Networks rely on video walls to tell story of first presidential debate

By NewscastStudio

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, broadcasts of the first United States presidential debate from Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic looked a bit different this election cycle.

Some networks opted for the return of sweeping coverage while home studios continue to be the norm with others.

Video walls played a key role across all the networks, helping transport hosts to the venue in Cleveland.

CNN’s coverage transformed Studio 19X and Studio 19Z at its Hudson Yards broadcast facility into two visually similar spaces while Studio D and Studio A/B in Washington were also utilized.

Similar to ESPN’s “College GameDay” update, CNN expanded its main desks in New York to allow for social distancing of hosts and analysts, creating a giant half-circle.

Clickspring Design worked with CNN on the updates with fabrication from Showman Fabricators.


Graphically, CNN used the video walls of its studios to create a faux skybox in the debate hall with frosted glass panels and a faux studio outside the venue. The work also used augmented graphics before the debate to show lectern positions for the candidates.

Fox News, meanwhile, ventured to Ohio for the debate erecting a temporary structure outside the Health Education Campus.

Working with Filmwerks to create the structure, Fox was the only network with a traditional presence at the venue besides reporters doing live hits.

MSNBC returned to the studio for its debate coverage with an updated acrylic top on its standard election desk.

Similar to other events on the network, Steadicam shots were used heavily with the large video walls to set up key topics for the debate.

Newcomer “NewsNation” featured the debate during its broadcast making use of the program’s large video displays in studio.