How a clock inspired the new home of ‘The News with Shepard Smith’

After debuting from a temporary set Sept. 30, 2020, CNBC’sThe News with Shepard Smith” is moved into its permanent home — a state of the art set — Oct. 28, 2020, with a layout that was inspired by something as simple as the hands on a clock.

Set designer John Casey Production Design, faced with a typical boxy studio footprint and aiming to keep clean, modern right angles, lines and frames that appear across much of his other work for CNBC in the design, was sketching out initial ideas when he happened to glance at a clock and where the hour hand is at 7 p.m. (the show’s eastern airtime) when it hit him that mixing in an angled wall would be the perfect way to wrap anchor Shepard Smith’s storytelling home base in dynamic LED elements.

He took the lines suggested by that angle and created a large, straight span of LED bands that shifts to an angle as it approaches the turn onto the south wall of the space, calling that portion of the studio a “nice juxtaposition of the basics.”

Before any design happened, however, Casey also met with Smith, Steve Fastook, the senior vice president of technical operations for the network, and other “News” team members to hear about their thoughts on the design.

Much of that feedback came from Smith’s laser-focused vision for his newscast — and Casey took all of these notes to develop an initial design.

“I think we had two or three changes,” recalls Fastook, adding that it was probably the least number of changes he’s ever made to an initial set design.

As part of Smith’s goal to use the set as an extension of storytelling, Casey thought purposefully about how to place scenic elements and video walls.

For example, Smith’s cube-like anchor desk, which isn’t bolted to the floor, has been given two primary positions — one against the wider wall but also at an angle as the wall shifts direction.

The wall behind these two primary desk locations is made of three distinct “ribbons” of LED that were carefully thought out. 

Along the top is a narrow one inspired by and suggestive of the iconic CNBC ticker — and the network says it can indeed be used for that during financial news updates, but that it can also be used for extending generic and topical graphics displayed on the other two segments.

The three segments of LED along the west wall (left) can be used together, as shown in this ‘Coast to Coast’ look or separately. The motorized ‘north wall’ is shown on right behind the jib. Photo courtesy CNBC.

Below this are two other bands of LED, with the middle one being the largest and also carefully positioned to fall just behind a seated Smith, making it flexible enough to use as both a traditional background and with OTS elements the show plans to incorporate.

In this rehearsal shot, ‘The News’ anchor Shepard Smith is shown (just visible between the two crew members) against the angled part of the west wall with ‘The Vote’ branding, along with the 3D block pattern used in his graphics package, used on the angled portion while the larger segment shows a sweeping view of the Capitol. 

Meanwhile, the final band forms a sort of “digital knee wall” that can still show up in wider shots and standups — while also emphasizing the idea of a ticker or “layers” of storytelling. 

Behind these panels are carefully crafted and lighted rectangular frame-like elements equipped with color-changing lights that can be shifted to match the current story while also adding depth and layering to the look. 

“CNBC’s Technical Operations team designed a gorgeous, sleek set that utilizes video via state-of-the-art technology to bring stories from around the globe right into our studio,” Smith told NewscastStudio.

The show’s new home is Studio B at the network’s Englewood Cliffs, N.J. headquarters — formerly home to “The Suze Orman Show” and “Nightly Business Report.”