or a single camera, locked shot, probably in one of the insertion studios. Melvin appeared in the studio on “Today,” which is sourced across the street from NBC News headquarters, so it makes sense that he stays to anchor his MSNBC time later today.
  • “Ayman Mohyeldin Reports” is, as of June 28, from “New York” according to what Mohyeldin said on the air. It appears he’s using a locked shot with a fake studio displayed on the video panel behind him. His sound and lighting was notably better than, say, Ruhle’s on the same day, so he’s likely to be in one of the insertion studios or in a close-up in 4E.
  • “Deadline: White House” was primarily from Studio 4E, including having studio guests. Studio 4E is designed to be used “in circles”, like the 3A, so it fits the format of the show well.
  • “Rhythm” has also used a single camera extensively, although its location is unclear.
  • “The ReidOut” used the “Nightly” studio which shares the “3A” designator, but is now on a mostly single camera setup.
  • “All in” used a single down camera while incorporating 3A footage captured before demolition to create ‘video on video’ style shots. It was doing this before Studio 3A was taken out of service.
  • “The Rachel Maddow Show” has been using streamlined setups for some time now, both remotely and inside 30 Rock.
  • “The last word” has also taken advantage of more streamlined configurations.
  • “The 11th hour”, which typically ends MSNBC’s programming day (with rehearsals of prime-time shows airing until the early hours of the morning), also uses a streamlined studio setup. Anchor Brian williams occasionally used the “Nightly” studio for this show and special coverage.
  • “Kendis Gibson and Lindsey Reiser Reports” on weekends, used the studio and anchor office “Nightly” on June 26 and 27, 2021, behind the alcove of the vista video wall.
  • “Velshi” has used both Studio 4E and single camera setups that may be outside of New York. Anchor Ali Velshi splits his time between New York and Philadelphia, so that could be part of the reason for the mix.
  • “Alex Witt Reports” uses 4E, including studio guest accommodation from time to time.

While NBC and other networks have slowly started reassembly operations in the studio, single camera setups may not be as noticeable as many shows still use streamlined setups, being produced at least partially remotely. or with guests who join the house.

When a TV channel or network is gearing up for a new set, the transition period can be completely unnoticeable on air or can cause significant upheaval in what viewers see, depending largely on facilities and settings. station decisions.

If multiple studios exist and plans include a studio swap, the new set can be built in the new studio while production continues normally in the old one.

Likewise, if a single large studio has space for several sets, a new set can be built, at least partially, off-camera, while the old set remains completely or partially used.

In some cases the old set will be moved, although often only parts will be moved and used for temporary production.

If the new set takes up the same space as the old one, as with many MSNBC programs that use 3A, things get more complicated.

Sometimes a temporary set will be created elsewhere. It could be another studio, but broadcasters have used everything from conference rooms and newsrooms to unused corners or alcoves of the building.

These temporary backdrops can include some or all of the old physically moved backdrop, parts of an old backdrop, or just be a table in front of a simple backdrop.

There are also a variety of other strategies that can be used when renovating a studio. For example, NBC News’ “Today” coordinated Studio 1A updates with the show’s broadcasts from Olympic host cities. “Morning Joe” covered at least part of his studio renovation while traveling from Washington during a busy week in the political news.

As a member of a large network, MSNBC is able to take advantage of the fact that it has a full complex of studios in its building to use while one is out of service.

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