FX Design Group delivers unique, layered set to CBS Minneapolis

After designing the set for sister station KPIX-TV, FX Design Group was a natural fit for WCCO-TV in Minneapolis.

“Our design for WCCO is very experimental with several set elements on which we had to conduct R&D – including new textures and video elements,” said Glenn Anderson, FX’s designer.

The design was one of firsts for FX, which introduced new textures and styles in the project.

“This design is truly a ‘first’ for FX – utilizing elements never before used in our news station designs – LED Video Curtains, Christie LED Video Microtiles, and textural walls we developed we call Stack Walls and Weave Walls. These are very prominent in the design,” said Anderson.

The overall design is a study of contrasts: vibrant, internally lit surfaces and LED panel curtains alternating with warm, textural materials that create contrast and visual interest. The set elements are interspersed with various video elements – LED video tiles and monitor arrays, including two zero bezel monitor arrays and a large monitor array imitating the look of windows onto the Plaza.

Both the Plaza Studio set and the Nicollet Studio set have the same look and similar elements, although the Nicollet studio is smaller – with the goal to use it for alternate newscasts. The Plaza Studio consists of an anchor area, weather area, stand up area and an interview area. The Nicollet Studio consists of an anchor area and a stand up area.

Both venues have a distinctive architectural feature – floor to ceiling windows with a view to two prominent cityscapes.

“We felt it was important to keep some of the windows in play in this design to reflect our downtown location, but also thought we needed a controlled environment that gave us an opportunity to dictate the tone and style…FX gave us both,” said Casey Kespohl, WCCO-TV creative director.

The Plaza set features a faux window that is actually a monitor array giving the illusion of a window. And the interview area does have an actual window that is a main component of the backdrop.

The Nicollet set features an actual window, positioned to be the main backdrop for the set. The use of the studios’ actual windows created unique design challenges for FX’s design team.

The design team also strived to emulate the architectural elements of the area – inspired by the Mill City Museum – whose façade marries historical elements such as I-beams and exposed stone, with modern elements such as metal and glass. The look and feel of the local architecture carries over into the set’s surfaces, materials and elements, including frosted Plexiglas, slate, faux I-beams and brushed metal.

The anchor set walls consist of multi-layered scenic and technology elements and are fronted by a sleek, multi-functional desk – designed for a standing height or tall chairs, which rests on a platform extending forward to allow a guest to sit opposite the anchors for interview segments.

The desk is a vibrant focal point of internally-lit milk plexiglas with five Christie MicroTiles (LED video cubes) creating a curved video ribbon across the front, giving the video a more elongated aspect ratio. A 32 inch monitor is mounted on each end panel – giving the toss shots a more dynamic look, with additional branding capability.

Multiple layers of frosted plexiglas and louvered panels that can be open or closed are positioned in front of Wision LED Video curtains.

The camera center shot features the “Window Wall” – an array of six monitors (three stacks of 2 monitors) that is angled forward, with the monitor bezels creating the look of window mullions. The monitors can be fed with a video image of the Plaza – completing the “window” illusion. The wall is broken up by I-beam columns and interspersed with slate accents, recalling the Mill City Museum. The sculptural element known as Stack Wall appears in the Anchor Area and throughout the set for textural contrast.

The stand-up area continues the I-beam, stone and Stack Wall look, with both a Vertical Monitor and an eye-catching monitor array on a cart comprised of four 60 inch ultra-thin-bezel monitors for story-telling and presentation. The weather area is a working weather center with a functional weather pod mirroring the internally lit look of the anchor desk, where the meteorologist can use to both work and to present.

The interview area showcases an exterior window with a view to the street – giving a loft feel.

Moving to the Nicollet Studio – it is essentially a scaled down version of the main Plaza Studio set, with only an anchor area and a stand up Area, used as an alternate venue for newscasts.

Viewer reaction to the new studio sets has been very positive. In addition, the new environment has created excitement amongst the staff and given the team two great studio venues to present local news to the Minneapolis/St. Paul market.

“We had a great opportunity to improve our on-air presentation”,  said Kespohl, “FX really helped us create contemporary environments that not only look great, but have all the tools we’ve needed to create vibrant, relevant newscasts.”

For a full gallery of project, view the WCCO-TV SetStudio post.

FX Design Group and NewscastStudio contributed to this article.

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