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How Did KATV Daybreak’s New Set Come About?

Neal Gladner
Written by Neal Gladner

Viewers of the popular morning TV news program, Daybreak on KATV Channel 7, have probably noticed something new in the last few weeks. It’s called the “set,” the area from which co-anchors Alyson Courtney, Chris Kane and Melinda Mayo deliver the broadcast each morning.

Updating the Daybreak set was not as simple as running over to a local furniture store and picking up a new desk and some chairs. In the case of this new set, KATV News Director Nick Genty said the work began in the spring of this year. Readers might be surprised to learn just how much planning goes into this kind of a revamp.

Genty said the old set was used for almost 25 years, and a lot has changed over those years.

“It was homey and comfortable,” he said of the old set. “It was time for a more active and modern look.”

The set was designed and built by Park Place Studio in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. The CEO of Park Place, Park Warne, said his company has been building TV sets for 25 years. He calls it “the very definition of a niche business.” He says his company has developed, constructed and installed more than 350 sets in its 25-year existence, most in the United States, but also for television stations in several foreign countries.

The process starts by talking with station personnel so his company can understand what the station wants to accomplish, he explained. That includes how the station intends to use the set and what kind of style of broadcast they are shooting for.

Building a New Set

Based on the initial discussions, Park designers break out what Warne calls the “Style Book,” which he described as pages of concepts, pictures and design possibilities. Using that book, the station selects elements it likes, and designers come up with options for customized set designs. Computer drafting software is used for that process. Technology plays an even bigger part from that point forward. Station representatives look at the design on screen, discuss the parts they like and tell the designers what changes they want.

At some point in that process, Park generates a virtual 3-D rendering of the new studio. That rendering lets the station see the new set from various angles, different camera views and even how lighting changes could impact the new set.

“We can actually animate different moves so the TV station personnel can see what set will look like to viewers,” Warne explained.

Once there is a final design agreement, Park actually constructs the set in modules at its facility in Pennsylvania. Then, it’s trucked to the station where the new set is assembled in the studio.

“They rolled in here on a Monday morning,” Genty recalled, “and by Friday, they had it all put together and they were gone.”

The development of high-definition television also impacts what goes into the actual construction details of the set, Warne explained. And, there is nothing high tech about that part. In fact, that’s where old world craftsmanship comes in.

“We need much better finishing details when we build sets these days,” he said.

The craftsmanship has to be what he called “museum quality,” noting that with HD, even the smallest of blemishes could be visible to viewers. Warne recalled that prior to HD, “we didn’t have to worry about that as much.” He explained small problems in the furniture or set background would not be visible to viewers, “but that’s not the case anymore,” he said.

Industry insiders remind us the use of HD also caused on-air anchors and others to pay more attention to the fine details in their hair, makeup and clothing, because flaws become evident in high-def.

A New Look 

Genty said morning news shows have change over the years.

“People want more information now,” he said, “and how we present it is equally important.”

katv stools

Alyson Courtney, Chris Kane and Melinda Mayo

Technology is a big part of the new set. It features seven LCD monitors, the biggest of which is a 70-inch touch-screen monitor, which Genty refers to as their smart board. It allows anchors to just touch the monitor to zoom in or out of various stories. An example of how it’s used is to display KATV’s live traffic cams.

“If we have a traffic problem, Chris can zoom into the problem so viewers can see it in better detail,” Genty said, speaking of co-anchor Chris Kane, who reports the morning traffic conditions as part of his duties.

He said the station uses a number of live cameras with the ability to see a variety of highways, along with a traffic mapping program which viewers can see on that smart board. Kane can bring any of the traffic cams onto the smart board. It also has access to a live internet feed, so any of the anchors can show viewers a web site if needed.

Another benefit of the new set design, according to Genty, is the ability for the three co-anchors to be more active during the show, changing positions and using the seven monitors. Each monitor gets its own video feed, meaning the co-anchors can actually use the variety of monitors to show viewers different stories.

In Channel 7’s case, Genty said, “We wanted a set designed to take advantage of how TV morning shows have changed.”

Not only has news gathering and presentation changed over the years, but people also have a lot of options of where to get their news.

“We have to keep up,” he explained, saying the station wanted a more “active and modern” look. He said they wanted Daybreak to more resemble the feel of the very popular Good Morning America Show on ABC, better known as GMA, which follows Daybreak on Channel 7. Daybreak airs Monday-Friday, from 5 to 7 a.m. There is also a Saturday version.

KATV did not disclose the final cost of the new set. But, Warne said new sets range in price between $250,000 and $350,000 on average. Of course, that is with old world museum quality finish work.

Photos courtesy of KATV, Channel 7. 

About the author

Neal Gladner

Neal Gladner

Neal Gladner spent more than 25 years as a broadcaster in Arkansas. He was vice president/general manager of KARN Newsradio and the Arkansas Radio Network for over a decade, where he also hosted a morning talk show. Gladner is a past president of the Arkansas Broadcasters Association, past president of the National Association of State Radio Networks and former chairman of the CBS Radio Affiliates Board of Directors. He is currently the vice president/sales and marketing for the Louisiana Radio Network. He can be reached at neal.gladner@gmail.com.

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