NBC News debuts spiffy alternative to whiteboard

It looks like NBC has retired Tim Russert’s famous whiteboard and has a new way to demonstrate electoral vote scenarios.

NBC’s Chuck Todd was showing off his network’s new electoral map device on “Hardball” tonight.

The new setup includes a ceiling-mounted camera that looks down onto a touchscreen tabletop that allows electoral votes to be tossed between candidates with totals updating in real-time. The results can also be displayed full-screen and on the plasma monitor behind Todd and the device also doubles as a telestrator.

The setup, which is installed in the same studio used for “Race for the White House” and the Andrea Mitchell-anchored hour on MSNBC, is powered by Microsoft’s new Surface technology, an interactive, touch-screen tabletop initially designed for use in bars and nightclubs. Two bobble-heads perch on the corner of the desk as well.

Overall, the new setup (which doesn’t seem to have a catchy brand name yet), is moderately effective, but lacks some of the bells and whistles of John King’s now famous touch-screen over at CNN. The overhead camera shot is a bit washed out and is also somewhat reminiscent of a similar configuration Dan Rather used in the 2000 election at CBS.

By the way, during the time it was used on Hardball, Todd seemed to keep looking off-camera to Matthews, though it wasn’t clear if he was looking over to Matthews’ set or at a monitor. However, it was a bit distracting and, if the two are in the same studio, could have been made much more interesting with some real interaction shots.