The advantages and best practices for virtual studios in local news production

Modern news moves at the speed of a tweet and local outlets are expected to move with it. Local stations must compete with each other and of late with digital media sources for viewership.

They are expected to produce polished, sophisticated looking shows despite often working from small studios with minimal budgets and small crews. Additionally, local news stations need ways to brand and differentiate themselves from their competition.

These are just some of the reasons why virtual studios are becoming a popular solution for local news production.

Example of a virtual set for KMTV from Full Mental Jacket.

What are the advantages of using virtual studios in local news?

  • The pricing for virtual studios has been falling steadily for the past five years putting them within the reach of even the smallest local station’s budget.
  • Today’s VS systems are easier to operate and more reliable than their previous incarnations, requiring fewer staffers and less expertise.
  • The visual quality these systems can achieve is outstanding. Increased rendering power, enhanced graphic libraries and tools means the look of virtual graphics has achieved near photorealism.
  • VS provides enormous flexibility. Changing sets, updating looks and bringing variety to keep shows interesting is easy and inexpensive.
  • Enhanced storytelling tools make news presentations more visually appealing, capturing viewer interest.
  • As news organizations’ budgets shrink, a VS stage can generate additional revenue for an outlet via stage/studio rentals for outside commercial productions.

Dylan Dreyer on the virtual set of “Journey”

What are the ways local news can integrate virtual studio solutions?

  • Local stations and affiliates are retooling existing stages into full virtual studios by replacing hard sets with green screen cycs, including the floors. These sets are usually configured with three walls and utilize real news desks and furniture specifically designed for green screen environments.
  • The ‘Hybrid Studio’ concept is a good way to use VS technology while still maintaining many of the features of a hard set. These studios combine green screen areas with hard set elements and can be a cheap and flexible solution. Current set design aesthetics often require big ticket items such as LED walls to display large graphics. This look can be easily mimicked using combinations of hard sets and green screens at a much lower cost.
  • VS set extensions can be used to create a big look on a small budget by extending a real set to make it look larger. These extensions can be used for a variety of storytelling scenarios and are particularly useful in turning a small weather corner into an impressive looking “weather center”.

What are the key components for successfully using virtual studio for local news?

  • VS allows designers to experiment with bolder and more impactful set designs, bringing a higher end look to local news.
  • Keying and lighting are essential to achieving a seamless look and marrying talent and graphics together, especially in smaller studios.
  • Camera blocking and movement are important in highlighting the features of your VS set.

Today, virtual studios are an emerging technology that is quickly being adopted across the industry. It has the potential to radically change the way local news production is done. The possibilities are endless.


This article is part of NewscastStudio’s Focus on Virtual in Broadcast. View more of the series here.

About Ronen Lasry

As a two time PROMAXBDA Award winner with fifteen years of design and technology consulting experience, Ronen has curated a strong company portfolio and relationships with a long list of clients. Working from the perspective of an architect, but in touch with digital media branding and the latest innovations in broadcast technology, he is the Creative Director for Full Mental Jacket, located in Burbank, California. FMJ is a one-stop shop for broadcast clients looking to integrate cutting edge realtime graphics, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality technologies into their productions.

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