Q&A: Capturing the Pacific Northwest at Portland’s KATU

KATU, Sinclair’s ABC affiliate in Portland, Oregon, rolled out two new sets last fall, completely revamping its lifestyle and news image.

The designs, from Devlin Design Group, feature wood tones found in the Pacific Northwest with the latest in studio technology, including a uniquely-shaped NEC monitor wall.

We recently had a chance to speak with DDG’s Diane Fiolek about the project for our Focus On Studio Technology coverage.

What were the goals/objectives of the redesign?

The KATU news team wanted a design which was ‘high-tech’ but still had the down to earth, comfortable feel of Portland and the Northwest. It had to be visually different from the other stations in the market. A flexible scenic storytelling environment where anchors and reporters could take viewers deeper into a story was needed.

For the news set, the desire was for a main anchor shot with something different than a ‘typical monitor array with horizontal and vertical seams’, which were common in the Portland broadcast market. A working weather center was a must. Minimal seams were key in this area also. A dramatic storytelling location for up to 2 anchors/reporters was part of the scope of the project, as well as an area for guest interviews and a political show.

The other component of the design was a separate multipurpose lifestyle set with a live audience for two shows, KATU’s the popular AM Northwest and an afternoon show. Not a lot of tech in this area, however, it had to embody the Portland vibe.

How did you make the design fit the distinct vibe of Portland?

Portland is often awarded the “Greenest City in America”. Portland is one of the world’s most environmentally conscious cities because of its high walkability, a large community of bicyclists, farm-to-table dining, an expansive network of public transportation options, and many public parks. Don’t forgot the awe inspiring landscape including the Willamette River and Mt Hood.

Technology is a major component of the city’s economy. This high density of technology companies has led to the nickname the ‘Silicon Forest’.


“Keep Portland Weird” is an unofficial slogan for the city! The KATU team described the Portland vibe as: creative, artsy, eclectic, old hippies, young hipsters, WEIRD.

Team DDG hit the mark by blending an impressive array of technology, configured in not so typical configurations, coupled with natural wood accent walls to create a truly distinct local look.

The design has a warm and approachable vibe and is full of the tech necessary to have a dynamic scenic storytelling environment. RGB-A LED color changing backgrounds with a panorama of the impressive landscape viewers are very proud of, wrap the studio and add to the flexibility of the design.

The lifestyle environment sets the stage for intimate conversation and storytelling. The use of wood really brings home the vibe of the surrounding area.

What makes the project unique?

The atypical monitor array configurations used throughout the scenic environment give a freshness to this design. We are now seeing more stations who want something different than a massive grid work of monitors behind the anchors. The sweeping horizontal array of large monitors behind the main anchor desk and the weather center give a grand appearance.

The artfully stacked monitor array is not only visually interesting but also gives the station a number of different graphic options to present a story, in turn helping keep each story unique within a newscast.

The lifestyle set ties in visually with the news set, yet has it’s own distinctive presence.

How was video technology used to enhance storytelling?

The horizontal array behind the main desk and the camera right uniquely stacked array are both impressive walk and talk presentation areas. They allow unique storytelling opportunities in each location.

The artfully stacked monitor array is not only visually interesting but also gives the station a number of different graphic options to present a story, in turn helping keep each story unique within a newscast.

The dedicated weather center has a grand atmosphere with the configuration of 3 large monitors for presentation.


What technology was used in the studio?

The main anchor background has four 80” monitors. The camera right unique array has a total of thirteen 46” monitors. The weather center includes three 80” monitors.

Wide view of the main news studio

Both the anchor desk and weather desk have a 43” monitor mounted on the front for branding. In addition there is a single kiosk with a rolling 90” monitor available for a wide variety of storytelling opportunities.

How did you create warmth and a lighter feeling for the interviews with the soft set?

The people of Portland identify with the natural beauty that surrounds them. The diverse Oregon landscape provided the perfect backdrop for the lifestyle set. The use of rough sawn timber gives a touch of that cabin in the woods vibe. The shelves give a home-like feel and give an opportunity for bright pops of color. It is very comfortable and invites conversation.

The footprint of the set is not very large, however it offers an incredible amount of flexibility for interviews, demos, kitchen demos and performances. RGB-A LED color changing panels allow for a different look for the two different shows.

This set is not heavy on tech with one rolling monitor kiosk…it is heavy on touch and the art of conversation.

How did you include versatility in the set design?

At DDG one of the cornerstones of our design is versatility! We understand keeping a newscast fresh and visually interesting is what resonates with viewers.

During the design process we showed the KATU team how they can use all of the scenic storytelling areas in different ways. You can change up a story by creative shot-blocking, the use of graphics and video, and the versatility of color changing backgrounds

[focus-on]This article is part of our Focus On Studio Technology, presented by AV Design Services. View more from the series here.[/focus-on]